From Emilie@ix.netcom.com Mon Aug 21 10:33:06 2000
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 23:36:07 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Emilie F. Nichols" &W#60;Emilie@ix.netcom.com>
Subject: Only 50% of Americans vote for the president and the protests outside the Democratic convention explain why
Only 50% of Americans vote for the president and the protests outside the Democratic convention explain why
By Duncan Campbell, in Guardian, (London)
Saturday 19 August 2000
Two images stand out from the protests taking place outside the
Democrats' convention in Los Angeles this week.
The first was of battalions of riot police, equipped as if for an
invasion, standing guard outside the downtown temples of corporate
America as demonstrators marched past.
The second was of the mainly Latino workers in the Broadway sweatshops
leaning out of windows to cheer on the marchers protesting against
"corporate greed" and globalisation.
The images symbolise both what is missing from conventional American
politics, what divides the haves and have-nots of the world's
richest country and what is fuelling the still unspecific but
growing international movement that started in Seattle last year
and will be seeking another platform in Prague next month.
Only half of the American electorate vote for the president and
the events of the past week in LA have partly served to explain
why. The financial clout of the corporations now gives the appearance
of having permeated every aspect of policy-making so that it is no
longer clear to many people whether their elected representatives
are acting in the voters' interests or their backers' interests.
Do politicians shy away from real gun reform because of the gun
Do they back a judicial system that jails more than 2m Americans
because the prison-industrial complex now carries such weight?
Are they helping the Colombian government in a civil war because
they want to protect the interests of American oil and because it
suits the military-industrial complex?
For many politicians the answer may be no, but the suspicion will
remain as long as the race is to the richest. The news this week
that George W Bush had now raised $100m for his campaign and his
running mate, Dick Cheney, had received a corporate pay-off of $20m
further emphasised the great gulf between those inside the safe
convention walls and those outside on the streets.
And it is this gut feeling that the corporations and the international
financial bodies are now controlling decisions on wages, the
environment or immigration, that has helped to mobilise this still
loosely-knit confederation of protest.
What fuels it, too, in the United States, is the feeling that
neither of the two main parties offer alternatives on what are to
some people the most important issues of the day.
One of the angriest demonstrations of the week focused on those on
death row and in jail for drug offences. Both Democrats and
Republicans back the death penalty and both support the "war on
drugs" that has led to the incarceration of so many. Indeed one of
Al Gore's pledges during his acceptance speech was for a further
50,000 police officers. Not a further 50,000 teachers for a country
with the illiteracy levels similar to those of many third world
countries; not a further 50,000 medical workers for a country where
40m are not entitled to healthcare. No wonder some of the placards
outside carried the slogan: "Don't incarcerate, educate".
The ghost at the feast this week has been Ralph Nader, the Green
party's candidate and now the repository of the hopes of the liberal
left outside the Democratic party. His name was written in the
heavens by a sky-writing plane on Wednesday and has been on the
lips of many throughout the week. Is a vote for Nader a vote for
Bush is the question that will be asked many times between now and
November, but increasingly the evidence is that the uncommitted,
the independents and the disillusioned Democrats will be heading
his way. If these votes do indeed lose Gore the election, the next
big question will be whether it leads to a larger, more focused
movement and whether the Greens are the party best equipped to lead
Al Gore and George W Bush may bask in the warm glow of their
respective conventions, but outside the air-conditioned halls it
is clear that the old order is no longer trusted by the very people
- the young, the poor, the Latinos, the blacks - they are claiming
to want to help. Somehow, it seems unlikely that many hands would
be waving from sweatshop windows if either of the two presidential
parties had ventured down Broadway in their limos this week.