Is there any good news in the recent midterm election? Absolutely. The good news that transcends the infantilizing Democrat-good/Republican-bad logic that’s prevailing even among the most politically thoughtful among us is this: All but those desperate to believe that we don’t live in an increasingly deadly plutocracy now understand that elections and the electoral system are, by themselves, vapid vehicles, zombies of hope and change.
Without an extra-electoral power to counterbalance the corporate savaging of the electoral process, elections will continue their function of serving not flesh and bone humans, but the anonymous, abstract entities that corrupt themselves for money. This is especially true in the new political climate previewed by the midterms, one ushered in by the Supreme Court’s catastrophic Citizens United decision, which sapped even more power from human citizens in order to give it to the corporate citizens, whose wealth and ideology already dominate much of our political, economic and cultural life.
We’ve witnessed the politics of fear (war, economics, bullying, race and immigration, to name a few) being manipulated since 2008 by both parties—and the dangerous antics of President Obama and the Democrats (record-setting deportations! two wars! let them eat foreclosure notices!) proved unequivocally that Obama’s election was and is primarily about giving new color and rouge to the corpse of corporate controlled “democracy.” Unless something changes radically, this role as cover for and savior of the fantastically corrupt electoral and global system may make Obama extremely dangerous in strange and unprecedented ways. Just ask your air and your climate, your sense of hope and change, your future and that of your kids.
Still, the good news is that the fog is clearing before the sunlight of “failure.” This will allow many of us to again see what should always be our primary source of hope: We ourselves, and our astonishing collective ability to imagine and accomplish incredible things above and beyond the electoral process. That’s powerful stuff we lost sight of in our anybody-but-Bushism and the gospel feeling of having our first black president. Many of us still share this latter joy with the African American community, whose millennial struggle against domination and for freedom made Obama’s election possible. Unfortunately, however, developments between the 2008 primaries and the recent midterms make sadly, even tragically obvious that the musical cadences, magical power and profound aspirations of that millennial struggle—and of others—are being harnessed, re-shaped and reified by Democrats and Republicans in service to the truly empowered citizens—corporate citizens.
The midterm elections provide an unprecedented opportunity for us to look at ourselves, at the endangered planet we inhabit and how to bring it back into equilibrium. We need to go to the root of things, think radically (radix=going to the root). Viewed with a more radical lens than that of the infantilization that passes for political analysis, the midterms reflect the urgent need to think and act outside of the multimillion dollar marketing machinery of corporate-dominated elections.
Consider, for example, the concepts of “revolution” and “revolutionary.” These terms come to us from physics and astronomy, which use the word “revolution” to describe the process by which a celestial body follows its elliptical path back to its point of origin. Reflecting the constant fluidity of language and ideas and following the lead of science, political actors of the 18th century began deploying the terms to refer to the desire and process of overturning political systems. Rather than search for shards of hope and change (i.e.; “the Latino vote saving Sen. Harry Reid and other Democrats”) in the detritus of the Democrats’ midterm defeat, we might want to think about what revolution means today.
Revolutions return bodies to their original place, which describes precisely the equilibrium this ailing and angry planet urgently needs. So the unprecedented fact of global decline means that the revolution is all about the unprecedented mission of bringing the planet—and ourselves—back into balance. The feelings of emptiness engendered by midterm elections made our need for new revolutions and real revolutionaries as clear as the celestial lights—and this is nothing if not cosmically good news.