Ignore the rhetoric and follow the money

If you’re a regular reader of this blog it’s no secret to you that I’ve
been following the 2008 Presidential election very closely. But here’s
a confession.

I despise politics.

I grew up in a developing nation where politics is an open charade and corruption in government is the norm.
When I moved to the U.S. I was impressed by the "civility" and
"sophistication" of the political system along with the intellect and
educational level of politicians. However, the longer I look and the
more I see, I’ve come to realize that it’s the same dirty corrupt
politics I was running away from. In fact, due to the superpower status
of United States, its corrupt politics is worse and more globally
destructive than that of a developing South East Asian nation. So why
am I following this election? Well, let me put it this way. I’m not a
big football fan but I get ecstatic watching a close match during the
Super Bowl.

However, as much as I’m impressed by Edwards’ leadership and comedic abilities, Hillary Clinton’s lifetime political experience, and Barack Obama’s charisma and post-partisan eloquence,
I don’t delude myself that any one of them would get the job done. (But
I maintain my opinion that they are better than any of the Republican
alternatives in this election. We have to draw the line somewhere.)

Political blogs could argue as much as they want until the cows come home. The likes of Andrew Sullivan could get a fix taking pot shots at the Clintons. Daily Kos could rattle the blogosphere in its endorsement of John Edwards. The integral camp could shoptalk their way in describing how Obama’s cognition is "seemingly Green to Teal or higher" whatever that means. But for
me, this election is not about choosing a candidate who could
miraculously "change" and fix the U.S. mess (i.e. iraq war, budget deficit,
health care, environmental policies, wayward capitalism, etc.) in the
foreseeable future. When we elect a President we are not electing a
benevolent philosopher-king who has autonomy to do the right thing. We
are electing a group of people (i.e. national security and foreign policy advisers)
who have ties and responsibilities with special interest groups that
support their campaigns and back their policies. As they say in mystery
novels, "follow the money trail." And therein lies the aorta of political corruption. Conspiracy theorists love to riff on this angle, and rightly so.

Case in point: In a Global Research article, 2008 election charade: White House bought by big money, Larry Chin argues:

is no illusion what the “election” really is, and whose hands are
manipulating the sock puppets [presidential candidates]. Each sock
puppet serves the world’s upper management, and uses the populace as
cannon fodder…. The ignorant, acquiescent, uninformed and often
painfully stupid mass US populace not only marches to the beat set by a
blatantly corrupt corporate media, it further adds to its
self-destruction by aping the political views of wealthy Hollywood
celebrities — who are themselves painfully ignorant and misguided
individuals, making asinine decisions with their celebrity power and

Well, I’m not saying that Larry Chin has an accurate view with his New World Order conspiracy theory goggles. But he does have a point when it comes to the corrupting influence of big money.

And here’s another case in point from a non-conspiracy theory angle. This one is a video of Lawrence Lessig’s lecture on Corruption. A must-see.

So, are you still mesmerized by your candidate?

I hate to sound pessimistic. But
that is what I feel at this very moment. The more I survey the
political landscape of this election — from candidate websites, major
news sites, political blogs, science blogs, op-eds, to conspiracy
theory eggheads — the more disappointed I get. The deeper I dig the
more dirt I gather, the more stench I uncover. But there’s one valuable thing I gain from
following this election: it’s an exercise on awareness of political
issues and their local and global repercussions.

Maybe that’s why economists don’t vote.

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