[OPE] Class paradoxes in the US presidential election - from a European perspective

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@telfort.nl)
Date: Sun May 11 2008 - 07:02:51 EDT

Paul Krugman, a man of the people who would prefer the rich Clinton elite in power, says "the Democratic Party hasn’t enjoyed this favorable a political environment since 1964." http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/09/opinion/09krugman.html?hp Ralph Nader remarked wrily "If the Democrats can't landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form." http://apnews.myway.com/article/20080224/D8V0QN100.html

However, Edward Luce  ("A hardened idealist: Obama’s toughest fight", FT May 8 2008) observes that in the gerrymandered US electorate,

"A large majority of blue-collar white voters have spurned [Obama]. (...) Polls show that in a generic match between a Republican and a Democrat, the Democrat would win by a landslide. But when asked about a race between Mr Obama and Mr McCain, the electorate is split down the middle. Concerns over Mr Obama’s prospects are underpinned by the fact that a majority of households earning less than $50,000 (£25,550, €32,400) a year say they will support Mr McCain, while voters with college degrees tend to back Mr Obama – a mirror image of what might be expected between a Democrat and a Republican."

The odd thing is that Mrs Clinton, a very rich bourgeois patrician, gets more workingclass support, even although she talks all the time about the plight of the "middle class". Mr Obama can claim more experience of blue collar workers than his two rivals (well, I suppose Mr McCain had a taste of navy blue) yet Mr Obama doesn't get their support. Mr McCain is a millionaire retired Vietnam bomber pilot (married an heiress) who thinks the American holocaust in Iraq was worth the investment, and there's a whole lot of rednecks and neocons who just love that "friendly Arizona image". McCain was previously in favour of amnesty for immigrants and reform of public finance, now his main domestic theme is appointing more far-right judges to curb the moral rot among the coloured classes.

The populist trend in politics nowadays is that, because party doctrines lose their meaning in a rapidly changing social reality, with equally rapidly shifting political alliances, people will tend to choose politicians in the same way they choose a friend or a lifestyle. But the least you might expect of the presidential candidates is that they would actually be truly "representative" of their constituency. The American political class is not even able to select any political leaders of real greatness in this sense. Why? One reason must be that American "democracy" is really a plutocracy, a rich people's club, out of touch with the real world, especially the alienating real world in America itself. 

Mr Obama is vastly superior to the other candidates and at least aspires to greatness, yet Americans apparently cannot even recognize why he's preferable as president to Mr McCain or Mrs Clinton... Many would in fact vote racially for Mr McCain in preference to Mr Obama, despite their own stated opposition to the war against Iraq. From a European point of view, the political confusion of the crude American voter and the philistine American political class is a real worry for the planet, and for the fate of humanity, among other things because - unable to make relevant political distinctions - it could place the largest destructive capability there has ever been on earth in the hands of maniacs, criminals and psychopaths (analogous to Israel).

To understand what Mr McCain is about, just one illustration will do:

"On July 29, 1967, while preparing for his sixth bombing run over North Vietnam in his A-4 Skyhawk aboard the deck of the USS Forrestal, an accidentally fired Zuni missile ripped into his plane's fuel tank. Within moments, a chain reaction swept the deck of the carrier, triggering fires and explosions, setting off 1,000-pound bombs and engulfing planes, killing 134 men [and injuring 161]. McCain, slightly wounded, saw body parts fly and watched blistered comrades die before his eyes. A few months later, sipping Scotch in a Saigon villa with Johnny Apple of the New York Times, McCain reflected on the trauma. "It's a difficult thing to say," he said, "but now that I've seen what the bombs and the napalm did to the people on our ship, I'm not so sure that I want to drop any more of that stuff on North Vietnam." http://www.thenation.com/doc/20000103/dreyfuss/2

The Tucson Weekly adds, in a more punchy article (you don't get that kind of stuff in soft-left The Nation): "Yet he did. "I am a war criminal," McCain said on 60 Minutes in 1997. "I bombed innocent women and children." Although it came too late to save the Vietnamese he'd killed 30 years earlier, it was a brave statement. Nevertheless, he today smiles agreeably as he hears himself described as a "war hero" as he arrives at rallies in a bus marked "No Surrender." http://www.tucsonweekly.com/gbase/Currents/Content?oid=106298

So there you have a self-confessed war criminal (!) running for president, and millions of Americans have sympathy for this! As if Bush Jr's manipulation of redemptive sympathies wasn't enough!

As regards the Clinton campaign, it is so cravenly opportunist, it appears laughably overdone even from a remote distance. John Gapper ("On the pot-holed highway to hell", FT May 7 2008) observes:

"Hillary Clinton spent the final week of her Indiana campaign standing on the back of a pick-up truck arguing for a temporary suspension of the “gas tax”, the fuel duty that pays for highways. You read correctly. Faced with the emptying of the Highway Trust Fund, established in 1956 as the US entered a period of growth and prosperity, Mrs Clinton suggested cutting its source of funds (which she claimed could be made up by a tax on oil companies). It was more important to give Americans a summer break from $4-per-gallon petrol."  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c54f4258-1c5f-11dd-8bfc-000077b07658.html

According to a myth put about by American intellectuals, "Europeans look up to America". They've got to be joking. Right now America is an alienating hellhole where many workers are treated worse than dogs. If anything, most Europeans are feeling concerned about what kind of insane policies America will wreak upon the world next.


(When I think of the US presidential election, I have to think of this popsong:)

I wonder why you love me, baby, 
I hardly love myself at all. 
I think we're both a little crazy, 
we need some therapy that's all. 

I'll see a man, you see a woman. 
You need a mom, I need a dad. 
It's not our fault we have this problem, 
our parents made us, we were had. 

I know that there's someone out there, 
who knows what the hell is happening. 
You know that we must do something, 
'cause God knows and he's not helping. 

Just twice a week for just an hour, 
Just walk on in, just let it out. 
I know we'll both feel so much better. 
Don't let depression win the bout. 

Aw don't bottle up those awful feelings. 
You're not the one who knows it all. 
There is a nice big box of Kleenex, 
if you break down and start to bawl. 

I know that there's someone out there, 
who knows what the hell is happening. 
You know that we must do something, 
'cause God knows and he's not helping. 

I'm full of fear and paranoia, 
you are hysterical and sad, 
let's do it, babe, you know I love you, 
it costs so much, it can't be bad. 

I don't know why you love me, baby, 
I hardly love myself at all. 
I thnk we're both a little crazy, 
we need some therapy that's all. 
Just sixty bucks an hour, that's all. 

- Loudon Wainwright III, "Therapy" (1989)

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