Election ’08- Between a Rock and Hard Place
by L. Arthalia Cravin
This past Monday I started planning for my spring garden. Although I have a small tiller, I still need what they call a cultivator. It looks like a long fork but the tines are turned inward similar to the blade on a hoe. After stopping at several thrift stores, where I buy most garden stuff, I decided to try a Goodwill Store as my last stop. I did not find the cultivator, but even when you can’t find what you’re looking for, Goodwill Stores are nice places to just browse. I am trying to understand how American public policy is shaped so I decided to look for second-hand books on the topic.
Public policy, as best as I understand it, refers to the process of identifying and making important governmental or organizational decisions, or alternatives, for programs and spending priorities, on the basis of the impact they will have. Public policy concepts include political, fiscal, and administrative mechanisms for reaching certain explicit goals. I could not find a book on public policy but I did stumble across two books, costing a dime each. One was entitled, “The Politics of the Common Market,” by W. Hartley Clark, written in 1967, and “False Hope: The Politics of Illusion of the Clinton Era,” written in 1994 by Norman Solomon. Solomon is a syndicated columnist, journalist and also the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. I read “False Hope” first and came away with a very sick feeling—similar to Winston Smith, the main character in George Orwell’s 1948 book entitled, “1984.”
Solomon’s book is not for the faint of heart—or anyone unwilling to have their ideas challenged. On page 49 Solomon states, “But people who express warm regard for Clinton’s personal attributes are missing the same point as people who vilify him in personal terms: Assumptions about a president’s internal integrity or perfidy–star struck fandom or demonization–distract from the key question, “Whose interest is he serving? Anyone shocked by Bill Clinton’s deference to the nation’s powerful after he became president was not paying very close attention beforehand. Clinton became a national figure, offering to reconcile the unreconciled. He called for moving beyond “the stale” orthodoxies of “left” and “right.” He was verbal and even witty, able to invoke spine-tingling patriotic themes without seeming old-fashioned or hokey or extreme. Most importantly, Clinton was adept at working both sides of a populist street, schmoozing with the money bags and denouncing them as soon as he got across the street.” On page 104 Solomon makes the following statement: “Of course big business is always looking for new products to put on the market, and major presidential contenders are no exception. A quarter century ago, when “The Selling of the President, 1968” came out, the book’s cover featured a photo of Nixon on a cigarette pack—and the imagery caused an uproar; now we take it for granted that candidates will be sold like automobiles or deodorant. But the creation of politician-products runs parallel with broader inventions; a power elite that can heavily edit the past and distort the present also reserves the right to concoct scenarios for the future.”
My immediate reaction to Solomon’s book–this is some serious stuff. The person whom I originally thought would be the most qualified for president has already dropped out. Lots of voters, including me, must now find a suitable alternative to our first choice. As the primary season winds down, the presidential choices are also winding down and we will soon find ourselves as Solomon so eloquently stated on page 105, “Television lights up homes everywhere with its narcotic glow, “stupefication par excellence” now enhanced with numerous cable channels, and we are told, the advent of interactive TV technology. The pretense is that You Are There, or you have choices, the reality, much more likely, is that you aren’t anywhere, and you can choose from the choices that have already been made for you. The delusion of “choice” from an array of televised (and corporate backed) programs is parallel to the delusion of choice from an array of pre-screened (and corporate backed) presidential candidates.” In other words some of us ‘08 voters are between a rock and a hard place. The rock of knowing that we have been sold a bill of corporately controlled goods, and the hard place of knowing that if we do not play along with the illusion of choice that we risk loosing our freedom to exercise the “illusion of choice.”
© Copyright 2008 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.