The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama's Record … Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him
Let’s cut to the chase. The November 2012 elections will be unlike anything that any of us can remember. It is not just that this will be a close election. It is also not just that the direction of Congress hangs in the balance. Rather, this will be one of the most polarized and critical elections in recent history.
Unfortunately what too few leftists and progressives have been prepared to accept is that the polarization is to a great extent centered on a revenge-seeking white supremacy; on race and the racial implications of the moves to the right in the US political system. It is also focused on a re-subjugation of women, harsh burdens on youth and the elderly, increased war dangers, and reaction all along the line for labor and the working class. No one on the left with any good sense should remain indifferent or stand idly by in the critical need to defeat Republicans this year.
U.S. Presidential elections are not what progressives want them to be
A large segment of what we will call the ‘progressive forces’ in US politics approach US elections generally, and Presidential elections in particular, as if: (1) we have more power on the ground than we actually possess, and (2) the elections are about expressing our political outrage at the system. Both get us off on the wrong foot.
The US electoral system is among the most undemocratic on the planet. Constructed in a manner so as to guarantee an ongoing dominance of a two party duopoly, the US electoral universe largely aims at reducing so-called legitimate discussion to certain restricted parameters acceptable to the ruling circles of the country. Almost all progressive measures, such as Medicare for All or Full Employment, are simply declared ‘off the table.’ In that sense there is no surprise that the Democratic and Republican parties are both parties of the ruling circles, even though they are quite distinct within that sphere.
The nature of the US electoral system--and specifically the ballot restrictions and ‘winner-take-all’ rules within it--encourages or pressures various class fractions and demographic constituency groups to establish elite-dominated electoral coalitions. The Democratic and Republican parties are, in effect, electoral coalitions or party-blocs of this sort, unrecognizable in most of the known universe as political parties united around a program and a degree of discipline to be accountable to it. We may want and fight for another kind of system, but it would be foolish to develop strategy and tactics not based on the one we actually have.
The winner-take-all nature of the system discourages independent political parties and candidacies on both the right and the left. For this reason the extreme right made a strategic decision in the aftermath of the 1964 Goldwater defeat to move into the Republican Party with a long-term objective of taking it over. This was approached at the level of both mass movement building, e.g., anti-busing, anti-abortion, as well as electoral candidacies. The GOP right’s ‘Southern Strategy’ beginning in 1968 largely succeeded in chasing out most of the pro-New Deal Republicans from the party itself, as well as drawing in segregationist Democratic voters in the formerly ‘Solid South.’
Efforts by progressives to realign or shift the Democratic Party, on the other hand, were blunted by the defeat of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964, and later the defeat of the McGovern candidacy in 1972, during which time key elements of the party’s upper echelons were prepared to lose the election rather than witness a McGovern victory. In the 1980s a very different strategy was advanced by Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow insurgencies that aimed at building—at least initially—an independent, progressive organization capable of fielding candidates within the Democratic primaries. This approach—albeit independent of Jackson himself—had an important local victory with the election of Mayor Harold Washington in Chicago. At the national level, however, it ran into a different set of challenges by 1989.