Every four years, the election of the President of the United States takes a big media show that keeps the world in tenterhooks. The US electoral system, which is extremely complex and controlled by the oligarchy, offers a popular sovereignty image, despite the fact that it was created to counter such sovereignty. Thierry Meyssan answers our questions about the hidden operations of «democracy» made in the U.S.A.
Sandro Cruz: The US presidential campaign is in full swing now. Three candidates keep struggling. What is your opinion of these candidates??
Thierry Meyssan: First, this is not an issue involving only three candidates to be nominated (McCain for the Republican nomination, Ms. Clinton and Obama for the Democrats), because there are small parties which also have their own [presidential] candidates and some independent candidates may launch their campaign in several states. In 2004 elections, there were 17 [presidential] candidates, but the European media only talked about three of them.
In 2008, at least there was one libertarian candidate, a green one and two Trotskist ones («the real one» Roger Calero and the «false one» Brian Moore, paid by the CIA; there was a prohibitionist (pastor Gene Amondson), a representative of the taxpayer’s party (now called the Party of the Constitution) and an independent one (Ralph Nader).
However, these small party candidates are not authorized to launch their campaigns throughout the whole [US] territory, so they will not even reach 5 percent of the votes. The republicans and the democrats will take the votes for them. That is why the US media is only interested in McCain, Obama and Ms. Clinton. But, they are making a big mistake because, although activism has no possibilities to get to the White House, it is getting deeper in US society and its influence is reaching the political discourse.
You ask me what I think about these big candidates; that is, what change the election of any of them in particular would bring to US policy. I think the question must be made the other way around. You will surely agree that current President George W. Bush does not have enough capacity to rule the country. He is a puppet hiding real power behind him. If US policy is not being decided within the walls of the Oval Office, why would that change next year?
US Oligarchy is now faced with a dilemma:
1. Keeping on with its colonial policy
2. Or returning to a more presentable form of imperialism.
Due to the stepping up of the financial crisis and military failures, the continuation of adventurous policies could lead to a freefall but, how can someone turn back if there is nothing that may directly force him to do so?
McCain represents the first point and Obama the second one. But Clinton may adapt to any of the two points. That is why she is still campaigning, while she must have withdrawn long time ago. In fact, after months of internal contradictions, US oligarchy has just taken a decision. As we have seen in current peace negotiations and accords in Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, the United States has renounced the «clash of civilizations» and the «re-designing of the Great Middle East.»
Obama has two virtues. On the one hand, his campaign is focusing on changes and thus he can easily incarnate a foreign policy renovation. On the other hand, the largely white oligarchy prefers to have a negro be responsible to announce the country’s bankruptcy and to face the inevitable social revolts that are to come up later.
Sandro Cruz: ¿Could you explain how that election, that electoral system works?
Thierry Meyssan: It is a puzzle that most citizens do not understand. Since the founding of the United States itself, they voluntarily chose a very complex electoral system and it became even more complicated with the passage of time. The Constitution of the United States was conceived according to the Declaration of Independence. The objective was to stop a potentially revolutionary process and set up a national oligarchy that would replace British aristocracy. Alexander Hamilton –the father of the Constitution – designed a system that would avoid any and all kind of popular sovereignty: Federalism.
The term is ambiguous. In Old Europe it is used to identify a kind of political and democratic unity that respects identities and partially maintains some forms of sovereignty. For instance, you recall the Helvetic Confederation. Hamilton, on his part, did not perceive the system from the basis up to the upper layers, but on the other way around, from the upper layers down to the basis. He did not federate local communities to create the states; he divided the estate by using local communities. Such ambiguity gave birth to the American Civil War (and we must recall that such a war had nothing to do with slavery, since slavery was abolished by the North during that war in order to massively recruit black soldiers). (…)
Sandro Cruz: Let’s make a pause here…It is, in fact, a very complex system and we have to slow down so that it can be understood. I would like this interview to become a sort of manual for those who are not specialists in this subject. You just said that: «he did not federate local communities to create states but divided the state using local communities.» It is hard for me to understand the second part of your statement. As a matter of fact, someone rules those states and that someone comes from a local community. Then, who has the political power in those states? And is there a real democratic selection at that social level?
Thierry Meyssan: For Alexander Hamilton, his fear of the «pleb» and his desire of setting up a US oligarchy equivalent to the British gentry were like an obsession. With the time, his political ideas included all kinds of hurdles to keep the people out of US policy.
As usual, every State adopts its own laws. In general terms, the objective of such laws is that of limiting the setting up of political parties and the launching of candidates to different elections. In most local elections they prohibit the presentation [as a candidate] of a person without the representation of a party and in everyday life it is impossible to create new parties.
