US Elections: From the “Lesser to the Greater Evil” & the Demise of Critical Liberalism

“In the name of “opposing Romney” the progressive pundits, like Chomsky and Ellsberg, end up in alliance with Wall Street and Silicon Valley billionaires, Pentagon militarists, Homeland Security boosters and Zionist ideologues (Dennis Ross) to elect Obama.”

electionsThere is ample evidence that the Obama Presidency has pulled the US political spectrum further to the Right. On most domestic and foreign policy issues Obama has embraced extremist positions surpassing his Republican predecessor and in the process devastating what remained of the peace and social movements of the past decade.

Moreover, the Obama Presidency has laid the groundwork for the immediate future promising a further extension of regressive policies following the presidential elections: cuts in Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Incumbents and their opposition compete over hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign funding from wealthy donors, which they will have to repay in the post-election period in billion dollar handouts, subsidies, tax abatements, anti-labor and environmental policies. Not a single positive proposal was put forth by the Obama campaign but numerous militarist and regressive social policies were articulated. The Obama campaign ran a fear campaign, playing off of the reactionary proposals of the Romney-Tea Party alliance: a cover for his own record of unprecedented military spending, sequential wars, immigrant expulsions, mortgage foreclosures and Wall Street bailouts.

In the process, critical liberals have crossed the line, surrendering their integrity by deflecting attention from Obama’s militarist-socially regressive policies to focus on “opposing Romney” as a “greater evil”: progressives and critical liberals have multiplied and magnified the duplicity of the Obama political apparatus. In the name of opposing the current ‘greater evil’ (Romney) they dare not enumerate and specify the wanton political crimes and monumental socio-economic injustice perpetrated by their “lesser evil” candidate (Obama). Will the “progressives” ever play honest and publically state: we back Obama in “swing states” because he has “only” murdered 10,000 Afghans, 5,000 Iraqis, is starving 75 million Iranian’s via sanctions, gives $3 billion for Israeli displacement of millions of Palestinians, personally oversees the arbitrary executions of US citizens and promises an extended kill list … because Romney promises to be worse … Expecting honesty from the proponents of ‘lesser evils’ is as farfetched as taking serious their criticisms between elections.

The political damage incurred by the social movements and US working class under the Obama presidency is unprecedented and has laid the groundwork for further social regression and greater imperial bellicosity.

Political Consequences of the Obama Presidency: Past, Present and Future

The Obama Presidency and the run-up to his past and present electoral campaigns have had a devastating impact on popular social movements, engaged in issues of peace, labor, immigrant and constitutional rights and environmental regulation.

The peace movement virtually disappeared as its leaders urged its supporters to turn their activities to supporting Obama’s election. He rewarded them by escalating military spending, and engaging in sequential wars, directly or by proxy, in seven countries, wreaking havoc and destruction. He faced minimum opposition as ex-peace activists, in dismay, turned away or grabbed a post and apologized for war. By 2012 the follower- less peace leaders repeat the same mantra to support Obama; but dare not repeat the past lie (in the name of ‘peace’) rather they claim in order ‘to defeat Romney’.

The immigrant rights movements prior to the 2008 election of Obama mobilized several million…. till it was infiltrated and taken over by Mexican-American political hacks from the Democratic Party ad turned into an electoral machine to secure elected posts for themselves and Obama. He rewarded the immigrants by setting a record: seizing, jailing and expelling 1.5 million immigrants over his tenure in office. The immigrant rights mass movement has been largely dismantled and now Democratic political hustlers hire canvassers to round up and register, highly disillusioned immigrant voters.

Afro-Americans were the most neglected sector of the US working class under Obama: they experienced the highest levels of unemployment and home foreclosures and the longest period of joblessness. They became politically invisible as Obama bent over front ways to appease rabid White racists seeking to label him a ‘black president’. The established black leadership-political and religious – and the media celebrities went all out to block any expression of grass-roots opposition, claiming it would only “help the racists” – ignoring Obama’s embrace and bail out of White Wall Street and showing his backside to millions of black households under water. Without movement or leadership, fearful of the problem (economic racism) and the solution (4 more years of invisibility under Obama) most black workers are left to abstain or hold their nose and vote for ‘Oreo’ Obama.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement, precisely because it was independent of the Democratic Party and fed up with Obama’s total subservience to Wall Street, provided a temporary voice for the vast majority of Americans opposed to both political parties. The local and state Democratic officials applauded “the cause” and then repressed the movement.

A spontaneous movement without political direction, and lacking an alternative political leadership, was incapable of confronting the Obama regime: the movement declined and disintegrated, many sympathizers sucked up by the Obama ‘lesser evil’ propaganda campaign. The mass popular animus to Wall Street was defused by Obama’s claim to have saved “the economy” from catastrophe by channeling $4.5 trillion dollars into the bankers’ pockets.

Constitutional rights were savaged by Obama’s defense of military trials, Bush era tortures, expansion of arbitration executive power including the assumption of Presidential power to assassinate US citizens without a trial. While legal organizations fought the good fight for civil liberties, the vast majority of liberals were notable by their absence from any sustained democratic movement upholding the rights of 40 million Americans under police surveillance, especially Muslim citizens and immigrants. They chose not to embarrass their Democratic President: they placed the re-election of a police-state Democrat over and above their putative defense of constitutional rights. No mass marches for civil liberties; no protests against Home Land Security; no campus-wide free speech movements against the abrogation of the right to criticize Israel.

For decades, the trade union confederation and senior citizen movements defended Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. With Obama in office, openly declaring and preparing major reductions and regressive clauses on coverage (raising age qualification) and indexing, there is no significant protest movement. Programs which for the better part of a century (social security) or half century (Medicare, Medicaid) were considered untouchable are now, according to Obama, “on the table” to be gutted (“reformed”, “adjusted”). The trade union millionaire bosses hire a small army of campaign workers and raise over a $150 million to re-elect a President who promises to make huge cuts in medical programs for pensioners and the poor. Obama has legitimated the regressive social positions of the far-right while the Democratic Party neutralized any trade union opposition or mobilization.

Last but not least, the Obama regime has co-opted progressive liberal social critics via backdoor support. In the name of “opposing Romney” the progressive pundits, like Chomsky and Ellsberg, end up in alliance with Wall Street and Silicon Valley billionaires, Pentagon militarists, Homeland Security boosters and Zionist ideologues (Dennis Ross) to elect Obama. Of course, the support of the progressives will be accepted -but hardly acknowledged- but they will have no influence on future Obama policy after the election: they will be discarded like used condoms.

The Future: Post-Election Consequences

With or without the re-election of Obama, his regime and policies have laid the groundwork for an ever more regressive and reactionary social agenda: living standards including health, welfare, social security will be cut drastically. Afro-Americans will remain invisible except to the police and racist judicial system. Immigrants will be hunted down and driven out of homes and jobs: immigrant student dreams will become nightmares of fear and trepidation. Death squads, proxy and drone wars will multiply to prop up a bankrupt US empire. Unaccountable and hypocritical progressives will shift gears and criticize the president they elected; or if it’s Romney they will attack the same vices they overlooked during Obama’s electoral campaign: more cuts in public spending and climate change will result in greater deterioration in everyday life and basic infrastructure; more floods, fires, plagues and blackouts. New Yorkers will learn to detox their toilet water; they might be drinking and bathing in it.

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Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

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  1. The Obama campaign reminds me of an article I once read by a former member of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front. The NLF’s dictum was,

    1.Rally all who can be rallied.
    2.Marginalize all who can be marginalized.
    3.Eliminate all who can be eliminated.

    Insert the progressive, anti-war and civil liberties lobbies as the victims.

  2. flogchopsuey says:

    Those who cannot combine idealism with pragmatism will always remain on the outside. If Sibel was not sufficiently pragmatic, there would be no whistleblowing from her and no boiling frogs blog. When in the end after 3.5 years of open season it came down to two choices third parties who have followers and who wish to influence policy would be wise to publicly endorsed one of the two remaining and make their rationale public. Those who walked away when they did not win the first round and threw the vote to the worst of the two evils have declared that they are completely alienated from the political process and are willing to poison the pot for everyone else. Those who did not vote for Obama voted for greater evil. If Romney had won, the rest of us would have had you to thank. The Greens in Germany have learned this lesson. Those left of Obama in the US have not.

  3. flogchopsuey says:

    Adding to above statement. I hated voting for Obama, and do not consider him left. Under the Reagan terms, Bush family, or a Romney, the country drifts ever more right and left is now right. We have to live with their legacy, their roads and airports. We will have more leverage working under under Obama than we would under Romney, and we will lose less ground under Obama than we would Romney. That counts, and all decent people know it intuitively even if they can’t put it into words. More prisons, meaner cops, there is a difference even if it is small or even very small. As students of history, we need to keep perspective. We don’t want to make ourselves or let others make us outsiders. We are the inside, the heart of what makes life liveable in this country, this world, this community.

