Thursday, July 12, 2012

David McReynolds - EdgeLeft: Electoral musings in July

From: David McReynolds []
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 9:10 PM

EdgeLeft is an occasional column by David McReynolds which may be reprinted or used otherwise
without further permission.

It has been a fascinating two weeks, as I watch the Presidential race stumble into high gear.
Normally this should be an election the Republicans can't lose. Their surge in 2010 was remarkable - just two years after the election of Obama, the Republicans took full
control of the House. Given that monumental "push from below", combined with an unemployment rate which remains above 8%, the GOP candidate, Mitt Romney, should
be able to win in a walk.

But the GOP seems intent on committing suicide. It used the past two years to splinter,
handing over a kind of veto power to its most extreme wing, the so-called Tea Party.
It let Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate leader, lay out the case, very soon after the 2008
election, that the GOP had just one primary task - to defeat Obama in 2012. What a strange agenda! I'm not going to vote for Obama - I'll lay out my reasons another time -
but I have not been able to grasp quite what there was about Obama which drove the GOP to such fury. Obama was not a radical, much less an agent for Islamic socialism. He was a smart, educated, moderately liberal politician. The only reason I can see for the demonizing  of Obama was that he was - more or less - black. Even this, however, simplifies too much,
since the Tea Party folks were perfectly happy to embrace, at one point, the "much blacker" Herman Cain, and one of the most popular GOP figures right now  (at least on Fox News) is Allen West, the first black Republican member of Congress from Florida since 1876. 
It is Allen West who has charged that something like fifty or more members of Congress are in the Communist Party, and that social security is aimed at reducing Americans to slavery.

It is in the nature of politicians to stretch the truth, to squeeze it here, push it out a bit
there, but the GOP has taken this to an extreme. Allen West has so far not named a single member of Congress who belongs to the CP - he is happy, like the late Senator McCarthy, to throw out a figure, and figures can be elastic. I remember watching one of the GOP primary debates where Michelle Bachmann stated that Iran had said that it planned to attack and destroy Israel, and to attack the United States. Now, in fact, no one in the Iranian government has ever said any such thing. I am not enthusiastic about the government of Iran, but it is a country which hasn't attacked anyone for over two hundred years. There was, sadly, no truth panel after the debates, to correct the record. These debates also featured, of course, the horrendous news that all but one of the GOP candidates for President did not believe in evolution.

By the time the debates were over and Mitt Romney had won the nomination, he emerged
a bloodied figure, bent beneath the weight of the extreme right wing of the GOP. I confess
I have never liked Mitt Romney - he struck me four years ago as a man who would do anything to win office, and I've had no reason to modify my views. But now he is a man trapped by that part of the GOP which is perhaps the smallest - the far right wing base.

I've watched him as Obama danced around him on the immigration question, basically sewing up the Hispanic vote. I've watched him as Obama has secured the support of the gay community. And I've watched him as the hard right wing of the GOP  so profoundly alienated many women that, to the degree there is a "woman's vote", it goes to Obama by default.

And I watched him, along with all the commentators, as he tried to define his position on the health care bill, whether it was a tax or a penalty, and just how Obamacare differed from
Romney's Massachusetts plan. (In this case it was the Republican Party fighting against their candidate, as a week went by with Obama saying one thing and the GOP leadership saying another).

Currently, as I jot these notes, Romney is on the ropes again over his refusal to open more than one year of his tax returns. He already opened them enough, with what had been
revealed, to let us see he has a Swiss bank account, and one in the Cayman Islands. The issue - unemployment at over 8% - should be the one issue people are talking about (not, to be fair to Obama, that the President has the power to do much, one way or another, in the short term to affect that rate).

As if things were not bad enough, the Supreme Court stunned everyone, including itself, by
upholding the Obama Health Care act. Obamacare is not very good - a single payer system
would have been much better - this one was hammered out to satisfy the insurance companies. But the point was that the GOP (and Romney) had made it clear that their eyes were set on demolishing Obamacare.

There are just a couple of things to note about the Supreme Court decision. My own guess is that Roberts had enough sense to know that the Court had lost so much ground it could not
afford to spit in the public's face once more. (If we go back to the Bush vs. Gore decision,
where it was very clear that Gore had won the popular vote in Florida, we realize that
if the Democratic Party was an effective body, it would have led its supporters into the
streets by the hundreds of thousands. When the Supreme Court made its decision that
corporations were people - ?!? - and thus able to give unlimited amounts to campaigns, it helped remind a public, which might have forgotten, that our government is essentially bought and paid for by the 1%).

As a friend said to me, Roberts did not want to go down in history as the author of another Dred Scott decision. Beyond that I would not speculate on what Roberts' decision meant or what indication it gives of where he may go in the future. But what was remarkable (and
basically without precedent) was the wave of leaks from, one must assume, clerks to the
judges. And, of course, the sense of dismay among conservatives that the law had been upheld.

One reality of politics is that once something has been declared constitutional by the court, the fight is really over. The GOP doesn't seem to understand that, but the public is not
eager for a long debate on the law, nor does Romney seem to understand that as the provisions of the law become better known, it will gain in support. (Somewhat in the way
the Tea Party partisans would shout at their rallies "Keep your hands off my social security").

The law will be modified. One hopes it will be improved. But, like social security, and unemployment insurance, it is now part of the framework of the country.

There is another element to the GOP drama which has largely escaped notice (though Rachel Maddow has covered it on her MSNBC show) - the persistence of the Libertarians.
Throughout the campaign,  aside from Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, the media seemed determined to ignore Ron Paul. But while the Tea Party has been the focus of much public
attention, the Libertarians have taken over chunks of the GOP machinery at the state level.
Whatever else the Libertarians may be, they are not crazy. Their economics dates from the 18th century, but they have a good position on civil liberties and wars of intervention.

So Romney enters the fall campaign with the GOP loaded with millions and millions and millions of dollars - but with deep divisions in its own ranks.

What has happened in my lifetime is to watch the GOP move from being a party of "constitutional conservatives" to being a party of nuts. I've wondered, after the warmest winter on record, and now one of the hottest summers we have seen, if the Tea Party folks still think global warming is a scientific scam.  The Republicans are now a white party. If Obama wins, it will because Romney has written off the Black and Hispanic vote, as well as the gay vote, and a significant chunk of the women's vote.

The fate of the election rests not in the hands of Romney or Obama, but in a very uncertain world economy. Gone are the days when the US could dictate policy to Europe (let alone
China). All the signs suggest that Europe may very well enter a new plunge to economic disaster - and that would spell defeat for Obama.

But what should have been a certain GOP victory in November has now been put at risk
by the GOP itself, which, snarling and biting in confusion, has declared war on its own
moderates. Even in the area of foreign policy, the GOP is confused and irresponsible,
seeming to argue for war over diplomacy.

But ahead of us are the bitter days of September and October, when the vast sums of the billionaires may buy for Romney what has has been totally unable to mobilize for himself.

(David McReynolds was on the staff of War Resisters League for nearly forty years, and the Socialist Party candidate for President in 1980 and 2000. He is retired, and lives with his cats on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He can be reached at:

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