Bulletin 156



30 November 2004
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

While a cynic might proclaim, "Better an electoral coup d'état than a military coup d'état in America!", many of us continue to think that coups d'état create more problems than they resolve; in a word, that democracy is not a privilege, but rather a necessity if we are to create a good life for ourselves in a congenial environment. The private profit motive has polluted our environment terribly. It is almost a prehistoric relic in terms of its usefulness today. It belongs in a glass cage, placed deep in some museum, next to displays of cannibalism, slavery, pyramids, and ritual sacrifices to angry gods, perhaps with a slide show of how people dressed, ate, and died in that era. It's obsolete, to say the least! The old order seems to be loosing its legitimacy entirely today. It is now protected by a new authoritarianism at every level of governance. What is the role of democracy in this crisis and how can it be expanded? These questions are addressed by two influential scholars in the essays below.

Much has been written on the shortcomings of democratic elections, and the recent presidential elections in the
U.S. have drawn unparalleled world attention. Below we have two interpretations of the 2004 presidential elections sent to us by two very influential scholars of American political culture: Professors Bertell Ollman (NYU), the author of dozens of articles and books, including the influential studies, Dialectical Investigations and (more recently) Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx's Method, and Noam Chomsky (MIT), the renown linguist and expert on U.S. foreign policy, whose most recent study was published under the title, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance (The American Empire Project).

By way of introducing the essays of these two important American scholars, I would like to briefly remind European readers of the uniquely American context of the recent presidential elections:
1) in a world population of 6 billion +, there are almost 300 million U.S. citizens; 2) of these 300 million Americans (of whom 21% are less than 15 years old) about 2/3 are eligible to vote, and barely over 1/2 of these eligible voters (perhaps 106 million) actually voted in the elections of 2000, and slightly more (perhaps 120 million) voted in the 2004 elections. (These numbers are, of course, only rough estimates.)

United States, today, is divided into 435 congressional districts, each district electing a representative to the U.S. House of Representatives every two years, and mobilizing for a presidential election every four years. These congressional districts are created proportionally according to population size. In this system of proportional representation, the total U.S. population divided by the number of congressional districts, gives the approximate population of each district, e.g. roughly 600,000 + U.S. citizens. (California, with a population of 35 million is thus divided into 53 districts, while Oklahoma, with a population of 3.5 million, has only five congressional districts.) But, if the demographic size of a congressional district is pre-determined far in advance, the actual borders are not. Over the past several years, with Republican political hegemony in Washington, D.C., congressional districts have been redrawn with the aim of guaranteeing Republican majorities. By drawing new district lines which divide local neighborhoods that traditionally vote for Democratic Party candidates, congressional districts are literally reshaped to reduce the percentage of Democrats so that they contain a new majority of Republicans. (The term for this practice, which dates from the early 19th century is "gerrymandering", after Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry who was the first to reapportion his state senatorial districts in order to produce a majority in each district that supported his political party.)  This strategy of reshaping districts has been employed periodically by parties while in power, for nearly 200 years, to reenforce their hegemony of political power.)

Months before the presidential elections, congressional districts prepare for what is called the "primary elections", and in these summer months, preceding the November elections, the local electorate are mobilized with the hope of placing their bets on "a winning horse" (a presidential candidate who has a chance of winning the national election). For historic reasons the selection of this early nominee is usually a binary choice: campaign financing assures that those of who actually do go to the trouble to vote are often motivated negatively; namely, to support "the lesser evil": the pragmatic concern of voters to select "a possible winner" thus limits them to choosing between two representatives of the same social class interests.

The "realistic" choice, for example, in the 2004 election was between Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, whose family fortune is estimated at around $900 million, and George W. Bush, whose private fortune is worth some $21 million. Not only do Bush and Kerry represent the same social class interests, but by virtue of the fact that Kerry is about 50 times richer than Bush, the former was the bigger winner in latter's successful first term strategy to reduce taxes for the rich and eliminate the inheritance tax. John Kerry, like Bill Gates and other super rich families in America, was Bush's electoral "base", the constituency he aimed to please. Bush the bulldog, made Kerry the billionaire a much richer man and, in addition, has presented him with a whole new line of guaranteed investments for future profits in government contracts. Can anyone wonder why Kerry did not contest the election? In south
Texas, along the Mexican border, the expression of the Anglo oligarchy used to be: "Let sleeping dogs lie."

