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Global Electioneering Industry: The Real Winner of the 2012 Elections

Steve Horn
NationofChange / News Report
Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that no one understands this better than the profiteering electioneers cashing in on Democracy, Inc.
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The pundit class has offered a slew of postmortems in the attempt to extract meaning in the aftermath of the 2012 elections. Missing from the majority of these analyses altogether: the real winner of the 2012 election.  No, not Democratic Party President-elect Barack Obama nor Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but rather what Portland State University Professor of Urban Studies and Planning called the “Global Electioneering” industry in his 2005 book by that namesake.  “Corporate domination, centralization, and professionalization of political space have eliminated almost all but limited symbolic participation of ordinary people” in the electoral politics, Sussman explained in the first chapter of his book. On Nov. 10, The Washington Post reported that tens of millions of dollars were made by private consultants during the 2012 presidential campaign alone, writing:

In the presidential race alone, the two main media firms working for President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney earned profits for handling more than half a billion dollars of campaign advertising, according to disclosures and ad tracking data. Neither company is required to report how much it received in compensation for that work, but their combined cut could easily be $25 million or more at standard industry rates. 

Other big earners were the digital strategy companies, telemarketing firms, air charter services, pollsters and consultants who saw a spike in business in a presidential contest that cost at least $2.6 billion. The surge in spending was a financial boon for everyone from the specialized producers that make political commercials to the local television stations that broadcast them.Political campaigns are seen as a marketing opportunity for public relations and political consulting firms, a major space via which they can achieve profit margins. 

 “Political marketing is the offspring of product marketing. Candidates (and voters) have become commodities in the production of the election spectacle...In a highly mediated and entertainment-oriented public culture, political marketers have to work assiduously to capture the attention of likely voters,” Sussman explained. “Commodities” is a good way of putting it. For example, in 2008, the Obama campaign was rewarded with Ad Age's "Product of the Year" award. A Growth Industry and Export Commodity The American economy is suffering badly, with an unemployment rate of 7.9-percent and many more not included in the official bean count, amounting to a real unemployment rate of 14.7-percent. Global electioneering, on the other hand, is a booming sector, growing hastily in the post-Citizens United era of "dark money."

"The number of political consultants over the past twenty years has grown rapidly,” wrote Sussman in “Global Electioneering.” "There is a symbiotic, mutually constituting and benefitting aspects of the money-driven election system...[T]here are certain groups such as consultants...that always stand to benefit from money-driven elections."

Importantly, the “electioneering industry” knows no boundaries and has been exported around the world. 

The best example of this - but far from the only one - is Bolivia, as featured in the film “Our Brand Is Crisis.” As the film documents, in the run-up to the 2002 election, Democratic Party consultants James Carville, Stanley Greenberg, Jeremy Rosner and others out ofGreenberg Quinlan Rosner took their product to Bolivia and helped the right-wing candidate Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada ("Goni") defeat the leftist candidate, current President Evo Morales.  

Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian explained what happened after "Goni" prevailed in a recent post:

In October 2003, the intensely pro-US president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, sent his security forces to suppress growing popular protests against the government's energy and globalization policies. Using high-powered rifles and machine guns, his military forces killed 67 men, women and children, and injured 400 more, almost all of whom were poor and from the nation's indigenous Aymara communities. Dozens of protesters had been killed by government forces in the prior months when troops were sent to suppress them.

Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II” by William Blum also points to a wide array of instances in which the CIA stepped in and inserted "dark money" to influence the result of an election in favor of the more right-wing candidate - often but not always - at the 11th hour.

"Dollarocracy": Not what Democracy Looks Like

Despite the months theatrical performances, when push comes to shove, as Robert McChesney recently concluded in an essay appearing in the Monthly Review, "this isn't what democracy looks like."

"The most striking lesson from contemporary U.S. election campaigns is how vast and growing the distance is between the rhetoric and pronouncements of the politicians and pundits and the actual deepening, immense, and largely ignored problems that afflict the people of the United States," wrote McChesney.

