by Bernard Weiner Ph.D.
As I write this, things are looking good for an Obama victory, perhaps one of huge proportions. But well aware of the GOP's history of massive voter-suppression and voter intimidation (examples of which are in the news each day**), and the below-the-radar vote-counting manipulations, and quite cognizant of the dark strain of racism in American society, I'm not assuming the election's in the bag.
So as the campaigns enter their final week, I thought I'd take a longer view of the political landscape and see what the post-Inauguration future might look like. Short version: Were Obama to emerge victorious, this election could well be transformative in a number of areas beyond the obvious one of celebrating America's rendezvous with history.
NEVER-CEASING GOP CAMPAIGN
Republican leaders are quite aware of this transformative possibility and will do everything between now and next Tuesday to make sure that doesn't happen. But if Obama were to win, even with a blow-out victory, one can safely predict that a President Obama would enjoy no traditional "honeymoon" in his first months in office. The HardRightists, the same ones who have been fighting Obama so viciously and disgracefully during the campaign, are not about to call it quits after November.
Palin got their blood boiling, their prejudices affirmed, their extremism sanctioned. The HardRightists on their way out will not take kindly to being separated from the levers and organ$ of power. They will do everything to ensure that a President Obama will face unwavering attacks from his first day in office. No surrender, no making nice, no civil discourse. This likelihood will be even worse if the Republicans hold on to enough Senate seats to continue filibustering Democratic proposals.
These rightwing forces more or less did the same thing to Bill Clinton right after he assumed the presidency in 1992. From day one, they invented supposed "scandals" one right after the other to upset his momentum, distract him from governance, hope some of the mud would stick; eventually, they even went so far as to get him impeached, thus wrecking any movement of his centrist-liberal agenda throughout much of Clinton's second term. Luckily, the American people widely agreed that the Republicans went way too far in hounding Clinton -- that lying about sex did not rise to the level of impeachable offenses -- and successfully pressured the Senate not to convict.
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HOW REPUBLICAN PARTY COULD SPLIT
It's obvious that if the Republicans are swept badly in both the presidential contest and in the Senate and House next week, there will be major soul-searching within the party, perhaps even a split into two openly warring camps rather than the relatively covert civil war currently being waged, as fingers of blame are being pointed over their current chaotic campaign. It will be the night of the long knives as the two sides try to control the future of the Republican Party.
One camp, more ideological at heart (with Sarah Palin, if she's not indicted in Alaska, playing a key role), will argue that the Republicans lost because they "weren't conservative enough," that they sold out the ideological "purity" of the party by taking wishy-washy stands instead of proudly championing more solidly "conservative" causes. In essence, Palin staffers are starting to propound this case and, at least according to key McCain staffers, who have referred to Palin as a "diva" who is shedding her McCain minders and going "rogue," she can be expected to strike out even more on her own along these extreme lines. You betcha.
The other camp, the more pragmatic-realist side (with perhaps a key role played by Colin Powell), will argue that the voters are telling the GOP loudly and clearly that Rove's narrow, base-oriented political strategy doesn't work anymore. The Republicans, they will say, blew their opportunity by going too far to the right and, in so doing, took the country into an unwinnable war, wrecked the economy and risked destroying the party. An obtuse McCain, full of himself and his biography, made no changes from that base-only strategy. To regain power, these traditional-conservative critics might argue, the GOP has to distance itself from the extremists and neo-cons, jettison the smear-politics, and move closer to the Republican Party's moderate locus.
In this scenario, the Democrats would rule from the center-left, and the Republicans, to be competitive, would have to offer a more center-right agenda, resting on a conservative ideology but made more palatable to an American citizenry that eschews extremism and hovers mostly around the middle.
It's not likely but it is possible that the competing Republican wings will be unable to find a way of sharing power, the result being two distinct political entities, perhaps with the extreme rightwingers joining forces with all sorts of fringe parties and groups.
HOW THE DEMOCRATS COULD SPLIT
If Obama carries his party to victory, especially so if the Democrats sweep both the House and Senate, the new president might well be able to pass significant changes in laws from the CheneyBush years, dealing with tax-reform, education and health care, as well as restoring respect for Constitutional protections and starting the withdrawal from Iraq, etc.
But if Obama were to be aced out of the presidency due to clear illegalities and outright theft of the election -- being the third Democrat to be so denied under suspicius circumstances in just a few years -- the despair and anger unleashed would be incalcuable. Talk about "revolution" and/or leaving the country might suddenly become very real for many. This would especially be the case if the "losing" candidate and the Dems hadn't put up a fight in the courts for an honest, transparent recount in states where the evidence of electoral fraud is widespread.
Internally, there would be major blood-letting and transformation of the Democratic Party. As with the Republicans, the Dems might well carry out a political civil war between two opposing camps.
