Fourth Last Issue (See #6)
1. Does the US Election Matter?
Bird’s Eye: Daniel Ellsberg argues you can oppose the Repuglicans without supporting the Demorats. Walt and Younge deplore the absense of the real issues, and the New Yorker points out how our innate tendency to create narrative will make the results seem as though they were overpowering. Of course, Tikkunista will probably do that too in our next issue….
* Defeat Romney, Without Illusions About Obama Daniel Ellsberg Reader Supported News
An activist colleague recently said to me: “I hear you’re supporting Obama.” I was startled, and took offence. “Supporting Obama? Me?! I lose no opportunity publicly,” I told him angrily, to identify Obama as a tool of Wall Street, a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together. “Would you call that support?”
My friend said, “But on Democracy Now you urged people in swing states to vote for him! How could you say that? I don’t live in a swing state, but I will not and could not vote for Obama under any circumstances.” My answer was: a Romney/Ryan administration would be no better — no different — on any of the serious offences I just mentioned or anything else, and it would be much worse, even catastrophically worse, on a number of other important issues: attacking Iran, Supreme Court appointments, the economy, women’s reproductive rights, health coverage, safety net, climate change, green energy, the environment.
I told him: “I don’t ‘support Obama.’ I oppose the current Republican Party. This is not a contest between Barack Obama and a progressive candidate. The voters in a handful or a dozen close-fought swing states are going to determine whether Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to wield great political power for four, maybe eight years, or not.” As Noam Chomsky said recently, “The Republican organization today is extremely dangerous, not just to this country, but to the world. It’s worth expending some effort to prevent their rise to power, without sowing illusions about the Democratic alternatives.”
* Top Ten Questions You Won’t Hear At Tonight’s Debate Stephen M. Walt
1. You have both pledged to end the war in Afghanistan by 2014. But the Taliban has not been defeated, there are no peace negotiations underway, the Afghan army remains unreliable, attacks on U.S. and NATO forces by Afghan soldiers have been increasing, and the Karzai government is still corrupt and ineffective. Given these realities, was the decision to send nearly 50,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009 a mistake? What could we have done instead, to avoid the current situation?
3. Both of you claim to support a “two-state” solution between Israel and the Palestinians. But since the last election, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased by more than 25,000 and now exceeds half-million people. If continued settlement growth makes a two-state solution impossible, what should United States do? Would you encourage Israel to allow “one-person, one-vote” without regard to religion or ethnicity — as we do here in the United States — or would you support denying Palestinians under Israeli control in Gaza and the West Bank full political rights?
4. Gentlemen: Is the United States doing enough, too little, or too much to address the threat of climate change? If you are the next president, what specific actions will you take to deal with this problem?
* Americans Deserve A Better Choice In This Election Than The One They’ve Got Gary Younge The Guardian
Such are the cramped parameters within which Democratic loyalists converse. Questions about poverty, bankers, inequality, climate change or drone attacks are not engaged with a defence of Obama’s record on the economy, regulation, the environment or foreign policy but avoided with a threat: Romney. Speculation about what Obama might have done differently are met with arguments about what Bush did do wrong. Inquire if Obama will get more done if elected, and they shrug and point to the obstructionist Republicans in Congress.
Dare to prod further as to why anyone should vote for him given the likelihood that Republicans will win in Congress and they’ll take you right back where you started: Romney. Any question about the good things that might have happened as a result of Obama’s victory in 2008 is short-circuited by a response about the bad things that might happen as a result of his defeat in 2012. Hope curdled to fear. Everyone can tell you how things get worse; no one can tell you how they get better.
* Romney, Obama, And The Problem Of Chance The New Yorker
We still make primitive narratives of nemesis—we are making them today, and shall make more and more—out of what are, at heart, contingencies of accident and economic cycles. If Romney should win, we will be told that Obama’s Presidency was doomed by fatal flaws evident to all from the beginning, and all that he has done will be tainted. His isolation, his inability to reach out to his partners, his creation of hopes which could never be fulfilled, his failure to coax and wheedle and court the Congresses as Lincoln and Johnson are now imagined to have done—the result in Ohio was predestined. If, on the other hand, say, minorities in Cleveland should turn out in big numbers, and Obama wins by a narrow margin… why, then Obama will be like Lincoln, a battler who pulled it out, kept his cool, saw it through, and remade his country in his own image. What happens in the next three weeks will not just shape what happens next—it will dictate all that is said about all that had happened before. It could never have turned out any other way. The recovery that is already obviously under way—doubtless more through the cruel but inevitable up and down cycles of the market than anyone’s will, or incompetence—will become Obama’s vindication, or else it will become the Romney Recovery, and only a handful will bleat impotently that it was bound to happen anyway….
We don’t like to hear this. We don’t want to hear it. Indeed, we refuse to hear it. “The American people decided to fire Obama,” or “the American people decided to rehire the President because they couldn’t trust Romney,” will be the clichés of the commentariat the day after. But “the American people” really have nothing to do with it. Tens of millions of American people believe passionately in either case, and the small sample that will decide is hardly evidence of some kind of uber-arching, Jungian-unconscious unanimity of opinion. That’s true even when the margin is large, in political terms. First Bush defeated Dukakis by fifty-three per cent to forty-six per cent, and the Dukakis campaign is recalled as a catastrophe—but if you were in a room of a hundred people, and called for a voice vote, and fifty-three shouted Aye and forty-six Nay, you would have no idea who had won.