Beating about the Bush
If party politics is the art of lying (and it is), then for the ordinary person political conventions are to be avoided at all costs. If these were judged by the standards of that other massager of the truth, advertising, then every one would be sued for being misleading.
None more so that right-wing conventions. The reason is simple. It is hard to honestly portray policies and politics to the "ordinary person" which are designed to make the rich richer (and more powerful) and make them poorer and less free. This is problem is doubly the case for the Republicans. At their recent convention they broke the record in hypocrisy and lying.
As they cannot run on their actual record, the Bush Junta was left with fear and slander. Hence the references to 911 (but not, understandably enough, to Oslama Bin Laden whom Bush has significantly failed to catch). Hence the lie that the Iraq war had something to do with 9/11 or "the war on terror." Hence the attacks on John Kerry as a "flip-flop." Facts do not matter and never get in the way of a good sound bite. Nor is it explained why being "decisive" is so good if, like Bush, your decisions are so extremely, awfully, bad (at least for the general public, corporations are doing extremely well out of the war thank you very much!).
Sadly for the Republican spin doctors, a few days before Bush did a little flip-flopping of his own. On August 30th, Bush admitted that that the US would not win the "war on terror." Which is true. You cannot win a war on a noun or a tactic, particularly if you use state terrorism to try to. Bush, correctly (for once) argued that "you can create conditions so that the - those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." Sadly he has utterly undermined that strategy by his wars, particularly in Iraq. His policies have increased the number of terrorist attacks as well as the pool of potential recruits.
The next day, his press secretary clarified Bush by saying "Not only are we winning it, but we will win it." Bush, apparently, meant that the war on terror won't be won "in the conventional sense" with formal surrenders. Ironically, this defence of Bush's "flip-flop" seems to be the "nuance" defence, the one Kerry uses and which has been summarily dismissed by the Republicans! Meanwhile, Bush is back to being "a war president," only a few weeks after claiming to be "the peace president."
Yet even on waging the war, Bush is hardly a success. In response to Kerry's criticism of his handling of Iraq, he said that "I know what I'm doing when it comes to winning this war." Sure, there is a lot of evidence for that! But wait a minute, this is another "flip-flop"! War? What war? Bush declared on May 1st last year that "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." 139 US troops had died at that point. Since then the figure has reached 1000. And he says he knows what he is doing! Perhaps he just does not know the facts, after all he has never attended a funeral or memorial service for any of the people he sent to their deaths for oil. And best not to mention Iraqi deaths as Iraqis seem to be of no account to their "liberators," both literally and figuratively as the occupiers refuse to count the numbers they have killed
This explains the blueprint for the Republican convention. Speak in platitudes, ignore anything inconvenient (like the facts), take credit for anything good, even if you opposed it, and spout forth about how wonderful America is (while keeping quiet on how you plan to change that). And present a friendly face to the general public by highlighting individuals alien to the entire Bush social agenda while, at the same time, approve a radical conservative platform against stem-cell research, abortion and gay rights without a murmur of dissent.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was one such public persona, selling a moderate face to the public. His speech was riddled with nonsense. He started by proclaiming that Republicans "want a government accountable to the people and not the people to the government." Which is ironic, given that the Bush Junta was defeated in 2000 and was given office by the Supreme Court. But then, he did say that in America "it doesn't matter in this country who your parents are." Considering that George W got into both Yale and the "Champagne Unit" of the Texas National Guard because of who his daddy was, this is laughable. And best not mention his current job.
But then history is not Arnold's strong point. He proclaimed he became a republican after hearing Nixon "talking about free enterprise, getting the government off your back." In reality, Nixon did the opposite, introducing Wage and Price Controls and expanding the U.S. public sector and taxes to historically unprecedented levels. Perhaps that explains his backing for Bush? Like Nixon he says one thing and does the other. Like Arnold himself. His message for hope for immigrants is belied by his anti-immigrant policies in California.
But what can you expect from someone who calls anyone critical of (i.e. accurate about) the economy "economic girlie-men"? In reality, while there has been some (weak) job creation, there are still 1.2 million fewer jobs now than when the recession began. Bush has presided over the greatest sustained job loss since the Great Depression. So it is doubtful that the multitude out of work or working two jobs to make ends meet will be happy to be dismissed by a millionaire movie star.
Equally, when he asserted that "when Nelson Mandela smiled in election victory after all those years in prison, America celebrated, too" he must have known that during the 1980s Dick Cheney voted against a House resolution urging Mandela's release from prison. The Reagan administration publicly and privately provided diplomatic and material support for Mr. Mandela's incarceration. So not all of America celebrated Mandela's release. But history is not one of his strong points. As Austrian historians quickly noted, Arnold did not, in 1968, leave "the socialist country that Austria became after the Soviets left." Between 1945 and 1970, all Austria's chancellors were conservatives -- not socialists. But why let facts get in the way of using the old Soviet threat to help Bush get elected?
