Elections 2012: The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Change
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Elections 2012: The More Things Stay the Same, the More They
Written by John Peterson Thursday, 08 November 2012 11:55
$6 billion and over a year of campaigning later, and it would appear that
the status quo remains. Obama is still the president; the Democrats control
the Senate; and the Republicans control the House of Representatives. On
the surface, "nothing has changed." Taken at face value, this is correct.
As we have explained many times
both Obama and Romney are defenders and advocates of the capitalist system.
Nothing fundamental was going to change no matter who won. However, looks
can be deceiving.
As Marxists we must look beneath the surface at the underlying and
contradictory processes taking place in the depths of society. In reality,
these elections represent a significant shift to the left, albeit within
the limited constraints of the current U.S. political panorama.
*There's more than meets the eye*
[image: Obama after his victory. Photo: WHCI News/ Kevin Gebhardt]*Obama
after his victory. Photo: WHCI News <http://www.flickr.com/photos/wchinews/>/
Kevin Gebhardt*Compared to the genuine enthusiasm of 4 years ago, there is
a notable lack of generalized optimism and enthusiasm on the day after the
election. Despite the media's efforts to instill a sense of enthusiasm,
national pride, and exhortations that we should all "take a moment to stand
in awe of democracy," the mood has been muted and indifferent, to say the
least. The sense that something real is going to change is long gone. In
2008, millions saw a vote for Obama as an expression of their burning hope
that life could be different. It was a vote for equality, opportunity,
dignity, and above all: jobs. Fast-forward 4 years and the crisis has taken
its toll on people's lives and enthusiasm. It�s been called a �tale of two
recoveries,� or a �growth recession� �growth for the rich and recession for
the rest of us. For many, this time around, a vote for Obama was a vote
just to try and stay afloat, an attempt to hold on to the little hope that
remains as the crisis grinds on and on.
For millions of Americans, a vote for Obama was a vote against cuts and
austerity. Unfortunately, that is precisely what they will get in his
That Romney and Obama were running neck and neck in the run up to Election
Day was due to a variety of reasons. The media needs to sell advertising,
so building the election up as a nail-biter was in their interest. It is
also a reflection of the total impasse of the two main capitalist parties,
neither of which can offer a real and convincing solution. Ultimately, it
boils down to the fact that most people saw no real difference between the
two, or at least, no difference that would compel them to make an extra
effort to get out and vote. The minor surge in votes for Obama in a few key
states had more to do with voting defensively than any real enthusiasm for
his presidency. I t was a classic case of "damned if you do, damned if you
don't." Neither candidate offered a way out of the crisis, and millions
instinctively understood that.
2008 saw the highest presidential election turnout since 1960. Curtis Gans,
director of American University's Center for the Study of the American
Electorate estimates that turnout in every state but Iowa will be below
that of 2008. In most states, turnout was even below 2004. He estimated
that only 126 million, or 57.5% of Americans voted for at least one office
or ballot initiative. Only 119.5 million voted for the presidency, as
compared to 131 million in 2008. According to Gans, �This was a major
plunge in turnout nationally. Beyond the people with passion, we have a
In Alaska, 25% fewer came out as compared to 2008. In Arizona, almost 19%
fewer bothered going to the polls. 7% fewer turned out in Maryland. This,
despite the hubbub about the record number of early voters (32 million cast
their ballots by mail or in person before election day). Some of this drop
may have been due to the chaos caused by super-storm Sandy, but it cannot
account for the nearly across-the-board drop in interest nationally.
The difference this campaign season was palpable. There was a marked lack
of yard signs, bumper stickers, flags, and even water cooler discussions
about the presidential candidates. The media moved might and main to cast
the debates as the most important in generations, but interest was still
flat. There were far more signs in favor or against particular ballot
initiatives than there were for specific candidates. Just as the
flag-waving and enthusiasm for war waned in the years after September 11,
enthusiasm forObama has fallen measurably and this should come as no
With Obama�s limping record after promising the stars, his approval rating
hovering below 50%, and the economy still in a mess, a Romney victory could
well have been in the cards. Romney even demagogically used a variation on
Obama's 2008 slogan in the closing days of the campaign, telling audiences
that if they would only vote for him, they would get �the change we really
need.� If Americans really are shifting to the right (as the pundits love
to say), they would have come out in 2008-like numbers for this new "savior
of the middle class.� But people saw through Romney's
wolf-in-sheep's-clothing act. The millions in Super PAC money made no real
difference in the end. By the time election day rolled around, just enough
people held their noses and voted for Obama to push him over the edge.
