Friday, 20 January 2012

Brand Obama - Prospects for a Second Term.

It has become fashionable to attack Barack Obama not just from the Right but from the Left as well. We should not lose sight of the magnitude of the election of the first African-American to the Presidency, especially as it was slavery which built the White House and provided the material conditions necessary for American capitalism. But the election of Obama was not the fulfilment of the dream that we all pay lip-service to. The ideological goal-posts of America have been shifted under Obama in a way which was unthinkable under just another white male politico. With that in mind it is impossible to deny that Obama would be a better President if he had not backed the coup in Honduras and slashed the wages of Haitian workers in the aftermath of the earthquake. The same goes for the way Obama has extended the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan. Let alone the drone attacks on Somalia which have been conveniently ignored in the mainstream media.

It has been a long strange trip since 2008 when the first African-American became President-elect and the American people were ready to say "Adios!" to George Bush. That year the Obama campaign team won the award for the Best Marketing Campaign, with commiserations to Apple and Nike. The election was the subject of an enormous flow of corporate dough and grass-roots campaigning which succeeded in electing Obama. Soon the word was out that the US had finally gotten over it's silly little race problem, it had become a "post-racial" society overnight and just around the corner the 'birthers' were on their way to tell the world that the President was a "closet Kenyan". There had already been attempts to pin the label of Muslim to Obama's lapel, the point being to call him a "terrorist" without actually saying it. Soon the favourite substitute for the n-word was "socialist". By now we can listen to the odious Newt Gingrich calling Obama a "food stamp President". Notice all of this has no relation to reality.

There is very little of substance for Republicans to complain about. Obama has conceded on health-care reform (which were conservative changes anyway) as well as the Bush tax-cuts, the National Defense Authorization act and on the stimulus which was wiped out by cuts at other levels. So the GOP shout about debt and they would love to run on economic issues, but they can't win on the economy because their policies only appeal to the top income brackets. The Republicans need more than just the ultra-rich to vote for them, the Democrats can appeal to ethnic minorities, gays and women to seek refuge in their party. The GOP are in a truly desperate situation. It was most astonishing to see the Republicans take a contorted anti-capitalist position last year, when they tried to block the rise of the debt-ceiling and in doing so acted to undermine the accumulation of wealth. At this point Karl Marx would just smugly remind us that "the contradictions of capitalism work in mysterious ways."

It is common knowledge that the outcome of American elections are basically bought. Back in September, Obama had the lead on Romney with a gap between them of over $50 million. Now we find the Republicans have leaped in front of the Democrats by almost $6 million. In 2008 Obama raked in around $750 million which was far more than McCain could muster. The estimates for the costs of 2012 are running as high as $11 billion and probably about $2 billion poured into the campaign war-chests. The core base of the Obama campaign were the same financial institutions which caused the Crash of '08. The small donors to Obama's campaign should not be ignored, but they amounted to $300 million at most which still leaves $450 million on the table. Large donors have been donating enormous amounts of cash in small chunks as to appear as small donors in the stats. This is something the Obama campaign encouraged from day one and probably still does.

It is corporate interests which shape American politics and every so often there is a convergence with working-class interests. The Obama health-care reforms were designed to drive down the costs entailed by the private system on manufacturing companies. It costs General Motors $1,000 more to produce a car in the US than it does in Canada. A system of universal provision would have a significant impact on the deficit, it would reduce it heavily. This is why a national health service is an inevitability.  In fact the Republican Party put forth these proposals when Clinton pushed for health-care reform in the 1990s. The former draft-dodging pothead Newt Gingrich is still a defender of the individual mandate and Mormon vulture Mitt Romney imported the same reforms in Massachusetts. Both Gingrich and Romney have been attacked for this by the ultra-Right for whom there is no "pure" conservative. These are the people who want to reduce the deficit through cuts and no tax increases, but insist on a "strong military" which costs $1 trillion.

The deciding factor could be turnout in this election, there is an extreme disillusionment in the electorate and both parties could feel the brunt of this. But it isn't just apathy in this situation which could tip things over. The GOP are well aware that the White House could be seized if they the opposition simply doesn't vote against them. Remember George Bush only came to power because the GOP managed to disqualify black voters in Florida. On average the Americans who earn less than $100,000 lean towards the Democrats, that actually accounts for 75% of the population - which only had 36% of the vote in the 2010 midterm elections. The forces of reaction are well aware of this, thus the Republicans have opted to make it as difficult as possible for Americans to vote. It was conservative Paul Weyrich who told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980 "our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." Almost 40 states have introduced measures to deliberately hinder voters.

The voter is now expected to provide proof of citizenship before registering in some states, ex-felons have been barred from voting, in some states you'll need to produce a government-issued ID before you can vote. This would exclude that 10% of American voters, 18% of the youth and 25% of black voters. This is comparable to the use of poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent blacks from voting out the racists in the South. Ironically, the Republicans have pulled this off on the grounds that there needs to be tighter guidelines to eliminate "fraudulent voters". Naturally the same billionaires who bankrolled the Tea Party are in the shadows seeing to it that the cogs in the machine are well oiled. This could be the divine, or should that be satanic, intervention to save the Republicans grabbing at political power wildly. It's even possible that the GOP are looking towards 2016 at this point. With that in mind, we should remember the words of Hunter S Thompson "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who see it coming and jump aside."

No comments: