as above, so below


Chicago, Illinois, United States
December 31
I'm some things to a few people. Mostly a nuisance but sometimes a zine writer, internet radio host, blogger, musician, and project organizer. I run a small website where you can read mine and other fabulous contributor's words: and also contribute to the Chicagoist ( When not shouting about the falling sky over the internet, reading about government conspiracies or watching b-rate sci-fi, you can find me singing for the band Burning Luck. Direction is only relative to your position in the grand scheme of things. Some day, I'll sort this all out.


Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 4, 2010 7:55AM

The Real Loss in the Mid Term Elections

Rate: 6 Flag

Now that the polls have closed and American voters are either flaunting their victories or crying in their post electoral concession beers, voters can rest easy that they helped facilitate some change or did their civic duty. Major corporations, “super” PAC’s and the candidates they backed can run at least one victory lap though, even if their horse actually lost the race. Meanwhile, once the balloons shrink and the cocktails go flat, expect more Americans to feel marginalized. Partially thanks to the Citizens United decision, this mid-term election season saw record spending on campaigns nationwide. Between party spending and independent interest groups it’s possible campaign spending will top $4 billion.

Nearly half a billion dollars (over 12%) of that money came from private interests, many of which did not disclose their political interests thanks to the GOP blocking legislation that would’ve required disclosure. According to the Sunlight Foundation, one group attempting to follow the money, independent groups poured at least $110 million into the midterm elections without disclosing their donors. Sadly, this is just a precursor to the 2012 elections, which will almost assuredly break spending records. 

So what does that $4 billion, more money than the GDP of many small countries, spent on electioneering get us? Ask a tea party patriot or a Republican and the answer will probably be “a chance to take the country back.” Ask a Democrat or slightly more left of center progressive and the answer might be “a chance to defend the country from a GOP takeover.” Considering the amount of attack ads throughout the media, the banal campaign rhetoric and usual lukewarm political promises, we’re probably left with the same broken republic we’ve had for decades. As Mother Jones highlighted last month, Congress represents little more than big business interests . President Obama has pretty much carried out the same agenda as Bush, with some exceptions, albeit wrapped in prettier rhetoric.

Whether citizens cast their ballots hoping to topple Democratic tyranny or keep Republicans home at a tea party, Tuesday's election was a loss for democracy itself and a victory towards a more plutocratic republic. The right is already claiming a “mandate” on the “Obama agenda” for winning the House while the center/left will claim a victory by clinging to a slim Senate majority. However, voter turnout still appears to be about 50% in most states. Knowing spending will likely increase in our next election cycle and funding will come from more shadowy interest groups makes the whole election cycle feel more hollow.  Perhaps the fact that 40% or more of Americans stay away from the polls is a mandate on our electoral system itself.

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"The terrible, cold, cruel part is Wall Street. Rivers of gold flow there from all over the earth, and death comes with it. There, as nowhere else, you feel a total absence of the spirit: herds of men who cannot count past three, herds more who cannot get past six, scorn for pure science and demoniacal respect for the present. And the terrible thing is that the crowd that fills the street believes that the world will always be the same and that it is their duty to keep that huge machine running, day and night, forever." - Federico Garcia Lorca - Spanish Poet and Playwright
Elijah - sounds about right. We keep spinning the wheels because we forgot there's other things we can and should do.
"The terrible, cold, cruel part is Wall Street. Rivers of gold flow there from all over the earth, and death comes with it. There, as nowhere else, you feel a total absence of the spirit: herds of men who cannot count past three, herds more who cannot get past six, scorn for pure science and demoniacal respect for the present. And the terrible thing is that the crowd that fills the street believes that the world will always be the same and that it is their duty to keep that huge machine running, day and night, forever." - Federico Garcia Lorca - Spanish Poet and Playwright
Regardless, as citizens, we still have power. We have to become more educated in the political process, and by doing so, we can overcome the influence of the super wealthy.

We keep forgetting that a lot of these big corporations depend on us to purchase their products in order for them to make a buck. We all must start looking around our homes, and see what products we use on our daily lives, and we must start questioning where it came from, find an American made substitute, and start boycotting products from companies that do not help our country.

It is not difficult, but it takes more time when you are shopping around for things. We must become a more educated nation! For example, I try my best to purchase American made products whenever possible, and I always find what I need that is made in the U.S.A.

