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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/5/16

This Might Really Be The Most Important Election

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Message Lee Burkett
Here's the thing: As we watch, or perhaps more appropriately, as we endure the current spectacle of the electoral process machinating it's way toward a change in leadership that will result in no meaningful, substantial change at all, I find myself having to agree with the people who are promoting the idea that this is the most important election of all.
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While their reason for promoting that idea is simply to assure that one party or the other, one candidate or the other, get into power, my reasoning is very different: This is perhaps the most important election of all because the failures of our electoral process, the media, and our government itself, have come together in one perfect storm. And the wind is picking up.

Arguably, both political parties appear to be more divided, more at odds over both the party machinery and consensus within the parties as to who will best serve the interests of the parties. Not the people. This represents a power struggle within the anointed leadership of government itself. It is evident that this struggle has far more to do with who is in whose pocket than it does about substantial differences of ideology.

Polls indicate that the two front runners, Clinton and Trump, have an approval rating from within their own electorate of only 39% and 36% respectively. In other words, only a third of the membership of their respective parties approve of their own candidates. This, as a stand alone, highlights how little attention is paid to the wants and the will of the people. It also brings into clear focus just how little input and how little power the people have in the selection process. The degree to which the selection process is insulated from public opinion and demand carries over, directly, to how little input and how little power the people have to effect government itself.

The role media is playing in all of this, and what the function of media has become, is perhaps more evident in this election cycle than in any previous cycle. While there might be some merit in the claims that Trump is being paid lavish attention for political reasons, the fact that he "sells" cannot be ignored. Simply put, there are more viewers, more readers, every time media mentions him. When media covers him, media makes a profit. As a result he is consistently placed before the public awareness, and it is evident that no matter how repugnant his position, the more exposure he gets, the more his popularity grows. Coverage of Clinton is a much more straightforward example of media being used to promote political agendas. Clinton doesn't "sell" the way Trump does. Features and photographs of her don't spike revenue for the media, although were the media to follow it's tried and true policy of exposing scandal, Clinton ought to be "selling" right up there with Trump. The fact that media is being used to deflect attention away from her little bag of scandals is very telling. It's a blatant manipulation of media.

Sanders, and the other candidates, are suffering from a lack of media attention, and again one can't help but conclude this is politically motivated. As the RNC scrambles to distance itself from Trump, I expect to see a sudden surge in coverage of the other Republican candidates. This will also be a political decision, having little to do with "news." The coverage Sanders does receive, which I expect to see more of, relates to his ability to "sell" far more than it is an endorsement of his candidacy. The profit motive, as important as it is, has joined hands with an agenda used to help position Clinton. Each article, each feature, each sound byte seems to include a mandated juxtaposition of Sanders versus Clinton, with Clinton being the obvious favorite. Covering Sanders is a win-win for both profit and political agenda.

When Sanders promotes the idea that he and his followers are spearheading a political revolution the powers that be are all sighing with relief. Of course, they would rather not have to make any concession to the rabble, but having a candidate who presents as a revolutionary by promoting and endorsing the electoral process that placed them into their positions of power is not a bad compromise. And it certainly quashes any real actions that might be a true threat to business as usual. They will hang on to Clinton until the last because she is the turn key solution. No one will have to make any changes. I personally doubt that Sanders has any real hope of getting the nomination, but that's my opinion, and I don't present it as fact. If the impossible does happen and Sanders is sworn in, alterations will need to made to the houses of power, and a lot of redecorating will be going on, but the essential structure of power will remain unchanged. Profits will be reduced, that's pretty much the worst case scenario.

There is a certain counter intuitive truth to charges that Clinton is really just a neo-con Republican and that Trump is just a neo-lib Democrat. If the charges were reversed, the truth of the statement would not be altered. That both candidates have more in common in terms of stated position than any differences they exhibit is, I think, all that is needed to put to lie once and for all to any belief that the current electoral process offers even the least hope of creating meaningful change. The differences boil down to matters of degree and flavor, presentation and spin, what is said, what is not said, what is implied and what is inferred. Janus, the two-faced god has been revealed: one body exhibiting two faces is a proper description of the Democrats and the Republicans.

More than ever, front and center, it is glaringly obvious that this election places political self identification above reasoned choice. Facts are of no meaning, cause and effect have no place. Belief and hope are the players in this drama, no matter how much evidence suggests that belief and hope have consistently led us astray. There is a term that applies here, borrowed from the world of theatre- "suspension of disbelief." It is this process that allows us, as the audience, knowing full well that we are watching actors saying lines in a fiction designed for entertainment, to ignore the artifice. We then invest not only our attention but our emotions to the point where we care about these fictional characters and what happens to them as the plot unfolds. Taken from any angle, whether one pays attention to the whole or focuses on only one aspect of the 2016 elections, the flaws of our entire system are being paraded in open view. No matter where one stands on the political spectrum, this is a teaching moment, if you're paying attention.
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Lee Burkett is a proud member of The Screen Actor's Guild and a writer/activist.
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