Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
MARX: A HERO FOR OUR TIME? — Suddenly, everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Rolling Stone seems to be talking about Karl Marx. Louis Proyect delves into this mysterious resurgence, giving a vivid assessment of Marx’s relevance in the era of globalized capitalism. THE MEANING OF MANDELA: Longtime civil rights organizer Kevin Alexander Gray gives in intimate portrait of Nelson Mandela and the global struggle of racial justice. FALLOUT OVER FUKUSHIMA: Peter Lee investigates the scandalous exposure of sailors on board the USS Reagan to radioactive fallout from Fukushima. SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT: Kim Nicolini charts the rise of Matthew McConaughey. PLUS: Mike Whitney on the coming crash of the housing market. JoAnn Wypijewski on slavery, torture and revolt. Chris Floyd on the stupidity of US policy in Ukraine. Kristin Kolb on musicians and health care. And Jeffrey St. Clair on life and death on the mean streets of an America in decline
Life and Politics in the One-Party State

Election Over, But Fear and Loathing Continues

by JIM SMITH

There is no joy in Whiteville, tonight — the mighty Mitt has struck out.

Across America there are roving gangs of white men, disappointed, angered and on a rampage, after the defeat of their champion, Mitt Romney, and the greater defeat of their nostalgic vision of the country.

They were defeated by a skinny defender of the castle-on-the-hill, which is mostly in shambles, supported by his everyman, Joe, and legions of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, immigrants, gays, and the disabled.

The contrast couldn’t have been more stark, November 6, as the TV cameras panned the audiences at Mitt’s concession speech and Barack’s victory celebration. Romney spoke to an oh-so-white audience, while Obama’s cheering supporters were a rainbow of races and nationalities.

If Obama was a white man he would have won in a landslide. Racism and prejudices of all kinds are rampant on this land.

And yet, Obama didn’t so much win as Romney lost. A better candidate (without the constant smirk), if the Republicans had one, could have pushed into the lead in razor-close states like Florida, Virginia and Ohio. Those three, in which Obama eked out a victory with margins of 50,000, 115,000 and 100,000 votes, respectively, plus one more close state like Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin or New Hampshire, would have changed the outcome.

Voting for War and Austerity

Will the Real Barack Obama please stand up? Will he lead from the left or from the right in his second term? It doesn’t look good, if you read between the lines. The corporate media pundits are urging that he “reach across the aisle,” and compromise. Problem is, the other aisle is made up of raving corporate shills who want an austerity budget which cuts social programs while protecting the Pentagon.

During the campaign Obama hinted that raising the age for Medicare eligibility would be all right with him. Leftists, on the other hand, have been calling for Medicare coverage for all, regardless of age. Social Security cost-of-living increases may also be approved for reduction. For some time, the propaganda machine has been spewing out incorrect factoids that both Social Security and Medicare are going broke, while ignoring the simple fix of deducting FICA from the paychecks of all wage earners, regardless of income.

The President has already shown that there will be no decrease in aggressive U.S. military moves. Already on Nov. 7, a drone attacked a village in Yemen killing two or three people and injuring several others including a child (http://bit.ly/pnLj30). There have been hundreds of drone attacks during Obama’s first term which have reportedly killed thousands of people, including children, in at least three sovereign countries. This is a clear and serious violation of international law.

It’s not likely that there will be any mercy extended to political prisoners like Leonard Peltier or Bradley Manning, nor any mercy to the 7,225,800 Americans under “correctional supervision.” Judging from past practice, Obama is likely to sic the DEA on residents of Washington state and Colorado, who have just voted to end the war on cannabis.

During and after World War II, the notion of German Collective Guilt, or reponsibility, gained widespread acceptance in Allied countries. Did Germans share guilt in the crimes of the Nazis either by voting for them or otherwise showing support? And if so, do Americans share guilt or reponsibility when voting for candidates of the major parties who are known to, or expected to, conduct illegal acts against other countries and peoples? Is the act of voting an endorsement of the policies, legal or illegal, of the candidate?

Mr. Lucky

Barack Obama has got to be one of the luckiest politicians who ever lived, or else magic is involved. His first campaign, in 1995, was for an Illinois Senate seat. As luck would have it, the incumbent Alice Palmer failed to file sufficient petition signatures to qualify for the ballot. Obama won against token opposition. He was reelected twice with only token, or no opposition.