In most
U.S. elections, being "realistic" and voting for a "possible winner" and/or "the lesser evil" presents sever limitations. Few candidates have an interest in awakening social class interests which are antagonistic to their own interests, and since candidates usually come from the same social class, there is necessarily complicity concerning the nature of their "political" disagreements. In the recent presidential election campaign we witnessed issues like "gay marriages", "limited abortion rights", "improved medical insurance programs" that received much coverage, along with the color of neckties, skin textures, and family intimacies; but to discuss fundamental and systemic problems in capitalist America --issues like unemployment, homelessness, the working poor, environmental degradation, etc.-- this discourse during an American presidential campaign was absolutely taboo. (Look at what happened to presidential candidate Howard Dean when he got off tract and spoke too far beyond his own class interests and those of the Democratic Party!)

I'm registered to vote in
Oakland, California, which is the 9th Congressional District in California (one of the fifty-three districts in that state). More than 170,000 of us voted in this last election. Oakland is one of the most class-conscious places on the planet, and our U.S. Representative in Congress, Ms. Barbara Lee, represents the class interests of her constituents, just as President Bush does --only the social class interests she represents  are different than those that Bush so ably represents! Lee was the only voice in Congress to vote against the authorization for President Bush to make war on Afghanistan, immediately after 9/11. A brave single voice that represented the interests of her constituency, and she continues to be re-elected in the 9th District. . . .

Nevertheless, the limitations of electoral democracy are painfully obvious, today. Another form of democracy, sometimes called industrial democracy, invites closer participation than simply periodic elections. These two forms of democracy are not mutually exclusive. In the local institutions which largely govern our lives, egalitarian organization and free speech would challenge authoritarian management techniques and necessarily modify the priorities of institutional policies as they now exist in capitalist
America. Such a confrontation in institutions like factories, offices, businesses, in neighborhood schools and churches, etc., where economic and political sanctions often await anyone who dares to dispute policy decisions, would inevitably meet with resistance of different types. Overcoming authoritarian management at the local level, and taking collective control of the local institutions, which have so much influence on the way we live, is the true challenge facing us in this period of economic and political crisis.

The Kerry defeat by Bush is not the stuff of tragedy, not even in
Hollywood. The stresses and strains on our antique system are beyond the pale of remedies that can be offered by individual leaders. It would appear that many experienced scholars, including Professors Ollman and Chomsky, think that a social movement is in the making in America, but that on these unchartered waters the magnitude, the momentum, and even the velocity in unknowable. We see quantitative changes and we wait for a qualitative leap, but when, where and how? remain to be seen. Do the limited democratic traditions of the past represent the seeds of future forms of democracy, guaranteeing more egalitarian and just relationships within our social institutions? In his book, Parecon: Life After Capitalism, Michael Albert suggests a theory of what might happen in America if forces are liberated to nurture these existing seeds of democracy and to raise democratic participation to higher levels, rather than allow it to be destroyed entirely by authoritarian modes of management which are embracing the newly militarized political economy.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble 3

from Professor Bertell Ollman :
November 26, 2004
Department of Politics
New York University


by Bertell Ollman


          To the question "A Stolen Election?" (THE NATION, Nov. 29) - and after offering different interpretations for some of the evidence collected by those who answer "yes" -  David Corn, the political correspondent of the magazine, replies with a resounding "maybe" (while directing most of his doubts and sarcasms at the "conspiracy theorists").  Could the two sides in this dispute be using different definitions? Stealing an election, after all,  is not the same as robbing a bank. Nor is the kind of evidence that allows us to claim that one has taken place the same as making this claim for the other - unless we catch the winning candidate piling boxes of unopened ballots into his pick-up truck (or plane).  Stealing an election is more like fixing a deck of cards, where one player is guaranteed to come out on top. 

