It’s true that many issues of fundamental importance have been absent from this election—from catastrophic climate change and staggering rates of poverty to the militarization of foreign policy and the continued growth of the national security state. Their omission has been enabled to a degree by the Republican Party’s rightward lurch, as well as the Romney team’s recurring gaffes and its naked hostility to vast sectors of the American electorate. As a result, the president has been successful, so far, in running a campaign that appeals to key progressive constituencies (women, Latinos, LGBT people) but without the broad call for change that distinguished his 2008 election.The World Socialist Web Site, in its own way, also reassures libertarian-leaning members of the Republican coalition.
As such, we have no illusions about the audacity of hope, no faith that the re-election of President Obama alone will accomplish the radical change this magazine has championed. For America to be on a different path in 2016 from that of 2012, progressive movements will have to “occupy” all the levers of power—in Washington, in the states and in the streets. Most immediately, that means strengthening the progressive coalition in Congress that includes Senators Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders, who are up for re-election, and adding crusaders like Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren to the mix. More important, progressive movements can’t be lulled into complacency once the election is over and expect elected officials to make change from above.
Behind the sophistry and lies, the arguments of the Nation boil down to insisting that it is necessary to support Obama to ensure the gains of “progressives.” As one of the writers puts it, “A GOP victory robs us of the oxygen required to grow deeper and broader roots for the progressive movement.”A splenetic National Review writer couldn't put it any better. It's likely, though, that the Socialist Equality Party pundits do not see in the Tea Party the independent working class movement they seek.
What is this “progressive movement?” There are real social interests involved, but they have nothing to do with the working class.
TheNation speaks for a layer of the upper-middle class that has done quite well under Obama—sections of the trade union bureaucracy, tenured professors at elite universities, well-paid journalists in the orbit of the political establishment and employed by Democratic Party think tanks, better-off sections of minority populations. Obama has offered them “space,” soliciting their services in policing the working class and maintaining the political order.
They are upset at the prospect of a Romney victory, but not because of Romney’s viciously anti-working class agenda, which Obama shares. Rather, they are concerned about their own positions and privileges, which are linked to the fortunes of the Democratic Party.
In the end, the anti-working class and militarist policies of the Obama administration are not disappointments at all. The writers of the Nation are far more concerned about the danger of an independent movement of the working class than they are about wage cutting, unemployment and attacks on education and health care.A cynic could argue that the Democratic nachalstvo have benefitted from precisely those social policies that keep the poor and uneducated poor and uneducated, in order to preserve their authority in the social service agencies and in education, never mind that the Republican nachalstvo thus get failing schools, decaying cities, and an unproductive work force to gripe about.
The upper-middle class layers for which the Nation speaks are sensitive to the potential for a movement from below, outside of the Democratic Party, which would threaten their own social and political position. Their social grievances, and their opposition to the Republicans, reflect dissatisfaction with the distribution of wealth within the top 10 percent, not the lowering of the living standards of the bottom 60 percent. They exclude any genuinely popular and democratic alternative to the two-party system—that is, a socialist alternative.
The elections—an undemocratic and highly manipulated contest between two right-wing representatives of the American financial oligarchy—do present workers and young people with a real choice. But it is not, as the Nation would have it, between the “lesser of two evils.”