Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama Slouches Rightward

Because our electoral institutions are so much less democratic than those of most other “democracies,” they afford little room for the expression of dissident voices. In practice, this means that positions that fall outside the center-right to more extreme but still respectable right spectrum are marginalized. It means, in other words, that most voters have no voice.

It would be different if we had some of what other countries have: genuine public financing, guaranteed media access, easy ballot access, instant run off voting, proportional representation, and so on. Instead, we have winner-take-all elections contested within the framework of a duopolistic party system. A consequence is that here in the Land of the Free, candidates have little incentive to play to their party’s base – not even in the (just concluded) primary season, but then especially after the nomination is secure. Each of the two semi-official parties is sure of some votes, no matter who its nominee is. So it is “independents” that matter. Neither party can flagrantly diss its base – to the point where they lose many votes. But, in the circumstances, with only the alternative party in contention, that’s hard to do. Thus Democrats and even Republicans play to the handful of potential voters who have managed, either through intellectual laziness or sheer indifference, to find, or think they have found, a space in between the two parties. Finding that space is likely to be easier this year than it usually is, unless the Democrats flub spectacularly even by their own standards -- because John McCain, being a war-mongering neo-con more than a “maverick,” will, by November, be seen as tied inextricably to the Cheney/Bush administration. This year, therefore, the Democrats have even more incentive than usual to go after the flatulent middle.

The half or more of the electorate that doesn’t vote is much less in play. No one knows how many don’t vote because they realize there’s nothing to vote for or how many don’t vote in an effort to abstain. It’s probably a large number. In any case, being bought and paid for by corporate malefactors and nefarious “special interests,” neither of the two parties is institutionally capable of going after this mass of voters in a serious way. This year, though, there may again be a partial exception -- so long as Barack Obama continues to “inspire.” As the once and present Rorschach candidate, he stands a better chance than most of attracting those who would otherwise not vote at all.

That the system empowers those who care least is bad news, needless to say; despite this year’s (very partial) exceptions. But there is a silver lining. Unlike in other “democracies,” Democrats (and Republicans too) usually don’t wait until they gain office to betray their constituencies. They betray them from the get go. The 2006 elections were a partial exception. Voters thought they were voting against the Iraq War. Instead they empowered Pelosiites – Clintonites (proponents of Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush politics) who talk like (soft) “progressives” and then act like Clintonites of the old school. [Thus today the Pelosiites are about to assure Cheney and Bush everything they want to conduct their wars, as Congress votes to fund them without restrictions. Of course, the Pelosiites stress that they fought the good fight. For their troubles, they won a few milquetoast “concessions” about funding for veterans and the unemployed.] Nevertheless, the general rule still holds. In our duopoly system, betrayals of hope begin before elections, not after. This way, at least, voters know for sure – not just on the basis of past experience – what they’ll be getting.

So it is with Obama. Since winning the nomination, he has pandered shamelessly to right wing Cubans and to supporters of Israel’s collective punishment of Gazans and its Apartheid occupation of the 22% of mandate Palestine that the international community concedes to the Palestinians. Then, on Father’s Day, before conservative black church-goers, he denounced the irresponsibility of black men – sounding, for all the world, like a partisan of “benign neglect,” blaming the victims of racism for the sins of the system. That’s not the least of it – as he incorporates old Clinton hands, like Patti Solis-Doyle, into his expanding campaign structure, and as he calls on “national security” advisors and Middle East experts from the Clinton days. In the interest of honesty and to continue the new (flip-flopped) Bush/Cheney strategy of making nice to the French, Obama should consider changing his slogan from “Change We Can Believe In” to “Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose.” [The more it changes, the more it stays the same.] The liberals who believe in him won’t know the difference.

The conventional wisdom is that the appointment of Solis-Doyle to the group assigned to find and vet VP candidates makes a VP role for Hillary less likely. She’s on the outs, it seems, with the Lady Slickster. That’s good news, I suppose. But the struggle against Clintonism – and its Pelosiite version – has never just been a struggle against the Clintons. As Obama assumes the Clintonite mantle, he and the people around him are fast becoming nearly as great a menace.

Still, given our undemocratic electoral system, with McCain as the only alternative, the least bad outcome is still an Obama victory, even as he slouches ever more rightward. But the time to hold his feet to the fire is long past due. After Obama wins the White House, the struggle will only just have begun.

1 comment:

Ojalanpoika said...

Jeru-salaam, -shalom & -salem,

Could you kindly comment, whether my details are correct in a dissident essay concerning the recent scaling up of production in the Israeli high Tech companies in: ?

E.g. "...It is United States that profits from Israel, rather than the opposite. Israel got some 120 million € in 2007, but open brain drain is its prerequisite. Astonishing number of 25% of the Israeli researchers have moved to the United States - and this figure does not yet include the people with double citizenship. The next largest drain of researchers are 12.2% from Canada, 4.3% from Netherlands, and 4.2% from Italy.

The population of Arabs under the Israeli government increased ten-fold in only 57 years. Palestinian life expectancy increased from 48 to 72 years in 1967-95. The death rate decreased by over 2/3 in 1970-90 and the Israeli medical campaigns decreased the child death rate from a level of 60 per 1000 in 1968 to 15 per 1000 in 2000 at the Westbank. (An analogous figure was 64 in Iraq, 40 in Egypt, 23 in Jordan, and 22 in Syria in 2000). During 1967-88 the amount of comprehensive schoold and second level polytechnic institutes for the Arabs was increased by 35%. During 1970-86 the proportion of Palestinian women at the West Bank and Gaza not having gone to school decreased from 67 % to 32 %. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in West Bank and Gaza increased in 1968-1991 from 165 US dollars to 1715 dollars (compare with 1630$ in Turkey, 1440$ in Tunis, 1050$ in Jordan, 800$ in Syria, 600$ in Egypt. and 400$ in Yemen).

Before the Second Intifada, there were nearly 200 Israeli companies listed in the Nasdaq, at the Intifada the count dropped to 70. (The number is still greater than from all the European countries combined). It is said that the dollars are green since the Americans pull them down from the tree raw and fresh. The start-ups are imported straight from the garage, and scaling up of production in the "conflict hotspot" has been considered impossible. But the new Millennium has brought a change in tide despite the Gaza rocket attacks..."

Recovering from hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of the brain,
Pauli Ojala, evolutionary critic
Biochemist, drop-out (MSci-Master of Sciing)
Helsinki, Finland