Barack Obama has won a second term in the White House after one of the longest, gruelling, and most expensive presidential campaigns in US history.
Though he lost support among white working class males in this election a progressive coalition of Black, Hispanic, the young, and women voters cemented his victory, especially in those all-important battleground states that were at the heart of both candidates’ campaigns in the final few weeks.
The manner of Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy gave his campaign an unintended but significant boost at a time when some polls had Romney edging ahead. The endorsements the president received over his handling of the disaster by in particular the Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was probably worth more than a month of campaign ads to the Obama campaign when it came to winning many of those crucial swing votes.
The deep polarisation that cleaves US society ensures that presidential elections have become increasingly akin to battles between the New Testament and Old Testament, with the opportunity and potential for consensus across the aisle wishful thinking. In his first term the obstructionist stance of a Republican controlled congress after the mid term elections left Obama unable to carry forward many of the reforms and policies he’d based his presidency on, illustrating the essential weakness of a democratic system monopolised by vested and corporate interests.
Moreover, the Supreme Court victory of Citizens United v Federal Electoral Commission in 2010 over the issue of campaign finance, touched on by Andy Newman in a previous article, effectively granting corporations the same right to free expression as people, amounts to a corruption of the very word democracy. It ensures that political office is bought and paid for in a way it isn’t in any other western democracy. The result has been the emergence of superPACS, independent political committees that deliver anonymous and unlimited financial support to political candidates.
Obama’s most significant decision when first elected in 2008 was to demobilise the massive grassroots base of volunteers that had largely been responsible for propelling him into office. As a result he quickly moved from being a change and populist candidate into just another machine politician, absent of the political support required to implement the meaningful reforms in Washington he’d pledged before taking office. Many on the left and in progressive circles were no doubt blinded by the fact he was the first viable black candidate for office, in the process projecting progressive credentials onto him that were unrealistic. Barack Obama is and has always been a centrist.
No matter, his repeated campaign boast of having saved the US auto industry and the millions of jobs involved with an $80 billion bailout package in 2009 is no idle one. It was a brave and a bold decision in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, flying in the face of three decades of neoliberal economics. At the time, according to a Pew Research poll, 54 percent of Americans did not support it.
US automotive industry expert Maryann Keller said of the bailout: “It had to be fast; it was ugly, and they certainly didn’t play by the rules of who are the preferred creditors. On the other hand, they saved the industry.”
A Pew poll this year recorded that 56 percent of respondents approved of the Obama bailout of the auto industry and considered it good for the US economy. GM and Chrysler are now in profit and the US auto industry has turned around.
For this and the fact that Romney ran on an avowedly anti-organized labour platform, the unions had much at stake in this election. As a consequence Obama’s victory will be seen as a victory for them and their millions of members, who would otherwise be facing a bleak future today.
Obamacare, as the president’s healthcare reforms have come to be known, falls short of the kind of government funded single payer system that bespeaks a civilised society. It continues to ensure billions in profits for the insurance industry and private healthcare providers, but it does preserve Medicare and Medicaid, and it does ensure that no one is deprived coverage due to pre-existing conditions, as was the case under the previous system.
When it comes to international issues, there is no doubt that Obama’s re-election will have met with considerable relief in places like Iran, Cuba, China, and Russia. Even with the crimes committed by the Obama administration, specifically with the ramping up of drone attacks against targets in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, costing the lives of around 9,000 people during his first term, the idea that there would be little difference if Romney had been elected is simply not credible.
Romney’s statements of intent when it came to the issue of Iran in particular, which if elected and if implemented would have amounted to a resurrection the era of the unilateral deployment of hard power that defined the Bush era, were reason enough to support Obama’s re-election. It is also significant that the political right in Israel, headed by Netanyahu, were hoping for a Romney White House.
To be President of the United States is to preside over a global empire that has its own dynamic and momentum. No one could ever hope to get elected to the White House who does not unequivocally support the logic and imperatives of empire as the very essence of US exceptionalism. The historic low level of class consciousness prevalent in the country is a product of the compelling mythology of the American dream and land of the free ethos. Feeding an apotheosis of individualism, both have proved an historic bulwark against the threat of a counter-hegemonic narrative of class and class-based ideology within the United States, even during periods of extreme economic hardship as now.
Regardless, the United States is a declining superpower, one that will increasingly become reliant on its overwhelming military might to maintain its global hegemony as its economy loses ground in the years ahead. For this and the other aforementioned factors the logic of lesser evilism is inescapable when it comes to any US presidential election.
This is why Obama’s victory should be welcomed by progressives and socialists not only in the United States but around the world.