Defrocking the Empress: Deconstructing the First Democratic Debate
I 'm sick and tired of Hilary Clinton's "strong debate win" going unexposed for the crude media fabrication it is. In reality, the "prime time event" misnamed 'debate' and the "expert" coverage that followed , misnamed 'analysis' reveal both the oligarchs' choice for President, and , more broadly, how the corporate-owned media gut democracy, degrade public consciousness, confound critical thought, and influence political outcomes.
The medium is the message: in this case, a hybrid super bowl and high stake quiz show, followed by post-game "analyses" delivered by appointed (employed) pundits on radio, in newspapers, and TV. Spectacle trumps content: the stage animated by exciting swathes of moving color; patriotic emotion stirred by the requisite pop celebrity belting out the martial highs of "The Star Spangled Banner"; the event moderated by Anderson Cooper, wearing a mask of gravitas; and "public engagement" streamed on glitzy video screens and posed by choreographed stereotypes: the Latino who asks about immigration, the Black about police violence. And the climax of this political theater: Hillary Clinton won!
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And by what criteria? Debate is a rigorous, intellectually disciplined competition that prizes verifiable fact, logical argument, and rhetorical skill--all of which were ignored or flouted. No--Hilary "won" because she "appeared" confident, looked "less plastic" and showed her human side (apparently her quip about women taking longer in the bathroom!).
Moreover, Clinton's performance lacked attention to her record, to her policies, or to her seemingly opportunistic trail of flip-flops and mistakes. None of this detracted from the consensus: "Hilary Clinton won".
That consensus, however, needed a foil. Sanders had to go down to provide lift to Hilary's sagging popularity. No problem. The well-practiced formula works to herd millions into conformity -- silence on urgent political and economic issues , a lid on Sanders' unassailable record of integrity as servant of public interests-- plus focus on superficialities equals: Sanders "lost" because his hair was too long, and because he unabashedly acknowledged he hadn't prepared as had Hilary-- that is, because he articulated meaningful ideas and clear positions without employing PR consultants to construct and rehearse perception management .
Management in the case of Hilary Clinton required neglecting significant political concerns, allowing misstatements and/or erroneous assertions to pass unchallenged, and, concomitantly, accepting, even applauding, her curt non-answers and evasions.
Recall for instance that Rhode Island's Lincoln Chaffee wanted to debate permanent war, the prevailing Orwellian US doctrine/policy whose gravity and consequence are impossible to overstate. A substantive political discussion would emphasize that this is a choice, one crafted largely by the military-corporate powers that Eisenhower warned against (back in the 50's!); one that dramatically affects the life quality of the people-- a choice for war above education and for unnecessary weapons of mass destruction rather than health care, bridges, roads, or public transportation; a political choice that feeds itself by inculcating fear and insecurity as justification for violations of privacy, for abrogation of civil rights, and for Big Brother's intrusions into our email, our phone conversation, etc... and, of course, for the sacrifice of more public resources, money, and lives to endless war and destruction. None of this was debated or pursued as relevant to our political choice.
Clinton delivered the 'coup de grace' on the topic of war and waste by saying nothing, and then dodging Chaffee's attempt to hold her accountable for supporting the Iraq invasion. Bernie Sanders, after all, both refused to support it, predicted the chaos it would create, and bluntly describes it "the most disastrous foreign policy decision in US history". Surely in a conflict-ridden world, a significant difference distinguishes Sanders and Chaffee from Clinton. At a minimum, accountability for costly misjudgment is due the public who have been deprived of and have lost so much to the Iraq fiasco.
Not so, however, to Hilary Clinton, or to the media judges. She defended her judgment with an appeal to authority that would earn a failing grade in a freshman composition class: Barack Obama appointed her Secretary of State. End of story. Case closed. That this logical fallacy passed unopposed reveals just how engineered this event was, how key obfuscation is to her campaign, and how arrogant Clinton is in her denial of accountability to the American people.
Witness, too, how Clinton dealt with economic inequality, the rigged system wherein Wall Street regulates Congress, and the dangers of unfettered capitalism. Bernie Sanders' deft retort to Anderson Cooper's questioning his allegiance to capitalist orthodoxy turned Cooper's provocation into the opportunity to put economic injustice on the table. Like a serious debater, Sanders insisted on clear definition: "If you mean," his gravelly voice replied, "casino capitalism"... where so few have so much and so many so little ... where the few operate with recklessness and greed", then "No!" Sanders thundered.
Clinton, in turn, seized the moment to feature herself a champion of the free market. She sidestepped Sander's searing critique of crony capitalism. Instead, Clinton "answered" Sanders with a feel-good, cliched tribute to small business and entrepreneurship-- a disingenuous response given that small business is hurt by the privileges and monopolies of the power elite whom Sanders denounced.
Clinton scored again over her threatening contender when Bernie Sanders, to illustrate a social democracy that prioritizes public welfare with its investments in education and its funding of universal health care, referenced Denmark. Again, Clinton went for self-serving performance. She said nothing about the vital issues of health care and education, or about Sanders' implied critique of the US's profit-centered health care, or about the education system that burdens young people with debt. All she attended to was "like Denmark-- the US is not Denmark", she scolded .
Then, Clinton actually called herself a "progressive who wants to get things done"-- an identification that can pass muster only in an Alice-in-Wonderland universe where words mean their opposite, or in the mass media. Hilary Clinton's record and her current policy stands don't square with 'liberal', much less 'progressive'. Progressives are not hawks; progressives don't deregulate Wall Street and recoil from policies such as Glass Steagall; progressives don't serve the public by adhering to 'quid pro quo' campaign financing by the major players of financiers, bankers, etc .