*�Business as usual�*
This is the response of most Americans on the �morning after.� The brief
change of scenery provided by the election has given way to the drudgery of
everyday life. Everyone should go home now and let the pros take care of
business. And business has been good under Obama. Far from being a
�socialist� threatening their profits and property, Wall Street has
benefited as never before under his administration. The only socialism
under Obama has been �socialism for the rich.� When he entered office, the
very survival of many of the big firms on Wall Street was in question. Now
the survivors are richer than ever. Profits and CEO pay have soared, while
the income gap has widened to historic levels. Like all good speculators,
the capitalists have hedged their bets. Their bread is buttered no matter
which party wins.
With the bailouts, the debts and gambling losses of private companies were
socialized, and now the rest of us are expected to plug the gap. Largely as
a result of these corporate handouts (plus the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan), the U.S. National debt is now estimated at over $16 trillion.
This amounts to over $50,000 for each and every American. We are therefore
all expected to �share the pain.� By this, they mean that every child,
woman, and man should magically cough up $50,000. This may not be much for
a millionaire, but for the rest of us, that means a serious degradation in
our quality of life. We say: make the rich pay for their crisis!
Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, who ran twice as a
Republican before going "Independent," threw his support behind Obama,
although he considers Mitt Romney to be a "good and decent man." In the
aftermath of Sandy, this champion of the "free market" has his eyes set on
billions in federal relief already promised by the President. Upon
receiving Bloomberg's blessing, the president gushed that he was �honored�
to have secured �Mayor 1%�'s endorsement: �I deeply respect him for his
leadership in business, philanthropy and government, and appreciate the
extraordinary job he's doing right now, leading New York City through these
The capitalists will therefore be plenty satisfied with Obama's victory.
The stock market rallied on election day, in a clear sign of confidence
that profits would continue to be made no matter who won. Then today, the
Dow Jones fell by 2.4%, as investors realized that Obama has no solution to
the looming �fiscal cliff.� It is also a clear message to those who might
think that his reelection means he can somehow avoid slashing social
programs and services: �Make the cuts, or else!�
The Republican pundits are pulling out all the stops to put the brakes on
any illusions that Obama's second term will be any different from his
first. They remind him that nearly half of voters voted against him ��you
have no mandate!" Ordinary Americans think they have given him a mandate to
implement a wide range of progressive reforms. But he is in the pockets of
big business. That his his real mandate.
Many in the 1% would have preferred the open class warfare of Mitt Romney,
who had his knives finely honed and openly displayed. They pumped millions
into his campaign and had perhaps already factored a �Romney premium� into
their stock prices. But the more far-sighted capitalists understand the
dangerous seas they are entering; they know they are lucky to have a man
like Obama at the helm. An all-out assault on the unions could backfire.
Better to use subtler methods. Obama will administer the poison of
austerity by the spoonful instead of by the bottle, but he will administer
Few are truly excited about the prospects for the future. Nonetheless,
Americans are patient people. They will "wait and see" if anything will be
different. But they will not wait forever. And when they tire of waiting,
politics in America will never be the same.
The United States is a democracy. However, this needs to be qualified. It
is a *bourgeois democracy*. That is to say, it is a democracy set up by and
for the capitalist class�the 1%.
For all hullabaloo about the wonders of American democracy, *not a single
American actually voted for the President of the United States yesterday,
the highest office in the country*. Instead, they voted for �electors� who
make up the Electoral
The winner is not decided by a simple majority-rules popular vote.
Instead, electors, distributed among the states in the same proportion as
congressional representatives, cast their votes for the president at a
later date. Most states are �winner take all,� electoral votes, which means
that even if 40% of the popular vote goes to a different candidate, the
candidate receiving the most votes gets 100% of the electoral delegates.
And yet, when you go to vote, the name of the presidential candidate is
listed, not the names of the electors you are actually voting for. And even
then, those elected to the Electoral College are not legally bound to vote
for the candidate they were assumed to support when they were elected.
