MATERIAL WORLD: The Manchurian Electorate

If you've been wondering why we need to deal with political oxymorons like "Compassionate Conservativism" when the next presidential election is still more than 13 months away, or why George W. Bush has already amassed a campaign chest larger than the annual budget of most small countries, or even why Pat Buchanan and his sinister female incarnation Bay, Liddy and What's-His-Name, Al and Tipper, Jesse "The Body", and Ross Perot manage to inject themselves into every single news cycle, the credit for all that goes to the Man From Hope.Historians tell us that the brainwashing of the American electorate was one of the many daring political innovations introduced by former Arkansan Bill Clinton, during a brief hiatus between consecutive terms in the Governor's Mansion. Instead of long years of conducting the people's business, interrupted by brief periods of political wheeling and dealing, Clinton introduced the neverending campaign. It was a totally unprecedented strategy, one that would catapult him into the White House, and provide fulltime employment for political observers like me.The technique is not unlike the saturation bombing of London in WWII, a tactic designed to numb the population into submission through repeated assault. By beginning a political campaign within days of the preceding election, the perpetual blitzkrieg of the media would ensure that henceforth, every single evening news broadcast, every hourly cycle of CNN, and every front page of every newspaper in the nation would include a candidate's name, no matter how trivial the reason.Crisscrossing the country on a combination of whistle stop tours, ribbon cuttings, monument unveilings, memorial services, redwoods rescuings, state fairs, Kiwanis kielbasa socials, and flood, drought, hurricane, and tornado disaster relief photo ops, a candidate is soon able to lull the captive population into a deep stupor. Like the rote learning so popular in certain elementary school curricula, constant repetition permanently destroys the pathways in the cerebral cortex, obliterating all rational thought.When the pre-arranged signal sounds, on the second Tuesday in November, more than half of the electorate is too braindead to vote. Only a small percentage of voters will actually stagger to the polls, like Pavlov's dogs, and pull the predetermined lever. Which leaves the decision making process squarely in the hands of those with a fiduciary interest in the eventual results.As the history books reveal, during his first term as Governor of Arkansas, Mr. Clinton made the kind of rookie mistakes that professional politicians quickly learn to avoid. Pressing forward eagerly to transform his optimistic platform into legislation, he alienated his biggest campaign contributors, and fell soundly on his face in the next election. Since, at that time, gubernatorial elections in Arkansas were held every two years, Clinton spent the next 24 months rethinking his agenda, and he came to two dramatic conclusions.The first realization was that the only way to continue to be re-elected was to tailor his agenda to the will of the electorate. This required the constant polling and pulse taking which would come to symbolize the golden age of the Clinton Presidency.What Clinton bestowed on posterity was the popular simulation of empathy known as "I'm There for You", and you, and you and you. Currently configured as the "listening tour", it is the mainstay of Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign, remarkable chiefly for its total absence of substance. The benefit of the ïI'm All Ears' concept is that it personalizes polling, removes any middleman bias inherent in the data gathering process, and allows the candidate to switch sides on any issue with the speed of light.The second epiphamy was that quick turnarounds in the Governor's Mansion would require nonstop fundraising. This may have been the most remarkable of the Clintonian legacies, even more lasting than the redefinition of sex, or what the meaning of the word "is" is. In one fell swoop, the President revolutionized the political process by inventing the perpetual money stream.Instead of gearing up every few years, to build the kind of political war chest requisite in this age of media saturation, Clinton made the pursuit of campaign financing a fulltime job. Even now, busy as he is facilitating MidEast peace accords, bombing Iraq, and pardoning political prisoners with supporters registered to vote in New York, the President still is able to devote roughly one-third of his time to attending party fundraisers and other $1000. a plate chicken a la king dinners.Today, politicians everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to this visionary concept, known as the Clinton Social Security plan for special interests. Pay into the system during the campaign, reap the rewards after the election.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close