The final irony was when Arnold said that if you believe your family knows better how to spend its money than the government, then you're a Republican. Well, the anti-war protestors did not want the government spending 0 billion in a war with Iraq. Does that mean that they are actually Republicans?
Perhaps that is why the Bush daughters were allowed to speak, to make Arnold look smart? Who knows? But one thing is true, most of the primetime speakers picked were from the liberal wing of the party, at odds with the party's platform and the positions taken by the Bush Junta and its backers in the fundamentalist right (aka the American Taliban). At least the party hierarchy is aware of how out of touch their real agenda is with mainstream America. They would never win if they told the truth about themselves.
On the first day of the Republican convention not one speaker mentioned a domestic issue -- not education, healthcare or the economy. Little wonder, given how badly Bush has done. Delegates were summoned back to the past, to 9/11. They were summoned to the future and all the good things Bush will achieve how that we have "America is back" (from problems that the three odd years of the Bush Junta have inflicted on it went unspoken). Anywhere other than today.
Yet even 9/11 is not safe ground. It was Bush who ignored his presidential daily brief from the CIA of August 6 2001 (entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside US"). People seem to have forgotten that on 9/11 Bush ran and hide like a "girlie-man" (to use Arnold's favourite expression). American's did not hear anything from him for over four hours. He finally went to ground-zero three days later. Perhaps he would have been there sooner if his pants hadn't been in need of so much cleaning. And remember that Bush stonewalled the setting up of the 9/11 commission, how difficult it was to get him to allow it the time to do its work, how difficult it was to get him to testify before it and how he ignored its recommendations.
Nowhere did Bush mention Osama bin Laden, nor did he account for the replacement of killed and captured al al-Qaida leaders by others. So perhaps it is just as well that Osama is now "Osama been forgotten." And we are still waiting for the paper Colin Powel promised in late September 2001 which would "describe clearly the evidence that we have linking" Al Qaeda to 9/11. But discussing the mastermind of 9/11 ignores the real issue, Iraq. Rudy Giuliani, like Cheney and others, spoke about the Iraq war as if it were part of the War on Terror. Apparently Saddam was not removed because of WMD, but because he was "a pillar of support for global terrorism." Some one should have told the 9/11 commission. One of its key findings was that he was not. And so the reason for the Iraq war is placed in the Memory Hole and the revisionist historians have applied their magic.
The class war at home
But who cares? Bush is cutting taxes. Unmentioned is the fact the majority of the tax cuts have gone to the very few, very rich and that they have come after income inequality has dramatically increased over the past two decades. While most workers have seen wage stagnation, the average CEO has seen their pay rise from 41 times that of the average worker in 1982 to 301 times in 2003. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the gap between the bottom 20% and the top 1% in 2000 was the largest it has been since the Hoover years.
While the right scare the worker with tales of their wages being stolen by the taxman, the fact is that the workers' money is ending up in the pockets of the boss man. From 1947 to 1979, family income grew at a roughly even pace in all income categories (116% for the bottom 20% and 99% for the top 20%). This changed in the 1980s, from 1979 to 2001, it became heavily skewed toward top with a 3% growth for the bottom 20%, 11% growth for the next 20% and a whopping 81% growth for the top 5%. Bush's tax cuts helped make this worse, with 36.7% going to the top 1% of income earners and only 1.1% going to the bottom 20%, 5.9% to the next 20% and 9.2% to the middle 20%.
The average real wage fell over the past year while the economy grew by 4.7%. From 2000 through 2003 the median household income fell by 3.4%. During the same period there was a 12% increase in productivity. This means that most of the people who make the economy grow are not getting anything out of it. This is in line with the last 30 years (bar a brief interruption in the late 90s) when the median real wage has grown by about 8 percent. The majority of American workers have failed to share in the gains from economic growth and the benefits of faster productivity growth went overwhelmingly to capital.
So we have imperialism abroad to distract people from the class war at home.
So for three days the Republicans spouted hatred and fear, lies and smears rather than talk about, say, jobs and the economy. The reason is simple. They cannot talk about the real issues facing Americans because their record is one of failure.
Bush simply spoke about what he would do if he becomes president. Yet he is already President. In 2000 he promised great things and they have not appeared. So he asks us to have faith. And the sign of faith is to ignore reality and believe. So ignore the recession, the fact that Bush is the first President to preside over a net lose in jobs since Hebert Hoover (1.2 million people have lost their jobs, bringing the total to 8.2 million). Ignore that his promise of "four million new jobs" is five million jobs behind. Ignore that the federal government has a new record deficit. Ignore corporate fraud and a war based on lies which has cost 0 billion, nearly a thousand American lives and over ten thousand Iraqis. Ignore that it was he who brought forth the quagmire of post-war Iraq. Ignore that four years of his government saw a 4.3 million rise in the ranks of America's poor and a 5.8 million increase (1.4 million in 2003 alone) in Americans without health insurance (the totals now stand at 35.9 million and 45 million). Ignore falling wages and the elimination of overtime payments. Ignore the attacks on civil liberties and workers' rights. Ignore the multibillion dollar gift to drug companies that was Bush's Medicare reform. Ignore the pulling out of the Kyoto agreement. Ignore the gutting of the Clean Air Act. Ignore the rollback of hundreds of environmental regulations. Just have faith.
