A conversation with a Democratic Campaign staffer has revealed two ugly elements to our election cycle

fear_loathing_campaign1The late Hunter S. Thompson often had sharp opinions about American elections, as he often covered them during his career as a Gonzo Journalist. Known for popularizing the term Fear and Loathing,” which relates to the vanity and vulgarity of American life. Thompson applied this term especially to the realm of American politics. Now, in 2014, Fear and Loathing has returned to the campaign trail.

I had a conversation with a Louisiana Democratic Party campaign staffer, who has requested anonymity. For the purpose of the article, he shall be referred to as “Staffer X.” This is not an interview, just a summary of the conversation. This conversation revealed interesting dynamics of the 2014 Midterm Elections that I found interesting enough to report on. Granted, this is a perception only of Staffer X. The insight is still valuable.

Staffer X has been working as a volunteer for Democratic campaigns, including Mary Landrieu’s Senate re-election, in Louisiana (my home state). Staffer X has done everything from phone calls, fliers, and the occasional knocking on doors. His family has been lifelong Democrats in the New Orleans area. Staffer X was initially eager to sign up to help Democrats win in 2014. Yet, the past two months have drained the enthusiasm. The Reasons are interesting and revealing. Fear and Loathing sums up Staffer X’s attitude.

Staffer X has become disillusioned, but not necessarily by any one politician. It is the entire campaign process that has shaken his support for American election cycles. Staffer X asked I not reveal much detail of the process he outlined to me in this article, but said I could sum up the basis of his grievances: Money in Politics. It’s always the money Lebowski!

While Landrieu is in a good position to win re-election, victory does not seem to comfort Staffer X. Why? Because as much work as the campaign puts into the re-election efforts, what really determines the election is where the bucks are going. At least, this seems to be the norm. Mary Landrieu’s case is possibly no different.

“For as many phone calls that were made, it seemed more and more that money was all it was about. It was like being both a telemarketer and a tax collector,” Staffer X told me.

He revealed that it seemed the main focus was always money, and geared toward who could raise the most money (and gather the most big donors.) While he works hard and says he will continue to remain loyal to the Party during the elections, he can’t completely hide his disdains for the greed that swells American politics.

Money in politics, perhaps the worst side of Fear and Loathing on the campaign trail. When money becomes the primary factor of an election, then money will dominate that election’s aftermath.

What makes this worse is many Democrats (and Republicans) continue to stay on the campaign trail, in spite of the fact that they get a taste and insight as to how politics really works in America. Why is this? Simple. Hunter S. Thompson’s first element: Fear.

2014 midterm elections
Hunter S. Thompson

The idea is fear, to drive the voters towards you during election cycles. While Midterm elections are smaller in scale, the system is run in the same basic order. Many will vote for the Democrats and Republicans out of fear of the other side. This fear accomplishes two things in American politics.

First it forces the assumption that no other alternatives exist, and that the only way to beat the bad guys in the other side is to suck it up and vote for the (corporate) party establishment. The fear creates a certain aura around American politics, that progressives will once again be asked to suck up their convictions, vote for corporate Democrats, and don’t vote for an alternative.

Of course the criticism will be: Well, so then we let the Republicans win. No. Perhaps we should hold a thorough experiment. Rather than simply assume that the corporate dominated election system is the best we can do, maybe we as voters should turn our votes into a force capable of removing corporate influence from politics.

For example, rather than merely assume that you have to vote for the corporate Democrat, use our money to primary them and put forth true change candidates. We keep assuming we have no alternatives, when alternatives are smacking us in the face every day. The power of money is strong, but the power of the vote can be ever stronger. That is only if we use the votes properly. Otherwise votes merely affirm the already held perception of American voters as sheep all too ready to line up and be sheered.

It’s not just casting a vote, but using the vote that gains the people of America the advances they need. We the people have to actually care about voting.. Realize that I don’t criticize voting. I criticize the wrong use of the vote, and the fear that prevents American voters from breaking the chains of corporate dominated elections.

Next comes the loathing. Here is where, like Staffer X, many working on the campaign trails continue to press on, in spite of the things they come to understand about the elections. Loathing also sets into the non-campaign staff voters. Many Americans are so fed up with politics in this country it is incredible. More and more signs point to the disdain of Congress, the Courts, and Presidency. Even though this trend is growing, voters continue to cling to their money-establishment parties. This only perpetuates the very things in American politics the voters (left and right) claim to hate.

Staffer X is a great example of the fear and loathing of the American voter. He will still work hard to elect corporate stooges, because he feels he has to. The Republicans cannot win, so we have to elect the corporate Democrats. He hates the way it is, but he strides on. Perhaps a respect can be gained for him, but it still emblemizes a grave symptom in the 2014 (and future) election cycle. What is the purpose of our vote?

The very ideas that Hunter S. Thompson once laid out about American politics, seem to be still playing out. Perhaps it takes different forms, but the cycle remains the same. Politicians who run for money, and voters who vote out of fear and loathing. For the vote to be important, you have to make it count. Are we, the American people, doing this? As HST once said, “It’s our country. And if you want it to be a Democracy you have to be a player.”

God Bless America.


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