The most caricatural system is that working in New Jersey, where you have to count on 10% percent of voters to set up a new party; it is a condition which –as everyone knows – can not be implemented and it definitively hinders small parties in the U.S. to open a chapter in the state of New Jersey.
We are talking about a system totally close by itself in which political life is confiscated by the representatives of the two major political parties at the state level. It is not possible for you to play a role if you are not accepted by such actors before.
Let’s go back to presidential elections. Alexander Hamilton granted powers to the states, which may appoint the so-called «big voters», whose number is defined according to the population of [each state]. And those big voters are the ones who elect the president of the United States, not the US citizens. In the 18th century no state would consult the population in that regard; at present, each state carries out a consultation action. In 2001, when Al Gore went to the Supreme Court in the face of electoral fraud in Florida, the court reminded him of the Constitution: that who appoints the big voters is the governor of Florida, not the people of Florida, and Washington can not interfere with the internal problems of Florida.
We have to understand that the United States is not, has never been and does not want to be a democratic state. It is an oligarchic system, which puts importance on public opinion as a tool to avoid a revolution. With very few exceptions like Jessie Jackson, no US politician asks for a reform to the Constitution and the recognition of popular sovereignty. Therefore, it sounds particularly comic to listen to Mr. Bush announce that he is going to «democratize» the world, in general, and the Great Middle East, in particular.
Sandro Cruz: Let’s make something clear, please. ¿Are the voters and the big voters the same people? ¿Are they the same party leaders?
Thierry Meyssan: No, of course not, here there is some language-related confusion. In the presence of a two-level electoral system, the terminology given by political sciences establishes a difference between ordinary voters and big voters. In the United States, however, the word «voter» is only applied to big voters since during the first decades of existence of that country, the people would not participate in elections.
The president of the United States is elected by a «college of voters», made up of 538 members. Each state has a number of big voters, which corresponds to the number of seats it has in Congress (among deputies and senators.) Colonies like Puerto Rico and the Guam islands are excluded of the electoral process.
Each state draws up its own rules to appoint its big voters. In fact, it is aimed at standardizing such rules among the states. At present all states, but Maine and Nebraska, which have implemented very complex systems, consider big voters to represent the majority of their population.
In the event that the [votes of ] the big voters would not represent a majority and a tie would occur between two candidates, the House of Representatives would then elect the president, while the Senate would elect the vice-president.
Sandro Cruz: ¿Do the primaries allow voters to pick their candidates or not? ¿What is the role of the super-delegates?
Thierry Meyssan: Primaries and conventions have two objectives. From the internal point of view, they monitor public opinion and evaluate how much things can be forced. From the external point of view, they offer the world the view that the US oligarchy is a democracy.
People usually think that the primaries help to avoid tricks by the top leadership by allowing member of the major parties in the basis to pick their candidate. But it is not so. It is not the political parties that organize the primaries, but the states! The primaries have been designed according to Hamilton’s plan of guaranteeing oligarchic control over the system and closing the way to dissident candidates.
Each state has its own rules to appoint its delegates to the federal conventions of the parties. There are six major methods and, there are also other mixed methods. Sometimes you need a party member card to be allowed to vote; sometimes party followers may vote along the party members; sometimes all the citizens may vote in the primaries of the two major parties; sometimes all the citizens may only vote in the primary of the party they choose; sometimes the parties carry out a common one-round primary and some other times a two-round primary. There are all possible combinations of those methods. Each primary election, in each state, has a different character.
On the other hand, some states do not have primaries but caucuses. For instance, in Iowa they have different vote counting in each of the 99 counties, where they elect local delegates, who at the same time hold second-degree primaries to elect the delegates to the national conventions. It is very similar to the alleged «democratic centralism», which Stalinists like that much.
This circus traditionally begins in February and runs for 6 months. But this year, the Democratic Party changed its schedule. The process was launched ahead of time as the party sorted out dates so that the amusement lasted throughout the year. The unilateral decision was not easy to put into practice and caused a lot of disturbance because, and I say again, it is not the parties that organize the primaries, but the states.
In the end [of the process] the delegates get together in their party convention. They are joined by the super-delegates who, contrary to such term means, are not delegates of anyone. They are notable persons and party leaders with their own rights. The super-delegates represent the oligarchy and their number is enough to tip the scales in either direction, disregarding the result of the primaries or the caucuses. They stand for 20 percent of all participants in the Democratic Party Convention and nearly 25 percent of the Republican Convention (although this latter one will only be a formality since McCain is the only one remaining).
Sandro Cruz: What is the role of primaries and caucuses in each state? How can we understand it?
Thierry Meyssan: I have just proved that they are useless, at least as what the appointment of candidates is concerned. But that big show helps reduce almost to zero the political coincidence of the US people. The corporate media keeps us on tenterhooks about the counting of delegates and donations. They are now talking about the «race» for the White House and about records, like if it were a televised marathon or the Star Academy.