When it comes to campaigning, many states, including big ones are largely
ignored by the presidential candidates. Millions in those states do not
bother voting, as the result is usually more or less predetermined. The
left is routinely accused of encouraging people to "throw their votes away"
by voting for parties to the left of the Democrats or urging the formation
of a labor party. But in states like Alabama, a vote for a Democratic
presidential candidate is also equivalent to a non-vote, and the same goes
for Republican voters in California. These states are assumed to be "sewn
up" for one party or the other.
If this all seems confusing and undemocratic, it is because it is. The U.S.
Constitution is famous for its many �checks and balances.� More than
anything, these are intended to keep the working majority in "check" and to
ensure the bosses have a nice and healthy financial "balance."
Compounding this travesty of genuine democracy is the fact that millions of
citizens are disenfranchised or otherwise barred from voting, sometimes
through legal means, sometimes through outright discrimination or
intimidation. The millions of immigrants who live, work, and pay taxes in
the U.S. are likewise denied any say. Added to this is election day itself,
which takes place on a work day (the first Tuesday in November). If you
have work or are unable to get a ride to your polling station, no democracy
for you. If a hurricane strikes and tens of thousands of people are left
for days without power, the show must nonetheless go on.
There is no unified election-administering body or even standard for voting
in the U.S. Every state and every jurisdiction has its own rules. Some use
electronic voting, some use punch cards, some use pens on scannable
ballots, some issue receipts, some do not, some offer privacy booths,
others expect you to mark your choices at a card table in view of everyone
else. Polling stations are routinely shut down at �closing time,� even if
there are still people waiting in line to vote. The results are often not
known for weeks at a time, and if the armies of lawyers and judges get
involved, can drag on for months. There is more standardization and
accuracy with ATM machines and gasoline pumps, which never give you wrong
change or a single drop of gas more than you pay for.
Compare this to what is possible in supposedly �undemocratic� Venezuela,
where the process of registering the popular will is exceedingly
transparent and democratic. Everyone votes electronically on a touch
screen. A paper receipt is then printed so the vote can be confirmed. The
paper receipts are then placed in a secure box. The voter's index finger is
then dipped in purple dye which takes days to wear off, eliminating the
possibility that they might vote again that same day. The polling stations
remain open as late as necessary to ensure everyone can vote. When the
station is finally closed, a manual count is made of a large percentage of
the paper receipts, matching the results with the electronic votes to
ensure there are no discrepancies. On top of all this, elections are held
on Sundays, a day when almost no one has to work, and in cities like
Caracas, public transportation starts from the early morning to late at
night, and is provided free of charge.
Even Jimmy Carter, who is no friend of the Venezuelan Revolution has to
accept that it is the most democratic electoral process in the world.
Venezuela is a bourgeois parliamentary democracy. It has a per capita GDP
far lower than that of the U.S. It has a less-developed infrastructure than
the U.S., with people living from the sprawling metropolis of Caracas to
the Amazon jungle. If this is possible there, then there is no reason why
it is not possible in the U.S. Like so much else under capitalism, the
reason is not technical, but political.
Little wonder millions of Americans don't bother voting at all. A
pre-election poll by USA Today/Suffolk University, of people who were
eligible to vote but weren't likely to do so, found that these
�won't-bother-to-vote� Americans backed Obama's reelection over Romney by
more than 2 to 1. Two-thirds of them said they were registered to vote.
Eight in 10 said the government plays an important role in their lives. And
yet, they had been left so disillusioned by Obama, that they were likely to
sit out the election, even if that meant Romney might well win.
Even in the record-breaking 2008 election, some 80 million eligible voters
didn't bother. This year, perhaps 90 million Americans who could have voted
did not do so. According to the above-quoted Curtis Gans, �The long-term
trend tends to be awful. There's a lot of lack of trust in our leaders, a
lack of positive feelings about political institutions, a lack of quality
education for large segments of the public, a lack of civic education, the
fragmenting effects of waves of communications technology, the cynicism of
the coverage of politics�I could go on with a long litany.�
Given a viable mass alternative, millions more would participate in the
elections. Ultimately, however, only a workers' democracy can guarantee
that everyone has a voice and a vote.
*Shift to the left*
Despite all this, the 2012 elections marked an important point of
inflection in the changing consciousness of the U.S. working class.
Demographics are shifting. Consciousness is shifting. Ten years ago a
majority opposed same-sex marriage. Now polls show a majority are in favor.
