Body Politics: Elections, Democracy and the Way of Jesus

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Date: 
Sunday, 1 September 1996

The Other Side. 5 pp.

"This is my body" should lie at the heart of our liturgy— and at the heart of our politics.

We have arrived again at the quadrennial rite we call presidential elections. Like so many liturgical forms, the ritual remains long after the substance behind it has atrophied.

By some reckonings, U.S. presidential politics as a genuine exercise in popular democracy ceased exactly one hundred years ago. In his 1978 classic The Populist Moment, Lawrence Goodwyn argued persuasively that the 1896 presidential contest between William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley represented the watershed of popular democracy in the United States. Bryan, riding the crest of the last great rural-based populist wave, was defeated by a McKinley political machine backed by urban-industrial interests.

According to Goodwyn, that election turned on an an unprecedented use of the media. "The corporate contributions mobilized on behalf of the Republican campaign for McKinley financed America's first concentrated mass-advertising campaign aimed at organizing the minds of the American people on the subject of political power, who should hav it, and why."

The populist attempt to organize people in terms of cooperative economics and politics, using the principles of community-based civic republicanism, could not contend with the reach and power of media-based sloganeering...

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by Ched Myers

All articles on this site were written by Ched Myers unless otherwise specified.