A small minority of predominately white families and individuals organized as the capitalist class rules the United States (and the world). The ruling class is a network of bankers and businessmen who own and control the means of production (resources, machinery, etc.) and have accumulated the lion’s share of the world’s wealth. The capitalist class lives off the value produced by the labor of the majority of the population. This is the ultimate source of social and economic inequality in America.
To perpetuate its rule, the capitalist class controls the population by using two basic means. The first is the coercive machinery of the state and the law, chiefly the criminal justice system, with its vast policing apparatus, punitive judiciary, and immense penal structure. The second means is ideological hegemony, in which justifications for the relations of domination and exploitation embed in a prevailing social logic legitimating the status quo.
The structure of hegemony is composed of numerous components, but central to its functioning in the United States is the two-party system, made up of the Democratic and Republican parties. In this essay, I will explain how the two-party system works, describe the function of each party, and encourage readers to refrain from participating in the hegemonic system this fall by voting for a third party candidate in order to begin the process of delegitimizing the social logic.
The homosexual community is small, but relatively affluent and situated in important positions in the structure of production. The same can be said with respect to the Jewish community. The ruling class disproportionately feels the influence of these two communities because they are well-organized and have financial resources. There are two large minority populations without such resources that require integration with the system, namely the African American and Chicano-Latino communities. Women make up more than half of the population, so they constitute an obvious target of control. White men are the second largest group in the United States. Although the ruling class is overwhelmingly white and male, the majority of white men are not members of the ruling class, so their consent is not guaranteed. The white community, like other communities, is fractured into affluent, well educated, agrarian, and working class pieces.
The capitalist class has constructed – and modifies from time to time – the two-party system to organize these several groups into two sides and integrate them into the ideological control structure. The dynamic of coordination, division, and incorporation is accomplished by appealing to, and in many instances creating, constellations of issues that directly advance capitalist interests in the form of economic policy (taxes, trade, etc.); subpopulations believe are relevant and important to group-based interests, but that do not affect the material position of the ruling class; divide the population in ways they keep them from organizing along class lines against the interests of the ruling class. Note that points two and three work together to eliminate class-based political organizing. Thus the two-party system is the embodiment of the divide-and-conquer political strategy that perpetuates class rule in America.
The Democratic Party is the element of this strategy that appeals to those members of the various groups who are relatively well educated, have some perception that capitalism is the source of inequality and other social problems (such as global warming), and, furthermore, think that something ought to be done about these problem by reforming the American system by making it more democratic. Those who vote Democratic tend to be compassionate individuals, caring about the needs of poor people, especially children, and concerned with advancing the interests of groups that have been historically underserved by the US system, for example the black community.
Thus traditional Democratic demographics are persons studying and employed in academic institutions, white working men and women who are favorable to labor unions (not as much today as yesterday), women and their allies concerned with reproductive rights and equity in income, gays and lesbians, black Americans, and Jews (as long as the Democratic Party continues funneling financial and military aid to the state of Israel). Key issues that marshal support for the two-party system are minority rights, guns, and reproductive freedom.
The demographic composition of the Republic Party is less diverse than the Democratic constituency. The job of the Republican element is to control those who fall outside of the aforementioned groups. The Republican voter tends to more provincial, less intelligent, less well educated, and largely ignorant of the cause of the problems he confronts. Ignorance and powerlessness cause Republican voters to project personal failure and disappointment on those members of groups who are not in a position to affect them. This is manifest in various hatreds for black and brown people, gays and lesbians, intellectuals, women, union members, and a disdain for government programs designed to help people underserved by the capitalist economy.
Republican voters tend to be conservative and predisposed to an authoritarian personality. They practice anti-intellectualism (actively rejecting logic and facts) and hold and seek to impose on others Christian and conventional beliefs and practices. As authoritarians, they are more likely to be swayed by signs and symbols of national greatness and military prowess and bellicosity. Typical of chauvinism, they worry about national decline and respond to change and difference with belligerence and derision. Specific issues that marshal their support for the two-party system are minority rights, guns, and reproductive freedom.
Crucially, both political parties play up and exaggerate what each side fears the most about the other side. If Democrats get into power, Republican voters are told, then religion will be banished from the public square, women will kill their babies, homosexuals will unleash their gay agenda on children in public schools, industry will be nationalized and Marxists will establish a centralized command economy, taxes will be raised on the middle class and family farms, the military budget will be slashed and the terrorists will win, blacks will move into white neighborhoods and grow fat and lazy on welfare and reparations, and the elderly will be coerced into ending their lives prematurely. If Republicans get into power, Democratic voters are told, they will tear down the wall separating church and state and make Christianity compulsory for everyone, replace science with Judeo-Christian mythology, force women to have the babies of their rapists and fathers, criminalize homosexuality, deregulate businesses and destroy the environment, slash taxes for the wealthy and eliminate social programs for the poor and elderly, privatize public schools, launch military invasions around the world, and end affirmative action for minorities and women.
Successfully carrying out this strategy requires convincing the public that these are the only issues they should be concerned with – they shall not concern themselves with matters of capitalist exploitation and class rule, nor will these ever be mentioned in dominant cultural institutions (schools, mass media, churches); depicting each straw man as an arguable reflection of the character of these two parties by deploying ideological bomb throwers and manufacturing grassroots campaign, while maintaining the presence of calm voices of reason to appeal to the “moderate” or “centrist” voter in the “swing states”; and convincing the electorate that there is no realistic alternative to the other party.
This last one is the linchpin in the ideological structure of control. The ruling class creates a self-fulfilling prophecy wherein either one or the other party wins by scaring voters into voting for either one or the other party. The ruling class has structured the system in such a way that no political party elected in America will threaten their core material interests by giving the public two parties to choose between and convincing them that one or the other of these two parties actually cares about their interests. Whether Democrats win or Republicans win – and it is ideally a mix of the two, shifting every so often as needs change – the ruling class is guaranteed the perpetuation of the class system that benefits them. It is a brilliant scheme that has worked for more than two hundred years.
The only way to get out of this trap at the electoral level is to withdraw consent from the two-party deception by voting for a third party candidate. Voters who believe in the deeper issues – economic and environmental, human rights and civil liberties – should vote for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. If enough people get this message and vote on the assumption that everybody else is also voting to change the way we do things in America, and thus not succumbing to the irrational fear that they are “throwing their vote away,” then we might actually make a different in November. But even if we don’t make a big difference, at least we will have the satisfaction of knowing that we were not manipulated by fear and ideology into voting against our interests, our principles, and our values.