There was something very revealing about Charlottesville and its aftermath. Not the behavior of the president, or the disturbing resiliency of Nazism, or the willingness of some counter-protesters to initiate violence. We saw how the repugnant actions of a very tiny percentage of people can be manufactured into an all-encompassing narrative – while the corporatocracy continues fleecing America.
With his (perhaps intentional) bungled response to Charlottesville, President Trump propelled race onto center-stage, as corporate media piled on to cash in on Trump controversy. Race issues should undoubtedly be part of the national discourse, but Trump and the MSM are using Charlottesville in a manner nothing short of ‘divide and conquer.’
This demonstrates one of the main reasons why the U.S. presidency should be abolished.
Having a president is a prime driving force in the devolution of debate. Complexity is boiled away, leaving cartoonish characterizations promoted by cable TV personalities armed with clichés and the day’s talking points.
With a president, emotions are channeled into supporting or opposing the words of one person. Rationality is completely overshadowed by fear-based fallacies and the tendency toward violence. Middle ground continually disappears, growing a dichotomous world of fawning followers and rabid dissenters – regardless of which of the two parties is in power.
A president makes it easy to produce ‘fast food’ news, irresistible to short attention spans and poisonous to the system. Every four years, two people are made to represent the myth of ‘liberal vs. conservative,’ directing everyone’s energy into straw man issues. There is no room for nuance, let alone building a rational case on an issue of importance.
If you are against candidate X, then you must be a [insert buzzword] who follows candidate Y. So goes the narrative. And every four years the corporatocracy celebrates another win.
A president makes it easy to distract the masses with issues that have nothing to do with how government actually spends your money (besides Confederate statues, of course). Trump does it, Obama did it, Bush did it, and so on.
Under this framework, people are easily labeled and put into neat boxes to be used for cable TV talking heads. Sound bites from shouting matches have replaced well-informed essays. The president makes all of this easy, because he or she is willing to represent one side of the fictional debate.
Much of what is fed to the voting populace is essentially fake, but the power of the president has never been greater – especially since 9/11. The person who gets into the Oval Office has immense power to shape the federal bureaucracy to his or her will.
If “democracy” means the 51% winner of a years-long celebrity showdown gets to impose his or her will on 323 million people, it’s time to think of a better system.
Every candidate claims to be working on behalf of the people, but every president in reality is paying back the relative few who helped put him in power, while strengthening the centralized State in his own fashion. Trump is pumping up the police state with his “law and order” crusade, just as Obama vastly expanded the surveillance state.
What real function does the president serve, anyway?
For many, the first thought is “commander in chief.” But nothing prevents a representative body from selecting a commander in times of war (which really isn’t necessary in an enlightened society). The president is really there to convince Americans to ‘rally round the flag’ when the military-industrial complex wants another armed conflict. The president greases the wheels of American hegemony and economic sabotage.
Now, with the help of such things as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force – given to the executive in the wake of 9/11 – the president can bomb and invade countries at will. A single person can decide to invade Iraq, drone bomb kids in Pakistan, or drop nuclear bombs on North Korea.
Picking a Supreme Court judge? Who says a judiciary panel of representatives can’t select someone? Instead of multiple voices from different parts of the country debating over the best pick, a single person called the president is free to pick someone far more interested in ideology than rationality.
This is not a defense of the current legislative and judicial bodies. The executive branch is the focus here. Instead of serving useful functions, presidents serve as lightning rods for creating a false narrative.
And while they’re at it, presidents live a lifestyle that monarchs would envy – costing taxpayers untold billions.
As Ryan McMaken pointed out in February:
“Just last month, the taxpayers were forced to pay more than 100 million dollars to throw an immense party for the new president so he could be honored with fanfare and solemn ceremonies that would have made the Caesars envious.
As the head of this huge unitary executive, Presidents can command a huge national audience and face no opposition from any peer. They hand our awards to their friends, enjoy sumptuous food at state dinners, travel in luxury on Air Force One — at great cost to the taxpayer — and shut down entire highways and city blocks wherever they choose to go.”
McMaken, who argues that the Founding Fathers “were not nearly as insightful as is often pretended,” provides an interesting analysis of what they had to say at the Constitutional Convention.
Alexander Hamilton, in pushing for a strong executive branch, cited the need for “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch.” Hamilton would be overjoyed today, as the presidency now exerts inordinate amounts of activity and secrecy.
Not everyone was fooled at the Convention, including George Mason who correctly noted:
“If strong and extensive powers are vested in the executive, and that executive consists only of one person, the government will of course degenerate (for I will call if degeneracy) into a monarchy – a government contrary to the genius of the people that they will reject even the appearance of it.”
Mason was not insightful in his prediction that people would resist the slide to an executive branch with monarchic powers. Now, we see more polarization than ever – centered on the president – and more people saying they would support the president no matter what he does.
The pestilence of presidential politics is growing, and it’s creeping more and more into Congressional races – choking out debate about local issues in favor of divisive sound bites about allegiance to or resistance to the sitting president. Thus it serves the purpose of sustaining central authority.
Decentralization is needed now more than ever, especially considering the size of the U.S. in terms of landmass and population. Perhaps we should study whether Canada’s system of provinces offers more regional autonomy than U.S. federalism.
Different parts of the country have different ideas about doing things; one person called the president will never come close to getting everyone to agree. Isn’t it uncanny how, despite decades of U.S. presidents who profess a desire to “mend the nation,” America seems more polarized than ever?
Things are not getting better. Having a president is only making it easier for centralized power structures – represented by many factions including the Federal Reserve – to cement control over people’s lives and their economies.
McMaken proposes to break the executive branch into several administrators, which is the way most states govern. It’s difficult to fathom any solution to the situation as long as corrupt money rules politics.
If things are bad now in terms of presidential power and false narratives, there’s one thing that would drive American over the proverbial cliff. A terrorist attack the likes of 9/11, regardless of the potentially questionable circumstances, would sweep away any remaining opposition to virtual dictatorship.
Before that happens, let’s abolish the presidency.