Representing corporate America

SAN DIEGO (U-WIRE) — It’s been several years, but I still clearly remember first walking into the Vancouver Art Gallery.
I was lucky enough to be visiting the gallery during an exhibition of the Andy Warhol Collection. As I strolled through the exhibit, I noticed a graphic of former President Richard Nixon with the words “Vote McGovern” written beneath.
The image grabbed my attention; realizing that the face did not match the name, it immediately got me thinking. Art has a way of doing that. Its meaning is best left to the eye of the beholder.
Years have passed and I find this very same image reappearing in my mind as I learn more about the political system here in the United States — that of the two-party system. I cannot help but picture the portrait Warhol created, only instead of Nixon’s face, I see Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s profile and the words “Vote Gore” written beneath it.
If you were to go and ask the head of the Democratic Party whom his party represents, he would tell you, “We represent the American people.”
If you were to go ask the head of the Republican Party whom his party represents, he would give you the very same answer: “The American people.”
But whom do these parties really represent?
Unlike Europe, where most countries run on a proportional representation system allowing the establishment of various and diverse parties with actual power, the United States does not.
In England, for example, the blue-collar worker is represented by the Labor Party. These parties’ aim is to achieve the best interests of those they represent. In a country as diverse and populated as the United States, it is difficult, if not impossible, to conceive the will of the people being represented entirely by two parties — two candidates who are so much alike.
While Bush and Al Gore do have some differences, it’s astounding to see the number of issues in which they are as close as kin to each other.
Take crime. Both claim to be tough on crime and both support the death penalty. Most importantly, both fail to see the disproportionate representation of minorities on death row. Both fail to note the inability of our current justice system to rehabilitate the hundreds of thousands of inmates throughout the nation. Both fail to address the fact that money can buy you “Lady Justice.”
International trade is another issue both candidates seem to passionately agree on. Both approve granting China (the world’s largest communist state) most-favorable-nation status. China’s human-rights violations have drawn strong criticism from many international human-rights groups. Yet China’s actions seem not to tarnish the country’s standing with both candidates.
The most notable similarity between Bush and Gore is their relationships with their “sponsors.” Multiple corporations have been known to donate more than $50,000 to each candidate. Soft money donations (donations made to the political party, not the candidate) have gone through the roof.
Campaign-reform talk gives both candidates an opportunity to showcase their question-avoiding skills. Money plays an all-too-important role in the presidential elections, opening the door to corporate America.
Democracy in the United States is at risk: Corporate America has a stronghold on the two-party system. It buys both candidates, then orders them to fulfill the corporations’ interests. The Republican and Democratic parties have sadly become corporate parties, serving the corporations’ needs instead of those of the people.
How else can you explain the United States spending billions of dollars in missile defense systems now that the Cold War is over and several countries have signed anti-nuclear-warhead testing treaties?
How else can you explain getting the death penalty for committing murder, yet a corporation that has been held accountable for the death of hundreds of people can only get fined? When did the life of an entity, such as that of a corporation, supersede our own?
Think about it, can we keep letting the power of corporations go unchallenged in deciding our laws, our future, when it is these very same corporations that have gone against every single social justice movement in the United States?
From Social Security to consumer protection laws, corporations have fought every single one of these movements.
America will keep turning its head as China proceeds to exploit and dehumanize its citizens, and corporate special interests will continue to dominate U.S. policy.
Whether you’re a Warhol enthusiast or not, you should still be able to comprehend the point I’m trying to make. A vote for Bush or Gore is a vote for corporate America. It’s time for the silent majority, the 51 percent of eligible voters (more than 90 million Americans) that failed to vote in the last presidential race, to start doing something about it. Time to put democracy in action. Time to stop whispering and start shouting.
Ricardo Arias’ column originally appeared in San Diego State University’s The Daily Aztec on Sept. 8.