Empire of Distraction: The Two-Party System is Designed to Distract


There’s nothing a two-party plutocracy hates more than an alternative. Jill Stein’s Green Party supplies a good one. For some, it’s the perfect progressive platform: a Green New Deal that tackles jobs and climate change in one fell swoop. It could effectively create a massive federal jobs program to weatherize America’s infrastructure to both ameliorate and withstand at least some of the rigors of global warming.

How would the Greens pay for it all? The answer is confoundingly simple: by taxing the rich and ending the wars that enrich them. The capital gains tax is woefully low–it’s largely how rentier class wealth grows–and a financial tax is a no-brainer that would have been implemented decades ago were it not for D.C. gridlock. Imagine how much spare cash the government would have in its coffers had it plucked a penny or two from the quadrillion dollar derivatives market that once again threatens to waylay the global economy? Social risk-taking should never be free.

For Stein, the unending wars and the hundreds of bases that supply them provides another massive source of taxpayer monies that can be redirected to serve the common interest rather than slaughtering Arabs and Persians and Africans on foreign shores in the name of humanitarianism.

The Pentagon has long been the uncontrollable core of the imperial state. As Dave Lindorff unearthed from Pentagon report full of daft legalese that was shuffled into the public arena unnoticed, the Pentagon cannot, or rather will not account for more than $6.5 trillion in taxpayer money.

Thanks to these and other sensible ideas, the Greens have been barred from participating in the presidential debates this fall. No surprise there. They have attacked the imperial capitalist system that propels the wealth and power of the one percent. They will be dutifully shunned by media and candidates alike. That is, unless the wrong candidate wins. Then they will be rotated on a spit of vitriol for their supposed role in electing the greater evil. In that sense, third party voters are a useful media scapegoat. As is Donald Trump.

Scapegoats and Complicit Dems

Anyone who isn’t wholly partisan and has been watching or reading the media in the last couple of months will have doubtless watched the massive machinery of media power swing its gun turret around and aim it square at Donald Trump. Every speech Trump gives is intricately dissected for intimations of racism, sexism, or latent calls for assassinations.

Sadly he provides plenty of fodder for anyone within earshot, unable to stay on script and unable to build a consensus in his adopted party. Though Trump’s cretinous ideas are apparent to millions, capitalism’s court jesters, men like Paul Krugman and David Brooks, behave as though they are prophets come to alert a nation of sinners of God’s imminent wrath.

They affect righteous outrage and appear gray-bearded and bespectacled on liberal television, a sheaf of denunciations at the ready. Or they will sit calmly in the black void of Charlie Rose’s highly esteemed propaganda hour, where white men of a certain age and standing take a philosophic view of Trump’s existential threat to national security and the like.

Trump’s role in the “quadrennial extravaganza” is to distract people from a larger and more important truth: it took a Clinton to create a Trump, and a Trump to elect another Clinton. We shouldn’t forget the rightward drift of the ship of state was propelled by the first Clinton administration and his New Democrat belief that Dems should grovel for corporate cash with the same obsequiousness as the Republicans.

Pretending there was a third way between serving the interests of labor or capital, the New Democrats took money from capital but maintained the soothing rhetorical pose of populism. But it had chosen power over principle; the third way was merely a rationalization of venality.

The Republicans naturally reacted by moving farther down the spectrum of conservative thought until they finally waded into the boiling fen of race-baiting, immigrant-hating, fear-making nationalism. Coded authoritarianism for Caucasians. The unpleasant irony of all this is that this discordant pseudo-conservative party has produced the only candidate that Hillary Clinton is capable of defeating.

Why? Because although she is deeply corrupt and criminal, Clinton performs the business of empire with more sophistication and etiquette than her untutored rival. As a result, the media is doing all it can to draw stark contrasts between the two. Clinton’s ongoing scandals are handled with kid gloves by her foot servants in the media.

Recent articles smudged the connection between the Clinton Foundation donors and State Department access, downplayed the email revelations, sounding no journalistic alarm, but seeming to rather lull the reader into a state of indifference by giving the final word to Clinton aides or finishing off the article with an open question. This isn’t objectivity but dissimulation.

Clinton is also now the subject of a variety of mainstream hagiographies built on the personal diaries of best friends and touching family photos of young Bill and Hill gathering baby Chelsea to their breasts. What is gag-inducing isn’t so much the manipulative imagery or the fake objectivity of the New York Times or the Washington Post.

It’s the corporate liberals spoonfeeding each other this thin gruel designed to make the Boomer generation’s greatest hypocrites seem like genial middle-class Americans just trying to build a home and change the world for the better.

Sad to say, the propaganda will most certainly work. The educated classes are already bewitched, reading into the polished image of Hillary another legacy of their Sixties activism–the election of a woman to the presidency. They had embraced neoliberal imperialist Barack Obama for the same historic reasons.

The rest of the voting population will have to digest a tornado of crushing attacks on The Donald, and will be persuaded to vote against what they fear in November. That’s all it will take. A good 90 to 100 million will sit out another election, recognizing with a sobriety lost on MBAs and PhD profs the tiresome prattle of sociopaths and megalomaniacs.


The Foreign Policy Question

Yet just because Hillary Clinton will win the White House, we should not conflate a November victory with a political mandate. She is deeply unpopular: of a potential 221 million voters, she won a highly suspect 13 million votes in the primaries.

The same dynamic of disgust that put voters off of Al Gore in 2000 have put millions off of Hillary Clinton in 2016. The third party position of so many that despise her couldn’t be much clearer, and much of it pivots on a principled objection to supporting war, with a domestic rejection of institutional racism.

