Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning
As fiction goes, Richard Averett's ImaginePolitik serves up a dose of hard political reality --- one which Americans must honestly confront, and right soon.
The book, written well in advance of Occupy Wall Street, is premised on what most objective observers would readily acknowledge: The pernicious impact of corporate money and power, not only upon the two major political parties but upon the acceptable range of discourse, has so thoroughly undermined the constitutionally recognized purpose of government as an instrument intended to "promote the general welfare" that the words "American Democracy" are now nearly equivalent to an oxymoron.
From the perspective of our political and economic elites, it's Election Night and the unthinkable has happened. Zach Barrett, a principled progressive third party candidate, has just become the President-Elect. But, that merely provides the starting point for a tale of political intrigue in which the brilliant Barrett must outmaneuver the powerful economic and political forces that are aligned to either prevent his ascendancy to office, or, at a minimum, to neuter his Presidency as vehicle for meaningful democratic change.
The guide to our own political reality can be found in the manner in which the fictional Barrett undertakes to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the way.
Confronting ethical dilemma: Zach Barrett's and our own
Throughout we find the fictional Zach Barrett confronted with ethical dilemmas, such as when he learns from a fictional Brad Friedman that there is a distinct possibility of vote flipping on Georgia's 100% unverifiable touch screens which may have given the state to the GOP candidate. If it could be proven, the Democratic candidate --- as opposed to the progressive independent Barrett who had been announced the winner of the Presidential race on Election Night --- would not only win Georgia but the White House.
Barrett is an election integrity advocate. Can he maintain his status as the President-Elect without abandoning his principled support for transparent, verifiable elections?
Why we cannot compromise core democratic values
The fictional Zach Barrett's brilliance in outmaneuvering a corporate owned media --- one which would just as well pretend he doesn't exist --- adds to the intrigue. But the core of Averett's work is to be found in Barrett's seeming necessity to compromise principle in order to ascend to his duly elected office --- and the slippery slope that could be created by that compromise --- one which portends to make a Barrett Presidency as remarkably ineffective as a vehicle for meaningful democratic change as the one we are currently experiencing.
The stroke of brilliance that the fictional President Elect applies to that dilemma not only leads to an explosive ending that makes this a must read political thriller but reflects a fundamental argument against a compromise of the core principles of democratic governance.
It is a compromise that is not only made by the politicians who trade principle for corporate campaign contributions, but one repeatedly made by the American people in election-after-election in which they fall into the trap of the lesser evil paradigm.
Take the rapidly approaching 2012 election.
If we leave it to the political elite and the corporate media, the vast majority of the electorate who make up the working class will be given a choice between re-electing President Barack Obama or, worse, casting a vote for a right-wing GOP tool of billionaire sociopaths like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers.
From the standpoint of democracy, economic equality, environmental stability, accountability and the rule of law, it is a choice between a slow death brought on by a whittling away of our rights and the New Deal safety net and a swift death. Both paths lead to a harsh, winner-take-all society in which government is reduced to waging war and rewarding the rich who already exercise pernicious power not based on the quality of their ideas but upon an already obscene disparity of wealth.
What Averett reveals in ImaginePolitik is that we don't have to fall into "the lesser evil" trap. The answer to our malaise lies within. It requires our fearless exercise of democracy, one which, in the book, actually seems to predict the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In the end, a paraphrase of FDR's famous line comes to mind: the only thing a truly democratic people have to fear is fear itself.
Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.