What do you call the leader of an empire? As the 2016 presidential election gets going, I find many of my friends and acquaintances turning to politicians as if they were saviors. If only we can elect so-and-so, we can make America great again, or whole again. All divisive politicians claim to be unifiers. Still, at the end of the day, whoever is crowned this coming November will be the new emperor.
The term “empire” by which to describe the United States will more than likely make conservatives and liberals bristle. To use empire language when describing the U.S. is usually dismissed as hyperbolic rhetoric, the common parlance for the “blame America first” crowd. But if we recognize that the concept of empire is no longer limited to physically possessing foreign lands forced to pay tribute to a militarily superior nation, then the term empire is appropriate.
Empires of old were defined by how much land their armies could control. Today, control is not measured by boots on the ground but by economics. The term empire has evolved to encompass the globalization of the economy by one superpower to provide multinational corporations with economic benefits, with capital gains secured and protected by a military might depicted as a necessity placed in the service of justice and peace.
Like the Roman Empire of old, the United States Empire secures a pax americana so that the elite leaders of the empire, and their counterparts within dominated countries, can reap the benefits that are usually taken at the expense of the vast majority of the world’s marginalized. Modern-day empires can only arise through the existence of foreign and domestic disenfranchised groups needed to provide both raw materials and cheap labor. The wealth, prosperity, and power of the center remains dependent on the exploitation of the groups of people that existed on their margins. Economic structures and relationships create and heavily influence societal power relationships.
Those who resided in what is commonly called the “Third World,” with their enormous human and natural wealth, provided the necessary material resources that transformed the anemic United States at the start of the twentieth century into the sole superpower at the close of that century. Non-European land, resources, and labor existed to enrich the center, obtained through murder, rape, pillage, and exploitation of those who lacked military and technological superiority. Unfortunately, military or technological superiority has come to be confused with cultural, intellectual, and religious supremacy.
If this is true, it matters little if Cruz, Trump, Rubio, Clinton, or Sanders are elected, for as potential emperors, they all share something in common with the current emperor. They are all ontologically white males. No one can become the leader of the world’s most powerful empire unless they are committed to what male whiteness symbolizes within the colonial process.
Saying that Obama is ontologically white or that Clinton is ontologically male is neither an issue of race nor gender. The question is not if Obama was ever “black enough” or if Clinton became hyper masculine as Secretary of State, attracting neocons’ disillusion with the isolationist trends within the Republican Party. Ontological whiteness, of which I accuse all presidential candidates and past occupants of that seat, raise postcolonial concerns and questions, and as such, make this an issue of global class.
The power of corporate monies contributed to candidates will subjugate the collective will of all candidates, regardless as to who wins the election. The real ethical question to ponder is how soft monies and PACs (Political Action Committees) subvert and pervert the proper relationship between economics and electoral democracies.
It does not matter if a Latinx (not that I’m claiming Rubio or Cruz are) or a white woman is elected president. If the national politics and economics of the captains of industry were to be threatened with a reversal caused by the needs of U.S. marginalized communities – be they blacks, women, Latinx or poor whites – the future president would rally all the forces at his or her disposal to maintain the prevailing economic power structures that exist, even if those structures are detrimental to communities that share their gender, skin pigmentation, or ethnicity.
On the international scene, whoever the future president may be, it will be her or his job to protect the interests of the empire abroad. Therefore, in terms of U.S. global economic policies, it really doesn’t matter who is elected.
At this point, our democratic system has reduced our choices to those among the pro-empire individuals, who throughout this political campaign have shown no significant difference in their commitment to protecting the rights of multinational companies to expand globally. When push comes to shove in the global arena, all will protect the interests of Exxon, Microsoft and Wal-Mart, even at the expense of establishing justice, and even at the cost of committing U.S. troops.
All will defend free-market policies and none will seriously address the undemocratic distribution of wealth, resources and privileges in this country. I have no doubt that both Clinton and Sanders would be more likely to promote a “kinder and gentler” empire than any of the Republicans, but in the final analysis, they will be the new emperor of a global neoliberalism that continues to privilege the few at the expense of the vast majority of the world’s population.
Regardless of whoever gets elected, this country’s distribution of income and opportunities will still fall along racial and gender lines. And at the end of four years (or eight), I predict that the disparity between the rich and the poor (who are predominately of color and female) will grow even larger than it is now, just as the gap has widened over these past eight years with a black emperor.
Some might ask here, “but what about Bernie the socialist?” His brand of socialism is to correct U.S. legislation and policies contributing to the unequal distribution of wealth within the U.S. He remains silence on the global structures responsible for the flow of the vast majority of the world’s resources to our shores that contains a minority of the world’s population. I confess I support his efforts to raise the issue of socioeconomic class disparity. And contrary to the naysayers, he polls better than Clinton when facing the eventual Republican nominee. So yes, I might vote for him, but I refuse to see him as my savior because he too will be the new emperor, one whose rhetoric may resonate with the downtrodden within the U.S., but whose lack of addressing global issues may mean some improvements in narrowing U.S. wealth, doubtless on the backs of the wretched of the earth. I cast my vote not because I think my candidate will fix America, but I cast my vote for the emperor who at the end of the day, will cause the least amount of misery and oppression upon the world’s disenfranchised.