What the 2012 Election Was ... and Wasn't

by Dennis Loo

Most of the commentary about Obama’s re-election and the defeat of some of the most reactionary GOP incumbents and candidates such as Rep. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock has been about how the GOP is demographically and ideologically far too right wing for the majority in the electorate.

And this much is true: the election returns do show a repudiation by the majority of the anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science and global warming, anti-marijuana, anti-union, anti-social safety net, anti-rationalist Republican Party.

The GOP is going to have an internal battle over what direction it’s going to take, with the realists among them (i.e., the ones who can count) saying that the party has to change its anti-immigrant, pro-rape stance if it wants to avoid becoming a fringe party unable to take the White House. I can hardly wait for the bloodletting to occur.

But what the election wasn’t is much more important than delighting in the internecine battles within the Party of Utmost Privilege.

The election isn’t going to lead to Obama halting his plan to privatize and reduce core elements of the New Deal, particularly Medicare and Social Security. It’s not going to lead to any less bellicose a foreign policy or a more civil-liberties-and-due-process friendly president: within hours of being re-elected, Obama celebrated with another drone attack on Yemen.

When it comes to New Deal programs, Obama has made it clear that his plan is to privatize and reduce the benefits of Medicare and Social Security, even if he has made sweeping statements fit for political campaigning that he believes that government should help people and that he stands against the Republicans’ aggressive attacks on the social safety net. Those Obama promises are really posturing for electoral effect by a master politician.

Glenn Greenwald predicted today in the Guardian that this attack on the social safety net will come quite soon under Obama:

[T]he political leader in whose triumph liberals are today ecstatically basking is likely to target their most cherished government policies within a matter of weeks, even days. With their newly minted power, will they have any ability, or even will, to stop him? If history is any indication, this is how this "fight" will proceed:

STEP ONE: Liberals will declare that cutting social security and Medicare benefits – including raising the eligibility age or introducing "means-testing" – are absolutely unacceptable, that they will never support any bill that does so no matter what other provisions it contains, that they will wage war on Democrats if they try.

STEP TWO: As the deal gets negotiated and takes shape, progressive pundits in Washington, with Obama officials persuasively whispering in their ear, will begin to argue that the proposed cuts are really not that bad, that they are modest and acceptable, that they are even necessary to save the programs from greater cuts or even dismantlement.

STEP THREE: Many progressives – ones who are not persuaded that these cuts are less than draconian or defensible on the merits – will nonetheless begin to view them with resignation and acquiescence on pragmatic grounds. Obama has no real choice, they will insist, because he must reach a deal with the crazy, evil GOP to save the economy from crippling harm, and the only way he can do so is by agreeing to entitlement cuts. It is a pragmatic necessity, they will insist, and anyone who refuses to support it is being a purist, unreasonably blind to political realities, recklessly willing to blow up Obama's second term before it even begins.

STEP FOUR: The few liberal holdouts, who continue to vehemently oppose any bill that cuts social security and Medicare, will be isolated and marginalized, excluded from the key meetings where these matters are being negotiated, confined to a few MSNBC appearances where they explain their inconsequential opposition.

STEP FIVE: Once a deal is announced, and everyone from Obama to Harry Reid and the DNC are behind it, any progressives still vocally angry about it and insisting on its defeat will be castigated as ideologues and purists, compared to the Tea Party for their refusal to compromise, and scorned (by compliant progressives) as fringe Far Left malcontents.

STEP SIX: Once the deal is enacted with bipartisan support and Obama signs it in a ceremony, standing in front of his new Treasury Secretary, the supreme corporatist Erskine Bowles, where he touts the virtues of bipartisanship and making "tough choices", any progressives still complaining will be told that it is time to move on. Any who do not will be constantly reminded that there is an Extremely Important Election coming – the 2014 midterm – where it will be Absolutely Vital that Democrats hold onto the Senate and that they take over the House. Any progressive, still infuriated by cuts to social security and Medicare, who still refuses to get meekly in line behind the Party will be told that they are jeopardizing the Party's chances for winning that Vital Election and – as a result of their opposition - are helping Mitch McConnell take over control of the Senate and John Boehner retain control of the House.

On the foreign policy front I’m going to cite another Greenwald article that he wrote on October 23, 2012. In it he highlights what has happened to Democratic Party partisans and more broadly to those who still support the Democrats as a result of Obama’s leadership.

When host Joe Scarborough raised the criticism on his show Scarborough Country on October 23, 2012 that Obama’s drone attacks are killing a lot of innocents, including 4 year old children, guest Joe Klein, Time Magazine’s political columnist, an ardent Obama partisan, defended the drone attacks with these words:

“the bottom line in the end is - whose 4-year-old get killed? What we're doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror."

Whose 4-year-old gets killed? This stunningly naked xenophobic and reactionary statement by Joe Klein topped an earlier comment of his in this same show in which he described the virtue of drone warfare:

KLEIN: It has been remarkably successful" --

SCARBOROUGH: "at killing people" –

KLEIN: "At decimating bad people, taking out a lot of bad people - and saving Americans lives as well, because our troops don't have to do this . . . You don't need pilots any more because you do it with a joystick in California."

This is one of the most prominent political columnists in America speaking, an ardent Democratic supporter: “You don’t need pilots anymore because you do it with a joystick in California.”

This is what Obama has done. When he talks about the American family that sticks together he means that Americans should stick together - 4-year-olds, siblings and their parents, white, black, Latino, Asian, Native Americans - to kill 4-year-olds of other lands, murdered by Americans in sunny California wielding joysticks, raining death from above, aware only that the shadows they see falling under the drone attacks are not 4-year-old Americans. This is the harsh reality of this American president's soaring rhetoric. This is what happens when the Bush policies are not repudiated and electoral answers – i.e., electing Obama – instead of a people’s movement for impeachment movement are chosen.

This is what American leadership, whether Democratic or Republican, means. This is not the triumph of a center-left coalition. This is the sobering and deeply disturbing truth that we dare not ignore.

This article originally appeared on dennisloo.com on November 7, 2012.

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