        As regards the recent presidential election, then, we must ask  - 1) whether the process of voting, including the machines and methods used and the conditions that applied,  lacked the  transparency needed for everyone to see and to understand what was going on; 2) whether checking the result to ensure that votes were attributed to the right party and that all were counted and counted correctly was often impossible; 3) whether large numbers of voters from groups likely to vote for the losing candidate experienced great difficulty in registering or voting, either at the poll or by absentee or provisional ballot; 4) whether most of the ADMITTED incidents of blocked or lost or changed or added votes favored the winning candidate;

        5) whether  key people in positions to create these "problems" - such as the Republican owner of the company producing most of the electronic voting machines, the Republican Secretaries of State of Florida and Ohio, and President (sic) Bush himself - had said or done things earlier which showed that they could not be trusted;  6) whether these and similar problems surfaced in 2000, and, if so, whether the declared winners in that election - in the White House, in Congress and in the states - acted to obstruct the kind of reforms that would have done away with such problems in this one; and 7) whether the Zogby exit poll and the Harris last minute voting poll, both of which were accurate  within 1/2 point in the 2000 election and which don't suffer from any of the problems that plague our national electoral system, were more credible in giving Kerry a sizeable victory than the "official" count that differed from their figures by over 5% (well over the margin of error for polls of this sort).

         Now, think - Venezuela. If the answers to all these questions were "yes" for Venezuela, which recently held a hotly contested election, would any of us have difficulty concluding that the "fix was in" and that their election was stolen? Well, it didn't happen in Venezuela, where all the electronic votes left a paper trail (it was possible and easy), but it did happen here. All these things happened here. So how can Corn suggest that the various, numerous,  deep-reaching, widespread and almost entirely Bush-serving problems that bedeviled the Nov. 2nd election were due to "minor slip-ups and routine political chicanery"?  Only because he thinks stealing an election is like robbing a bank and not like fixing a deck of cards.

         It is important, therefore, that we don't focus in a single minded way on the details of this past election, as revealing as many of them are (and, no doubt, will continue to be) because they often allow for other interpretations and it is unlikely that  we will ever know most of what happened. But that shouldn't keep us from insisting loudly, and again - on the basis of the kind of evidence that applies to elections and not bank robberies - that this was a stolen election. Remember, the more widely this view (this accurate view) gets accepted and repeated, the less legitimacy Bush will have as  president and the more difficulty he will have in getting people to cooperate with his policies, both at home and abroad. Sovereign power has always required a minimal degree of popular acceptance that is based on reason and not force to be effective, and in democracies that has come largely from democratic elections in which people freely choose their leader. But can anyone  who learns what really happened in our presidential election do anything but laugh (or cry) on hearing that the goal of U.S. foreign policy is to promote democracy? And just let Bush try to draft American youth who think he stole the election to fight in his next war.

          Furthermore, if we accept that Bush stole the election, that also means that "value voters" did not determine its outcome, but that the massive turnout of youth and minorities did - in which case,  the pressure that many Democrats and some others feel to adopt a more value oriented politics would be replaced by a pressure to adopt programs that better serve the interests of these, often first-time voters.

          What I am proposing is that the Left,  progressives of all kinds and degrees, take advantage of Bush's more or less open  theft of the election (of the advantage they have taken of us)  to pursue a politics of deligitimation, which starts with not being afraid to apply the proper name to what happened (THEFT) and to say who did it (BUSH and the REPUBLICANS). While many on the Left may need to be convinced, our government  is well aware of the power that comes with legitimacy and of the role that democratic elections play in providing it, or it would not have devoted as much effort and fortune  in trying to stage such elections in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately, the Administration also seems to believe that sham democratic elections can have the same effect as real ones. Why else would they have tried to pull the same shoddy trick twice right here in the U.S., and the second time more brazenly than the first? But maybe, just maybe, there are a growing number of Americans who don't like being treated like multiply abused Afghani tribesmen and are ready to let our own President Karzai know what they think about his theft of OUR election. 

        In forging a politics of deligitimation - not so incidentally - we shouldn't expect much help from Kerry and the other leaders of the Democratic Party. Recall the heart-rending scene in Michael More's movie "9/11", where several black members of Congress tried to get at least one Democratic senator to sign a letter calling for a debate on the 2000 election. Without success. That Democratic Party leaders, then and now,  conceded so quickly only shows that they care more about legitimating the current governmental system and maintaining social stability than they do about the declared interests of their voters and the principles of democracy. And, if we need  a slogan to help power our new movement, how about - "One, Two, Many Ukraines"? This is the message that the "Nation's" political correspondent should be conveying to his readers.