A plurality of of young people say they prefer socialism to capitalism. A
majority support raising taxes on the rich and oppose cuts to Social
Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
[image: Celebrating Obama's victory. Photo: Michael Holden]*Celebrating
Obama's victory. Photo: Michael
*Within the narrow limits of the American political spectrum, Romney's
defeat represents a firm rejection of the far-right-wing and a shift to the
left. The only reason the shift wasn't more pronounced is that there were
no viable alternatives. Only a mass labor party can give people the
confidence that they are not "throwing their vote away" on a third party.
Roughly 7 million voters who went to the polls did not bother voting for
the president. Most of these were likely compelled to go to the polls to
vote for or against this or that ballot initiative, feeling that they
actually had more of a say in this than in deciding the presidency.
There were 174 ballot measures voted on in popular referenda across the
country, more than at any time since 1920 (the year Eugene Debs ran for
president from his prison cell and received nearly 1,000,000 votes). The
results were broadly to the left, continuing the trend seen in the 2011
Colorado and Washington became the first states to decriminalize the
recreational use of marijuana. Maine and Maryland became the first states
to legalize same-sex marriages by popular vote. In Minnesota, a
constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages was defeated, as was
another amendment that would have imposed an anti-democratic Voter ID law.
The Green Party's Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala received an estimated 0.3%
of the national vote, coming in fourth place, with 396,684 votes. This was
double the Green's showing in 2008, and triple their result in 2004. The
various socialist campaigns received some interest as well, but in the
grand scheme of the population were a tiny blip on the electoral map. On
the one hand, this shows the growing interest in left-of-the-Democrats
alternatives. On the other, it shows the limited scope and potential of any
campaign that does not have serious resources and support behind it. Only a
labor party, organically connected to the unions and their financial and
deep-rooted social resources can mount a real challenge to Wall Street.
In other national elections, two infamously reactionary candidates were
tossed out on their ears. Todd �legitimate rape� Akin was defeated in
Missouri, as was Indiana's Richard �rape pregnancies are God's gifts�
Mourdock. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, consumer advocate and darling
of the liberal left, was elected to the U.S. Senate. In the narrow spectrum
of the U.S. electoral setup, these all represent a shift to the left, but
it is still a far cry from what is needed.
We should therefore never lose sight of Gore Vidal's oft-quoted remark that
the U.S., in reality, has just one party, the party of property, and that
it has two right wings. Romney and many candidates from the far-right have
indeed been defeated. But the other right wing party is still in power.
The Democrats have absolutely nothing to do with socialism. They are the
furthest thing from "pro-worker." At their most recent convention, they
even cut their long-standing commitment�at least on paper�to strengthening
the right to strike. When tens of thousands in Wisconsin protested Governor
Walker's anti-union legislation, Obama kept a safe distance in Washington.
When tens of thousands of teachers, broadly supported by parents and the
general public, went on strike in his home town of Chicago, Obama remained
committed to his friend and chief of campaign fundraising, Rahm Emanuel�the
mayor of Chicago and the teachers' most vicious attacker. Obama's real
record on labor has been outlined above. These are not the actions of a
A genuine pro-worker party and government would raise the minimum wage
dramatically; institute a heavily progressive tax on the rich; provide
universal, quality health care and education; pass the Employee Free Choice
Act, repeal Taft-Hartley, and help every worker build a union; create
millions of union jobs by launching a mass program of useful public works
to build affordable housing and resilient infrastructure; curb carbon
emissions and pollution and heavily fund alternative energy; slash the
military budget and pursue a policy of internationalist solidarity instead
of predatory imperialism. The potential for such a party has never been
After Scott Walker rammed through his legislation despite the heroic
efforts of Wisconsin's workers, many feared it was only a matter of time
before the Koch brothers' blueprint for a new America was imposed
everywhere. Defeating Romney and many of the anti-democratic ballot
measures shows that the far-right can be defeated. This will embolden many
workers and young people to step up the fight in the years ahead. Now the
Democrats must be defeated.
*The evils of lesser-evilism*
Things could have been very different if the labor leaders had spent the
last four years building a labor party instead of "hoping for change" from
Obama. The fact that ordinary workers have sincere illusions in Obama and
the Democrats is understandable. The alternative of Romney�a nationwide
Scott Walker�scared many to the polls despite their disillusionment in his
[image: Republicans vs Democrats. Photo: avylavitra]*Republicans vs
Democrats. Photo: avylavitra <http://www.flickr.com/photos/avylavitra/>*But
the union leaders know exactly what they are doing. They can't be accused
of being naive. And if they really are so naive as to believe that they can
pressure the Democrats into turning on their Wall Street paymasters, they
have no business leading us. The crisis does not allow for serious
concessions to the workers. Even massive protests and repeated general
strikes are not enough, as we have seen in Greece and Spain. To imagine
that delivering a few million votes will be enough to stop the cuts and
give-backs is to live on another planet.
