Over the coming months, we’ll hear a lot of polarized rhetoric from both Republicans and Democrats proclaiming this to be “the most important election of our lifetimes,” with a clear choice between two very different candidates, representing very different agendas.
What you won’t hear discussed in the media, and certainly not by representatives of the two major parties, is the great unspoken truth about the U.S. political system - that the Democrats and the Republicans, however much they savage each other during election campaigns to win votes, agree about much more than they disagree.
In comparison to Romney, Barack Obama will seem like a radical firebrand, or at least a human being with a functioning brain and heart. But we can’t forget, amid the lies and hate spewed by the Republicans, what Barack Obama has done-and not done-during his three-plus years in office.
Obama is no longer the candidate of hope that millions of people rallied to in 2008. He has pursued a very different agenda in office, from saving the Wall Street banks and investment firms while millions of Americans lost their homes, to continuing the Bush administration’s wars abroad and political repression at home, to abandoning his promises to labor and escalating the bipartisan austerity drive.
In article about the Obama Justice Department’s support for the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the right of police to strip-search anyone in their custody, no matter how minor their alleged crime, Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald wrote: “This is yet another case, in a long line, where the Obama administration was able to have its preferred policies judicially endorsed by getting right-wing judges to embrace them.”
Obama’s appalling record on civil liberties has come in for a lot of criticism in the past three years, and not just from radicals. So why should we forget all that now and view the Republicans’ as the sole threat to our rights?
The 2012 election will be portrayed as a choice between two radically different futures. But the facts tell us something different.
Earlier this year, economist Jeffrey Sachs, writing in the Financial Times, compared Paul Ryan’s budget plan to Barack Obama’s, and found that “both sides are committed to significant cuts in government programs relative to GDP. These cuts will be especially [drastic] in the discretionary programs for education; environmental protection; child nutrition; job re-training; transition to low-carbon energy; and infrastructure. The entire civilian discretionary budget will amount to only 2 percent of GDP, or less, as of 2020, in the budget plans of both Obama and the Republicans.”
Against a weak and clueless opponent like Romney, Obama might seem to have a “can’t lose” appeal - except for the fact that his record undermines his credibility. Obama ran as a defender of the middle class and working people in 2008. In 2012, as he tries to pull the same rhetoric and promises out of mothballs, millions of people won’t be so willing to believe it. For them, Obama’s biggest appeal will be that he’s not Romney.
That’s why, with the effects of the Great Recession still hanging on in the lives of most people in the U.S., Romney and the Republicans could still win, despite the unpopularity of their policies and politics.
The November election will come down to a choice between two candidates and two parties that reflect different versions of the corporate and elite consensus. Only genuine social movements from below can open the way to a different future.
as much as i love obama as a person, this sums up how i feel about the whole thing.