from Professor Noam Chomsky :
November 30, 2004

Elections/Public 2004
by Noam Chomsky

The elections of November 2004 have received a great deal of discussion, with exultation in some quarters, despair in others, and general lamentation about a "divided nation." They are likely to have policy consequences, particularly harmful to the public in the domestic arena, and to the world with regard to the "transformation of the military," which has led some prominent strategic analysts to warn of "ultimate doom" and to hope that US militarism and aggressiveness will be countered by a coalition of peace-loving states, led by - China! (*) (John Steinbruner and Nancy Gallagher, Daedalus). We have come to a pretty pass when such words are expressed in the most respectable and sober journals. It is also worth noting how deep is the despair of the authors over the state of American democracy. Whether or not the assessment is merited is for activists to determine.

(*) Please visit : <http://www.zmag.org/asiawatch/chinawatch.cfm>  

Though significant in their consequences, the elections tell us very little about the state of the country, or the popular mood. There are, however, other sources from which we can learn a great deal that carries important lessons. Public opinion in the US is intensively monitored, and while caution and care in interpretation are always necessary, these studies are valuable resources. We can also see why the results, though public, are kept under wraps by the doctrinal institutions. That is true of major and highly informative studies of public opinion released right before the election, notably by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations
(CCFR) and the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the U. of Maryland (PIPA), to which I will return.
One conclusion is that the elections conferred no mandate for anything, in fact, barely took place, in any serious sense of the term "election." That is by no means a novel conclusion. Reagan's victory in 1980 reflected "the decay of organized party structures, and the vast mobilization of God and cash in the successful candidacy of a figure once marginal to the `vital center' of American political life," representing "the continued disintegration of those political coalitions and economic structures that have given party politics some stability and definition during the past generation" (Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers, Hidden Election, 1981). In the same valuable collection of essays, Walter Dean Burnham described the election as further evidence of a "crucial comparative peculiarity of the American political system: the total absence of a socialist or laborite mass party as an organized competitor in the electoral market," accounting for much of the "class-skewed abstention rates" and the minimal significance of issues. Thus of the 28% of the electorate who voted for Reagan, 11% gave as their primary reason "he's a real conservative." In Reagan's "landslide victory" of 1984, with just under 30% of the electorate, the percentage dropped to 4% and a majority of voters hoped that his legislative
program would not be enacted.
What these prominent political scientists describe is part of the powerful backlash against the terrifying "crisis of democracy" of the
1960s, which threatened to democratize the society, and, despite enormous efforts to crush this threat to order and discipline, has had far-reaching effects on consciousness and social practices. The post-1960s era has been marked by substantial growth of popular movements dedicated to greater justice and freedom, and unwillingness to tolerate the brutal aggression and violence that had previously been granted free rein. The Vietnam war is a dramatic illustration, naturally suppressed because of the lessons it teaches about the civilizing impact of popular mobilization. The war against South Vietnam launched by JFK in 1962, after years of US-backed state terror that had killed tens of thousands of people, was brutal and barbaric from the outset: bombing, chemical warfare to destroy food crops so as to starve out the civilian support for the indigenous resistance, programs to drive millions of
people to virtual concentration camps or urban slums to eliminate its popular base. By the time protests reached a substantial scale, the highly respected and quite hawkish Vietnam specialist and military historian Bernard Fall wondered whether "Viet-Nam as a cultural and historic entity" would escape "extinction" as "the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size" - particularly South Vietnam, always the main target of the US assault. And when protest did finally develop, many years too late, it was mostly directed against the peripheral crimes: the extension of the war against the South to the rest ofIndochina - terrible crimes, but secondary ones.
* State managers are well aware that they no longer have that freedom. Wars against "much weaker enemies" - the only acceptable targets -- must be won "decisively and rapidly," Bush I's intelligence services advised. Delay might "undercut political support," recognized to be thin, a great change since the Kennedy-Johnson period when the attack on Indochina, while never popular, aroused little reaction for many years. Those conclusions hold despite the hideous war crimes in Falluja, replicating the Russian destruction of Grozny ten years earlier, including crimes displayed on the front pages for which the civilian leadership is subject to the death penalty under the War Crimes Act passed by the Republican Congress in 1996 - and also one of the more disgraceful episodes in the annals of American journalism.
The world is pretty awful today, but it is far better than yesterday, not only with regard to unwillingness to tolerate aggression, but also in many other ways, which we now tend to take for granted. There are very important lessons here, which should always be uppermost in our minds - for the same reason they are suppressed in the elite culture.

