Matt Forney
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The Illusion of Power

NOTE: This article was originally published at The Right Stuff on December 12, 2012, then republished at Alternative Right on December 15. I’m re-posting it here as the latter is now defunct.

I didn’t vote this year; with two nearly identical empty suits vying for the position of Head Puppet, I didn’t see the point. To the adults of my parents’ generation, announcing that you’re not going to participate in the farce that is democracy is akin to storming into Mass on Sunday morning violently hungover and pissing in the holy water font.

“Your grandparents fought and died for your right to vote!”

“If you don’t vote, you have NO right to complain!”

“The reason this country is going down the tubes is because you young people don’t care about anything!”

Old people have many strange beliefs, chief among them that a once-yearly ritual of filling out circles with a No. 2 pencil gives them any power over our government. “But we can choose our leaders! Of course we have power!”

But do you?

Under our regime, once a year, you’re allowed to vote for a slate of national, state, county and/or city/village officials. If you’re part of a political party, then some years you get to vote for who will represent your party on the November ballot. But this isn’t anywhere close to being able to determine this country’s leaders.

Take lobbyists. Powerful corporations pay their representatives obscene sums to manipulate and bribe legislators into creating laws that serves their interests. Indeed, in many cases the lobbyists draft the bills themselves, the Congressman/Senator doing nothing more than presenting the work of his corporate masters for a vote.

Can you vote for lobbyists? No, you can’t. At least I don’t recall anyone asking me whether the Koch brothers or Monsanto should have this level of control over my representatives.

What about civil servants? Federal and state bureaucracies have exploded in size over the past few decades. The faceless office peons in the Departments of Labor, the IRS and other government agencies are responsible for carrying out Washington’s will, and have enormous leeway in doing so.

Can you vote for civil servants? No, you can’t. In fact, whenever the electorate tries to exercise any kind of oversight over the civil service (seeing as we pay their salaries and all), they immediately take to the streets crying and bitching about how they have an inviolable right to give themselves bigger and bigger paychecks at our expense.

What about the Federal Reserve? You might have heard of this entity. It’s not a huge deal; it’s only responsible for controlling the country’s very monetary policy.

Can you vote to determine who runs the Fed? No, you can’t. In fact, the Fed was deliberately designed to be as isolated from the democratic process as possible: not just the voters, but Congress.

What about the banks? Goldman Sachs and their ilk are already known to have an enormous amount of control over our government. Most of our recent Treasury Secretaries have been Goldman alums.

Can you vote for Goldman’s CEO or other leadership positions? No, you can’t.

What about the universities? The tenured hacks at Harvard, Yale, Cornell and other top tier institutions of higher learning also have a huge influence on government policy.

Can you vote for the professors at the universities? You’re kidding, right?

In other words, through voting, you only have control over a tiny part of the government, whom we’ve already established have very little power over the whole thing. And depending on where you live, you might not even have that. If you’re a Republican and your benevolent state legislators decided to gerrymander you into a Democratic supermajority district (or vice versa), your vote is worth as much as the paper you scribbled it on.

Who voted to give politicians the right to decide their own constituencies? I sure didn’t. That’s like letting McDonald’s workers vote on their own wages.

This is the “right” that I’m supposed to be thankful for? This is the “right” our parents slavishly defend and worship? This is the “right” I’m supposed to exhaust untold amounts of mental energy exercising?

The truth is simple: you have no power. Claiming you control the government because you can vote for the Figurehead-in-Chief every four years is like claiming you can change the flavor of a McD’s anusburger by getting it in a take-out bag instead of dining in.

We may get a different toilet every so often, but it’s always the same shit.

Read Next: My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty