Automatic Replay: “Two” Imperialist Speeches from the One Party State

“Bi-partisanship” is a word I have known for as long as I have known the United States. Speeches promoting the idea provide one of those moments when the ethos of the de facto one party state comes into focus. For the rest of the world, distinctions between “Democrat” and “Republican” have long been seen as superfluous, immaterial, or impossible to draw — very few can tell you if Reagan was a Republican or Kennedy was a Democrat. Those who have had the privileges of traveling and living abroad, and moving outside of elite cocktail circuits would know this. “Time to end the gridlock,” “time to come together” are “times” that are repeated ceaselessly by American leaders to their subjects — but when it’s always that “time,” there is time for nothing else.

There is no time for difference. They shout at each other that they should stop shouting at each other. They claim to welcome all voices to “the national conversation,” and in the meantime protesters right outside their respective convention halls in Denver and St. Paul were clubbed, pepper sprayed, smoke bombed, had stun grenades thrown at them, and were arrested by the hundreds. Such actions are depicted as brutal suppression of dissent when done in China, as a violation of human rights. When done in the U.S., the “independent” media ask viewers to “identify this guy shown here breaking a window at the First National Bank”, coopting the viewer into policing his neighbour. There is no “centre” in American politics, and the left is largely banished from view, or even from the streets. Those who continue to speak in terms of middle grounds and centres are merely repeating a hegemonic fable to themselves, perhaps hoping that conviction comes through repetition. The dominant American culture is a re-run culture to the extreme, and it has shut off any exits from which it might escape itself.

Time to pitch differences during an election campaign between the two siblings of U.S. politics should provide an opportunity for highlighting serious differences, but even that time has passed. Now the two parties, the only two that the allegedly “independent” media cover, have become part of a criss-cross campaign effort, the two conspiring to limit the discussion to the exact same terms, creating cross pairs of each other: for McCain’s long experience as an aged Washington insider, there is Biden’s long experience as an aged Washington insider (the “media” say he commutes to Washington, so he is not quite an insider — this is the infantile and insipid level to which public political discourse has remained wed); for Obama’s youthful lack of experience, as an alleged outsider and visibly not a member of the long dominant political class of Old White Men, there is Palin’s youthful lack of experience as an alleged outsider who is also, as a woman, clearly not an Old White Man. Then both parties say they are steering themselves toward these almost mythical “independents” — the kind of people who suddenly vanish when America makes its stupidest and most lethal decisions — and in that effort, two become one.

For people who actually listened, or better yet read, the nomination acceptance speeches by both Barack Obama and John McCain, the level of similarity between the two should have stood out. Unfortunately, too many would have only heard, and only watched, manipulated by colour, fabric, smiles, and display. Not all of course, just enough of those who were cheated by their educational system to out vote everyone else.

Both Obama and McCain used some variation of the word “threat” four times in their respective speeches. Obama used the word “risk” twice, McCain three times. Obama used the word “fight” four times, while McCain, in an ugly display of an Orwellian imperialist reflex, shouting like a fanatic during a “two minute hate,” used the word 25 times. What I have done below is to select extracts from their two speeches, alternating the quotes equally between one speaker and the other, but without identifying the speaker. Show me the difference.

But we must see the threats to peace and liberty in our time clearly and face them…

We need a president who can face the threats of the future…

…we can’t turn a blind eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people…

We face many threats in this dangerous world…

I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century…

Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, an association that means more to me than any other. We’re dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. No country ever had a greater cause than that.

…what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism. The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does XXXXX.

And I wouldn’t be an American worthy of the name if I didn’t honor Sen. XXXX and his supporters for their achievement.

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America – they have served the United States of America.

…after we’ve won, we’re going to reach out our hand to any willing patriot, make this government start working for you again, and get this country back on the road to prosperity and peace

And here is a special little video mix I made, combining Orwell, Spielberg, Obama, McCain, and Bin Laden: