US Midterms: hopeless Obama and the democratic deficit
As Obama’s democrats face defeat in congressional elections hope has turned to hopelessness
Mark Twain once said: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress”. Some might widen this to politicians in general. However, it is Congressional elections that feature in the first week of November 2010.
During campaigning President Obama said: “Just like you did in 2008, you can defy the conventional wisdom, the kind that says you can’t overcome cynicism in politics, you can’t overcome the special interests…you can’t elect a skinny guy with a funny name to the US Senate or the presidency.”
But cynicism, anger and apathy are the most palpable features of this campaign.
It is said the higher you fly, the harder you fall. None flew higher than President Obama, in terms of the hope he inspired and the expectations he fostered two years ago. Pre-election polls indicate a severe defeat for the Democrats. But what has been more spectacular has been the bursting of the Obama bubble.
Obama’s rhetorical ability to inspire, his silvery, slippery word are what won him support and praise two years ago. Now his ‘yes we can’ is ridiculed as it has become ‘yes we can, but…’.
There are reasons for this, and here are just some:
- As we said in 2008 – America is not one man, it is its institutions and values. One man, no matter how much he promises you (and he will promise you the earth if he thinks it will get him elected in a democracy) can change that fact. Those who kid themselves in elections that the new lot must be better than the last lot fail to understand this fact. In Britain they deluded themselves that Cameron and the Lib Dems offered hope of change. What they learned was that the new lot were every bit as two-faced, and hypocritical as the last lot.
- His focus on the domestic agenda has been dominated by the economic crisis. This has now started to bite in terms of standards of living in the USA. And no amount of flowery rhetoric will make a man who has lost his job feel inspired – especially when the bankers continue to make profits. Yet, the fundamental problem is that Obama cannot fix Capitalism. It is the inherent instability and injustice of the system that is causing suffering and tweaking with policies won’t change that.
- Some of the talk is that he will shift his focus on foreign policy. However, a writer at an influential think tank even proposed this: I am arguing the following. First, Obama will be paralyzed on domestic policies by this election. He can craft a re-election campaign blaming the Republicans for gridlock… The other option for Obama is to look for triumph in foreign policy where he has a weak hand. The only obvious way to achieve success that would have a positive effect on the U.S. strategic position is to attack Iran. Such an attack would have substantial advantages and very real dangers…I am saying that, at this moment in history, given the domestic gridlock that appears to be in the offing, a shift to a foreign policy emphasis makes sense, Obama needs to be seen as an effective commander in chief and Iran is the logical target.It is obscene that commentators can be so frank as to suggest that leaders could consider attacking another country for domestic political advantage. However, that is the way they work in the west, and should not surprise anyone. Remember, Obama is the man who followed his charm offensive to the Muslim world with killing 1000 civilians in Pakistan using unmanned drone aircraft.
- Linked to this, the short-termism of Democratic electoral politics means governments do not take the difficult and unpopular decisions which maybe the correct policy for fear of losing votes.Obama once described democratic America as the last best hope for mankind on earth. What he has learned is that his last best hope is little hope for its people, and even less for the rest of the world.