Presidential Placebos 
Sugar-Coated Alternatives to Empire-as-Usual
by Leilla Matsui
November 20, 2003

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With each and every stunning revelation scripted daily into 'As the World Burns', one would expect by now the torch wielding extras of 'Frankenstein' storming the capital, or at least a few neo-con heads rolling around in the gutters. Instead, we see Karl Rove's even more poorly stitched together abomination still smirking from his Crawford castle while a lead booted Rumsfeld lurches perilously through the White House wings. (Clearly, we've failed to smoke them out of their holes). The majority of us, though, seem merely content to sit back and count down the days to November 2004 when we can all get back to the business of watching television without the imbedded horsemen of the apocalypse interrupting regularly scheduled programming.

Through the skillful ministrations of the tight-lipped and correctly postured media elite - the 'Nurse Ratched' corporate guardians of our limited attention spans, Americans have become artificially immunized against the ravaging effects of their own government. The mounting casualties in Iraq, the shredded and gasoline soaked 'roadmap', a spiraling deficit, the scorched earth policies of Bush Co.'s environmental record...all this we've been led to believe, will be swept away in 2004 with the simple wave of a ballot.

The 'Anything but Bush' mantra taken up by the sofa-based opposition underscores the sad fact that Americans are by and large, prevented from grasping the enormity of what has happened here.  With the average worker anxiously clocking in more hours than ever, the corporate keepers of their time-cards can rest assured that the howling hordes who would otherwise be demanding their heads on a platter, are too busy trying to stave off redundancy by taking on an increased workload. It's become enough for them to perform the miracle of venturing outside their cubicles and casting that 'Anything but Bush' ballot -- the ticket back to television-as-usual after a long, hard day at the sweatshop. The fresh hell factor of 'real news' has become just one more reason for jaded viewers to flip the channel back to 'reality' and watch MTV Newlywed Jessica Simpson eat 'chicken' out of a can.  Plummeting ratings for 'As the World Burns' means the media will have to pull out all the stops once again to entertain us with Michael Jackson's felony sleepovers and Buckingham Palace flogging parties.

For centrist right candidates like Clark or Dean, mobilizing a largely sequestered electorate to defoliate the nation of Bush will be a relatively easy task.  Even die-hard Republicans can no longer pretend that their Emperor is dressed in anything other than the flight-suits of his own fancy as US Black Hawks continue to rain down on a cheering Iraq.  No doubt, progressive candidates like Dennis Kucinich or Al Sharpton will have a harder time convincing voters that a return to Business-and-Empire-as-usual will only seal the doom in progress that is America's fate as a self-immolating superpower.  While Bush and his neo-con cohorts continue pouring gasoline over themselves, candidates like Dean and Clark can now safely posture themselves as 'progressives' - that is, until they're actually elected.  By then, the only thing that will be going up in flames is the idea of progressive policy-making from either of them.

'Progressive' in the Dean/Clark sense of the word is a return to the kindler, gentler but just as lethal variation of Reaganomics that Clinton prescribed during his Presidency; an  economic model we associate with jobs, jobs and more jobs...(oh, and a few dead Somalis).  The happy face that front runner Democrats slap on to their own brand of Neoliberalism, (as opposed to the crinkly pucker of George's sour puss) is presented by the media as a radical alternative to the neo-con version.  'Same shit, different asshole', is the guiding principle of both Democratic frontrunners whose campaigns remain focused on the flag related non-issues of the day.

Front running Democrats - dynastic heirs to the tattered and soon-to-be-vacated throne of George the Second will likely only win by proving their 'fiscal conservatism' to their Party elders.  (Those renegade country clubbers who became 'Democrats' after their own party was gatecrashed by the religious right).  The cryptically termed 'war on terror' is a password that will unlikely be changed even when the new administration steps in for their fresh meat photo-op on the Whitehouse lawn.  The transfer of power will be accomplished with little more than a secret handshake.  The keys to the kingdom (in this case the plundered and looted treasury) will be nimbly passed from the talons of its present neo-con trustees to the pudgy, pink fingers of President Dean or Clark.

While both candidates are riding high on a wave of public discontent over Iraq, neither of them are likely to reverse the devastating effects of 'free trade' or Israel's genocidal quick-fix solution to the Palestinian crisis. But ultimately, Empire as usual is a failure to acknowledge a global resistance to our supreme command and not just our supreme commander.

At this point, there's little doubt, even among Republicans, that this particular shrub will shrivel up like tumbleweed and blow back to Texas. However, Presidential placebo replacements like Howard Dean or Wesley Clark merely offer a sugar-coated alternative to 'Empire-as-Usual'.

An increasingly disenfranchised majority, observing us from the soil eroded slag heaps of their homelands or from behind barbed wire 'security fences' have little reason to celebrate a Dean or Clark victory. (And those are just the ones overseas). After all, Empire-as-Usual is just a euphemistic term to describe the continuing sodomization of Muslim lands and fat, pink fingers wrapped around someone else's oil spigots.

Regardless of a Dean or Clark victory in 2004, the continuing fall-out effects of Neoliberalism's failed agenda will gradually clear the way for a dismantling of the single, two-headed party system. In other words, Americans will eventually wake up and smell the slave-picked coffee.  Once the poor, uninsured masses huddled around the nation's dumpsters and unemployment offices take a long, deep breathe of the leaden, ozoneless air left in the wake of the 'Anything but Bush' political vacuum, we can be certain that a radically revitalized electorate will emerge in 2008.  And this time it will be the new administration who will have to duck and cover as the crumbling statues of Empire-as-Usual come toppling down.

Leilla Matsui is a freelance writer living in Tokyo, Japan. She can be reached at: catcat@s3.ocv.ne.jp


Other DV Articles by Leilla Matsui


* Give a Hand to the Governor E(r)ect
Incubator Babies Bite Back: The Ballad of Uday and Qusay

* Regime Change Begins at Home Literally




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