Week In Review
A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
November 12, 2012
As Veterans Day is observed today in the USA we renew our solidarity with the fight for justice for neglected Vets and continue to support those in uniform today by demanding they be brought home where they belong.
In the week since my friend Andy Pollack posted his perceptive on the scene report, Hurricane Sandy: An unnatural disaster, the working class of New York-New Jersey affected by the SuperStorm have mounted additional protests. While there have been many heroic acts by firefighters, power line workers, and civilian volunteers, management incompetence on both the private and public sector levels still keep hundreds of thousands without basic utilities or transportation. Elderly residents of darkened high-rise buildings are running out of prescriptions. And, according to NBC News, the seldom seen American Red Cross is being condemned for borderline corruption in its non-use on the ground of enormous funds dedicated to Sandy victims.
While the climate-related disaster still plays out there was bad news about the overarching climate crisis. Fiona Harvey reports in the Guardian,
“Climate change is likely to be more severe than some models have implied, according to a new study which ratchets up the possible temperature rises and subsequent climatic impacts. The analysis by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found that climate model projections showing a greater rise in global temperature were likely to be more accurate than those showing a smaller rise. This means not only a higher level of warming, but also that the resulting problems – including floods, droughts, sea level rise and fiercer storms and other extreme weather – would be correspondingly more severe and would come sooner than expected.”
If there is a plan by the administration that funds the NCAR research to deal with this accelerating scenario it must be classified. Not a word has leaked out yet.
2012 Ins and Outs
The following are remarks about the meaning of the election results I made to a meeting of Labor Party supporters in Kansas City yesterday. The gathering unanimously decided to relaunch Kansas City Labor Party Advocates (LPA). A first meeting of this reboot will be in January. Details of time and place will be available next week.
By some estimates, as much as six billion dollars was spent during this first election cycle under the new Citizens United rules. Despite record saturation of airwaves, mail boxes and phone lines, turnout for what was billed an “historic” election was less than in 2008, or even 2004.
The 2010 Census found that there are 229.7 million native or naturalized U.S. citizens of voting age. The total popular vote cast for president was a tad over 122 million–about 56 percent of those eligible. There are, of course, tens of millions of immigrant residents–legal as well as undocumented–many serving in the armed forces, who are denied voting rights. Once you add in this difficult to count sector of the working class it’s clear that the winning candidate attracted the support of less than a quarter of the adult population.
While the popular vote was as close as most polls projected–50.5 percent for Obama, 47.9 for Romney–the incumbent buried the challenger in electoral votes 332-206.
In the nationwide popular vote in House elections the Democrats actually had a tiny plurality, winning 48.8 percent. But, in another example of the failure of democracy in our system the Republicans with fewer votes maintain a thirty-nine seat House majority.
Two years ago those voting in the Midterm congressional elections punished the administration and Democrat Congress for the continuing painful jobless recovery and eroding living standards. They voted for the only other option offered–the Republicans–even though voter exit polls showed they for the most part rejected the mean-spirited, loony right message of the Tea Party who had captured control of the GOP without much of a fight.
Since then most Democrats–for example Senator Claire McCaskill and Governor Jay Nixon–distanced themselves from the President and offered cooperation with the Republicans in a wide range of austerity proposals and attacks on “job-killing” government regulations.
With the economy still in bad shape, and a fiscal cliff ahead threatening a new recession, history suggested Obama would go down as a one-hit wonder. Instead, he became only the second Democrat President in the postwar period to win a second term. How did he pull this off?
First, most of the ruling class of the “job creators” have little confidence in the ideological far-right dominating the Republicans. Far from seeing Obama as a “socialist” enemy they have benefitted from collaboration with him and see the President as better suited for driving through the unpopular measures remaining on their agenda. Obama had no shortage of funds and enjoyed important media endorsements from the likes of the New York Times, Washington Post, even the Kansas City Star.
The patrician Mitt Romeny on the other hand had his moderate, can-do image earned as Governor of a predominantly Democrat state tarnished by the looneys he had to appease in order to get his party’s nomination.
Fear and anger aroused by the extremist antics of Romney’s party replaced the inspiring hope of 2008. Obama promised little in return for the indispensable mobilization of funds and tens of thousands of member volunteers, that labor and social movements provided to implement Team Obama’s precisely calculated electoral vote landslide in the ‘battleground” states. Without labor’s “ground attack” rounding up the disappointed and reluctant, the President would have been toast.
Ballot alternatives to the twin parties did not fare well.
In 2000, the Green Party nominated labor ally Ralph Nader as their presidential candidate. Nader had some success in bringing Greens and labor activists together. Tony Mazzocchi addressed the Green convention and the delegates incorporated the Labor Party program in to their platform The California Nurses and UE endorsed the Nader campaign and he won 2.9 million votes.
Since then, the Greens have pulled back from their brief flirtation with class politics to their traditional values-driven roots. Their 2012 candidate, Dr Jill Stein, garnered 420,000 votes–about one/seventh of Nader’s 2000 vote.
Three small socialist groups, the Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party, and Party of Socialism and Liberation, each had candidates on the ballot in about a dozen states. Collectively, they got only about 10,000 votes–an historic low for socialist presidential campaigns.
As they were in 2008, the officials of the labor and social movements are publicly ecstatic over “our” great electoral victory. But even more than four years ago they know it’s going to be a rough ride ahead with their “friend” as a lame duck.
When the President borrowed the phrase made popular by recently reelected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez–the best is still to come–he was addressing the ‘job creators,” not us. Obama is already meeting with the somewhat humbled GOP congressional leaders to work out the once offered and rejected “grand bargain” to avoid the Cliff they jointly created earlier in the year. Every hard won social benefit we hold dear–including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid –will be “on the table” along with a whole lot more.
The lack of a working class party, resulting from the class collaboration perspective of mainstream labor statespersons, leaves us vulnerable to the worst ass-kicking in living memory. That’s why Brad [Fischer], Tony [Saper] and I are convinced there is no more important task than relaunching the Labor Party Advocates movement now.
New Life for Matrimony?
The M*A*S*H TV character, Major Frank Burns, once told a reporter he firmly believed “marriage is the headstone of society.” One wonders how he would express himself about voter approval of same-sex marriage last week.
There has long been a trend among opposite-sex couples in long term cohabitation, even with children, to delay or reject marriage. That’s an option for them. But in most states, Gay and Lesbian partners have been denied the right to tie the knot even though growing numbers want to not only publicly formalize their commitment but also claim the same rights and obligations that come with traditional matrimony. Extremists of the Abrahamic Faiths have made outlawing the basic human right to choose marriage an essential focus of their theocratic state agenda.
Last week, voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington affirmed the right of same-sex marriage and Minnesota rejected a theocrat-sponsored constitutional ban of the practice. Recently, the new Socialist Party government in France also introduced legislation legalizing same sex marriage and adoption rights.
Who knows? Maybe doing the right thing on human rights could also give a little bump in fiscal revenue and job creation. For sure, there’s a license fee and payment to either a judge, or person of the cloth not intimidated by Theocrats, to perform the ceremony. Many will hold elaborate receptions renting a hall, hiring bands, caterers, photographers–though I have to admit none of my three marriages had much of an economic impact on the community.
I’m no more a promoter of marriage for others than I am for abortion. But the right to choose such serious options should be free of restriction or intimidation by the power of state or the intrusion by religious bigots. I look forward to the victories in four states last week being extended throughout the land.
That’s all for this week.
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