"Is this the best we can do? ... If this is the best we can do? Then our best isn't good enough and we have to ask some hard questions about our political system."
While this quote from former Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich is specifically referring to the debate over the creation of Obamacare, I find it a very pertinent question to ask as we see preparations unfold for the 2016 Presidential Election. I'm looking at a range of potential and declared candidates for the upcoming race and despite the vast quantity, I'm finding a dearth of quality. The measure of quality is something I base not just on what they say, not just on what they do, but also how they gather support. Kucinich is a perfect example of this. As a Congressman, I love everything that he said. In that same capacity, I love almost everything that he did. But as a presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, he did a terrible job gathering support for his campaign. Sad to see a nice guy fall short, but that's the reality of the cold mean world of politics.
Let's start with the Democrats, or in the case of 2016, Democrat. That is the pitiful reality at play today. Sure, it's fun to cheer the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders. It's fun to think that he might really present a "challenge" to the nomination, that in the course of inevitably debating Hillary Clinton during the primaries that he might "push her to the left", or whatever meme you want to push pretending that Sanders' candidacy has viability. But that's all it amounts to: pretending. Barring some unforeseen calamity equivalent to the 2008 Economic Meltdown, this is not a 'change' election, aside from the obvious term limits. And socialism is not the new black. Sanders, in terms of the Democratic nomination for president, is in the same camp as Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee and anyone else who wants to throw their hat in the ring: next in line in case Hillary Clinton is photographed abusing an endangered species or in bed with anyone other than Bill.
That's the reality for the Democratic primary season - there is no serious challenger capable of unseating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination except Hillary Clinton. Any "challenge" to her nomination is in name only. Pardon my lack of enthusiasm, but I'm just not excited that a candidate who voted for the Iraq quagmire we're still embroiled in after 12 years, who hires a former Monsanto lobbyist to run her campaign, and who refuses to take a public stand on Keystone XL is the best we can do. But listen to how money talks: Clinton is planning on raising $200-300 million for the Super PACs that back her. There simply is no other potential nominee on her side of the aisle that even comes close to her numbers.
What prompted her to do this is that on the other side of the aisle the fundraising is just as blatantly aggressive, primarily from Jeb Bush. Yep, that's reason number two why I'm throwing my hands in the air echoing the Kucinich complaint. Really?! Reveling in 90s nostalgia can't just be limited to reviving The X-Files and Twin Peaks, we have to have another Clinton-Bush presidential showdown?! Sure, the ideologues on the right can pretend that their commitment to 'purity' will win the day and put Ted Cruz or some other bottom-feeding troglodyte in power, but we all know the truth is that money talks and bullshit walks. The Bush family and money go together like the CIA and plausible deniability. (Actually, all four things go together, don't they?) Jeb already has decided to let his Super PAC run his campaign. Though he has refused to release the numbers on his record-setting fundraising, it's impressive enough that he has instructed his donors not to donate more than $1 million, presumably so they'll have more to give deeper into the campaign. All this from someone who still hasn't declared his official candidacy.
Plus, this is all a warm-up to the real money yet to be laid out. Not the million dollar contributors, the billion dollar contributors. Bush is reported to have "impressed" casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is one of the GOP's wealthiest donors with a net worth of $27.8 billion. But as far as combined wealth is concerned, nobody beats the Koch brothers. David Koch and his brother Charles are worth $42.8 billion according to Forbes, though Bloomberg estimates their combined wealth at $100 billion. So when the Koch brothers say they are hoping to raise $1 billion for their favorite Republican candidates, that may only represent 1 percent of their total net worth. So congratulations to Politico.com for publishing one of the most honest headlines I've seen about the electoral process in years:
Charles and David Koch are considering throwing their massive wealth and sophisticated organization into the Republican presidential primary for the first time, a potentially game-changing boost that could make even a second-tier candidate instantly viable.
In another surprise, a top Koch aide revealed to POLITICO that Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support, despite initial skepticism about him at the top of the Kochs’ growing political behemoth.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz debated at the Koch network’s winter seminar in January, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made a separate appearance. Those were the candidates who appeared to have a chance at the Koch blessing, and attendees said Rubio seemed to win that round.
But those four — plus Jeb – will be invited to the Kochs’ summer conference, the aide said. Bush is getting a second look because so many Koch supporters think he looks like a winner. Other candidates, perhaps Rick Perry or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, may also get invitations.
That's the slimy reality concerning the wealthiest .01 percent: they run this country. Anyone who wants to be President must pass their audition! Maybe Jeb won't pass the audition. Aside from his recent ridiculous flub on the question of the Iraq war, aside from his prior membership in the group that originated the phrase "New Pearl Harbor", the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), where he supported a call for "bioweapons that can 'target' specific genotypes...as a politically useful tool" (thanks to temp-monitor at RI for that find), aside from appearing to be even deeper in denial about climate change than his brother George W., there is the question of his involvement in narcotics trafficking. There is the recent news of Jeb's four mysterious companies that all share the same address, yet have never done any known business. While that shady story is not definitive proof, it takes on sinister connotations in light of the claim that Jeb Bush chaired a meeting attended by Iran/contra conspirators Dewey Clarridge, Richard Secord and Oliver North discussing the assassination of CIA drug smuggler Barry Seal five months before he was assassinated. Then there's that other nagging question Jeff Wells asked: why did Jeb Bush and federal agents seize records from Huffman Aviation, the Florida flight school of Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers owned by a man whose Learjet was seized with over 30 pounds of heroin in July 2000, and fly away on a C-130 cargo plane at 2AM on 9/12/01? What happened to those records? And how did Jeb know where to look less than 24 hours after the attacks?!
Then again, I'm sure the ultra-wealthy industrialists who run this country already know the answers to those questions and wouldn't bother to put Jeb through the sort of inaugural christening that Bill Hicks described over 20 years ago. Jeb already knows his agenda - just look at the foreign policy advisor team he has already compiled. You think that brood of vipers won't be waiting in the wings even if Jeb doesn't win the nomination?! The news isn't that the fix is in, it's been in - and not enough people care to put a stop to what ails us. It's an overall national apathy that Sibel Edmonds has spelled out in grueling detail. We know the "independent" 9/11 Commission was a farce - commissioners Charles Kean and Lee Hamilton wrote a book where they admitted that Pentagon officials were dishonest during their hearing - and nothing is done. The head of the FBI's anthrax investigation said the whole thing was a sham - and I hear crickets chirping. Our public officials are bought and sold before their names are even printed on our ballots - and we think calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United will make a difference?! All Citizens United has done is taken a process that normally took in the shadows, behind the billowy curtains of Oz, and rubbed it in our faces. Why? Because it's easier and because, post 9/11, post Patriot Act, they know they can get away with it.
Focusing on Citizens United ignores the fact that money has always found a way to get their interests represented by the government. It's obvious, I've said it umpteen times on this blog, but I'll say it again: until you change the way money works, you change nothing. So why don't we? Why don't we change the way money works so that, among other things, we can actually have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people? Well, aside from all the examples of apathy I listed above, I'll leave it to George Carlin to explain. His explanation was made almost 20 years ago, but is still timely as it gives a pertinent answer to Dennis Kucinich's question:
“Now, there's one thing you might have noticed I don't complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here... like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There's a nice campaign slogan for somebody: 'The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope.”
So keep staring at that monitor, folks. You'll see another election. You'll see another war. You'll see another piece of your Social Security stripped away. You'll see another piece of your civil rights stripped away. Because until the lights go out, until our cars don't run, until our climate starts cooking our farmlands to the point we can't grow food for first world citizens, that's exactly where we'll collectively stay.