Reflecting on the US Presidential Election
In the beginning of this month, the world watched and awaited the conclusion of the US presidential elections. Record numbers of Americans spent the last few weeks – braving a pandemic and standing in immensely long lines – to get their votes in at the polling stations.
With just under 150 million votes, and over 62% of the eligible voting population choosing to cast their ballot, this was the highest voter turnout rate in the last 50 years. Moreover, the presidential election alone cost the U.S $6.6 billion dollars – the highest in history. This ballooned to $14 billion after accounting for the Congressional races.
Now as the dust clears, and a Biden victory becomes more conclusive, it is vital for us to untangle what the recent events mean. Amid an airborne pandemic, with thousands in the country facing job loss, evictions, and food insecurity, the nation decided to congregate and spend billions on this election.
What did Americans gain from this, and at what cost? As Muslims, we need to be politically aware of our surroundings to be better equipped to view these events from the Islamic perspective.
The Unchanging Biden
What we are taught about democracy is that it supposedly delivers an opportunity for the public to hold their officials accountable, and in turn, choose leaders who are the most responsive to their needs. So, in response to a corrupt, irresponsible, and bigoted figure, what viable alternative did the democratic system provide to Americans?
It offered Joe Biden, a man whose signature legislation in Congress includes removing protections from people declaring bankruptcy, the 1994 crime bill that empowered the police to specifically target the black community, and support for the war in Iraq and Zionism, which killed and maimed millions of Muslims around the world.
The contest between Trump and Biden was not a struggle between truth and falsehood, or corruption and accountability. Rather, it was a contest between two men who are well adjusted to the existing system of oppression, and, in turn, are equally unresponsive to the needs of the people they supposedly serve.
The ‘debates’ between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, devolved into a mere popularity contest, void of any discussion of real policies. So, how is it that in the most powerful nation on earth, the most wealthy and advanced democracy in the world, the people have no mechanism for demanding basic protections from the state or government that can keep them alive and well?
Not a Defect, but a Feature
The reality of a democratic society and its system is that its growing detachment from the real-world problems of those living under it is a key feature, not a defect. Liberal democracy is built on this disregard of reality.
It originates from an old conflict within Europe between the religious clergy (who chose corrupted scripture over reason) and intellectuals (who wanted to remove religion from society’s affairs based on ‘rational’ grounds).
Instead of determining which side was genuinely correct in its assertions about how to run society, the economic and political elite brokered a compromise. They relegated religion to the private realm, yet built political and economic institutions on personal freedom and the unrestricted flow of wealth.
This intentional focus on convenience over truth applies to all parts of Capitalism’s approach to life. For example, it solves land disputes with negotiation, not verifying who rightfully owns the land. It determines decisions about scientific and natural phenomena based on who has the most votes, not what is actually knowable. Its method for selecting the most powerful person in the land is based on who has the most money and is the best-connected to the wealthy and influential sectors of society.
And who decides what is reasonable negotiation, a viable public policy, or a crime worthy of punishment? Ultimately, in a democratic system, it is the wealthy and powerful. They are the ones with the resources and the connections to broadcast their will in an election and get the attention of policymakers. This is the reason why there is no – and never will be — serious discussion about curtailing the power of the banks in the United States, even after they destroyed the global economy!
This reality is that neither party can be taken seriously when discussing the economic or human impact of the US war machine which continues to maintain a global empire built upon the confinement, torture and mass murder of Muslims and other vulnerable populations in the world.
Some will claim that while the system is not perfect, it has a “self-correcting” mechanism. They will argue that the system allows the public to remove and replace corrupt and incompetent officials. But is this really the case? How often have we seen the wealthy and the powerful get away with committing heinous crimes and abuse the rights of the people? This system is built on many layers of protection between the politicians/policymakers and the ramifications of their actions. In fact, the separation of powers enables elected officials to blame other branches of government for their own inability to get anything done.
Moreover, the media was bought-out by the same elites that fund the political careers of politicians. In turn, media outlets shield politicians and uphold the interests of the elite. This is why a travesty like the Iraq War did not undergo any real media scrutiny. In fact, the Washington Post ran 16 negative stories on Bernie Sanders in 24 hours on his push for a slightly more equitable economy.
Even the Supreme Court, which was designed to basically hold the government accountable for straying from the laws and the constitution, is not above the influence of the elite.
Groups such as the Federalist Society, who vet the list that Republican presidents use to fill vacant Supreme Court seats, receive millions in anonymous funding (i.e., ‘dark money’) from front organizations like the Donors’ Trust.
Basically, the elite would not spend this amount of money on Supreme Court nominations and the like unless they were getting something valuable in return.
Thus, due to this manufactured gridlock, kept media, and paid-for justice system, there is no way to account leaders in a democratic system. Certainly not for the average Joe in the U.S., much less the latter’s victims overseas.
This should be clear to anyone who paid attention. Who was held responsible for the brutality in Iraq? What were the repercussions of NSA’s brazen dishonesty (when it falsely said it was not spying on Americans)? What about the financial crisis in which the companies that caused the crash were the ones who profited from it? What about the pharma companies that killed thousands by selling highly addictive opioids, yet were let go by paying a fraction of their profits in a settlement with the Justice Department?
There is nothing protecting the average human being from the Capitalist elite. And when the elite are done causing their damage, there is no recourse to hold them responsible.
The Blind Leading the Sighted
Let us state the obvious: Capitalism and liberal democracy is a farce and is nothing more than elite rule dressed in a language of representation. Instead of looking for guidance from those bereft of it, why not turn to the word of the Most Just and Merciful Creator, who tells us:
“But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission”
If we want to be among those with faith, we must reflect on our divided and chaotic state. In turn, we must seek the Judgment of Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw) in finding solutions to our personal and collective problems.
The judgment of Allah was revealed to us in the form of a social, economic, political, and judicial system, one that delivers justice, distribution of wealth, and a strong focus on collective well-being. The role of politicians in Islam is to apply the prescriptive solutions of Islam on the realities faced by society. Legislation is not some clay they can shape in their hands to serve their own interests.
And if the Khalifah, who was elected by the Muslims to implement Islam (or any of his governors, or representatives) is unjust or abuses his power, he is held accountable in the Court of Unjust Acts. This court does not need the support of any political party or elected body to account the Khalifah (in contrast to the lame- duck impeachment hearings against Trump). Rather, the only criteria the court needs to consider is the actual reality of what happened, and what the Quran and Sunnah have to say on the matter.
This system is not built on the whims of men, or the words of dead philosophers. Rather it is built on revelation from the Creator of the Universe. It is the system through which Muslims enlightened, civilized, and guided three continents for over 1300 years. It is the system which we must restore by rejecting the contradictory, deceptive, and hollow concepts of kufr. We must respond to the call of Allah (swt) and His Final Messenger (saw).
“O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered.