Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mike Davis at TomDispatch: a five star must read

David Seaton's News Links
Mike Davis has written an article that Tom Engelhardt has posted on TomDispatch that should be required reading for everybody who considers themselves a progressive. The skinny is that an Obama administration without money, or the will to create a real welfare state, may lead to a Republican resurgence that may be more sinister than Bush. He hammers on a few ideas that I have been trying to communicate to my readers, but he does it so much better than I ever could that I can't resist posting some excerpts from the article, which is titled, "Can Obama See the Grand Canyon":
Never have so many ordinary Americans been nailed to a cross of gold (or derivatives), yet Obama is the most mild-mannered William Jennings Bryan imaginable. Unlike Sarah Palin who masticates the phrase "the working class" with defiant glee, he hews to a party line that acknowledges only the needs of an amorphous "middle class" living on a largely mythical "Main Street."(...) Out in the stucco deserts of Limbaughland, moreover, fear is already being distilled into a good ol' boy version of the "stab in the back" myth that rallied the ruined German petite bourgeoisie to the swastika. If you listen to the rage on commute AM, you'll know that 'socialism' has already taken a lien on America, Barack Hussein Obama is terrorism's Manchurian candidate, the collapse of Wall Street was caused by elderly black people with Fannie Mae loans, and ACORN in its voter registration drives has long been padding the voting rolls with illegal brown hordes. In other times, Sarah Palin's imitation of Father Charles Coughlin -- the priest who preached an American Reich in the 1930s -- in drag might be hilarious camp, but with the American way of life in sudden freefall, the specter of star-spangled fascism doesn't seem quite so far-fetched. The Right may lose the election, but it already possesses a sinister, historically-proven blueprint for rapid recovery. (...) To what extent can we look to either Obama or any of the Democrats to help us analyze the crisis and then act effectively to resolve it?(...) If you've been watching the sad parade of economic gurus on McNeil-Lehrer, you know that the intellectual shelves in Washington are now almost bare. Neither major party retains more than a few enigmatic shards of policy traditions different from the neo-liberal consensus on trade and privatization. Indeed, posturing pseudo-populists aside, it is unclear whether anyone inside the Beltway, including Obama's economic advisors, can think clearly beyond the indoctrinated mindset of Goldman Sachs, the source of the two most prominent secretaries of the treasury over the last decade. Keynes, now suddenly mourned, is actually quite dead. More importantly, the New Deal did not arise spontaneously from the goodwill or imagination of the White House. On the contrary, the social contract for the post-1935 Second New Deal was a complex, adaptive response to the greatest working-class movement in our history, in a period when powerful third parties still roamed the political landscape and Marxism exercised extraordinary influence on American intellectual life. Even with the greatest optimism of the will, it is difficult to imagine the American labor movement recovering from defeat as dramatically as it did in 1934-1937. The decisive difference is structural rather than ideological. (Indeed, today's union movement is much more progressive than the decrepit, nativist American Federation of Labor in 1930.) The power of labor within a Walmart-ized service economy is simply more dispersed and difficult to mobilize than in the era of giant urban-industrial concentrations and ubiquitous factory neighborhoods.(...) Military Keynesianism is no longer an available deus ex machina.(...) when war production finally started up in late 1940 it became a huge engine for the reemployment of the American work force, the real cure for the depressed job markets of the 1930s. Subsequently, American world power and full employment would align in a way that won the loyalty of several generations of working-class voters.(...) It's worth asking, for instance, what in the actual substance of his foreign policy agenda differentiates the Democratic candidate from the radioactive legacy of the Bush Doctrine? Yes, he would close Guantanamo, talk to the Iranians, and thrill hearts in Europe. He also promises to renew the Global War on Terror (in much the same way that Bush senior and Clinton sustained the core policies of Reaganism, albeit with a "more human face"). In case anyone has missed the debates, let me remind you that the Democratic candidate has chained himself, come hell or high water, to a global strategy in which "victory" in the Middle East (and Central Asia) remains the chief premise of foreign policy, with the Iraqi-style nation-building hubris of Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz repackaged as a "realist" faith in global "stabilization." True, the enormity of the economic crisis may compel President Obama to renege on some of candidate Obama's ringing promises to support an idiotic missile defense system or provocative NATO memberships for Georgia and Ukraine. Nonetheless, as he emphasizes in almost every speech and in each debate, defeating the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, together with a robust defense of Israel, constitute the keystone of his national security agenda.(...) It is bitterly ironic, but, I suppose, historically predictable that a presidential campaign millions of voters have supported for its promise to end the war in Iraq has now mortgaged itself to a "tougher than McCain" escalation of a hopeless conflict in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal frontier. In the best of outcomes, the Democrats will merely trade one brutal, losing war for another. In the worst case, their failed policies may set the stage for the return of Cheney and Rove, or their even more sinister avatars.
Go and read the whole thing, as I've had to butcher it to make it fit here. DS


Stephanie said...

Interesting, and sad, article.

I read that Obama’s likely Secretary of the Treasury would be Lawrence Summers, Rubin’s deputy from the Clinton Administration. Nothing new there.

I find Obama's stated plans for Afghanistan particularly depressing. Our troops aren't going to get much of a break.

stunted said...

The Pelosi/Reid tactic of waiting out the electoral calendar by not rocking the boat will mean that Democrats, on 21 January 2009, will have won sole ownership of a shipwreck, especially given the proximity of the economic fiasco to the election date. Nothing but more vague generalisations about what to "change" about unbridled free market capitalism, but Obama's plan for leaving health care firmly in the corporate hammerlock indicates little real change on the horizon for an economic system with no one in the driver's seat. Obama's oft-stated desire to reach across the aisle can safely be interpreted to mean there will effectively still be no regulation of the financial markets and that the U.S. will torpedo any attempt to do so at the newly-announced economic summit meetings. The difference of appreciation of what needs changing between Sarkozy (hardly a left-wing firebrand) and Bush sets the tone for more fine formal dinners, group photos and little else.

My European friends are all huge Obamaphiles, regardless of their personal political leanings, so it would seem that a smooth, attractive man who can actually speak his own language is enough when added to the breath-taking "frisson" of the land of slavery electing a black man to the highest office. I am happy for them. My heart goes out to the Afghans and Pakistanis.