Returning to the elections, in 2004 Bush received the votes of just over 30% of the electorate, Kerry a bit less. Voting patterns resembled 2000, with virtually the same pattern of "red" and "blue" states (whatever significance that may have). A small change in voter preference would have put Kerry in the White House, also telling us very little about the country and public concerns.
As usual, the electoral campaigns were run by the PR industry, which in its regular vocation sells toothpaste, life-style drugs, automobiles, and other commodities. Its guiding principle is deceit. Its task is to undermine the "free markets" we are taught to revere: mythical entities in which informed consumers make rational choices. In such scarcely imaginable systems, businesses would provide information about their products: cheap, easy, simple. But it is hardly a secret that they do nothing of the sort. Rather, they seek to delude consumers to choose their product over some virtually identical one. GM does not simply make public the characteristics of next year's models. Rather, it devotes huge sums to creating images to deceive consumers, featuring sports
stars, sexy models, cars climbing sheer cliffs to a heavenly future, and so on. The business world does not spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year to provide information. The famed "entrepreneurial initiative" and "free trade" are about as realistic as informed consumer choice. The last thing those who dominate the society want is the fanciful market of doctrine and economic theory. All of this should be too familiar to merit much discussion.
Sometimes the commitment to deceit is quite overt. The recent US-Australia negotiations on a "free trade agreement" were held up by Washington's concern over Australia's health care system, perhaps the most efficient in the world. In particular, drug prices are a fraction of those in the US: the same drugs, produced by the same companies, earning substantial profits in Australia though nothing like those they are granted in the US - often on the pretext that they are needed for R&D, another exercise in deceit. Part of the reason for the efficiency of the Australian system is that, like other countries, Australia relies on the practices that the Pentagon employs when it buys paper clips: government purchasing power is used to negotiate prices, illegal in the US. Another reason is that Australia has kept to "evidence-based" procedures for marketing pharmaceuticals. US negotiators denounced these as market interference: pharmaceutical corporations are deprived of their legitimate rights if they are required to produce evidence when they claim that their latest product is better than some cheaper alternative, or run TV ads in which some sports hero or model tells the
audience to ask their doctor whether this drug is "right for you (it's right for me)," sometimes not even revealing what it is supposed to be for. The right of deceit must be guaranteed to the immensely powerful and pathological immortal persons created by radical judicial activism to run the society.