One can well imagine that the more centrist/party establishment camp would think long and hard before nominating another African-American as its standard-bearer. They would look for a plain vanilla, non-controversial candidate, one willing to compromise principles and imitate what the successful Republicans do. GOP lite, in other words.
The more progressive wing of the party might well argue that the party "lost" because it moved away from its traditional Democratic values and principles in a desire to make itself more palatable to Independents and wayward Republicans. In other words, because it "wasn't liberal enough."
As speculated above with regard to the Republicans, it's possible but not likely that the fractured Democratic Party could split into two openly warring political entities, with the progressives, for example, attempting to make an alliance with the Greens, Naderites and disaffected moderate Republicans under a new party banner.
THE APPEARANCE OF SEMI-"SOCIALISM"
But regardless of who is installed in the White House in January, one thing is clear: American capitalism's financial and social/political system, which has undergone enormous shocks in the past few months, may never revert back to the status quo ante.
The clearest signs of this transformative shift:
1. George W. Bush and Henry Paulson, true believers in unregulated free-market capitalism, overnight became semi-"socialist" in behavior. Reality made it necessary for them to compromise their free-market ideology and partially nationalize banks and giant financial institutions. A monumental catastrophe does that to you. You can't return to the conservative shibboleths that clearly had failed.
2. Alan Greenspan, the grand doyen behind the American economy for nearly four decades, admitted in public testimony before Congress that the laissez-faire deregulation philosopy that has guided his life is badly flawed. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank said the current economic meltdown in the U.S., which has now spread its major recession all over the globe, rested on faulty "models." He was shocked, shocked!, to learn this. We're supposed to believe that the possibility of widespread failure of those greed-at-any-price models never occurred to him. Right.
Those "models," which were pushed by far-right conservative thinkers like Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, derived from an ideological belief that a free market always corrects its excesses, thus keeping the dread hand of government off the financial tiller. Now, Greenspan admits, there appears to be a necessary role for government regulation when banks and other financial institutions don't act in their own self-interest. It's still "SELF-interest," you see, since the Randian conservatives, of which Greenspan is one, refuse to recognize the concept of a "PUBLIC interest."
REGULATION NECESSARY FOR SURVIVAL
Given the complexities associated with a global economy, and the unsupervised power of financial entities to do harm to themselves and others, in a sense it doesn't really matter whether it's McCain or Obama in the Oval Office. Both would have to concern themselves with righting the ship of state and the financial institutions that keep it stable and functioning. Doing so requires government oversight and regulation of the giant corporate and financial behemoths. In short, America will become, to a greater or lesser degree -- with enough greed-loopholes built into the new system to satisfy the Wall Street elites -- a distinctly American variant of the "social democracies" in Europe.
Even McCain now realizes the necessity for action in this direction; Obama would be more amenable to the kind of regulatory change that will be required, and might even borrow other ideas and policies from FDR's Great Depression/"New Deal" era in the 1930s, such as temporary, government-sponsored jobs programs that would quickly pump money back into the economy from the bottom up.
What's taking place right before our eyes is a seismic shift of tectonic economic plates in America, with all sorts of transformative implications to society, the economy, the political parties themselves. We are in for mighty interesting times in the decades ahead.
THE ATTACK ON SYRIA
These times have become all the more interesting because, as I write this, the CheneyBush Administration has attacked yet another country: It sent four helicopters, two of them full of special forces commandoes -- that is to say, U.S. troops on the ground -- to shoot up a construction sight in Syria a few miles from the Iraq border, killing eight. The action is less surprising than the timing, a week before a presidential election.
I think one has to interpret the action in light of that timing as possibly a way to change the headlines and focus as McCain's chances grow slimmer, a way to highlight the "national security" issue that supposedly helps McCain, a way to make sure a President Obama would be locked into even more foreign-policy messes. Maybe all three at once. No doubt, more will be revealed in the coming days. These guys are desperate and will try anything.#
**Hundreds of thousands, maybe several million, Democratic-leaning voters have been and are being purged from voting rolls; Bush has ordered the DoJ to start a "voter-fraud" investigation in Ohio, even in the face of a Supreme Court ruling ordering regular voting protocols (rather than provisional ballots) to proceed for the 200,000 citizens involved; there are numerous cases of "vote-flipping" in various states on touch-screen voting machines; there are all kinds of voter-intimidation tactics being rolled out in various states, including attempts to keep college students from voting; and one can anticipate what happened in 2004, when just a few days before the voting, the Rove forces launched a massive "robocall" operation around the country supposedly coming from Dem campaigns, re-calling again and again at all hours of the day and night, in order to annoy and anger voters enough that they might decide not to vote Democratic. "Grand Theft Robo."
Bernard Weiner, in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: email@example.com .
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