Opinion | Can We Escape the Political-Industrial Complex?

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One technique to measure our present state of “total politics” is to take a look at the economics of our presidential campaigns. Within the 1980 presidential election, spending by Republicans and Democrats mixed totaled $60 million {dollars} ($190 million right now when adjusted for inflation). On this yr’s presidential election, promoting alone is projected to succeed in $7 billion, in itself a 37-times enhance in spending. In keeping with the Federal Election Fee, presidential candidates spent $2.3 billion from Jan. 1, 2019, via March 31, 2020.

The military-industrial complicated fed off the U.S.-Soviet Chilly Warfare battle in a lot the identical method the political-industrial complicated feeds off the left-right battle. If the military-industrial complicated led us right into a paradigm of perpetual wars with little hope of victory and no finish in sight (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq), then the political-industrial complicated has led us right into a paradigm of perpetual campaigns during which our political class wants divisive points to battle over greater than it wants options to the problems themselves — essential points like gun management, immigration and well being care.

What can we do?

Worthy initiatives like ranked-choice voting and gerrymandering reform might assist; nonetheless, step one is for every of us merely to change into conscious of the methods our passions are being infected and manipulated for revenue and the way the political-industrial complicated feeds off our basest fears of each other. Our experiment in democracy has labored when it appeals to the very best in us, versus the worst.

Eisenhower knew this, and it was that intuition in every of us that he appealed to as he closed his farewell deal with: “Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

And if we do change into a group of dreadful worry and hate?

Within the Chilly Warfare, failure meant mutually assured destruction via nuclear conflict. It was an final result that, fortuitously, by no means arrived, although it’s instructive that Eisenhower’s farewell deal with got here rather less than two years earlier than the Cuban Missile Disaster, the closest humanity has ever come to nuclear annihilation.

As we speak, we sit on a unique form of precipice because the American physique politic hurtles towards the 2020 election. Either side are laying groundwork to contest the consequence. Are we coming into an period the place we maintain elections in a nation so hopelessly divided that neither facet is prepared to simply accept defeat? In a democracy, that’s the truest type of mutually assured destruction.

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