Barack Obama is actually a traditional Chicago politician. He takes large donations from corporate interests. His recent reconversion to the cause of same-sex marriage probably owes more to the potential munificence of gay donors than any deep attachment to civil rights. Nonetheless Obama is very different from the recidivist Jurassic conservatives. The gay marriage issue is emblematic. Heaven knows that, in the land of serial philandering and rich divorce lawyers, heterosexual marriage is a somewhat compromised issue – even discounting Mitt Romney’s polygamous Mormon ancestors. Interestingly, the real die-hard conservatives who bankroll the election campaigns are not socially or religiously conservative all, any more than their neo-conservative chums are. But, between them, they know how to pull the strings of those who are.
It is hardly surprising that they can work this on conservative and evangelical voters when allegedly progressive Americans are prepared to ignore their own collective economic and social interests, and abstain or throw their vote to protest candidates because they see Obama as insufficiently supportive, just as millions on the right will vote against him because they see him as insufficiently fervent against gay marriage or anti-abortion.
Approaching the presidential election, the Supreme Court is pondering the constitutionality of the Obama healthcare bill, and it seems sadly likely that, in the 21st century, they will decide that this faltering step forward into the 20th century is not what the Founding Fathers intended. The conservative majority on the bench looks at the world through a politically expedient prism and, like most Republican legislators, are prepared to exact any price from their fellow citizens in the interests of ensuring the defeat of Obama. One almost has to admire their almost Bolshevik determination of purpose compared with the wobbly Democrats. Ironically, the much-reviled “Obamacare” is modelled on the system introduced by then Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Symptomatic of the conservative success in promoting a fact-thin agenda, opinion polls show that most of the elements of Obamacare enjoy popular support, but that the overall bill has been calumniated into negative ratings. But playing fast and loose with the facts goes naturally with a flexible attitude to history, as was shown when Republicans chased each other baying into the Fox News hole about Obama’s temerity in claiming credit for ordering the assault on Osama bin Laden’s household. Scarcely a single Republican seems to remember President George W Bush, let alone the famous “Mission Accomplished” banner when he landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln – at the beginning of10 years of war in Iraq.
While reality-based voters should accept that a system that insures almost everyone is an advance on one that left more than 40 million people uninsured, some on the American left are as ideologically obsessed as the right – which is why so many find common ground in supporting the derangedly conservative Ron Paul in preference to a President whose signature achievements in bringing millions into the healthcare system and saving large swathes of American industry are so easily overlooked when your vantage point is an ivory tower of political correctness.
A big issue for some on the left, who would have picketed the Normandy landings as foreign intervention, is that Ron Paul is from the isolationist wing of American politics and wants to cut support for Israel. Obama finished combat operations in Iraq and is winding down inAfghanistan . But ideologues would rather be complicit in re-electing the people who started the wars. Millions may die, but the political purity survives intact. On the Middle East, Obama has not shone, despite being a marginal improvement over recent predecessors. But let Benjamin Netanyahu bear oblique witness: his nightmare is a second-term Obama holding his feet to the fire. While the President might not be inspiring, as was said about the United Nations, he might not take us to heaven, but at least he will stop us descending to hell.