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The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama's Record … Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him

The 2012 election will be one of the most polarized and critical elections in recent history.

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Political misogynism—currently dubbed ‘the war on women’---has been on the rise in the US for some time.  The ‘New Right’ in the 1970s built its base in right-wing churches around the issue in the battles over abortion and reproduction rights, setting the stage for Reagan’s victory.  In the case of 2012, the attacks on Planned Parenthood along with the elitist dismissal of working mothers have been representative of the assertion of male supremacy, even when articulated by women.  This in turn is part of a global assault on women based in various religious fundamentalisms that have become a refuge for economically displaced men and for gender-uncomfortable people across the board.

The attack on ‘slacker,’  ‘criminal’ and ‘over-privileged’ youth, especially among minorities, is actually part of what started to unfold in the anti-healthcare antics of the Tea Party.  Studies of the Tea Party movement have indicated that they have a conceptualization based on the "deserving" and "undeserving" populations.   They and many others on the right are deeply suspicious, if not in outright opposition, to anything that they see as distributing away from them any of their hard-won gains.  They believe that they earned and deserve what they have and that there is an undeserving population, to a great extent youth (but also including other groups), who are looking for handouts. This helps us understand that much of the right-wing populist movement is a generational movement of white baby-boomers and older who see the ship of empire foundering and wish to ensure that they have life preservers, if not life-boats.

The defenders of the 1% are an odd breed.  Obviously that includes the upper crust, but it also includes a social base that believes that the upper crust earned their standing.  Further, this social base believes or wishes to believe that they, too, will end up in that echelon.  Adhering to variations of Reaganism, ‘bootstrapping’ or other such ideologies, they wish to believe that so-called free market capitalism is the eternal solution to all economic problems.  Despite the fact that the Republican economic program is nothing more or less than a retreading of George W. Bush's failed approach, they believe that it can be done differently.

Empire, balance of forces and the lesser of two evils

The choice in November 2012 does not come down to empire vs. no-empire.  While anyone can choose to vote for the Greens or other non-traditional political parties, the critical choice and battleground continues to exist in the context of a two-party system within the declining US empire.  The balance of forces in 2012 is such that those who are arrayed against the empire are in no position to mount a significant electoral challenge on an anti-imperialist platform.

To assume that the November elections are a moment to display our antipathy toward empire, moreover, misses entirely what is unfolding.  This is not a referendum on the “America of Empire”:  it is a referendum pitting the “America of Popular Democracy”—the progressive majority representing the changing demographics of the US and the increasing demands for broad equality and economic relief, especially the unemployed and the elderly—against the forces of unfettered neoliberalism and far right irrationalism.  Obama is the face on the political right’s bull's eye, and stands as the key immediate obstacle to their deeper ambitions.  We, on the left side of the aisle, recognize that he is not our advocate for the 99%.  Yet and quite paradoxically, he is the face that the right is using to mobilize its base behind irrationalism and regression.  

That’s why we argue that Obama's record is really not what is at stake in this election