The 2020 Presidential Election is only six months out. Before long, political ads and propaganda will descend on us like swarms of locusts. The sky will soon grow dark and for this reason, I believe it may be especially helpful to review the lay of the land. When election season begins in earnest, we will be left to navigate largely by convictions established in more agreeable times.
It is sometimes rightfully observed that “the map is not the territory.” I believe a survey of the territory of US politics shows that the old map no longer fits it. It is imagined that a Presidential Election pits a Democratic candidate against a Republican one. I believe this is an outmoded model of what is really at stake. Instead, politics today is best characterized as a contest between democracy and plutocracy irrespective of what a candidate’s Party membership may claim. By “democracy,” I mean a system by which politicians are accountable to their constituents and their constituents’ interests. In the US as in all republics, the accountability is through representation. So “democracy” and “republic” are interchangeable for the purposes of this piece. By “plutocracy” I mean to indicate a government in which this link of accountability between politicians and their constituents and their constituents’ interests has been severed. I might have chosen other labels but I believe that democracy (i.e. “rule by people”) and plutocracy (i.e. “rule by wealth”) capture the distinction I would like to draw as well as any. “Republic” versus “corporatism,” or “progressive” versus “establishment” would have been other suitable choices to point to the contest that I believe defines our political situation today.
I believe that thinking in terms of democracy versus plutocracy or (republic versus corporatism) is one of the best ways to understand the 2016 election and its results. President Trump promised a departure from the plutocratic policies that had been ascendant over the last several presidencies and which had enabled corruption and unprecedented concentrations of wealth to an exclusive handful of individuals and corporations. The campaign slogan of “Drain the swamp!” as well as President Trump’s unseemly epithet “Crooked Hillary” for his Democratic rival spoke to voters’ frustration with the status quo. His promises to build a wall on the Mexican border and to withdraw American troops from foreign engagements also resonated with the feeling of many voters that their country was no longer providing for their own opportunities.
Many readers may object to lending any credence to these claims but I don’t think that such objections bear very much weight. I am not arguing that President Trump’s approach to the present situation is the only one or even a good one. I am only noting that he spoke to many voters that Clinton failed to reach and this fact requires no more evidence than the results of the election. Some may again object that Clinton won the popular vote but the fact remains that, as outlined in the Constitution, the popular vote in itself does not determine the outcome of an election. Perhaps this should change, but to dispute it here is impertinent to the theme of this piece. What I hoped to show with the comparison of last election’s presidential candidates was that the one who promised accountability to his constituents was the one who was sworn in as President some months later.
In this way, I believe that the 2020 election is similar to the 2016 election. President Trump defeated Hilary Clinton by establishing himself on a platform that stood in direct contradiction to Clinton’s policies of aggressive military engagement, which is, in itself, perhaps the quintessential expression of plutocracy since the US military budget has more than doubled since 2003. During the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, Congress passed a bipartisan legislation to increase the military budget by $150 billion dollars so that today, the government spends close to a trillion dollars per year on the military.* The bulk of this money is paid to arms manufacturing companies like Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin. Of course, taxpayers that ultimately foot the bill of the military budget while stockholders of these companies pocket the greater part of profit. For a glimpse into this relationship, one can note that the value of stock in all of these arms manufacturing companies soared immediately after the media announced that Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani had been assassinated. This makes sense when it is understood that a war promises immense profits for these companies because it signals substantial increases in defense contracts. President Eisenhower used his farewell address in 1961 to warn the American people of this positive feedback loop between politics and arms manufacturing companies, which he famously referred to as the “military industrial complex.”
Because of the sheer magnitude of money involved in these informal relations between defense contractors and the politicians that shape foreign policy and military initiatives, I believe the military industrial complex is a quintessential example of plutocracy in action. Defense contractors gain economic opportunities by lobbying politicians to push for increases in military spending through more wars. Politicians, in turn, are compensated in any number of ways. Many will recall that Dick Cheney served as the CEO of Halliburton before gaining the Vice Presidency and aggressively pushing for a US invasion of Iraq for which Halliburton was offered the contract for a job for which it was the only company allowed to bid. This is perhaps among the more flagrant examples of plutocracy in its natural habitat.