We do not support imperial wars based on fake humanitarian pretexts. Hillary does.

We do not support the super-incarceration of supposedly super-predator black teens. Hillary does.

We do not support threatening nuclear-armed Russia with war. Hillary does. We do not want tactical nuclear weapons “on the table.” Hillary does.

We do not compare Putin to Hitler. Hillary does.

We do not laugh when the popular president of the most prosperous nation in Africa is murdered. Hillary does.

We do not support toothless climate agreements that one of the most respected climatologists in the world called, “bullshit.” Hillary does.

We do not support the privatization of Social Security. Hillary does.

We do not claim to be a trailblazer for women’s rights while driving regime changes that plunge millions of brown women and children in the Middle East into desperate poverty and exile. Hillary does.

We do not recommend a global assassination program that dismembers uncharged, untried, and unconvicted males in distant lands.

We do not call Moscow expansionist while committing ourselves to a Zionist regime itself committed to the expansionist concept of Greater Israel.

We do not treat democracy with contempt, condone vote rigging, and actively compromise the DNC–a purportedly neutral organization. Hillary does.

We do not support deregulation on Wall Street, the protection of the derivatives trade, minor fines for major crimes, and world-historical bailouts. Hillary does.

We do not back investor rights agreements that give corporations legal power over sovereign states. Hillary will.

Indeed, it was Bill Clinton who first privileged the corporate interest over the general will, with his wife’s backing. Why should she not do the same in office, with her husband’s backing?

As is obvious, foreign policy is not least among the #NeverHillary crowd’s multiple grievances. By contrast, Trump is nearly impossible to read on foreign policy. He is suspicious of NATO. He thinks the Iraq War was a fraud based on manufactured lies. He wants to get along with Vladimir Putin.

But he has also reportedly asked what good are nuclear weapons if you can’t use them? He said he would bring back torture (as if it is no longer being used). He would kill not only terrorists, but their entire families (which would make him a terrorist). He said the Geneva Conventions are a problem.

The flippant farce of Trump’s foreign policy statements are by turns rational and unconventional, impetuous and extremely dangerous.

Only Clinton has a political resume, by which she has demonstrated a very real willingness to suborn murder and has flaunted an utterly capricious grasp of statecraft. Trump is a blank slate with some contradictory campaign rhetoric and a catalog of racist and sexist vulgarities and behavior.

But a transcript is not a track record. It is Hillary’s crimson curriculum vitae of regime change, murder, and, wittingly or not, enabling the ideal conditions for rape, ethnic cleansing, impoverishment, exile, and terrorism that should command headlines.

She produced all of those things in Libya, tried her best to achieve the same in Syria, and prodded her husband to do as much in Serbia. She will be the first non-incumbent president to be elected in the modern era who is already a war criminal. Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama all had to win the Oval Office to claim that crown. Hillary already wears it.

Distracted from What?

Point being, in an empire, the impact of the election extends well beyond our borders. It affects a world of people who have no vote, but who live in the crosshairs of the imperial state. That population is larger than ours, disenfranchised, and marked for destruction.

What may happen at home cannot match the harm done abroad. It is the foreign policy of the candidates that must be most closely vetted, not the identity politics, important as they are. The Greens are the only party openly addressing the disenfranchised beyond our borders.

In the end, it isn’t Trump or Hillary we must defeat, but imperialism itself. Elite-owned media does not want that message coming through–better to divert the populace with redundant rants about this candidate or that voting block.

What we must do is vote down imperialism. That is an easy thing to forget during an election cycle, when our minds are trained on the superficial polarities of the two-party system. Jill Stein makes this point.

But as always, third party freethinkers will be clobbered with the cudgel of conformity before and after November. Stein will be an enduring marker of the third party voter’s witlessness, scratched onto his headstone along with the names of Robert La Follette and Ralph Nader and Eugene Debs, among others. A proud genealogy of dissent, to be sure.

But until we break the duopoly, the third-party left will be America’s rogue colony, an anti-war, anti-capitalist anachronism in an empire founded on a lurid cocktail of slavery and genocide, alongside propositions of equality, free speech, religious tolerance, the right to privacy, and due process, but one that has very infrequently bothered to consult its constitution, or international law, for guidance in foreign affairs.

The question that remains for corporate liberals is this: Is it not true that the faster we get a labor party into power the faster we can end empire? Is it not true that the faster we replace the ethos of self-interest with one of general interest, the better off the majority will be?

Is this not an infinitely smarter long-term strategy than the short-sighted, fear-based demand that we elect the less right-wing party, which will then move further to the right in four years time, in keeping with the built-in authoritarian, profit-seeking template of capital. Hillary need only hoist the banner of identity politics to capture a plurality of corporate liberal votes.

Aside from issues that do not threaten corporate power, Hillary is a neoliberal neoconservative, through and through. Her imperial insignia bears the empty bowl of austerity and the mushroom cloud of war, both shaded beneath the high masthead of the almighty dollar.

Empire is the sin that spawns all others. It is built on aggression, and as Justice Robert Jackson said while presiding at the Nuremburg Trials, “Aggression is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Imperialism enshrines nationalism, aggravates racism, encourages the divisions caused by bigotry, steals our jobs, lowers our wages, eviscerates our standard of living, and in its industrial cloth poisons our planet. Why vote to bandage this terminal disease when we can vote to lance the boil altogether?


Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com


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