In the face of an unrelenting and unprecedented war of attrition by Republicans on Capitol Hill, Obama does have some solid achievements. In the fuzzy logic of political calculus, the President eschews grandstanding about what he has done, not least since, when outwitting your somewhat dim opponents, it is not clever to explain your tricks.
Apart from the healthcare bill that, despite its faults, infuriates the GOP to the extent that it tries to repeal it on a weekly basis, the last budget compromise possibly saved the world economy by smuggling in a stimulus package whose passage was dependent on it not appearing as such.
That has been good in terms of pragmatic – one might almost say Fabian – tactics. But it underestimates the attachment of the American electorate to theo-ideological appeals – and voters’ aversion to evidence-based analysis.
In a country where almost half of the population are creationists, climate change deniers and so many Republican voters think their President is a foreign-born Muslim, it is hardly surprising that American voters in their untold millions are convinced that Obama has increased their taxes and that the economy
has worsened during his first term.
Obama’s tactical call is to decide when he broaches the big ideas. This carries dangers. Attracting the independent-minded voters who look at technical details like reality could conflict with the communitarian ideals that he needs to rally his own core supporters and motivate them to turn out to vote.
It is Obama’s acute dilemma: he has to win over the independents, who often do vote, and yet motivate the traditionally abstaining minorities and poverty-stricken who, with some good reason, fail to see what a battle between different bankers’ surrogates has to offer them.
In both cases, his biggest asset is inadvertent: the insouciant cretinism of his opponents. It might be observed that the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket is taking the shape of a Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin duet to disaster. Romney’s comments on the 47per cent whom he puts in the position of spongers, dependent on the largesse of a state funded by people like him, will certainly upset many.
But we are not talking about a group of avid readers, even if the video leak of his speech to wealthy fundraisers had made as much of splash in the media as it should have done. Is the world really ready for a devout former Mormon bishop in the White House who will tell his backers whatever they want in order to gain power?
There was little or no fuss when it was revealed that Romney’s “charitable” donations were, in fact, mostly tax-deductible tithes to the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
Faced with the doctrinaire reality detached nature of current Republican positions, it could almost be reassuring that Romney is so gymnastically flexible in his positions. However, that tactical flexibility is a thin veneer on a harsh and selfish neo-liberal, Mormon core ideology.
As befits an American bred religion founded on the search for golden treasure and disciplined hierarchy, the Mormon Church has not exactly been in the forefront of American progress.
Romney does have a communitarian vision of sorts. Along with a pattern of patriarchal sexist authoritarianism, his record as a Mormon bishop includes many examples of care –within the church community.
Similarly, his fundraising talk shows that he prepared to extend the LDS community of blessed, provident and self-sufficient Americans to include the general congregation of committed “self-made” and self-reliant billionaires – the “Church of Lucky Damn Sods”, as it were. Of course, such definitions of self-made persons exclude any help from rich parents, conspiracies with rich insider colleagues and similar examples of divine providence.
Here, his expedient running mate comes into his own. Apart from the general inclination to shovel money from the poor to the rich that he shares with Romney, Paul Ryan is a true believer – in an atavistic form of Catholicism which is so reactionary that it outflanks Franco on the right and ignores half a century of Roman Catholic developments in social concern. Ayn Rand meets Savanorola, in his peculiar worldview.
Both Mormonism and Ryan’s Catholicism share an unhealthy pre-occupation with how people screw each other sexually that covers their with enthusiasm for mass financial rape by the rich. People who need food stamps to feed their kids will vote for candidates who oppose abortion – but will take away their food stamps.
When Ryan produced his deficit reduction plan, which every sane economist saw as an extended plan for euthanising the United States economy while amputating the last vestiges of the New Deal, the mainstream punditocracy greeted it with respectful clucks. It was like watching the emperor’s new clothes being made in front of your eyes.
So that is why the Romney-Ryan ticket is still in with a chance. While a refreshing number of people do remember that the financial crash came on non-person Bush’s watch, far too many have been mesmerised into thinking that taxes are too high, as are (everybody else’s) welfare entitlements.
They think that the deficit is the biggest problem – except when it comes to military spending (which Ryan wants to increase).
So, this presidential election does make a difference. Obama’s technocratic competence and attenuated concern for the disadvantaged, not to mention seeing his feet on the ground of the New Deal and the real economy, is in total contrast with the unmitigated disaster promised by the opposition.
The Masochist-Leninists are probably beyond hope, but we can hope that the Romney-Ryan double act can persuade the poor and minorities who see Republican attempts to clear them from voting rolls, who see their healthcare evaporating, and their jobs and even unemployment benefits threatened, to turn out on the day.
If any of them claims voting does not make a difference, they should be directed to Britain’s former mining towns, where Margaret Thatcher showed that it did.