St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Talent, McCaskill conspire to preserve duopoly

In the 1950s, when the Oracle and St. Louis television were both young, the Veiled Prophet Ball was a featured televised event. The restrictive organization of city’s upper crust used television to allow the masses to take a peak at the grandeur of their little members-only soiree that glorified themselves and their riches. It mattered not that some working man’s daughter was brighter, prettier or was more likely to make the community a better place, for the Queen of Love and Beauty was chosen just from among their own kind.

The upcoming senatorial debates between Republican Sen. Jim Talent and Democrat Claire McCaskill are reminiscent of those times. These two establishment campaigns have just agreed to their 5th joint debate – and the fourth limited to just themselves. The four duets will be televised live over free tv. The business community and the corporate media have eagerly cooperated to keep these private little parties a closed affair. Other candidates on the ballot, Libertarian Frank Gilmour and Progressive Lydia Lewis, are consciously and pointedly excluded. It matters not that they offer much different and perhaps better ideas. They’re not part of the private club, and this election is for members only.

While principled third parties from both sides of the political spectrum have alleged for years that Democrats and Republicans were really reading from the same corporate script, this year that’s literally happening. Talent and McCaskill’s unprecedented issuance of joint press releases about the debates that even include self-laudatory comments about the other seems to be a genuine smoking gun for conspiracy theorists.

The Missouri Press Association held a token all-candidate forum on September 15, nearly two months before the election, that was not broadcast or telecast live anywhere. Interested voters need to watch for video replays on C-SPAN (available only to subscribers of cable or satellite television) and its web site (available only to those with web access.)

None of this is an accident. A viable and principled third party candidate would be the corporate political establishment’s worst nightmare. Worse yet is evidence that the public is receptive, actually hungry, for just such a choice. A little publicized April 25 nationwide poll by Princeton Survey/Pew Research Center reported that 53% agreed that we should have a third major political party. The Oracle has circulated petitions to get the Green and Progressive Parties on the ballot every election since 2000, and found people more eager to sign this year than ever before.

The corporate political establishment clearly fears that non-corporate candidates like Lewis and Gilmour will expose how similar Talent and McCaskill really are. Both of them support the U.S. war in Iraq, differing only on how the war is managed. Talent and McCaskill both favor the death penalty, are anti-drug hardliners, and oppose same-sex marriage, differing only about whether a constitutional amendment is necessary. Both Talent and McCaskill favor health care plans that continue to rely on insurance companies, which Lewis contends are the heart of the problem. And they both appeal to anti-immigrant hysteria, promoting policies that are even farther to the right than President Bush! Lewis takes the opposite stand on all of those issues. Gilmour agrees more with Lewis than the other two, and in some cases suggests policies in the opposite direction (such as no government involvement at all with health care).

As this all evolves, it is increasingly clear that it is more important to the corporate political establishment to preserve their duopoly than whether Talent or McCaskill wins. Instead they are pulling out all the stops to insure that voters don’t know about Lewis or Gilmour or what they stand for.

The Green Party nationally (including its Missouri affiliate, the Progressive Party) was formed by people who were tired of the same business-oriented policies from the existing parties. While the Greens have roots that date back to the 1980s, their greatest growth prior to this year was inspired by disappointment in the unprogressive policies of the Clinton-Gore Administration, culminating in Ralph Nader’s presidential candidacy in 1996 and 2000. Progressives could not stay in a party whose President joined with House Speaker Newt Gingrich to pass the job-killing NAFTA free (not fair) trade agreement, who worked (in Clinton’s words) “to end welfare as we know it,” and who initiated massive aggression against other sovereign nations, seemingly bombing helpless nations whenever he needed to divert attention away from a personal scandal. Meanwhile, since Teddy Roosevelt left the White House, the Republican Party has offered few policies that progressives could support.

Lewis, the Progressive, notes wryly, “Democrats and Republicans are just opposite sides of the same coin, and that coin is in the pocket of corporate America.”

Greens and Progressives also recoiled from the deteriorating ethical standards in both parties. Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader set himself apart from partisan Democrats by announcing that, if he had been in Congress, he would have voted to impeach President Clinton for his obstruction of justice. Nader and the Greens also prophetically warned against the corporate greed and corruption that later came to pass. Even today the Greens (and the Progressive Party in Missouri) continue to be the only political party whose candidates are totally independent of corporate control because they refuse to accept money from corporations or corporate-sponsored political action committees.

Today, the situation is even worse, especially in Missouri. Republicans promote horrendous policies, while Democrats mimic them as best they can in order to pander to more conservative voters. Dr. Bill Hastings, Progressive Party candidate for Congress in the 9th District, notes the folly of that strategy. “Voters clearly see no reason to support Democrats running as conservatives when they can vote Republican in case they want to support conservatives.” Expanding on Hastings' sentiments, why would conservative voters fall for McCaskill's pandering when they already have the real thing in Talent?

The interests of progressive voters (and especially minorities) are taken for granted by Democrats and written off by Republicans. Progressives clearly need a party of their own, and the Progressive Party is here to answer the call. The Libertarian Party might make a similar case for itself on the right, but I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Big Business and Big Media are doing their best to suppress information about the real challengers. It’s up to the people to demand better from their public airwaves. Protest the exclusion of Gilmour and Lewis, and make “Tweedle Dee” Talent and “Tweedle Dum” McCaskill make a case for themselves against meaningful alternatives. If either Talent or McCaskill had any confidence in their positions and enough integrity to rock the boat, they would insist on the inclusion of the others.

Don’t count on it.