By Billy Wharton
07 November, 2012
Tonight, Barack Obama was declared the winner of the U.S. Presidential election. Obama ran a centrist, lackluster campaign that was fueled by an avalanche of campaign donations from corporate America. The losers were poor and working class people all over the country. Although, Mitt Romney was the other corporate funded candidate in the race, it will be regular Americans who will have to live with repercussions of a second Obama presidency. Over the next four years, the administration will continue to extend the damage it has initiated since 2008.
On the healthcare front, four more years of Obama will mean that the terms of his Obamacare legislation will be frozen into place. The possibility of re-initiating grassroots campaigning for single-payer healthcare will be mostly foreclosed until the causalities of this new system emerge en masse. Obama made sure to protect the pharmaceutical companies and further entrench private health insurers into the healthcare system. No wonder then that a major healthcare company such as Kaiser Permanente lavished more than $500,000 on the Obama campaign while ignoring Romney. Private healthcare companies were the real winners in the first Obama presidency and they will certainly consolidate these gains in the next four years. Poor and working class Americans will pay the price for this.
And the same will be true as the hysteria about the “fiscal cliff” gets ramped up. This discussion will be the pretext for bringing the kinds of harsh austerity measures currently being enacted in Europe across the Atlantic to America. The Obama administration has already begun negotiations with Republican members of Congress for what they are calling a “compromise budget.” The compromise will entail cutting social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and social security in return for slightly higher taxation on the rich. Such cuts will bring the federal government in line with state and local governments who have been engaged harsh budget cuts for the past four years. What once were called the “third rail” programs of American politics – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – will instantly be converted into a target for an Obama administration intent on slashing the federal budget.
A second Obama term will also mean more of the same for foreign policy. Far from advancing a peace agenda, the Obama administration had intensified aspects of the military aggression in the Middle East initiated by George W. Bush and has, in some cases, accelerated the erosion of civil rights. The two symbols of this militaristic approach are the homicidal drone bombing campaign that Obama has personally overseen and Private Bradley Manning who currently sits in a military detention facility. The drones demonstrate that even if Obama slightly reduces the military budget, he will remain committed to using the military industrial complex as a tool to enforce American global interests even if this violates international human rights. Manning is Obama’s prisoner – a brave whistle blower who refused to comply with criminal military aggression. He stands as a permanent symbol of Obama’s war on civil rights and his case should be a point of struggle for left-wing activists.
Finally, both Obama and Romney have almost entirely disregarded issues related to climate change. Obama’s administration has the advantage of actually recognizing that climate change exists. Yet, this has meant little in regards to either pro-environment legislation or even a shift to renewable energy sources. Obama’s environmental bankruptcy has been on vivid display during the periodic environmental disasters. He was asleep at the wheel during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, coddling the multinational corporate offenders at BP as they foot dragged through a clean up. More recently, he was purely reactive during Hurricane Sandy, offering consoling words, but nothing in the way of a strategic plan of action to ensure safety today and environmental balance in the future. Four more years of Obama will bring us no closer to this vision that lies at the heart of Eco-socialism.
Not surprisingly, the challenge faced by regular people all over the country will be the same with a second Obama administration as it would be with a new Romney regime. We must build the capacity to fiercely resist the austerity policies that are sure to be imposed on us. No fiscal cliff, grand compromise or economic common sense should be allowed to be used as a justification for these cuts. Resist, resist, resist should be the clarion call of the next four years.
Throughout this process, democratic socialism will remain a viable alternative to the politics of austerity. Socialism’s critique of capitalism and counterposing of the global commons to American hegemony offer a vision of a different future – one in which the great wealth of the world is put to work to make life better for everyone, one in which the people of America are reconnected to the world by bonds of solidarity and one in which humanity regains equilibrium with the natural world. This is what we continue to fight for – a world based on the socialist values of solidarity, compassion and justice.
Billy Wharton is a writer, activist and co-chair of the Socialist Party USA. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the NYC Indypendent, Spectrezine and the Monthly Review Zine. He can be reached at whartonbilly[at]gmail[dot]com