When assigned the task of selling candidates, the PR industry naturally resorts to the same fundamental techniques, so as to ensure that politics remains "the shadow cast by big business over society," as America's leading social philosopher, John Dewey, described the results of "industrial feudalism" long ago. Deceit is employed to undermine democracy, just as it is the natural device to undermine markets. And voters appear to be aware of it.
On the eve of the 2000 elections, about 75% of the electorate regarded it as a game played by rich contributors, party managers, and the PR industry, which trains candidates to project images and produce meaningless phrases that might win some votes. Very likely, that is why the population paid little attention to the "stolen election" that greatly exercised educated sectors. And it is why they are likely to pay little attention to campaigns about alleged fraud in 2004. If one is flipping a coin to pick the King, it is of no great concern if the coin is biased.
In 2000, "issue awareness" - knowledge of the stands of the candidate-producing organizations on issues - reached an all-time low.
Currently available evidence suggests it may have been even lower in 2004. About 10% of voters said their choice would be based on the candidate's "agendas/ideas/platforms/goals"; 6% for Bush voters, 13% for Kerry voters (Gallup). The rest would vote for what the industry calls "qualities" or "values," which are the political counterpart to toothpaste ads. The most careful studies (PIPA) found that voters had little idea of the stand of the candidates on matters that concerned them. Bush voters tended to believe that he shared their beliefs, even though the Republican Party rejected them, often explicitly. Investigating the sources used in the studies, we find that the same was argely true of Kerry voters, unless we give highly sympathetic interpretations to vague statements that most voters had probably never heard.
Exit polls found that Bush won large majorities of those concerned with the threat of terror and "moral values," and Kerry won majorities among those concerned with the economy, health care, and other such issues. Those results tell us very little.
It is easy to demonstrate that for Bush planners, the threat of terror is a low priority. The invasion of Iraq is only one of many
illustrations. Even their own intelligence agencies agreed with the consensus among other agencies, and independent specialists, that the invasion was likely to increase the threat of terror, as it did; probably nuclear proliferation as well, as also predicted. Such threats are simply not high priorities as compared with the opportunity to establish the first secure military bases in a dependent client state at the heart of the world's major energy reserves, a region understood since World War II to be the "most strategically important area of the world," "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history." Apart from what one historian of the industry calls "profits beyond the dreams of avarice," which must flow in the right direction, control over two-thirds of the world's estimated hydrocarbon reserves - uniquely cheap and easy to exploit - provides what Zbigniew Brzezinski recently called "critical leverage" over European and Asian rivals, what George Kennan many years earlier had
called "veto power" over them. These have been crucial policy concerns throughout the post-World War II period, even more so in today's evolving tripolar world, with its threat that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence, and worse, might be united: China and the EU became each other's major trading partners in 2004, joined by the world's second largest economy (Japan), and those tendencies are likely to increase. A firm hand on the spigot reduces these dangers.
Note that the critical issue is control, not access. US policies towards the Middle East were the same when it was a net exporter of oil, and remain the same today when US intelligence projects that the US itself will rely on more stable Atlantic Basin resources. Policies would be likely to be about the same if the US were to switch to renewable energy. The need to control the "stupendous source of strategic power" and to gain "profits beyond the dreams of avarice" would remain. Jockeying over Central Asia and pipeline routes reflects similar concerns.
There are many other illustrations of the same lack of concern of planners about terror. Bush voters, whether they knew it or not, were voting for a likely increase in the threat of terror, which could be awesome: it was understood well before 9-11 that sooner or later the Jihadists organized by the CIA and its associates in the 1980s are likely to gain access to WMDs, with horrendous consequences. And even these frightening prospects are being consciously extended by the transformation of the military, which, apart from increasing the threat of "ultimate doom" by accidental nuclear war, is compelling Russia to move nuclear missiles over its huge and mostly unprotected territory to counter US military threats - including the threat of instant annihilation that is a core part of the "ownership of space" for offensive military purposes announced by the Bush administration along with its National Security Strategy in late 2002, significantly extending Clinton programs that were more than hazardous enough, and had already immobilized the UN Disarmament Committee. 
As for "moral values," we learn what we need to know about them from the business press the day after the election, reporting the "euphoria" in board rooms - not because CEOs oppose gay marriage. And from the unconcealed efforts to transfer to future generations the costs of the dedicated service of Bush planners to privilege and wealth: fiscal and environmental costs, among others, not to speak of the threat of "ultimate doom." That aside, it means little to say that people vote on the basis of "moral values." The question is what they mean by the phrase. The limited indications are of some interest. In some polls, "when the voters were asked to choose the most urgent moral crisis facing the country, 33 percent cited `greed and materialism,' 31 percent
selected `poverty and economic justice,' 16 percent named abortion, and 12 percent selected gay marriage" (Pax Christi). In others, "when surveyed voters were asked to list the moral issue that most affected their vote, the Iraq war placed first at 42 percent, while 13 percent named abortion and 9 percent named gay marriage" (Zogby). Whatever voters meant, it could hardly have been the operative moral values of the administration, celebrated by the business press.
I won't go through the details here, but a careful look indicates that much the same appears to be true for Kerry voters who thought they were calling for serious attention to the economy, health, and their other concerns. As in the fake markets constructed by the PR industry, so also in the fake democracy they run, the public is hardly more than an irrelevant onlooker, apart from the appeal of carefully constructed images that have only the vaguest resemblance to reality.
