I'm arguing all over the place this week about the upcoming election. But no matter how clearly I make my points there still seems to be a basic misunderstanding as to what it's all about. I feel like I'm speaking a different language to people who ought to know just what I'm talking about. After all, we agree on almost every issue. Why can't we synchronize our understanding of the election?
So this is an effort to unify a liberal-left perspective between these two differing points of view that could maybe put us on the same page. I will start by asking for concessions from both sides. First as a pro-Nader third party advocate I freely confess that I would prefer that Barack Obama defeat John McCain in this election. I want to completely disavow any notion that I am indifferent to another Republican administration or that there is no difference between the two parties.
Shouldn't that then make the scenario simple? If I prefer a president Obama over a president McCain shouldn't I just vote for Obama? This storyline gets stronger every day for voters across the country as the Republicans' policies and McCain's campaign sink to lower and lower depths. Won't a massive outpouring of support for Obama create clarity in our political environment that will only lead to the resolution of our problems?
This is where I would like an honest concession from Obama supporters. No matter how likeable the man and no matter how strongly he is trending, the political situation in this country is not simple at all. This lack of clarity stems directly from the flaws in the Democratic Party and in Obama's positions that we ought to be able to talk honestly about.
I could run down the list of issues on which I disagree with Barack Obama, but perhaps more helpful would be a list of things that we progressive voters agree on. Most of us on the left agree that the Iraq war has been a terrible mistake for our country and that whatever our feelings about the occasional necessity of war, in the main we abhor it and don't want it to be an institutionalized part of our foreign policy.
We also agree that our economy has been headed in the wrong direction for years, that jobs should stop moving off-shore, that regulation is an important part of maintaining a functioning financial sector, that tax-payer money should not go toward bailing out billionaires and that we need a fair and progressive tax structure. We probably agree that our environment is at a critical stage and that we need to move aggressively toward sustainable, clean energy sources and that industry should not be allowed to undermine the foundation of our very existence. I would expect too that we agree that all Americans should have the right to quality healthcare and we need to slow the growth of these expenditures. These are areas that we would all like to see movement on under an Obama administration.
But I would stress to progressive voters that if you look at the root cause of each of these problems you will find a single culprit. And that is the disproportionate influence of powerful, corporate interests over our government and public institutions. We can admit this right? The military industrial complex is no secret, is it? It drives imperial expansionism and the metastasizing defense budget.
We know that our media is largely owned by these defense industries and other corporations and they control and manipulate the information that goes out to the masses of people. We know that Wall Street is the biggest contributor to both Republican and Democratic campaigns and this is what led to the deregulation and the tax cuts for the wealthy and the gutting of worker rights and NAFTA and neoliberalism. It's clear that the corporate drive for short-term profit is what keeps us from saving the planet and as long as these profit driven entities are in control of our government the quality of our environment will continue to deteriorate.
We surely ought to know that fortunes are being made in the health insurance industry and these corporations are strengthening their positions by giving large donations and opening the door for the ill-conceived and ill-fated HCAN/Obama health plan. Progressives have to be aware of all of these things and that the Democrats are not going to delivery us from this corporate corruption because they are up to their necks in it just as the Republicans are.
It can't be news that we have not only endured eight years of the worst president in American history but also eight years of the worst opposition party in American history. The Democrats could have drawn a line at any point against Bush's disastrous policies and they failed to do so with stunning consistency. From the Patriot Act through the Iraq war resolution to telecom immunity, to the suspension of habeus corpus, leading inexorably to the Wall Street bailout, the Democrats have proved themselves either unmitigated cowards or criminal accessories to Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors.
It cannot be controversial to say that on each of these issues, Barack Obama, who we all hope will be the next president, has sent unequivocal signals that he stands for continued corporate hegemony. On the imperial military he stands for increased funds and continued occupations. On the new economy he has received the most support of any candidate from Wall Street. In healthcare he is prepared to give the insurance companies what they want- continued control and taxpayer dollars. And on the environment, as much as he is signaling a new direction from government, it should be clear that he has few plans to actually confront the entrenched powers that are destroying the planet.
So we can see that the bottom line of this election hinges on two undeniable yet conflicting truths: that Obama has to win and that both he and his party are fatally flawed as agents of redemption. We have to not only reconcile this paradox in our minds, but reconcile it in our strategies for bringing about the changes that we all want.
We have to start then by recognizing that we are in a good position because the first of these imperatives is very nearly realized. Barack Obama will be the next president. So we are free then to begin addressing the second part of our quandary. And the best way to do this is to deliver a strong qualification to his mandate.
If progressive voices make themselves invisible in a mass pro-Obama turnout then they will be at the back of line when it comes to influencing the new president. I shouldn't have to tell you who will be at the front of the line- the same corporations who have pulled the strings in American politics for years. The belief that Obama needs a resounding mandate in order to govern wisely is absolutely misplaced. Such a mandate will only strengthen his ability to pursue those policies that he has talked about in his campaign that we know are wrong and go against the wishes of his constituents. As intelligent, likable and honorable as he may be, he is still prone to arrogance and reliance on establishment advisors.
I admit that for many, perhaps the bulk of Americans who are fed up with the direction our country has taken, this is too complicated a formula to undertake. Also, anyone unwilling to admit to the shortcomings of their beloved candidate should probably content themselves with the simple storyline that I started out with-- you want Obama to be president? So, vote for Obama.
But anyone with the presence of mind to be aware of the inherent paradox of electing an unreformed Democratic party to power, should in all conscience be willing to put themselves on the line. We have to create a counter-mandate to business as usual. A solid Obama win with a significant third party turnout will deliver this message perfectly. There's no reason to prophesize failure for Obama's presidency. I hope he's the best president we've ever had. But it's not going to happen without strong consistent pressure from a vocal, engaged progressive movement. There's nothing to be gained from going easy on the Democrats and everything to be gained from giving them hell.