Elections, Presidents And the Ruling Oligarchy
Contrary to the belief of some among the left, elections do really take place in capitalist countries and are not all fake and just for show or distraction; although, they serve that purpose, too. They’re real and are used to pick a president, just not for the working class. The capitalists do use elections to decide who will represent them, help plan their course going forward, reach consensus among the class, sell their plans to people and facilitate their successful execution and overall defend their class interests for the next four years. The ruling class needs to pick the president that will be best for them for the given conditions, since they’re variable and in constant flux. Sometimes, they may go for a liberal and other times for a conservative. It all depends on the balance of forces, the level of people’s awareness and activism and existing opportunities and constraints.
Some also argue that policies and plans are made decades in advance and therefore can’t be changed by a new president, who wins the elections. That’s certainly true about the overall objectives and strategy of the ruling class, such as the push for world domination and expanding the reach and influence of multinational corporations and their empire. But, tactics and methods cannot be fixed years in advance, due to constantly changing circumstances.
It’s also not true that the president has no power. Because of the changing conditions, there is need for decision making at any given time and for given set of facts on the ground at any given time. That decision making requires hierarchy, organization and obviously decision making authority. Without it, there would be chaos and decisions couldn’t be made or executed. Imagine members of the ruling class each calling and ordering the president to do what each thinks should be done: bomb, don’t bomb, invade now, invade later, don’t invade at all, make peace, start a war, etc. There is need for a central authority to prevent such chaos and paralysis. Again, keep in mind that such decisions depend on current conditions and facts and therefore aren’t written in stone. And that being the case, decision making is therefore required and consequently a decision making authority must be bestowed to a “general manager”, who is trusted for a period of time to help with the planning and implementation of conditions that would maximize the profits and wealth of the class as a whole and minimize resistance by the working class.
Although it’s all for the benefit of the ruling class, someone has to be hired and given that authority and power, while also being held responsible and accountable to the class. This is no different from the process of managing any institution or organization, including corporations. The president, in fact, acts as a general manager or the CEO. Just as a company CEO is given the decision making power and tasked with maximizing profits for the company, the president is tasked with protecting the interests of the class and the corporations as a whole, while in office. And just as the CEO can be dumped and replaced by the shareholders of the company, if he doesn’t perform, the class has tools and ways at its disposal to unseat, or at the very least make ineffective, an incompetent or uncooperative head of state. But, until then, he or she must be given the required authority and trusted to manage the decision making process due to changing circumstances.
Although the logic of changing circumstances and the process of decision making requires authority and power, this doesn’t mean the president is free to do whatever he wants. The system does have its ways to stop him or her. Just as it’s given, power can also be taken away. In fact, one of the functions of the military is just that: to act as a watchdog and stand guard so the administration doesn’t go rogue and threaten the system. Note that the military is not elected, but is ultimately created and paid by the ruling capitalist class and answers to the class. The military, just as the police and intelligence and spy agencies, are hired guns of the ruling class. Same goes for the courts and obviously the media, which are directly owned by the class. On the surface of it, the military appears to respect and comply with the wishes of the elected civilian leadership, but that goes only so far. But, the fact that it may take a military intervention to remove a president, itself, is testament to the power the administration is given; otherwise, it wouldn’t have to be taken back by force.
Finally, I must say that the idea that everything is decided beforehand and will be implemented no matter what we do and that there is nothing people can do to change the course that’s been set decades ago is very counterproductive because it discourages activism and encourages apathy, which only benefits the ruling class.