Monday, October 29, 2012

Obama's Betrayals Made Romney Credible

Everybody's biting their nails and holding their breath. What's going to happen? Who's going to win? The "Hollywood liberal" machine is out in full force with clever ads by luminaries like Joss Whedon of Avengers, Buffy and Firefly fame and hipster filmmaker Lena Dunham chiming in. There's no doubt that this is a dramatic finish and I've been reading coverage and watching the videos as avidly as the next person.

But this dramatic finish begs a question: how is Mitt Romney, a bigoted snobby billionaire with a lunatic Tea Party running mate, even a contender? I mean the stuff coming out of the mouths of Republican candidates about rape alone ought to make them little more than laughing stocks. That they are the candidates of one of the two main American political parties is a testament to how backwards and steeped in anti-intellectual superstition America has become. But it also tells us something about the failure of the Obama presidency.

Who doesn't remember the Obama rallies last time around - tens of thousands of people chanting "Yes, we can!", a slogan taken from the mass mobilizations of the immigrants rights movement. It seemed like everybody from every progressive social movement back then - from unions to gay rights to anti-war activists - was pouring into the campaign. Here was an opportunity to change America to a kinder, gentler nation after years of George W. Bush, proud ignoramus and spoiled brat.

What happened was the record of Obama. The bailouts went to the banks and the car companies - not to the ordinary people losing their homes in their millions. Gay rights, in particular gay marriage, was immediately shelved, leading to the first mass mobilizations demanding Obama do something. He didn't. Obama eventually drew down US troop presence in Iraqi cities - but he ramped it up in Afghanistan and increased the use of illegal, civilian killing drone strikes inside of Pakistan's borders. He promised comprehensive health care and instead came up with a plan that is a gift to the health insurance corporations. He has supported Israel's ongoing torment of the Palestinian people pretty much blindly and refuses to even smackdown the compulsive warmongering of the Middle East's colonial-settler state viz Iran. The list goes on.

Don't get me wrong, I think that Romney is an odious human being who lives on another planet. And were I in the USA I'd take the thirty seconds of democracy you get every few years and I'd put an "X" next to Obama's name. But I have no illusions that he behaves fundamentally any different in office than the Republicans with whom he has been more than happy to compromise over the last four years. He will do the same next time around. It is exactly for that reason that Romney is in the running and that the focus of the election has become not the issues but the maneuvering and marketing of the election campaign - who spends the most money, who has the most volunteers, etc. Until America produces a credible third party that is built out of the struggles of working people and the oppressed - rather than the crackpot pet projects of lunatics like Ross Perot - America will continue to be a two-party dictatorship (or, rather, one party with two wings).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Out With Unions, In With Coercive Voting

Way back in the bad old days there was a system of economic organization, particularly amongst rural, isolated resource workers, known as paternalism. The idea was that it was a sort of noblesse oblige, the idea that underlings obeyed their "betters" and the elite treated their workers as their children. They were to be protected in an era of no state social programs; taught at a time of no state schools; and disciplined by company police and militia. Usually there was more discipline than protection or education. It also meant directing them to vote for the candidate of choice in any given election, oftentimes facilitated by bringing workers en masse to polling booths.
Of course that was the 19th century, before the advances of modern democracy.

Flash forward to the election today in the USA. Employers are now permitted to direct their workers how to vote and are doing it with mail outs. Unionization, however, has never been more difficult and unionization rates are pushing ten percent (compared to close to half the workforce in the 1950s-60s). Here, according to the New York Times, is the result:

“The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job, however, is another four years of the same presidential administration,” Mr. Siegel wrote. “If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current president plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company.”In an interview, Mr. Siegel said he was not ordering his employees to vote his way. “There’s no way I can pressure anybody,” he said. “I’m not in the voting booth with them.”Mr. Siegel added: “I really wanted them to know how I felt four more years under President Obama was going to affect them. It would be no different from telling your children: ‘Eat your spinach. It’s good for you.’ ”
The more things change, the more they stay the same...
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