Well, it looks like the Democrats are going to take a pasting in today’s mid-term elections. Hardly surprising really. The hope and optimism that Obama brought with him into office was so great that he was always going to fall short when it came to delivering on it. A combination of genuine disappointment and being comprehensively outmaneuvered in the media appears to have shifted public opinion against his administration and, by extension, against the Democratic Party.
US politics offers us an object lesson in how people can be manipulated to act against their own longterm interests (it’s the same in every modern captialist democracy, of course, but the United States is so big and powerful that trends get magnified making them easier to identify).
Take the healthcare issue for example. It was the central plank of Obama’s campaign. He spoke about it in almost every speech he made during the run-up to the election. And yet a combination of corporate financial muscle and Republican propaganda seemed to convince the very people the plan was aimed at helping, that it was some kind of socialist hidden agenda being foisted upon America without a mandate. Low-income Americans with no healthcare have been actively denouncing their newly-acquired ability to see a doctor if they get sick. People who, should they find themselves with a serious illness, would have previously been faced with a choice between crippling debt or no treatment are campaigning against “ObamaCare Socialism”.
“America’s not about hand-outs”, they cry, “it’s about working your way to the top!” It seems to me that tens of millions of low-income Americans have been hoodwinked into believing that they’ll be rich one day. That “the top” has room for all if they only work hard enough. So instead of working towards a more equitable society, where even the poorest are taken care of, they instead adopt right-wing quasi-libertarian beliefs that only benefit the wealthy. The rich and powerful have engineered a deluded populace to support their lavish lifestyles… a nation of turkeys campaigning for an early Thanksgiving.
The thing is, every society in history has taken good care of those at the top. There’s nothing unique about that, despite the belief of many Americans that they are in some way socially advanced. Seems to me that a truly Great Society is one that also manages to take care of those at the bottom. Feudalism is alive and well and proudly living in the Unites States. It just has better P.R. these days.
In the end, big business forced Obama to water-down a healthcare plan that had been approved by a majority of US voters. If ever there was an example of how capitalism subverts politics, that was it.
In fact, a mere two years after being elected on that issue (he was elected for many reasons, of course, but healthcare was his number one rallying call), the Democrats are actively distancing themselves from it. Bizarrely in half a presidential term it’s gone from being a vote-winner to a clear vote-loser. As usual, The Onion succinctly captures the current mood among US Democrats with their article, Democrats: ‘If We’re Gonna Lose, Let’s Go Down Running Away From Every Legislative Accomplishment We’ve Made’. The only reason for this is the massive Public Relations machine that the US Right set in motion.
It’s sad how easily people can be manipulated into self-destructive behaviour.
My one hope for today’s elections is, it goes without saying, the possibility of California passing Proposition 19. While it’s far from perfect, it might well prove to be the first substantial nail in the coffin of our clinically insane War on Some Drugs. If it is defeated, it will again demonstrate the incredible ability of people to act against their own best interests. Despite the high-profile donations to the pro-legalisation campaign, they are being matched by the anti-Prop 19 campaign. And who are the major backers of the anti-Prop19 campaign? Interestingly, it’s the alcohol industry.
But of course.
We’ll soon know the results of the mid-terms and whether California has voted sensibly on the cannabis issue. A Democratic wipeout is pretty much a given, though it may present a silver lining… some of those Tea Party weirdos are bound to damage the US Right when given a national stage upon which to perform. And the Californians might make it a day to remember for good, as well as bad, reasons. Celebratory bong, anyone?
Well, here’s hoping!
UPDATE 3/11/2010: Well, the Dems lost the House of Representatives and saw their Senate majority whittled down to less than a handful. I’m not suggesting the Democratic Party are anything other than corporate mouthpieces, but the lurch into loony territory currently underway in the Republican Party means the Dems are a marginally better option at the moment. People with Sarah Palin’s view of the world running America? Not a happy thought. On top of all that, the Californians couldn’t even answer a simple Yes/No question correctly. I’m genuinely disappointed by this as it would have presented a real challenge to the madness of our War on Some Drugs. In the end, when asked “do you wish to continue acting in a dangerously psychotic, self-destructive manner?” more than half of Californians replied, “Yes”.