If McCain Had Won

Published on Truthdig, by Fred Branfman, July 15, 2011.

Democrats were united on one issue in the 2008 presidential election: the absolute disaster that a John McCain victory would have produced. And they were right. McCain as president would clearly have produced a long string of catastrophes: He would probably have approved a failed troop surge in Afghanistan, engaged in worldwide extrajudicial assassination, destabilized nuclear-armed Pakistan, failed to bring Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to the negotiating table, expanded prosecution of whistle-blowers, sought to expand executive branch power, failed to close Guantanamo, failed to act on climate change, pushed both nuclear energy and opened new areas to domestic oil drilling, failed to reform the financial sector enough to prevent another financial catastrophe, supported an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, presided over a growing divide between rich and poor, and failed to lower the jobless rate. 

Nothing reveals the true state of American politics today more, however, than the fact that Democratic President Barack Obama has undertaken all of these actions and, even more significantly, left the Democratic Party far weaker than it would have been had McCain been elected *. Few issues are more important than seeing behind the screen of a myth-making mass media, and understanding what this demonstrates about how power in America really works—and what needs to be done to change it … //

… The U.S. executive branch functions to promote its version of U.S. economic and geopolitical interests abroad—including engaging in massive violence which has killed, wounded or made homeless more than 21 million people in Indochina and Iraq combined. And it functions at home to maximize the interests of the corporations and individuals who fund political campaigns—today supported by a U.S. Supreme Court whose politicized decision to expand corporations’ control over elections has made a mockery of the very notion of “checks and balances.” The executive branch’s power extends to the mass media, most of whose journalists are dependent on executive information leaks and paychecks from increasingly concentrated media corporations. They thus serve executive power far more than they challenge it.

No one more demonstrates what happens to a human being who joins the executive branch than Hillary Clinton, a former peace movement supporter whose 1969 Wellesley commencement address stated that “our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living”; praised “a lot of the New Left [that] harkens back to a lot of the old virtues”; and decried “the hollow men of anger and bitterness, the bountiful ladies of righteous degradation, all must be left to a bygone age.” Clinton the individual served on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund, promoted helping the poor at home and Third World women abroad and at one point was even often compared to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Although her transformation began once she decided to try to become president, it became most visible after she joined the executive branch as secretary of state. The former peace advocate has now become a major advocate for war-making, a scourge of whistle-blowers and a facilitator of Israeli violence.

But while rich and powerful elites have always ruled in America, their power has periodically been successfully challenged at times of national crisis: the Civil War, the Progressive era, the Depression. America is clearly headed for such a moment in the coming decade, as its economy continues to decline due to a parasitic Wall Street, mounting debt, strong economic competitors, overspending on the military, waste in the private health care sector and elites declaring class war against a majority of Americans.

Naomi Klein has written penetratingly of “Disaster Capitalism,” which occurs when financial and corporate elites benefit from the economic crises they cause. But the reverse has also often proved true: a kind of “Disaster Progressivism” often occurs when self-interested elites cause so much suffering that policies favoring democracy and the majority become possible.

The United States will clearly face such a crisis in the coming decade. It is understandable that many Americans will want to focus on re-electing Obama in 2012. Although Democrats and the country would have been better off if McCain had won in 2008, this is not necessarily true if a Republican wins in 2012—especially if the GOP nominates Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann.

But however important the 2012 election, far more energy needs to be devoted to building mass organizations that challenge elite power and develop the kinds of policies—including massive investment in a “clean energy economic revolution,” a carbon tax and other tough measures to stave off climate change, regulating and breaking up the financial sector, cost-effective entitlements like single-payer health insurance, and public financing of primary and general elections—which alone can save America and its democracy in the painful decade to come. (full long text).

* (my comment: no, the democratic party has not changed, but now every body can see what too many of them are: same class as republicans maximizing interests).

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