This article is featured in Bitcoin Magazine’s “The Primary Issue”. Click here to get your Annual Bitcoin Magazine Subscription.
“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
— H.L. Mencken
Voting is sometimes fake, sometimes real. Elite coalitions gather behind the scenes and what you see in front of the camera is a complicated narrative dance measuring popular sentiment, which is sometimes aligned with reality and often isn’t.
As the electoral engine of the United States purrs to life, many are questioning the point of it all. Events in the 21st century have shattered the delicate notions of fairness in the halls of power, or the assumption that the organs of state and industry place a priority on performing their function at all. Corporations heap dollars into bonfires in an effort to signal their compliance with a new global religion. Politicians put more thought into how to stretch a bill into as many bribes as possible, forgetting why the bill was proposed in the first place. The government has lost the ability to tell the truth — about even the simplest things — in an effort to save face for glaring incompetence. The problems we face as a civilization are so existential and monumental that none dares take responsibility for them. They wallpaper over the cracks and apply Band-Aids, hoping the problems outlast their careers to avoid being saddled with resolving them.
This state of affairs has led to an unprecedented crisis of confidence. It has led to an understandable cynicism in the results of our electoral system. This is warranted, because electoral politics has never worked the way the average citizen has been told to understand it.
The truth of the matter is that after a certain scale, every democracy is merely an oligarchy with a referendum on public sentiment and pretty wallpaper. Popularity often legitimizes power, but rarely authors it.
― Robert Michels, “The Iron Law of Oligarchy”
When we have our elections, candidates are competing in two separate contests. One with the public and one with the elite. It is better to win both than one, but the last decade has shown that this is optional. There is no greater demonstration of this than the presidential primary, where winning is relative, and the prizes are not always what they seem.
“Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.”
― Herbert Marcuse
Examine these events and ask the Latin adage “Cui Bono?” (“Who Benefits?”). Marianne Williamson is a candidate without a constituency or much in the way of funding. Her campaign is obviously about raising her profile for book sales and the increased curb appeal on the Barnes & Noble shelf when she has the name recognition of a candidate in the primaries. Politico articles showing her finances already dwindling goes to show that it’s a self-funded PR campaign; acting as a surrogate for questions and focus grouping sensitive topics is how she will get the funding to extend that campaign.