After spending an unprecedented amount of money backing Democrats in 2008,
the unions scaled back their direct contributions. But the net result was
the same: an all-out effort to elect Democrats. As explained by Josh
Eidelson in an article in *The Nation*: �The president passed labor-backed
healthcare and banking reforms, but barely offered lip service to the
anti-union-busting Employee Free Choice Act. He appointed National
Mediation Board members who made it easier for airline and railroad workers
to organize, then signed a law that made it harder. His stimulus funds kept
teachers on the job, but his Race to the Top rewarded states that made it
easier to fire them. After proposing a regulation restricting child workers
from using dangerous equipment on factory farms, his Labor Department
Had Romney won, the unions would have likely organized a mass protest
against austerity at his January inauguration. Instead, they will almost
certainly organize an inaugural rally in support of Obama, a candidate who
In the face of the bipartisan avalanche of austerity, they should be
mobilizing the membership to fight back in the workplaces, streets, and at
the polls with a labor party. Instead, they demobilize the membership,
lower their expectations, and spend millions on supporting "labor-endorsed"
candidates�flimsy code for "Democrats."
The only mobilizing they have done has been to encourage union members and
young people to phone bank, door-knock, text, Tweet, and Facebook to get
out the vote for "not-a-Republican" politicians. Instead of leading
defensive struggles and transforming them into offensive ones, they
stampeded like a herd of panicked wildebeests into the swamp of "lesser
In the run-up to the election, there was a relentless flood of emails, text
messages, and frantic appeals from local and national labor leaders. The
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) set a goal of 3 million doors
knocked and nearly 3 million phone calls by election day. The NEA says that
481,000 of its 3 million members have volunteered at least once this
election cycle. In the final four days of the campaign, the AFL-CIO pledged
128,000 volunteers to knock on 5.5 million doors, make 5.2 million phone
calls, and distribute 2 million leaflets.
Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association (the
nation's largest union), "inspired" the membership with scare-mongering
such as this: "What if Congress and the office of the President had the
same philosophies that we saw in Ohio and Wisconsin and Alabama and Idaho
and Arizona? And I think [the rank and file] realize that the stakes are
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) President Larry Hanley, considered to be on
the "left" of the labor movement, summed up the desperate, defeatist
approach: "We do not see this as an election that will, if we're
successful, bring in a whole new wave of pro-labor legislation. [The ATU
has] worked hard to make sure our people understand [that if the
Republicans] are successful at taking over the federal government, there
will be no such thing as a labor movement ... The way you fight back is to
deny the White House, the Senate, and hopefully the Congress to the
And AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, at one time a member and supporter of
the Labor Party in the 1990s, considers Obama a "friend." He argues that if
just given a chance, �the real Obama� will make an appearance and usher in
an era of �shared prosperity.� In reality, it is the rich who will share
the prosperity, while workers will be asked to share the austerity. He is
also one of the main proponents of the pernicious myth that American
workers are, or should be �middle class.�
What a far cry from the fiery leaders thrown up by the labor movement in
the past! What a lack of vision, passion, and confidence in the enormous
potential power of the working class! This is a shameful situation.
Nonetheless, it is not surprising. Their policies flow from their approach.
The labor leaders have consciously adopted a policy of class collaboration.
They believe that what is good for the bosses, is good for the workers.
Unfortunately, this is one of those ideas that "sounds good on paper." The
reality is that the bosses' and the workers' interests are diametrically
opposed. Higher profits means lower wages, benefits, and job protections.
The workers create the wealth, the bosses pocket the surplus. The dirty
little secret obscured by the labor leaders, bosses, their politicians, and
the major media is that the workers can get on just fine without the
bosses�the opposite is not the case. Once the working class realizes this,
all bets are off. In a nutshell, that is the essence of the class struggle.
