Confidence Game: On Bernie Sanders and the State of U.S. Electoral Integrity
“Voting is the most precious
right of every citizen, and we have a moral obligation to ensure the integrity of our
voting process.” -Former Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton, in reference to the Election Reform Bill (2005) when she was
serving as a U.S. Senator for New York State
Itʼs hard not to laugh when we consider exactly how well the U.S. ranks in electoral
integrity among other industrialized nations. But itʼs one of those laughs we
embrace because the bitter truth of it leaves desperation thick in the air. This
psychological response to the anxiety and tension brought on by the realization
that we, for all our national bloviating about “freedom,” are not truly a self
In 2014, Cambridge University in partnership with Princeton, released an
empirical study outlining in clear detail that the US is, empirically, an oligarchy.
That means that the governing policies that define our nation, enacted by our
“elected representatives,” more than 90% of the time, run contrary to the will of
the constituents and in favor of wealthy business interests.
Which brings us back to the 2016 primaries and the rulings of the DNC election
rigging lawsuit. Here, spelled out plainly, we heard it argued that the Democratic National
Committee has no obligation to have fair primaries or even have primaries at all.
Verily, they stated, in court and on the record, that they could choose their
candidate in a smoke filled back room, should they decide to.
Now, dear reader, I ask you; what kind of a democracy is that, wherein a class of
ruling elites can not only delineate your choices to you, but then, once elected
ensure that their candidate works, not for the good of the public but for the
interests of their wealthy donors? Well, the answer is as glaring as a
corporate logo at a grassroots protest; Itʼs fake democracy. Democracy in name
only. A sham. A ruse. A confidence game.
Once again, our stalwart hero, Bernie Sanders, raises lance and gives tilt towards
the windmill. Riding on even greater name recognition than his first bid, his charge at the
Executive Office, exhilarating and valorous, has once again enraptured
progressives of all stripes as we cheer him on to victory.
But we have seen this movie before, havenʼt we?
Call me jaded, but Iʼm not in the habit of trusting politicians. But if I were to put all
of my hopes and dreams into just one of them, it would be Bernard Sanders.
Bernie’s chances of winning the democratic nomination are a non zero sum. If he
aims to keep even a quarter of his campaign promises, and I believe he does, the
neoliberal establishment will pull out all stops to ensure he never gets within
walking distance of the Oval Office. And as a matter of fact, they have.
“…so when you ask, ‘What makes us the greatest country in the world?’ I dunno
know what the fuck you’re talking about! Yosemite? It sure used to be. We stood
up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down
laws for moral reasons, we waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed,
we cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were, and we
never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological
advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s
greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted
like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel
inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in our last election, and
we didn’t… we didn’t scare so easy…(sigh). We were able to be all these things,
and to do all these things, because we were informed. By great men, men who
were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.
America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.” -Will McAvoy, HBOʼs
The above quote by Will McAvoy (portrayed by actor Jeff Daniels) may well be a
romanticized retelling, but there are kernels of truth there. After the Great
Depression, FDR enacted a number of reforms, helping to usher in a following era
of economic prosperity. An unusual thing happened: a robust and bustling Middle
Class emerged. Bernieʼs promises echos those of FDR, and if thereʼs one thing
history has proven, itʼs that the wealthy want no part of that.
And here we are, staring 2020 in the face. And how short some of our memories
are that we once again, ignoring all facts and material realities, dare to hope, dare
to dream that our valiant knight will at last topple that windmill.
Iʼm often criticized for not inspiring hope. And itʼs true, I have none of my own to
offer you. Iʼm not an analyst nor a historian. My approximations of the state of
humanity and our nation are worth the citations I present in my arguments. Mine is
not to inspire hope absent cause, nor to move you toward despair. Mine is to
inform and share perspective in the dire realities of our station. If we are ever to
have hope, well founded and not some deluded aspiration, it must be predicated
on our understanding of the straits we are in, and in a course forward based upon
“Every oligarchy needs a means of containing the left. Without it, working people
would quickly topple the oligarchs and redistribute wealth. The Democratic Party
is that containment vehicle in America. In the Democratic primary, the Party
establishment is simultaneously the game maker, the opposing chess player, the
referee, and the one who can change the rules mid-game. In those kinds of
conditions, the game is just for show.”- MPP National Director Nick Brana