Thursday, August 11, 2011

Election 2012 choices -- Blue dog or just plain crazy?

Moderate oligarchy

Extreme theocratic oligarchy

Don’t tell the mass media, but the presidential race for 2012 is turning out to be a terrible bore.  While we don’t yet know exactly who the Republicans will run, the basic outlines of our “choices” are already perfectly clear.  Hold your nose.

On the Democratic ballot we’ll have Barack Obama, once beguiling orator, who has again and again revealed himself to be the faithful representative of moneyed interests and spokesman for neoliberal (aka, moderate conservative) views of economics and policy.  Recently, a series of thoughtful, hard-hitting, revealing essays in the press and online have unmasked the smiling, hollow suit who convinced 2008 voters that he would be a progressive, “a transitional figure,” but who has shown very little of that.  At every opportunity he’s sided with Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, the medical insurance “industry,” and large, global corporations to continue what amounts to the looting and dismantling of the U.S. economy.  And there he is on TV again smiling and waving, praising the latest despicable “compromise.”  Sorry -- I’m not buying it.  

On the Republican ballot we will have one or another candidate from a group that Thomas Frank calls “the wrecking crew.”  These are folks, radical free market “reformers,” who want to repeal the fundamental social contract – concern for one’s fellow citizens -- that has held America together for several generations and to dismantle all forms of public support in education, health care, social security, job creation, environmental protection, and other crucial services.  Even more extreme than the Democrats, they believe that “business,” e.g., corporate power, is the only legitimate source for policy making.  What the Republicans add to the presidential campaign will be some nasty, nativist (covertly racist) cultural themes along with a strongly militaristic, rightward tilting, evangelical theocracy, mistakenly called “Christian.”  (The gentle, loving soul from Nazareth weeps from on high.)

Some choice, eh?   That's why I’ve decided not to offer the course, American Politics and Elections, I usually teach during election years.  The 2012 options presented the voters, especially young people, contain very little on the upside.   While our national politics now produces “change” of a purely negative kind, for the time being it’s run dry on any “hope” of improvement.   When the alternatives ranging from lame, to stupid, to horrifying, what’s to get excited about?  Why dignify this empty charade?  Other varieties of education and political action are urgently needed to resist rapidly spreading economic destruction and to explore the possibility of “rebuilding the American Dream.” Let's get busy with that work!

Yes, alas, I will vote (but not campaign) for Obama for three reasons: (1) the need to recognize the “Sophie’s choice” of the lesser of evils when that’s all we’ve got, while fighting for genuine alternatives in years to come; (2) the possibility that a blue dog’s choices for the Supreme Court might be better than Republican legal plutocrats who dominate  that flagrantly corrupt body; (3) the recognition that our system negates third parties at the presidential level.     


  1. J. Slack10:38 PM

    For a long time I've resisted this characterization of Obama. It is so easy to be negative. But the evidence has overwhelmed me. The situation does indeed look this bleak. But it doesn't seem like you to back down from teaching THAT in a class on American Politics and Elections. The nature of politics and elections are changing in ways that certainly merit scrutiny.

  2. I may change my mind if any significant positive contrasts emerge. It's likely I would teach a related course, perhaps on democracy and oligarchy or maybe the rise and decline of great empires.

  3. We must question the very concept of "leadership" and hierarchy, and regain the grassroots, backyardian solution of problems, without big government or big business making things worse.

    To vote is to endorse and, sadly in many cases, to identify with who you voted for, thus not wanting to hear any criticism because "I voted for him, so shut up."

    We need alternatives to the No Choice represented by Democrat and Republican parties who are in allegiance to lobbyists and secret agendas.

  4. I am disgusted when in every church I have visited, there is a prayer that God will "protect our troops who are keeping us safe" ...

    but they never pray "please end the wars and prevent the nations from solving problems with violence and oppression and stifling of disssent".