[sixties-l] Re: sixties-l-Howard Zinn on Election 2000

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (jab@tucradio.org)
Date: 12/23/00

  • Next message: Jvaron@aol.com: "[sixties-l] Coup and Protests"

    By Howard Zinn
    As the prize of the presidency lurched wildly back and forth in the last
    days of the year, with the entire nation hypnotized by the spectacle, I had
    a vision. I saw the Titanic churning through the waters of the North
    Atlantic toward an iceberg looming in the distance, while passengers and
    crew were totally concentrated on a tennis game taking place on deck.
    It is not just a phenomenon of this particular election. In our
    election-obsessed culture, everything else going on in the world - war,
    hunger, official brutality, sickness, the violence of everyday life for huge
    numbers of people - is swept out of the way, while the media insist we watch
    every twist and turn of what candidates say and do. Thus, the superficial
    crowds out the meaningful, and this is very useful for those who do not want
    citizens to look beneath the surface of the system.  In the shadows, and
    hidden by the dueling of the candidates (if you can call it a duel when the
    opponents thrust and lunge with plastic swords) are real issues of race and
    class, war and peace, which the public is not supposed to think about, as
    the media experts pontificate endlessly about who is winning, and throw
    numbers in our faces like handfuls of sand.
    For instance, as the Gore-Bush contest rose to a frenzy, the media kept
    referring-to the Hayes-Tilden election of 1876. The education that the
    public received about this was typical of what passes for history in our
    schools, our newspapers, our television sets. That is, they learned how the
    Founding Fathers, in writing the Constitution, gave the state legislators
    the power to choose Electors, who would then choose the President.
    We were told how rival sets of electors were chosen in three states, and how
    Samuel Tilden, the Democrat, had 250,000 more popular votes than the
    Republican , Rutherford Hayes, and needed only one more electoral vote to
    win the Presidency. But when a special commission, with a bare Republican
    majority, was set up by Congress to decide the dispute, it gave all three
    states to Hayes and thus made him President.
    This was very interesting and informative about the mechanics of
    presidential elections and the peculiar circumstances of that one . But it
    told us nothing about how that "Compromise of 1877", worked out between
    Republicans and Democrats in private meetings, doomed blacks in the
    South to
    semi-slavery. It told us nothing about how the armies that once fought the
    Confederacy would be withdrawn from the South and sent West to drive Indians
    from their ancestral lands. It told us nothing about how Democrats and
    Republicans, while fencing with one another in election campaigns, would now
    join in subjecting working people all over the country to ruthless corporate
    power, how the United States army would be used to smash the great railroad
    strikes of 1877.
    These were the facts of race and class and Western expansion concealed
    behind the disputed election of 1877. The pretense in disputed elections is
    that the great conflict is between the two major parties. The reality is
    that there is an unannounced war between those parties and large numbers of
    Americans who are represented by neither party.
    The ferocity of the contest for the presidency in the current election
    conceals the agreement between both parties on fundamentals. Their heated
    disagreement is about who will preside over maintaining the status quo.
    Whoever wins, there may be skirmishes between the major parties, but no
    monumental battles, despite the inflated rhetoric of the campaign. The
    evidence for this statement lies in eight years of the Clinton-Gore
    administration, whose major legislative accomplishments were part of the
    Republican agenda.
    Both Gore and Bush have been in agreement on the continued corporate
    controlof the economy. Neither has had a plan for free national health care,
    for extensive low-cost housing, for dramatic changes in environmental
    controls, for a minimum income for all Americans, for a truly progressive
    income tax to diminish the huge gap between rich and poor. Both have
    supported the death penalty and the growth of prisons. Both believe in a
    large military establishment, in land mines and nuclear weapons and the
    cruel use of sanctions against the people of Cuba and Iraq. Both supported
    the wars against Panama, Iraq, and Yugoslavia.
    Perhaps when the furor dies down over who really won the election , when
    the tennis match is over and we get over the disappointment that our guy (is
    he really our guy?) didn't win, we will finally break the hypnotic spell of
    the game and look around. We may then think about whether the ship is going
    down and if there are enough lifeboats, and what should we do about all that.
    This is not the Titanic. With us, there is still time to change.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : 12/30/00 EST