Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Brand Obama - Four More Years.

As far as I can see there are a hand full of important reasons for Obama's victory that we should keep in mind. We should never kid ourselves that the US is a shining beacon of democracy atop a hill. In this election the American ruling-class had largely no reason to initiate a seat change. This was reflected by the pressure on the Republican Party to churn out a saleable extremist candidate, only to dress up 'moderate' Mitt as 'reactionnaire' Romney - it was a cop-out from the start. I think we'll probably find from analysis of the campaign funding that Obama had a lot more institutional capital behind, while irrational types like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers poured cash into Romney's doomed campaign. This may indicate that the composition of capital may be even more important than the actual concentration of wealth. Romney was chosen given his record for stable continuity and adaptability, if he lost it wasn't a big deal - the real opportunity for the GOP is 2016 and I suspect that is well understood in the belly of the Republican beast.

There is some evidence to suggest that voter-turnout was actually lower than in 2008, with a difference of maybe 10 million votes give or take. I suspect that the majority of voters were mobilised on the basis of cultural fears of either candidate, while the liberal vote went automatically for the Democrats and the rest stayed home. This is the standard culture war theory of American politics. It's possible that the Tea Party voters were even put-off by Romney, difficult to say at this point. It was a matter of continuity, of maintaining the status quo. Here we find the slim majority of votes converged with an enormous exercise of financial power on the part of the bourgeoisie to bloat Obama's campaign chest, thereby enabling him to reach as many voters as possible. The lesser evilism of Michael Moore and Bill Maher triumphed as there was no perceived left-wing alternative to Obama. But it was more about the defeat of the Right, it was a negative victory and not positive in other words. Putting aside cultural issues, there is the materialist issue of immigration.

Much has been made of the changing ethnic makeup of America, specifically the burgeoning Latino-American population. It's even been predicted that the US will not be a majority white country in a matter of decades. It's worth noting that the impact this could have on the Republican Party, given that it's share of the Hispanic vote collapsed from 44% for Bush in 2004 to 27% in 2012. It was partly due to Romney's own inconsistency, his warming to the most reactionary positions on abortion and homosexuality could not reconcile the Catholic vote given his endorsement of racist policies on Mexican immigration. These votes eventually went to the Obama campaign. Bush had managed to appeal to a broad Catholic base with socially conservative positions on gay marriage, abortion and stem-cell research. Notably Bush maintained a moderate position on immigration and even produced an absurd campaign ad in which he claimed to be proud of his 'Latino heritage'. So we've seen that this contradiction might only be resolved by burning a policy plank or two.
It remains to be seen whether or not the GOP will moderate it's positions in order to appeal to a much wider base. It's plausible that the Republicans will get crazier and crazier as their voters get whiter. But it is also possible that they will have to concede ground in order to gain greater influence. After all that is the major priority of the Party's primary constituent, namely the American bourgeoisie. This is an instance of the capitalist system undermining it's own interests ultimately. It was the US that has enforced an appalling economic programme on Mexico and Latin America, that has led to Hispanics migrating north just to earn a mediocre living. The militarisation of the border offers only a way to temporarily mobilise a shrinking white voter-base, but the question of Latin-American voter-base still looms large. It's out of the realm of the possible for the Republicans to seek to improve the economic conditions in Mexico in order to limit immigration. The same goes for the prospect of a unionisation of Mexican immigrants.
In either case these measures would improve the living standards of Latin-Americans, yet it's also the case that the rising number of Latinos may be inevitable. To put it briefly, America will be skin deep for many years to come. I digress, I've already noted that it was the logic of the lesser evil that was behind a great deal of left-wing support for Obama, but there's another angle here. The late Alexander Cockburn argued in 2010 that Obama may actually be more susceptible to left-wing pressure than Clinton, so the problem is that there's not much of a Left left in America to push the Democrats around. There may be some hope in the charged discourse we now live with thanks to Occupy Wall Street. For a long time it looked as though the era of a lively culture of organised and disciplined politics is dead in the US. We should not kid ourselves that with Occupy Wall Street this era will be reborn. We might hope that the discourse has been impregnated with a certain potential. Though there needs to be something more than a lively grass-roots base to win this thing.

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