But then Bush did say "our enemies . . . never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." So it's a good job that the companies that make the electronic voting machines are all Republican contributors.
The Leader Principle
The Republican front "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" has been proven to be liars, although you would not know that from the "liberal" dominated media in the States. Ironically, now that Bush has grudgingly said that Kerry military record was honourable, the SBVtT are now, by implication, also calling Bush a liar too. Strangely the Republican talking heads have not mentioned that!
Equally strangely, given that SBVfT say they are non-partisan and say they are only concerned that any presidential candidate may be lying about their military record, they have remained steadfastly quiet about Bush's extremely dodgy record. Thus Kerry's record, well documented and verified by all the people who served with him, is under attack while Bush's, the exact opposite, remains off the agenda. Thank God for coincidence!
The SBVfT's silence is even stranger given that yet more of Bush's National Guards records are missing. He is just unlucky, what with all the evidence which could show he served just not being there. Even a ,000 reward offered this year did not produce a credible eyewitness to support Bush's contention that he showed up to defend Alabama against the Viet Cong in 1972. Yet John F. Kerry, who without doubt shed his own blood in the vicinity of the Mekong, not the Mississippi, is now the indecisive wimp.
This is particularly ironic, given that Bush is scared to speak in public unscripted, particularly about his policies and his record. He's scared to do press conferences, scared to allow anyone who hasn't signed a loyalty agreement into his campaign events and scared to debate Kerry.
The Nazi technique of a turning a lie into a truth by simply repeating it has worked again. Yet this is not the only similarity to Hitler shown by the Republican right.
In the opinion of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, "this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child." Talk about proto-fascism. The notion that the people are children to be protected by their fatherly leader is associated with authoritarian regimes. Then there are the fawning "questions" asked by the vetted audiences at Bush's campaign events which simply praise the great leader. Arnold, at the RNC, repeated Card's imagery, asserting that "America is back . . . back because of the perseverance, character and leadership of . . . Bush." So, America's recovery is entirely due to one man, the leader. The rest of the population are nonentities. If this sounds familiar then it should, it is the "leader principle" (Fuhrerprinzip) of Hitler's Germany. A principle Arnold's father was an early and willing subscriber to.
The Republican right is proto-fascist. It does not need to crush a militant labour force, as fascism did in Italy or Germany. It is not building on the ruins of a defeated nation but on the world's remaining superpower. The fusion of the state and corporations which was a key aspect of fascist social policy has not been achieved in quite the same way as in classical fascism. The worship of the patriarchal family is similar. It doubtful that it will openly advocate ending democracy or the total elimination of civil liberties, just undermine both begin the scenes.
The way forward
There are differences, yet the basic principle is similar. As is the way to defeat it. As Hitler and Mussolini showed, fighting fascism by means of the ballot box is unlikely to succeed. The direct action of the anarchists in Spain and the anarchist influenced "arditi del popolo" in Italy show that only a mass movement, willing to fight for its freedoms, can stop fascism.
So there is hope. Bush, while talking of liberty, has robbed Americans of their rights to privacy, habeus corpus and free speech (e.g. the farcical and Orwellian "Free Speech Zones"). They arrest people for simply wearing anti-Bush T-shirts or holding anti-Bush placards. But the party which hates protests and dissent was subjected to both. And that is the only hope, that dissent and protest increase.
The mass protests against the Republican National Congress are a positive sign. But as long as those who love freedom think that it is just enough to vote (or, for that matter, not vote) then the Bush Junta will not loose much sleep. The vested interests it represents can pressurise and shape any Kerry administration but they cannot pressurise and shape a whole people who know their own strength. The task for anarchists is to help create such a movement of direct action and solidarity.
Only by creating a mass movement that will use direct action and solidarity to defend freedom will things get better. Such a movement will ensure that it does not matter who wins the election for a significant part of the population will refuse to co-operate with it when it tries to push the interests of corporate America (and the conservative and religious right, in the case of the Republicans) onto them. For, ultimately, it is not Bush or Kerry which matter but rather the system which produces imperialism, war, inequality and oppression which needs to be combated and, finally, replaced. Voting has (and will) never achieve such a social revolution, only direct action has (and will).
A strong people do not need leaders. That is why government's seek to undermine individuality by treating us like children. The cynically stage-managed Republican National Convention was just a symbol the contempt for the people which is at the heart of the state.