And yet, the labor leaders side with the bosses and accept the logic of
capitalism. By doing so, they accept all the joys that come with this
system. Only if we break from the narrow limits of the profit system can we
find a solution to the crisis. This is the contradiction that must be
resolved in the years ahead. On the basis of their own experience, the
workers will learn this. The way out of this log jam begins with the
building of a labor party. Let's ensure we do not have the same
conversation four years from now: "if only we had a labor party!" The labor
leaders must make it a reality. The time to start building it is now.
It was the final push by organized labor that gave Obama the edge yet
again. In return, the unions will get even less than last time, even if he
makes some cosmetic concessions and pays them lip service. If these
resources had been used instead to build a labor party, the political
climate and discussion in this country would be fundamentally different.
Labor's power comes from an all-too-often overlooked detail: workers make
up the vast majority of the population.
Millions of people feel relieved that they "dodged the Republican bullet.�
But they cannot dodge it forever. In the absence of a mass working class
alternative, the electoral pendulum can swing back to right. The flip side
of lesser-evilism is that eventually, if you do not put something concrete
in its place, the "greater" evil will eventually make its way back into
power. Even when they are not in power, they can ram through their policies
in the name of �bipartisanship.�
But the workers will not take these attacks lying down. More and more will
enter the path of struggle. Dissatisfaction in the unions will continue to
grow. This ferment will loosen the grip of the current labor leaders.
Opposition currents will rise and come to power, and there will be many
opportunities to raise need for a labor party. The pressure will build on
the trade union leaders to fight back against the attacks, even with the
Democrats in power. Twist and turn as they may, they will eventually run
out of excuses. The battle to transform the unions will be a prolonged,
complicated process for a variety of objective and subjective reasons.
Likewise, the struggle to transform American society and politics will not
be linear. It will not be a nice, steady march to the left, from the
Republicans, to the Democrats, to a labor party, to socialism. It will be
far more complex and contradictory.
*Uncertainty is the only certainty*
The United States is an enormous political and economic network organized
in the interests of the capitalist class. Tens of millions of workers are
treated as mere cogs in a vast capitalist profit-making machine. The
Democrats and Republicans are among its most important lubricants. But that
machine is in serious difficulties and their grip on power cannot not last
For a majority of Americans, the economy was the main issue in the
elections. With a jobs gap of millions, wages stagnating or falling, and a
"new normality" being imposed, this should come as no surprise. Fortunately
for Obama, the economy stumbled ahead just long enough for him to be
reelected. But there is no guarantee that even this �jobless recovery� will
continue for very long. The contradictions are piling up and patience is
wearing thin. "No more excuses!" said one second-time Obama voter. Those
who made the extra effort to give him another chance will expect more from
a second term. Union members, women, Latinos, blacks, the youth, the poor,
the unemployed, all expect big things now that he "doesn't have to worry
about reelection." But they will be deeply disappointed. Labor will not get
the Employee Free Choice Act, women will not receive equal pay, immigrants
will not get genuine immigration reform that doesn't start with
"enforcement first," and not nearly as many jobs as are needed will be
Although many have lost their illusions, many Americans still see in Obama
what they want to see. Many expected him to be a second incarnation of
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But FDR had vast economic reserves at his
disposal, and ultimately, World War II to get out of the Great Depression.
Obama has done nothing even remotely like the New Deal and cannot embark on
a world war.
If push comes to shove, he may be forced to make this or that concession
under pressure from the workers. But no one should confuse this with
genuine socialism. FDR went far further than Obama when it comes to social
programs and even limiting the power of big business. But he was the
furthest thing from being a socialist. His aim was to prevent an
uncontrollable social explosion and to save capitalism. This, too, is
Obama's historic mission. But he has not been given the same tools or class
and world balance of forces to achieve it. The working class is larger and
stronger than ever, and U.S. imperialism, on the rise in the inter-war
period, is now on the decline.
Obama may try to position himself as a fighter for the workers and the
poor. Richard Trumka is already cheer leading for Obama on that theme. E
ven if Obama succeeds in raising taxes on the rich, it would be a mere drop
in the bucket. His proposals would merely take the country back to the
already low levels of the 1990s. But e ven the slightest tax increases will
be fought tooth and nail by the 1% (people like Warren Buffett and Bill
Gates notwithstanding). It's not that they can't afford to pay a bit more.
But they understand that appetite comes with eating. Even the tiniest
inroad against the wealth and power of the 1% may embolden the workers to
organize and fight for more.
