[OPE-L] US election result

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Nov 09 2006 - 16:59:50 EST

Well, clearly the American voters voted the Republicans out, rather than
voting the Democrats in. It was largely a protest vote with a big swing by
the moderate, liberals and independent voters towards the Democrats,
including a significant portion of religious people. They simply wanted
change. They no longer believed the demonising, reactionary and evil cant of
the neoconservatives, waving around bogeys to scare people with. So overall
really it is a victory for neo-liberalism or at least moderation.

"The Republicans created their defeat by focusing obsessively on the
right-wing "base," ostracizing not only the Democrats but their own party's
more moderate legislators. The conflict between the extremist House and the
conservative Senate created a phony center, far to the right of the general
public's idea of where the middle ought to be. (...) The Democrats won a
negative victory, riding on the wave of public anger about Republicans."
(NYT 9 nov.
Mr Bush admitted a "thumping" but was surprised at the result because, he
said, when economic growth has been relatively strong, this has usually
favoured the governing party. But this is a political analysis belonging to
a previous generation, which less and less applies in the 21st century. One
simple reason for that, apart from cultural changes, is that economic growth
less and less benefits the whole population. Thus, even if economic growth
is strong, large masses of people draw no particular advantage from it.
Globalisation indeed begets a kind of international "ghettoisation", in
which the beneficiaries of economic growth are much more concentrated in
particular sectors, or particular privileged social classes. In some cases,
it means that the rich literally wall themselves off from the poor.

E.J. Dionne Jr. writes: "What needs to begin is a long struggle to create a
new social contract that will protect and lift up the tens of millions of
Americans for whom globalization is more threat than promise."

The idea here is that the Democrats should, or would act to promote a
national reconciliation. But the prospect of such a new social contract is
not very high, because the configuration of political and class forces is
very different than in Roosevelt's time, and there are many deep rifts and
conflicts of interest that have developed, including within the business
class. The Democrats are effectively put in a position of trying to
reconcile the irreconcilable. And apart from adapting to the political
centre, their political proposals are really very modest, if not altogether
timid. No doubt they will supply some kind of policy package, but it won't
be very radical and it is unlikely to reconcile people to any great extent
or for any length of time. It is more in the nature of advertising,
cosmetics and symbolisms, or a search for a current common denominator.

One way of putting it is that American capitalism with its bloated state
apparatus is now politically at the point which less wealthy capitalist
countries reached in the 1980s. As the strong man of the world economy,
America could stave off many trends which engulfed less wealthy capitalist
countries; America benefited from deregulated capital markets, whereas many
other countries did not. That is also a reason why Americans often cannot
understand the sentiments of people in other countries whose experience is

The "war on terror" with the ism dropped off could be over sooner than we
think. I certainly hope so, because it is a nonsense. But the strange thing
is that although Americans delivered a strong protest vote against the war
in Iraq, the President nevertheless still insists that he will continue to
pursue it to the end. So much for democracy as the "rule of the people".

John McCain commented that he thought America was essentially a
"conservative country". But the question is really what conservatism can
nowadays achieve for the population. And if, since we cannot go back to the
past,  conservatism just means defending the status quo, then if the status
quo buckles from the weight of social change, people are forced out of
conservatism. In reality, it is a time of social and political ferment in
the USA, out of which no doubt new political forces will begin to emerge in
the future.


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