  4. @flogchopsuey: Can you say repeal of Glass-Steagall? NAFTA? Drone war? NDAA? You’re right that left is now right, but that’s not solely the fault of Republicans. And your strategy isn’t working. It’s time to declare your own independence. Then you’ll be on the inside and living your own integrity. Don’t let anyone scare you away from your conscience, even if it’s for .5 years, as you say (even though that’s obviously incorrect – where’s that anti-war movement been over the last 3.5 years?)

  5. flogchopsuey says:

    Xicha, thanks for the reply. I’m with you there poking the same points with my liberal friends all the time, on the same Glass-Steagall NAFTA Drone war NDAA etc etc believe it or not. The hypocrisy is painful indeed. Again, I am not a liberal, but for the next 3.5 years, whatever, I will be opposition, except on those issues that I agree on, such as supporting wind power. My agenda will be more Green party than anything else at that time. Unless you have word Sibel is forming a party? After that, there will be two front runners again, and again one will be worse. I would hope my party would support one of them and have a word at the table with them as a result. Alliances can work, Europe has proven it. I would rather a street be named after Obama than Romney. Every time I see some idiot giving Reagan credit for ending the cold war, I can thank folks who were idealistically pure. That’s not working either. Self righteousness is what you are talking about not conscience. You can think well of yourself if you want. Kept yourself pure. But that is too selfish for me, knowing that back alley abortions and health care for millions are on the table. This is no time to be worried about your conscience. If you pump gas in your car, you are pumping blood, my friend.

  6. Very scary stuff, flogchopsuey, but I respectfully refuse to accept the blame for not supporting the lesser evil. You are barking up the wrong tree with that line. Your bit about selfishness crosses the line – not a useful judgement, or necessarily a correct one.

    First, consider that the amount of reduced evil is greatly exaggerated when we are scared. Also, we must realize that they are not EVER going to give us a seat at the table when they can count on our scared-ass votes.

    There is no other practical solution, but to stand for what you stand for. Simplify, and stop worrying about losing the battle. It’s getting worse with either evil candidate, so the sooner we stop supporting their game, the sooner we stop their evil.

  7. And thanks for your reply and for being somewhat on the same wavelength as well, flogchopsuey.

  8. flogchopsuey says:

    Xicha, thank you also. I apologize if I crossed the line. Here at Boiling Frogs, we are in the same soup, so to speak, so it is a form of community. Actually all existence is a form of community, the them and the us included. False flags, whistleblower persecutions, exposure to the criminality, corruption and deceipt, very painful stuff, many of my friends have withdrawn. Not me. The guns are bigger, but this is an old game, going back to Roman times and before. I would rather be part of the evolution than step out of the gene pool. The only reason we can even be disappointed with the state of affairs is that occasionally there has been a break through and things have improved. Unless you are planning to overthrow the system, you are going to have to work within it. The next changes are going to be at the fringes of the empire, not at its center core, so focusing at the local community level is a good option. You may get closer to nature, but I can assure you from experience, self-sufficiency is not the right word. Interdependence, but closer to the land. Just how much we depend on the earth, the rain, etc. becomes ever more apparent. But I really don’t get how you think you cannot support the game if you use oil, use dollars, wear clothes, take medicine. It’s not “their” game. It’s our game. If you stand for decency, all you can do is be decent. Taking you ball home and quitting the game is standing for nothing, or so it seems to me.

  9. Those were good words, flogchopsuey. I’ll ponder them for a while. I’m sorry if I started getting blunt. You’re right about relating. Not supporting evil voting is not the same is taking the ball home though. I did vote. Please consider boycotting the evil candidates and repeating this line. It’s a longer term strategy.

  10. @ flogchopsuey,

    Why would you not vote for Gary Johnson instead of Obama?

  11. flogchopsuey says:

    In Florida if I and others had voted for Gary Johnson, the final results between Obama and Romney could have been affected in favor of Romney. Then I would have to live under Romney for at least 4 years. No way Gary could have won. Also my respect for Gary for not endorsing one of the two candidates and asking his supporters to follow his lead, so that he could get access to the political process for the next four years, went down. He has more friends on one side than the other. You can’t be an insider if you act like an outsider. Obama is not more evil than Truman who dropped the A bomb without sufficient cause.

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