Paralleling the concept introduced in Sheldon Wolin's book "Democracy, Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism," published in 2010, McChesney introduced the concept of "Dollarocracy," which he defines as "the rule of money rather than the rule of the people."  

Dollarocracy, and not democracy, prevailed on Nov. 6 and once again, it was electioneering elites that came out ahead.

"The carefully cultivated belief that we live in a society governed by the demos (the popular classes) is patently absurd in the face of the reality of Dollarocracy," concluded McChesney.

It's not a stretch of the imagination to say that no one understands this better than the profiteering electioneers cashing in on Democracy, Inc

ABOUT Steve Horn


Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog. He is also a freelance investigative journalist whose work has appeared in Al Jazeera America, The Guardian, The Progressive Magazine, CounterPunch Magazine, TruthOut and others. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveAHorn.

When are people going to wake

When are people going to wake up and stop demanding these billion $$ circuses? We were given other viable choices this election, but this myth that we must adhere to a two party system defies logic. Term limits are a must and they should be set at 2 terms in any federal office and there be a 4 term max lifetime. There should be no pay beyond reimbursement of normal and reasonable expenses for your time in DC. This means no lifetime health care, no retirement, no 6 figure incomes, no private cars with drivers, no personal body guards. Acceptable housing will be covered and if you don't like it, then you pay out of your own pocket. You will be expected to have a day job to go home to.

Lastly, we need to empower We the People with the ability to legally dissolve the government when it becomes non-functioning, like it has been for the past 3.5 years. This election should have been a loud no confidence vote on the Federal Government given how most people were howling. Yet, what happened? All but 38 House Reps were put back in office.

New Rule: No more carping about how horrible the Federal government is. You fools wanted this $2.6 BILLION dollar circus, you got it. You wanted a disfunctional government and you voted for it by returning all but 38 people to the House. You got exactly what you asked for, now enjoy it. And don't pull out the lessor-of-2-evils card, you willingly chose to vote for evil when you did not have to.

Yet another article which

Yet another article which complains misleadingly that today's elections don't exemplify real democracy. As a matter of fact, USA federal and state political systems - by deliberate constitutional design - have never been democracies. Real democracies don't need mass elections - adversarial non-deliberative non-reasoned popularity contests. Purely symbolic - but de facto unempowered - participation in decision-making is the ONLY thing that mass elections have EVER offered the great mass of us, the people. Elections are a sop so that we accept political oligarchy: decision-making (legislative, executive or judicial) by a relatively few high officers - elected or appointed - who hold long terms - from two years to life.

Ancient Athens actually had a citizen democracy. Through term-limited service on deliberative juries, randomly-chosen citizens made the city's prime decisions. (Athen's democracy has gotten an unmerited bad rap for features which we would NOT need to duplicate in an updated version; these features included a whimsical free-for-all general assembly, and restriction of citizenship to adult free propertied native-born males.)

The US 'Founding Fathers' opted for a more familiar (and more readily corrupted) Roman-republic-style political oligarchy. The lack of democracy owes to their design, not to injection of dollars into campaigns created to take advantage of needless elections.

The rulers feel that all it

The rulers feel that all it takes is for the populace to feel good even when they are getting screwed. In 2008 what was needed was a wait and see attitude or an attitude to exert pressure on the president to make sure he lived up to his promises.

After president Obama was elected I felt a bit disappointed when activist Van Jones came out and said the big winner in the Obama election was the middle class. I asked myself, what did they win? No union card check. No guarantee saving of medicare, social security. No jobs program. No moratorium on mortgages. The middle class is worst off since Obama took office.

But you need to look at who

But you need to look at who is pushing the causes of what you mention.

Without a doubt the middle class has taken a huge hit since 2004. The GOP enabled financial free-for-the-1% had to feed off from somebody. It wasn't going to be the poor who were already having their wallets pillaged.

Yet, people still keep electing the same incompetent crooks to office. These same crooks have enabled a ruling class that rivals King George's England that Jefferson, Adams, and the rest rebelled against.

We can only wait and see if Mr. Obama will have a strong straight spine and stand up to the crooks, or if he will keep folding easier than a lawn chair. Past performance indicates the later.

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