Obama’s mojo failed him only once. In 2000, he challenged incumbent Democrat Bobby Rush for his Congressional seat. Rush, a founder of the Chicago Black Panthers and a genuine progressive, attached Obama from the left and won in a landslide. Rush is still in the House of Representatives. Obama had to remain in the State Senate until 2004.

In that year, the Republican incumbent in the U.S. Senate, Peter Fitzgerald, decided not to run for reelection. His immediate Democratic predecessor, Carol Moseley Braun, also decided not to run. Obama won the Democratic primary against lesser-known candidates with 52 percent, with the help of campaign aide David Axelrod.

The spooky stuff took place in the general election. The Republican candidate was a wealthy former Goldman Sachs investment banker and “moderate,” Jack Ryan. During the campaign, Ryan’s child custody records were released by court order. They revealed that Ryan had pressured his wife, Jeri Ryan (who played “Seven of Nine” in Star Trek: Voyager) to have public sex at various sex clubs in Europe and the U.S. Ryan resigned from the campaign. Republicans imported right-winger Alan Keyes from Maryland to replace him. Obama won with 70 per cent of the vote.

Three years later, the half-term Senator decided that he should become President. His only real obstacle was former First Lady and New York Senator, Hillary Clinton, who felt she was anointed to be the President. The two candidate fought doggedly. It was Obama’s first real fight for nomination since he had unsuccessfully taken on Bobby Rush eight years ago. Obama led a nearly flawless campaign machine while Clinton had constant problems with staff and spouse.

The rest is history. Like boxer Joe Lewis’ “bum of the month” matches, Obama has taken on two lackluster Republicans, John McCain and Willard “Mitt” Romney, whose views are to the right of most Americans. Meanwhile, Obama’s left flank has been secure thanks to restrictive laws against third parties.

If You’re White, You’re Right (Politically Speaking)

I’d like to write that the Republican Party has become a relic of history, but their failure in this election year was mainly the failure of Romney to be credible. He almost pulled it off in the first debate, but he soon lapsed back into his role of corporate raider.

Romney wasn’t the only embarrassment, or anywhere near the worst in the Republican Party. That title would belong to the two Republican senatorial candidates, Todd Aiken (Missouri) and Richard Mourdock (Indiana), who turned victory into defeat with one unredeemable sentence each about rape.

Things won’t get better for the Republican Party in 2014 or 2016. White men will be an increasingly smaller share of the electorate. The Republicans must long for the good ole days when only white men were allowed to vote. If that were true today, Romney would have won by 62 percent, according to exit polling.

On the other hand, people of color voted for Obama by huge margins. For instance, Black women voted by 96 percent to 3 percent for Obama over Romney.

What if the Republican Party fails to attract another Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower? What if it is unable to widen its base because it continues to hold onto 19th Century dogma?

If the Republicans fade to insignificance in the next few years, will we lose even the facade of democracy and be left with just one party? Unlike the 1850s when the Republican Party grew to major party status and elected Abraham Lincoln to the presidency (against three major opponents), there is no easy path for a third party to grow to major party status.

The Duopoly has closed the door to real opposition by another party. The presidential debates are controlled by the two parties, state legislatures have made it increasing difficult to get on the ballot, the equal time requirement on TV and radio has been ruled null and void, and the flood gates for contributions by corporations and secret donors have been opened wide.

According to OpenSecrets.org, both Obama and Romney spent around one billion dollars in their campaigns. By contrast, Libertarian Gary Johnson spent two million dollars and Green Jill Stein spent one million. Other candidates spent less. The big money comes from Wall Street, military contractors and assorted billionaires. They don’t want to spend on candidates having little chance of success. and they certainly don’t want to contribute to candidates who are anti-corporate, or for drastic cuts in the military budget.

A One-Party State?

If we are to avoid becoming a one-party state in America, election laws must be revamped to create a level playing field. In the November 6 voting returns, the top five candidates were Obama, Romney, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr. All of them should have been in the debates.

Public funding of campaigns combined with free air time for candidates might convince the Supreme Court that free speech is being upheld. It would also give Americans a political education they have been lacking. A federal law setting out reasonable rules for how candidates achieve ballot status in all 50 states seems reasonable when it comes to federal offices such as President, Senate and the House.

After trying out democracy for a while, we might even want to incorporate structures that most other democracies have, including proportional representation and a parliamentary system.

Jim Smith is a 25-year union organizer and leader who has spent the last 10 years as a collective member of the non-profit Free Venice Beachhead newspaper, one of the last underground newspapers in the country.