Let's turn to more serious evidence about public opinion: the studies I mentioned earlier that were released shortly before the elections by some of the most respected and reliable institutions that regularly monitor public opinion. Here are a few of the results (CCFR):   A large majority of the public believe that the US should accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court, sign the Kyoto protocols, allow the UN to take the lead in international crises, and rely on diplomatic and economic measures more than military ones in the "war on terror." Similar majorities believe the US should resort to force only if there is "strong evidence that the country is in imminent danger of being attacked," thus rejecting the bipartisan consensus on "pre-emptive war" and adopting a rather conventional interpretation of the UN Charter. A majority even favor giving up the Security Council veto, hence following the UN lead even if it is not the preference of US state managers. When official administration moderate Colin Powell is quoted in the press as saying that Bush "has won a mandate from the American people to continue pursuing his  aggressive' foreign policy," he is relying on the conventional assumption that popular opinion is irrelevant to policy choices by those in charge.
It is instructive to look more closely into popular attitudes on the war in Iraq, in the light of the general opposition to the "pre-emptive war" doctrines of the bipartisan consensus. On the eve of the 2004 elections, "three quarters of Americans say that the US should not have gone to war if Iraq did not have WMD or was not providing support to al Qaeda, while nearly half still say the war was the right decision" (Stephen Kull, reporting the PIPA study he directs). But this is not a contradiction, Kull points out. Despite the quasi-official Kay and Duelfer reports undermining the claims, the decision to go to war "is sustained by persisting beliefs among half of Americans that Iraq provided substantial support to al Qaeda, and had WMD, or at least a major WMD program," and thus see the invasion as defense against an imminent severe threat. Much earlier PIPA studies had shown that a large majority believe that the UN, not the US, should take the lead in matters of security, reconstruction, and political transition in Iraq. Last March, Spanish voters were bitterly condemned for appeasing terror when they voted out of office the government that had gone to war over the
objections of about 90% of the population, taking its orders from Crawford Texas, and winning plaudits for its leadership in the "New
Europe" that is the hope of democracy. Few if any commentators noted that Spanish voters last March were taking about the same position as the large majority of Americans: voting for removing Spanish troops unless they were under UN direction. The major differences between the two countries are that in Spain, public opinion was known, while here it takes an individual research project to discover it; and in Spain the issue came to a vote, almost unimaginable in the deteriorating formal democracy here.
These results indicate that activists have not done their job effectively.
Turning to other areas, overwhelming majorities of the public favor expansion of domestic programs: primarily health care (80%), but also aid to education and Social Security. Similar results have long been found in these studies (CCFR). Other mainstream polls report that 80% favor guaranteed health care even if it would raise taxes - in reality, a national health care system would probably reduce expenses considerably, avoiding the heavy costs of bureaucracy, supervision, paperwork, and so on, some of the factors that render the US privatized system the most inefficient in the industrial world. Public opinion has been similar for a long time, with numbers varying depending on how questions are asked. The facts are sometimes discussed in the press, with public preferences noted but dismissed as "politically impossible." That happened again on the eve of the 2004 elections. A few days before (Oct. 31), the NY Times reported that "there is so little political support for government intervention in the health care market in the United States that Senator John Kerry took pains in a recent presidential debate to say that his plan for expanding access to health
insurance would not create a new government program" - what the majority want, so it appears. But it is "politically impossible" and has "[too] little political support," meaning that the insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical industries, Wall Street, etc. , are opposed.
It is notable that such views are held by people in virtual isolation. They rarely hear them, and it is not unlikely that respondents regard their own views as idiosyncratic. Their preferences do not enter into the political campaigns, and only marginally receive some reinforcement in articulate opinion in media and journals. The same extends to other domains.
What would the results of the election have been if the parties, either of them, had been willing to articulate people's concerns on the issues they regard as vitally important?Or if these issues could enter into public discussion within the mainstream?We can only speculate about that, but we do know that it does not happen, and that the facts are scarcely even reported. It does not seem difficult to imagine what the reasons might be.
I brief, we learn very little of any significance from the elections, but we can learn a lot from the studies of public attitudes that are
kept in the shadows. Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to try to induce pessimism, hopelessness and despair, the real lessons are quite different. They are encouraging and hopeful. They show that there are substantial opportunities for education and organizing, including the development of potential electoral alternatives. As in the past, rights will not be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actions - a few large demonstrations after which one goes home, or pushing a lever in the personalized quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as "democratic politics." As always in the past, the tasks require day-to-day engagement to create - in part re-create - the basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the public plays some role in determining policies, not only in the political arena from which it is largely excluded, but also in the crucial economic arena,
from which it is excluded in principle.
Noam Chomsky is the author of Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance (now out in paperback from Owl/Metropolitan Books)

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE