It is hard not to notice that contemporary politics is no longer about building a country based upon principles of freedom, equality, and justice. It is about tearing people down and holding power over them which is used for personal advantage, not the well-being of voter constituents.
South Dakota has embraced the politics of personal attack, even if the personal defamations, not the actual concerns of people become the dominating order of business. Much of South Dakota’s drift into meanness and calumny can be attributed to Dick Wadhams, who was John Thune’s campaign advisor in 2004 and is now devoting his malevolent talents to Mike Rounds. As a politic strategist, Wadhams’ tactics seem limited to slanders and cheap, contrived defamations. He does understand the constituents who like to have their own prejudices and malignancies fed, and as proven by John Thune’s defeat of Tom Daschle, defamation, no matter how contrived and false, has broad appeal in South Dakota. John Thune, who accrued a remarkable record of fecklessness and insouciance as a congressman, merely dutifully recited the script Wadhams gave him and won. Daschle’s performance as a leader inspired that resentment that many South Dakotans have for anyone who is good at what they do and are recognized for it outside the state. Wadhams was able to cater to and intensify that resentment.
Wadhams is a creature of the great perversion of American politics. The very people who decry same-sex marriage, force incarceration on those who have treated ebola patients, and want to impose a Christian sharia on the nation, are devoted to the political perversion of personal destruction. The political shift to the right is, in fact, a repudiation of democracy. Progress in civil rights, in negotiated legislation, and in personal liberties is stalling. In many ways, the objectives of 911 are being met as people cling to hysterical notions that government wants to take away their guns, the instruments they need to protect against a predatory government. Meanwhile, predatory corporations are funneling the nations wealth and earning power to a class of CEOs who could not care less about the people who work for them or working people in general. What attention they give working people consists of moving jobs to cheap-labor China and maintaining a workforce that increasingly does not earn enough to cover itsd necessities.
At this writing, I am in Denver and am reading accounts of expected voter turnout. According to the reports, Democrats are not voting. People are quoted about how tired they are of politics. A strong subtext in the accounts is the politics has mired down so deeply in petty attacks on personality thoat many people have become convinced that what politics has disintegrated into makes it impossible to run a country that serves freedom, equality, and justice. It has devolved into an unprincipled grab for money and power.
A political scientist I know in Colorado—a real scholar of politics, not a political hack who uses his title to advance an agenda, has been tracking the Occupy Wall Street movement. He says that while the press has, happily, reported that this revolt against the predations of American capitalism has seemed to fail, the people who supported this movement have retreated into a penetrating examination of American politics. He points out that the loss of belief in the ability of current politics to govern is the motive behind lack of interest in voting. A significant segment of the population has concluded that voting in the current political climate is a sham exercise in democracy. The serious examination of policy has been so degraded by the personal attacks that it has obscured the fact that the real choices offered the voters are between oligarchy and democracy. And a plurality of the constituency has been so indoctrinated by corporate culture that it chooses oligarchy.
The examination of the failure of American politics to serve democracy has spawned an examination into the failure of communism, and the failures come from essentially the same source. European communism failed becabuse the power was concentrated in the Kremlin and its self-serving ideology. American democracy has failed because the power is concentrated in global corporations that serve only the upper 10 percent—an oligarchy.
American politics and voting will not restore the priorities of freedom, equality, and justice. It will take a revolution to do that.
And so, South Dakota labors under the personal destructions of Dick Wadhams while the country slides into an oligarchy in which freedom, equality, and justice are heresies.