Hello peace activists and C-CAATI supporters
I watched the second presidential debate last night and found myself cheering for Barack Obama. I like to see a black man raised by a single mother get the best of a rich arrogant white guy. Within the purview of our corporate capitalist culture obsessed with judgments of winning and losing, Obama clearly won last night’s debate. He gave out a more fluent, internally coherent, and impressive sounding rhetoric than Romney. He delivered many more hits than he took.
But on a more reflective and rational plane, last night’s debate reinforced my sense that, in the big scheme of things, there really is not much difference between Romney and Obama, and not much difference between the administrations they would establish. It also reinforced my conviction that progressives ought to be trumpeting the manifest bankruptcy of both plutocratic corporate parties and of the hopelessly wealth- corrupted political system within which they operate. Let me give three important examples of why I think the differences between Romney and Obama are inconsequential on the issues that will shape the future of humanity – if indeed humanity has a future.
Both Romney and Obama are trapped within the neoliberal economic paradigm. This means they greatly exaggerate the merits of unencumbered markets, despise effective regulation of finance or industry let alone serious economic planning, and reject large scale government economic interventions (ala the New Deal). They both favor trickle-down economics (rather than the trickle up economics characteristic of the New Deal), fear inflation far more than unemployment, are obsessed with deficit reduction, and regard balanced budgets as the supreme fiscal virtue. Obama, like Romney, rejects large scale government jobs programs (ala Roosevelt’s WPA or CCC), rejects nationalizing errant financial institutions, rejects government initiated or managed industries, rejects bailing out underwater home owners, and rejects guaranteed income programs of all varieties. Obama, like Romney, aims to be the political protector of globalized oligarchic finance capitalism.
Romney quite correctly points out that Obama’s economic approach will not do much better than the current 7-8% official unemployment level. Of course it is also true that Romney’s more extreme neoliberalism could make the global economy a lot worse. Regardless which of these two is elected, we in the USA are destined to limp along in a condition of economic stagnation punctuated by crises of varying amplitude and duration. The 99% will live in perpetual economic insecurity and a significant fraction will suffer devastating economic ruin.
Both Romney and Obama tout economic growth as the solution to almost all domestic and international problems. They are both enthusiastic advocates of carbon generating oil production, coal production, and natural gas production. Green technologies receive a polite acknowledgement by both candidates, but neither one utters a public word about global warming. And neither one even remotely contemplates the massive social changes necessary to save our planet from catastrophic climate changes and other ecological disasters. I cannot imagine how our collective environmental destiny would differ greatly whether Obama or Romney is elected.
Both Romney and Obama embrace the American imperial project – a set of empire building policies based on the notion that the United States is fundamentally superior to other countries and has both the right and the duty to control the world. This project inexorably leads to perpetual warfare and a militarized society. It makes the elimination of nuclear weapons virtually impossible, and pursuit of the imperial project will eventually foment a nuclear war (assuming environmental disasters do not eviscerate humanity before that can happen).
Consider the possibility of war with Iran. Romney seems almost eager to attack Iran, but Obama’s approach also steadily increases the likelihood of war with Iran. Obama strikes me, perhaps erroneously, as rather more sincere than Romney who will say virtually anything that he fancies will get him elected. Thus it is not obvious that Romney’s opportunistic military jingoism is more conducive to war with Iran than Obama’s calmer but at least equally relentless commitment to Israeli regional hegemony.
Progressive people often trot out Occupy Wall Street (OWS) as an example of a recent social movement that they admire. Yet support for Barack Obama strikes me as an implicit betrayal of the Occupy spirit. Such support denies the fundamental OWS proposition: that the United States political system is badly broken. Not only does the political system fail to address the basic needs of the American people, it is now structurally incapable of doing so due to entrenched corporate control of media, information systems, election funding, and almost everything else of political consequence.
And the obligatory candidate palaver about the travails of the middle class actually obscures the real class divisions in American society, finesses the explosion of economic inequality over the last four decades, and signifies a continuing intention to disregard or further subjugate the working class.
Peace and Justice,
P.S. I would welcome and I will post responses to these debate reflections.