The so-called �fiscal cliff� is fast-approaching. In plain English, this is
a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take
effect on Jan. 1 unless Congress comes up with an alternative. This
scenario was the result of a bipartisan Congressional compromise reached
last summer. Some economists estimate that if these measures are
implemented, GDP could drop by as much as 4%. Many now believe yet another
grand compromise will be reached before the deadline, to kick the problem
even further down the road. But the cuts are going to come eventually. The
only question is how deep and who will be most affected.
Cuts and austerity will only further exacerbate the contradictions in the
economy. Reducing demand even further it could push the economy into
vicious tailspin. More borrowing can only put off the day of reckoning.
Even modestly taxing the rich could lead them to rebel and impose their own
cuts in wages and conditions.
Then there is the international situation, most immediately the situation
in Europe. Angela Merkel says she expects the euro zone crisis to continue
for at least 5 years. But it will drag on longer than that, and will suck
mighty Germany itself into the maelstrom. Asia and above all China are also
being battered by the crisis. The Arab Revolution is far from over and has
now spread to Kuwait. Chavez's reelection in Venezuela has given the Latin
American Revolution a renewed lease on life.
Four years ago we wrote an article called �Welcome to the School of the
That school will remain in session for at least another four years.
Whatever form it takes, austerity will follow hard and fast in Obama's
second term. This is not because he is mean-spirited. He doesn't *want* to
be the bad guy�after all, he's currently playing the role of the "good cop"
in the capitalist duopoly. But cut he must. Illusions will be shattered. If
a wave of strikes and mass unionization drives break out on his watch, the
illusions will be smashed even more quickly.
Obama's promise to "balance the budget" and "cut the deficit" is thinly
veiled code for "cuts in social programs" and "austerity." "Hard decisions"
and "economic patriotism" mean the workers must tighten their belts while
the rich grow fat on profits. Gridlock will be the excuse, and "compromise"
the watchword of the day. Obama and billionaires like Michael Bloomberg are
big fans of compromise and bipartisanship. As Bloomberg put it in his
endorsement of Obama: "Of course, neither candidate has specified what hard
decisions he will make to get our economy back on track while also
balancing the budget. But in the end, what matters most isn't the shape of
any particular proposal; it's the work that must be done to bring members
of Congress together to achieve bipartisan solutions."
The definition of "bipartisan" is "of, or relating to both parties," in
this case, the Democrats and Republicans. As both of these are capitalist
parties, it follows that any and all "bipartisan" policies will favor the
capitalists and their system.
Obama's calls for "national unity" are in reality a call for the working
class to subordinate its interests to the interests of the bosses.
"Compromise" means "cuts." We should not be taken in by these hollow
appeals to unity! The desire of ordinary Americans for unity in times of
crisis is natural and understandable. But there is only one form of unity
that offers a way forward for the majority: *workers' unity against the
unity of the bosses*.
Under pressure from the media and without a worked-out political
perspective, many people who consider themselves leftists lose their
political bearings when elections roll around. But by applying the Marxist
method, keeping the big picture in mind at all times, and keeping our
finger on the real pulse of the working class and its mass organizations,
we will navigate the stormy waters ahead and build a mass movement and
political alternative that can fight and win.
Many lessons have been learned these last four years. Even more profound
transformations in conditions and consciousness will take place during
Obama's second term. This gives us four years to build a labor party that
can not only fight but win.
America continues to change. The next 4 years will not be a mere repetition
of the last 4. Obama's second term will not be a simple continuation of his
first. Since Obama was elected in 2008 we have seen the Republic factory
occupation, the mass movement in Wisconsin, Occupy Wall Street, and modest
but important strikes by the longshoremen in Longview, WA, teachers in
Chicago, and Wal-Mart workers, not to mention the Arab Revolution, the
crisis of the euro zone, and the continuation of the Latin American
Revolution. Even greater changes are in store in the years ahead. The world
is pregnant with possibilities�revolutionary possibilities.
One night of relief at stopping Romney will not stop the crisis from
relentlessly unfolding. World events will continue to make inroads into
Americans' consciousness. Everything changes. The accumulation of
discontent will burst to the surface when we least expect it. Like
Wisconsin. Like Occupy. They were the beginning of the beginning. Even more
dramatic events are on the horizon.
So yes, things are "the same" now as they were before the election. But at
the same time, they are very different.
*Fight for a labor party! Fight for socialism! Join the Workers
International League <http://socialistappeal.org/join> to fight for this
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