Amazon’s electioneering in Seattle is extra proof that capitalism and democracy are incompatible

This yr’s election for Seattle metropolis council was a referendum — not on any difficulty or occasion, however on the flexibility of Amazon, the 13th largest company on Earth, to control public opinion and subvert democracy to be able to preserve political management over its hometown.

Amongst all seven metropolis council seats that had been up for election, there was a pro-Amazon candidate and a candidate that favored populist will over the wants of huge companies.  Amazon spent cash to help seven completely different candidates, one for every open seat. As you would possibly anticipate, the entire candidates Amazon backed had been neoliberals — a wonderful, basic political time period to refer to those politicians' collective perception in social liberalism (so long as it would not intervene with the revenue margins of companies) and financial coverage of deferring to the ruling elite and their consultant-class lackeys on such coverage issues.

Neoliberalism is an anti-democratic political place; it presupposes that the liberal capitalist democratic order maintains some steady state when the ruling class pulls the levers that govern society, and retains the pesky plenty barred from interfering of their accumulation of capital. "[Neoliberalism] means the dismantling of publicly owned business and deregulation of capital, particularly finance capital; the elimination of public provisions and the thought of public items; and probably the most primary submission of the whole lot to markets and to unregulated markets," scholar Wendy Brown advised Salon in 2016.

The votes are nonetheless being tallied, however comparatively talking, it appears Amazon's electioneering was partly profitable: three pro-Amazon candidates appear all however sure to win election to metropolis council, three appeared destined to lose, and one race remains to be very a lot up within the air, the competitors between District three incumbent Councilmember Kshama Sawant and her competitor Egan Orion.

But three (or 4) victories out of seven is an efficient end result for Amazon when you think about their bang-to-buck ratio. Amazon's revenues final yr had been $232.eight billion; they spent about $1.5 million backing neoliberal candidates in Seattle, by the use of donating to an Orwellian-named political motion committee (PAC) referred to as Civic Alliance for a Sound Financial system. $1.5 million might sound like so much to you or me, however it's pocket change for Amazon — 0.00064% of the corporate's 2018 revenues. That is the equal of somebody with a $100,000 annual wage donating 64 cents to a political trigger. 

Vote tallies proceed to come back in, however as of publication, three-term Councilmember Kshama Sawant is working a couple of hundred votes behind Amazon-sponsored Egan Orion, and he or she might be unseated. That will swimsuit Amazon's pursuits properly: Sawant's coverage platform was that of a left-populist, and he or she, like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, was working to construct a democratic coalition to combat for the financial rights of the plenty over the "rights" of companies like Amazon. These embrace Seattle's $15-an-hour minimal wage, which Sawant helped usher in; the continued combat for complete lease management; and taxes on large companies to assist pay for housing and homelessness companies. This sort of folks energy terrifies companies and their CEOs, preferring neoliberal candidates who consider in rule by the elite.

All of that is to say {that a} company's huge sums of cash, when invested in public relations corporations to craft a propaganda message, work fairly effectively. Trendy companies perceive that folks's minds are malleable; one solely wants the fitting dosage of industrial-psychological manipulation to sway public opinion. 

The truth that the amount of cash that Amazon sank into the race spent was a pittance (to them) is necessary. It signifies that they know now how a lot it prices to control public opinion for their very own achieve. Spending twice as a lot and even ten occasions as a lot on the subsequent metropolis council race would nonetheless represent a rounding error to their accountants — as consequential to Amazon's checking account because the lack of a single drop of blood is to a blue whale. 

A part of the philosophical justification for democracy is that the plenty are intelligent sufficient to determine what's greatest for them and what is not. However cash is usually the figuring out think about who wins an election — or extra particularly, the flexibility of cash to pay for propaganda. One of the crucial necessary but under-appreciated tutorial research of the previous half-decade, a paper by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen titled "How Cash Drives US Congressional Elections," discovered a linear correlation between a candidate's battle chest and their likelihood of victory for all Senate and Home elections from 1980 by means of 2012. On this chart from their paper, the horizontal axis reveals the distinction between the Democratic and Republican candidates' marketing campaign cash. The vertical axis reveals the proportion of votes the Democrat gained over their GOP opponent. The correlation is outstanding.

 "The conclusion needs to be that spending by main political events is certainly strongly associated to the proportion of votes they win and has been for so long as we've knowledge," the authors write.

That is all to say that propaganda works extremely effectively — and the sorts of propaganda that wealthy folks and business have the capability to fund can sway folks routinely to vote in opposition to their greatest pursuits. To make use of a loaded time period, "brainwashing" is actual, nevertheless it would not seem like we expect it does, creating vortices over our eyes as we stare upon a candidate. It is only a perform of cash.

After I was a child, I keep in mind my liberal household crowing about conservatives "voting in opposition to their greatest curiosity." But it surely's not merely conservatives that do that. There is a choice bias for the sorts of liberal candidates that make it previous the Democratic primaries, or the events that we're "allowed" to vote for; all of that is managed, kind of, by the cash and affect of those wealthy folks. Industrial psychology is so refined, so sinister, that it's not in any respect tough (with cash) to control the populaceen masse such that they vote for the ruling class's most popular candidates, whether or not neoliberal liberals or neoliberal conservatives.

This all goes again to a phrase that is grow to be in vogue recently: post-truth. We're advised we're in a brand new epoch of American civilization, the post-truth society, the place many people deny information as a result of we've chosen a special social media actuality bubble, or as a result of our expensive chief tells us so. We regularly hear that this phenomenon was uniquely created by Trump and his underlings who aspire to be like him, however significantly by his distinctive capacity to confidently fabricate information, concepts and insurance policies with out blinking.

But this Trumpian trait, I believe, is extra a perform of being a wealthy asshole who has been surrounded his total life by yes-men than it is because of some form of nascent political transformation. All billionaires and CEOs are uniquely satisfied of their godliness and self-righteousness; simply take a look at Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, who assume that they alone have the fortitude and knowledge to guide humanity to the celebrities; or Mike Bloomberg or Tom Steyer, who really feel they're uniquely located to determine our political fortunes for us. No, the post-truth society precedes Trump, or any of those males who fund (or grow to be) political candidates. It's one thing innate to capitalism itself.

Democracy and capitalism are incompatible inasmuch because the wealthy are given free license to make use of public relations groups and entrepreneurs — propagandists, largely — to control and dictate public opinion, and sway many to vote in opposition to their greatest curiosity. They, and their assume tanks and assistants and corporations, inform us what political positions are real looking, and that are not possible; which candidates are viable or not; which future paths are doable for humanity. It is extremely tough to assume past the specter of the longer term they set out for us by means of their media. This extends to artwork, significantly movie and video video games — however that story is one greatest saved for a special article.

In sure western democracies, there's marginally extra management over the flexibility of the wealthy to affect elections. However the affect of mentioned rules are marginal at greatest; even when the wealthy cannot give to candidates, they typically personal papers or media shops, and might, in different methods, subtly dictate the political actuality of a nation-state. In different phrases, you'll be able to mood the methods through which capitalism and inequality distort and undermine democracy; however you can not remove it fully as long as its innate class antagonisms stay intact. Which means the post-truth society is with us now, because it has at all times been; it's intrinsic to our financial system.