According to recent reports, around 6 billion USD will likely be spent in this year’s presidential election campaign, a figure which tops previous campaigns. Some analysts estimate each candidate is already spending over $30 million each week in advertising, and both candidates have thus far paid out millions as wages and salaries for campaign workers. As well, the role of nominally independent super PACs has ballooned in recent years. Like many sections of the US economy, the billions floating around as part of the presidential campaigns operates on a level of pure parasitism.
As part of the modern world, surplus value is stripped from the periphery [Third World] and invested in tertiary economic activities in the core [First World]. These tertiary activities may or may not be of real higher value for society as a whole but they cater to the niche interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy, the latter being retained by the former as unproductive laborers in the expanded tertiary sectors. As such, these tertiary sectors are often inflated in economic value. This dynamic can only occur under conditions in which a relatively small number of economic centers dominate that world (i.e. capitalist-imperialism). This dynamic historically has socially and economically stabilized the system as a whole.
Though the activity generated by the money being spent this election season isn’t typical of tertiary activity, it has become a regular feature of the Amerikan political landscape and provides a case study into the parasitism of the US economy. Little that happens on the $6 billion “campaign trail” is of any wider social benefit, and the outcome is of little consequence. Thus the question arises: besides imperialism’s tendency to invest in tertiary sectors, what wider function does the US’ elaborately expensive presidential campaign serve?
Generally speaking, elections serve to legitimize the state as the protector of the wider set of class relations and to provide residents with an outlet through which to organize for various social issues. While different candidates may have different views on social issues (lgbt rights, environmental protection, economic policies, etc), the broad outlines regarding the system are never up for debate. In this case both Obama and Romney defend the efficacy of capitalism and also insist that the US will continue to be a dominant imperialist power in the years to come.
As many commentators have noted, the increased cost of running campaigns has made candidates evermore reliant on big contributors. The overall cost of running campaign, as well as many other factors, insures that any serious contender for political office is beholden to those with economic power. This is of little consequence in the US as the political machinery is sometimes a tempering force on the ultra-reactionary sections of Amerikan people. But, the US is keen to promote its forms of parasitic sham democracy in countries around the Third World; and such exported big-budget political campaigns are an increasingly convenient way for imperialists to control the policies of weak states.
Some say that Obama is worse than his predecessor, George W. Bush. Others contend that things will be even worse if Mitt Romney is elected as the next US president. As the astute Iranian professor Muhammad Marandi recently pointed out, there is little distinction between Obama and Romney except that one currently has their finger on the trigger and the other does not. The question of things getting better or worse is largely independent of who holds political office. Rather, the political climate of various countries, the US included, is predicated upon larger developments in the capitalist-imperialist world system.
Capitalist-imperialism, which not only grinds down a majority of humanity into indignity and squalor, is also leading an even greater majority of humanity to a much worse future. Real solutions will come from broad global class struggle, not by campaigning and cheering for this or that political candidate.
Elections in the US, rather than providing any real democratic function, are a parasitic tertiary sector of economic activity whose main outcome is to legitimize the political system and to distribute nominal power around social issues in a stabilizing manner. Real democracy can be built only through the collective organized struggles of oppressed and exploited peoples and their allies against capitalist-imperialist exploitation and the systems of oppression which enable it. Real democracy means overturning US and imperialist dominance. It means global new democracy: placing exploiters under to political sovereignty of exploited and oppressed people and ending the existence of the Untied States of Amerika.