Campaign disclosure within the debates
I was wondering the other day what it would be like if a truly thorough campaign disclosure was applied within the debates. If we seriously followed through on the very radical idea that all powers behind a candidate be openly displayed for everyone to see. Well, we’d certainly have quite a different event.
I’d imagine we could require the appearance on stage of the corporate logos or pictures of the major interests behind each campaign but I think an even better idea would be to have these people directly present onstage behind their candidate. The candidates could even refer to them prior to responding to questions.
So, behind Romney we’d find a few tycoons, the heads of the major transnational corporations, the CEO’s of the major banks / Wall Street firms, and so on. Behind Obama, we’d find a few tycoons, the heads of the major transnational corporations, the CEO’s of the major money center banks and Wall Street firms, and so on. Hmmm. Some might argue that behind Obama should also be placed such groups as the unions, teachers, and environmentalists. But not so if our purpose is meaningful disclosure. These groups clearly wield no important influence today and therefore belong only in the audience. One could make a reasonable case though for some graphic disclosure ceremony in which they entered on stage for a couple minutes and then proceeded humbly to the audience.
We end up however with a minor problem – the debate is a binary exercise but the powers behind the candidates are a unity. Where should we place them? I think a good solution would be to put the powers at an elevated table that extends behind both candidates. This would seem to properly disclose the fact that they are both behind and above them.
There’s another power behind the candidates that also needs to be taken into account if we wish full campaign disclosure – it’s what Eisenhower darkly referred to as the military industrial complex. Of course the major corporate military contractors are already sitting at the table, but we need also to bring onstage some representatives of the Pentagon. And, even more importantly I think, we need to disclose that dark secret force that seems to lurk in the shadows – the CIA and the other intelligence agencies. Eisenhower warned of it, Truman eventually wanted to end it, and a “very high” White House official within the Kennedy administration called it, in a New York Times article written just a month before Kennedy’s assassination, a “malignancy” that “represents a tremendous power (having) total unaccountability to anyone”. The article went on to perhaps prophetically warn that “If the United States ever experiences [an attempt at a coup to overthrow the Government] it will come from the C.I.A. and not the Pentagon.” We know this force has been exceptionally active not only during those years but through to today in foreign assassinations, coups, and various ‘black flag’ operations. There’s a whole lot of circumstantial evidence that it had a key role in the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, has instigated many global terrorist events, and could even have been involved in some manner in the September 11 and anthrax attacks. No president can fail to be aware of this dark power and, as with the moneyed corporate men, they’re important actors in our political system who belong onstage. Perhaps we can place a few sinister looking men with guns in an unlit shadowy area.
Finally, full disclosure requires we remove the implication that the moderator is somehow an independent entity. I suggest we completely eliminate the needless duplication of the moderator role and simply have all questions directed from onstage.
So there you have it – my version of a debate under the rules of full campaign disclosure. It leaves us with the view that the debates are little more than elaborate beauty contests within an undemocratic and cruel political system. The one who smiles better, is quicker on foot, doesn’t sweat, looks powerfully into the other’s eyes, etc. is coronated victor. The media focuses on this superficiality but we shouldn’t necessarily criticize them for it – they are after all accurately reflecting reality. There is and can be no substance; all is style.