A «suspense» is artificially maintained in order to get the attention of the public and repeat a message as many times as possible. Have you noticed the so many times the media has announced that this Tuesday is a crucial day, for instance? However, every time you see an inexplicable result which allows the candidate in a tight spot to keep on with his campaign in order to maintain the show running. In fact the show has been set. In 17 US states, they set up voting machines which do not allow any verification of results of electronic vote. It would be much better not to vote and let the candidates on their own and invent the results.
All those facts are joined by very doubtful subliminal messages. For instance, McCain chose as his slogan «Defense of Freedom and Dignity», which he uses in reference to religious freedom and the abolition of slavery. It is difficult to understand that such issues are in the center of concern of the average American. Then, whom is that slogan aiming at?
Ms. Clinton proclaims that «Each one in his own place». She means that, if she were in power nobody would be left helpless. But she also means that the people must be in their place and they must not try to change [that place] or interfere with the oligarchy.
Obama, on his part, comes up with the slogan «Change» written on his podium. That means that the United States needs to change, but it also recalls a change desk for money. Amidst a financial crisis such a term like «change» distracts the people a lot.
Sandro Cruz: In a recent article, you wrote that the US President is a man of the Military Industrial Complex. From that perspective, do you think that McCain will be elected President?
Thierry Meyssan: Your question again must be asked the other way around. The three candidates running for president are giving increasing signals of their loyalty to the Military Industrial Complex. It is an auction in which, as a matter of fact, McCain needs to prove nothing; but his rivals are not left behind. We heard Obama say he supported a bombardment of Pakistan and few days ago, Clinton threatened Iran with «wiping it out» of the map by means of a nuclear attack. Who offers more?
After months on the same race, these three candidates have reached absolute consensus on the main issues related to foreign and defense policies:
They consider that the defense of Israel is a strategic objective for the United States;
they have no plan to withdraw the troops from Iraq;
they present Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah as big threats to the international stability.
However, there is a big difference among the candidates, which is based on the debate that just closed within the military industrial complex. McCain and his advisor Kissinger maintain the principle of direct confrontation, while Obama and his advisor Brzezinski propose [US] rule through representatives. Clinton and her advisor Albright incarnate normative imperialism, already obsolete. I usually write on Voltairenet.org about that strategic debate (particularly when the report by intelligence agencies on Iran and the resignation of Admiral Fallon were known) and the election of the new president depends precisely of that debate.
In the article you just mentioned, I wrote that the military industrial complex trusted Clinton. I still have the same opinion. Her statement is not of interest to the weapons industry anymore, and her efforts, either her secret participation in the Fellowship Foundation or her statements on Iran will not modify that fact. In this moment when you ask me these questions to say that «Clinton is done» is nothing new. That was the headline of a NY daily last week; and I wrote it when the European press still had Clinton on a pedestal.
We can not let ourselves be dragged by the stories imposed by the corporate media. There is nothing new in knowing if the United States will maintain, with McCain in power, 100, 000 troops and 200, 000 mercenaries in Iraq or if, with Obama in power, they will reduce the number of troops and increase the mercenary presence. What is important is to know if the United States still has the means demanded by its ambition and if it can rule the world –as the neocons still intend to do-, or if they are mined from inside and have to renounce their imperial dream to avoid their collapse –as the Baker-Hamilton Commission explained. The fact is that the freefall of the US dollar marked the end of the empire.
Ten years ago, a barrel of oil sold at just 8 dollars; now you need 135 dollars to get the same barrel and within two months you will probably need 200. On the other hand the stampede of the Hariri Clan militias, who ran away thus leaving the battlefield for Hezbollah –in just a few hours and throwing their weapons like garbage- shows the impossibility to turn to sub-contractors to guarantee police services for the empire.
Under such conditions, McCain is of no interest for the oligarchy. Obama and Brzezinski are the only ones to propose an alternative project: saving the empire by prioritizing secret action (not that costly) over war (too onerous).
Sandro Cruz: In effect, it is surprising to observe that Barak Obama, who affirms that he wants change in American society, has picked Brzezinski as his advisor, when we know that this person is an ideologist involved in sordid and secret operations: coups, sabotages and other criminal actions.
Thierry Meyssan: I met Zbignew Brzezinski three weeks ago ; I listened to his speech perfectly prepared on US renovation. He condemned all visible excesses of the Bush policy, from Guantanamo to Iraq, and in a very clever manner he recalled his own success against the Soviet Union.
However, I do not think that the next US president will have the chance to implement a new «big strategy». It is too late now. Barak Obama will have to face the cessation of payments in several states, which will not be able to pay the salaries of their own officials or guarantee public services. He will be too busy with the internal chaos to implement the plans designed by Brzezinski.