WHY CEDING A SCORCHED POLITICAL EARTH TO REPUBLICANS MAY BE THE FASTEST ROUTE TO REAL CHANGE FOR THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS
Bill Maher recently made an impassioned (while obviously humorous) case for Barack Obama on his show, Real Time. He focused on all the things that may have happened had we elected John McCain president in 2008. This is really an accompaniment to the primary argument that is usually put forth when we are urged by our fellow “liberals” to vote for the President: that we need to focus on what he’s done, not what he hasn’t.
Yes, one can focus on a), what Obama has managed to achieve in his first term despite unprecedented congressional obstruction and b), the policy disasters that may have ensued under McCain (although that’s not a given, considering the Democratic numbers in congress post-2008 and the fact that McCain is not an extremist in comparison with other Republican crazies).
But a broader question can also be asked which has the potential to destroy the foundations of any argument for voting Democratic:
In which direction does it take a country’s politics if we continually vote for a party that lurches ever-rightward and more corporate with every election? What is the end game of this?
We know what the end game is. One only has to stand Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama side by side to see how far right the current corporation posing as the Democratic party has veered. The easy target is foreign policy- a brief look at Obama’s record in prosecuting the fallacious “war on terror” reveals a politician to the right of every President since Carter, the ‘highlight’ being warrantless and extra-judicial killing of American citizens (Anwar al-Awlaki and his son).
But it’s fiscal, socio-economic and now environmental policies where we see how much firm political terrain the Democrats have ceded, thanks to a liberal electorate that has been terrified and/or shamed into voting for faux-liberal Democratic leaders like Clinton and Obama.
Obama now talks like a Republican, big-business moderate. Yes, his Buffett plan is admirable but similar to someone who stands up and says “I’m against killing babies.” The fact that Romney won’t agree with the Buffett plan doesn’t make Obama a righteous, proud progressive- it just shows how far we’ve been pulled to the right that Romney can say it’s “fair” that he’s taxed less than his secretary and still be close in the polls.
Obama’s bailout was a travesty. His economic team was a Republican’s dream and we’ve seen the results of that, with very little of the stimulus helping the poor and working class. He never even fought for a public option in the Affordable Care Act negotiations.
His willingness to “compromise”, through the slashing of public programs, while only asking for moderate increases in taxes is, once again, manna from heaven for Republicans. The fact that they blocked what had formerly been Republican proposals and ideas doesn’t mitigate Mr.Obama’s betrayal of genuine liberal ideals; it only demonstrates the insanity of the corporate/religious right in its efforts to block legislation they had formerly supported.
Yes, Obama was also defeated in his attempt to put forward a jobs bill that, unlike much of the bailout, would actually help ordinary, non-rich Americans. But if one takes the time to listen to his verbiage in his first two years in office, his defeat was entirely predictable. The Republicans had happily watched him spend his entire presidency up to that point courting business while minimizing the power of government to affect positive change in people’s lives, and therefore suffered little political damage in opposing the bill. More rightward tilt.
In the recent debates, Obama actually agreed with Romney that corporate tax rates must come down. Game, set and match. This is what happens when corporations, through the parties they buy, convince us to vote for one of their gangs.
I won’t go into environmental policy. Obama doesn’t have one. He proudly asserted in those debates that he’s opened up more areas for drilling than any president in history. If we trust the scientists (and we should), our voting strategy will end up causing environmental holocaust. Again, corporate bosses raise another toast.
Is he a good man? Yes. Is he a better man to have in power than Romney? Of course. Would he have behaved differently without the corporate yoke around his neck? Possibly.
All that notwithstanding, let us ask one more question: does the election of President Obama give us any hope of achieving fundamental political change on key issues such as the environment, campaign finance, the destruction of unions, erosion of our safety net and public services and our increasingly extra-judicial, illegal covert military adventures?
Based on what we’ve seen during the administrations of two corporate Democratic presidents, absolutely not.
We must accept the painful reality: our slavish adherence to a two-party system (and concomitant ostracizing of true progressives who have attempted to provide real liberal policies that could actually make a difference, such as Ralph Nader) is a glacier adrift, moving inexorably rightward and into the corporate domain.
Only a third party, unencumbered by corporate and campaign bribery, has the power to alter that insidious shift. Maybe we need to suffer short-term losses to even give ourselves a chance of changing course. Maybe in leaving this political scorched earth behind and ceasing to fight over an ever-diminishing plot of political terrain, we might in fact hasten the demise of 19th-century right-wing politics, through the offering of a genuine progressive alternative.
That is something worth fighting and even suffering for.
For those seeking a genuinely progressive, legitimate third party, the Green Party and its leader, Jill Stein, is a very good place to start. I am not a member of the Green party nor have I written this column on behalf of the Greens.