Because all of the forces that were at play four years ago have only intensified during President Trump’s term in office, I believe the 2020 election will be very similar to that of 2016. This means that the election is a contest between democracy and plutocracy. Despite running on a platform of opposing plutocracy in 2016, President Trump has scarcely delivered on this promise. Instead, we have seen increases in military spending and, despite assurances that the bull market on Wall Street is the same thing as a flourishing economy, such assurances ring hollow for many people who are working multiple jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. For this reason, I believe the best candidate is the one who is able to demonstrate that she will champion the cause of democracy—“a government of, by, and for the people,” to quote Lincoln’s immemorial words.
I believe that the only candidate who has repeatedly demonstrated true and bona fide integrity behind this cause is Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who is also a member of the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, an Army Major, and an Iraqi war veteran. No candidate is more qualified in foreign policy than she. No candidate has taken such a principled stance against the military industrial complex’s encroachment on our republic than she. And, not surprisingly, no candidate has been so consistently slandered and misrepresented by apparatchiks of these same plutocratic interests as Tulsi Gabbard. Such attacks could be expected for the simple reason beneficiaries of the military industrial complex ensure their financial interests by marginalizing anyone who opposes it. Gabbard has repeatedly shown that she is willing to oppose the rampant influence of the military industrial complex. She has also repeatedly shown her willingness and ability to engage in productive dialogue with people of all political persuasions. While this has earned her the antipathy of many of her fellow Democrats, I believe this shows that she understands that the real issue is not between the two parties as we know them, but between democracy and corporate interests. I think it is largely for this reason that she outstrips all of her Democratic primary rivals in respect to her appeal amongst Republican and Independent voters.
Many Democrats are concerned with “electability” and raise “who can beat Trump” as the foremost priority in their choice of a candidate. In the meantime, many of the same people contribute to the marginalization of the best candidate for the job. I believe people when they express these concerns, so I urge them to consider casting their vote in a way that is consistent with them.
If I may speak personally, I first heard of Tulsi Gabbard when she resigned as Vice Chair of the DNC in protest of the committee’s lack of transparency in the primary process. Gabbard would go on to endorse Bernie Sanders in his presidential bid. I did not hear of her again until April of last year, when I discovered she intended to run for President in the 2020 election. Since then, I have been repeatedly impressed by her demonstrations of integrity and her willingness to consider issues in a critical, clear-headed, and independent way. I am not especially political but I know enough about Gabbard’s positions to recognize when they are misconstrued by corporate media. In piece like this, I cannot hope to convince readers that Gabbard is the best candidate for the job, nor would I wish to. I believe the facts speak for themselves, so I only wish to request that they be allowed to do so. For those who are concerned over such issues as Gabbard’s record on LGBTQ rights, her meeting with Bashar al-Assad, the allegation that “the Russians have their eyes on her” and “she is being groomed by them,” and that she intends to run as a Third Party Candidate, etc… I ask for your goodwill and request that you inquire into the facts of the matter. In every case, even if I was initially sceptical of her decisions, when I looked further into these allegations, the truth always at once exonerated Tulsi Gabbard and revealed the gross misrepresentation on the part of the peddlers of such allegations.
I hope I have convincingly shown that the crucial contest in the 2020 presidential election is between democracy and plutocracy. I believe President Trump has repeatedly shown his willingness to make use of politics for personal benefit. At the same time, Representative Gabbard has repeatedly shown that her involvement in politics is in the spirit of “aloha” and of service, not of personal gain. No other candidate presents such a stark contrast to President Trump as Tulsi Gabbard. For this reason, I believe that Gabbard, a veteran, a Congresswoman, surfer, and an Army Major, can go toe-to-toe with him on the debate stage in a way that most other candidates have shown they cannot. I hope that my fellow voters will agree with my assessment and that in November, together we can confer on Tulsi Gabbard the authority to look President Trump in the eye and say, “you’re fired.”
*I believe this is very telling, since it reveals that our apparently hyperpolarized politicians are willing to bury that hatchet and cross party lines in the interest of increasing the military budget–something which should not be a self-evident matter of policy, to say the least. Moreover, it shows that the impeachment proceedings against President Trump are something of a facade because no reasonable person would at once charge Trump with lack of integrity in his position as Commander-in-Chief while simultaneously approving a $150 billion blank check to the armed forces that are under his charge.