The problem I see with the average people I encounter on a daily basis is that, they think the world is a lot simpler than it really is, then they are blown away when you try to explain to them how things really work...
Neo - I think you're pretty on target there. The most important thing we can and need to do right now is to become an actual informed citizenry. Ignorance - be it by choice or by lack of proper information - is crucial to the climate of apathy. Because it's so difficult to wrap one's head around the myriad connections big business and corporations have to politicians, it's easy to shut down when one starts to connect the dots. Beyond that, we forget that there are things we can do aside from simply voting and complaining later. As you said - boycotting goods and companies that don't align with our values is one way to start. In addition, organizing people in a local community to accomplish civic goals - be it a community garden, neighborhood cleanup effort, food co-op, the list goes on. Even just talking to our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends - finding out what they believe and what kind of future they hope for is a method of education.

We've become too dependent on instant political gratification, rather than realizing that civic change takes time. The more we let ourselves believe that massive problems will or can be fixed overnight, the more we create our own apathy when things don't get done fast enough.
I have several conflicting reactions to your post. The first reaction involves bombs, but we won't go into that here. The next is to imagine political advisor jobs as a growth industry. Finally, I just get depressed and want to check out of the whole thing. The clear results will be that the middle class will disappear without a peep, while politicians concentrate on their power struggles, Obama will cease to exist as a factor and we can kiss our future as a nation goodbye. We are now the evil empire.
Sorry to be so negative. I'll be positive tomorrow. Or maybe next week.
I just forwarded this to others who don't typically read at salon.
Some are disinterested, some are blindly supportive of whichever/whoever party/candidate while others are easily used and amused.
In the subject line of the email, I typed, "HELLO, SUCKER".
Anyone who actually does believe that these sleazy lying panderers have any other interests than getting reelected and bliking America and its people is someone to whom you can sell a bridge and/or swampland in downtown Biblebelt, U.S.A.
I live in WI and, we just lost a senator who actually did do/vote against some of the abuses of the government in its war against the American person/people.
That was Russ Feingold.
One thing he did for us was to vote against the 1930s style patriot act.
However, since I'm 71 and know better than to drink the tea flavored koolaid, I am totally disgusted with all of them.
Let someone else come up with how much out of each of our pockets does the following cost:
A so called health bill gets passed.
*How much in real dollars did that cost*
The repigs will work to get it repealed.
*How much in real dollars will that cost*
This goes on, ad infinitum.
So the "other" party can pose and say, "Look what WE did for you".
Yes, it is ALL bullshit.
Who has the best retirement system of benefits and the best healthcare system in the country?
If you don't know the asnwer to that, you are the epitome of the AMERICAN SUCKER.
Think of all the pollsters and photoshoppers who were employed by all that money. :)

But seriously, you're right. Even if the money was spent, it wasn't really invested. If anything, it was invested in things that we don't want to be come standing institutions. Think of the lost opportunities—what the money didn't buy while it was busy buying this. (See discussion of “opportunity cost” in my blog post The Stakes for details. Other than the lack of [visible] blood, this was just another needless war and the media empires it served are little more than extensions of the military industrial complex.)
When the percentage of people who stay away from the polls reaches 51%, it will be the first time in ages that we can honestly say that the majority has spoken and it's time to change a lot of things. I pray for that day.
Ardee - not being positive is nothing to apologize for. Things are pretty bleak, but when have they not been? Obama was never going to be some kind of savior to this nation. He's still beholden to the same corrupt system we've had for longer than I've been alive. He's still continued many Bush era policies (which were developed before W by folks in the Reagan administration) as far as war, civil liberties, etc - he just prettied up the words and made some grandiose promises that were half followed through. It's certainly solely not his fault either. There's not one person or group we can point to and say "this is all your fault." It's a systematic failure, one that every one of us allowed to happen by our selfishness, willful or non-willful ignorance, and stubbornness to admit that we need meaningful changes, not just window dressings.

But don't despair - knowing the problem is the first step to evading it. :)
XJS - Thanks for the forwards! And you're spot on - and I think we're all pretty deflated about Russ. You guys lost a real actual progressive - one with a spine - one of the very few.
Kent - as always, your comments are quite right. That money could've been better spent anywhere. Although I do feel bad for the unemployed photoshoppers :)

Cartouche - technically speaking, it already happened in this election - it does in many midterms. From the estimates I've seen (Which I wrote about here: we had a 41% turnout. The folks who do show up to cast ballots are louder and prouder however, even if many know they're just spinning the wheels in circles again and again.
If the rich can afford to spend so much on buying elections, they can certainly afford to pay more in taxation.
Yes, we are the real losers of democracy.
I understand that 79.5 million people voted in ILL and, 64&2/3 million were in
BTW_I was born at Loretto hosp in Columbus Park and lived in Chi for a long time.
I still and will always love it.