We’re gonna call the race between Obama and Romney early. That’s right, we already know who’s going to win. Corporate America. Today, it’s more obvious than ever that Wall Street owns both political parties, lock, stock and barrel. But every four years we get sucked into the media-frenzied circus of presidential elections, complete with the superficial analysis of talking heads, an endless barrage of TV ads that lack any real substance, and mountains of corporate cash behind the scenes managing it all.
The “hope” and “change” of the last election cycle seems like something from a bygone era, all the euphoric optimism and excitement which surrounded the 2008 Obama campaign replaced by bitter frustration, frightening economic uncertainty, anger, general pessimism, and loss of faith in the political establishment.
Nevertheless, millions of working people and youth in this country will see the prospect of a Romney presidency as a terrifying possibility and feel pressured to vote Obama, seen as a lesser of two evils, in order to stop the Republicans. Romney’s pick for VP, Tea Party congressman Paul Ryan, compounds these fears a hundred times over. But will backing Obama really make an important difference for the millions being squeezed by an enduring economic crisis? Will the Democrats really block the Republican agenda?
Obama, the Other Candidate for the Wealthy
Actions speak louder than words. We have to look beyond the rhetoric and personalities and undercover the actual policies. There’s a reason why Obama has made a complete departure from the inspiring rhetoric of 2008 and resorted to attacking Mitt Romney. He has absolutely no record to run on. In fact, the only reason Romney, a money-grubbing, out-of-touch millionaire corporate hack that even most Republicans don’t really like, has a chance of winning is because the Obama administration has done little to improve the conditions of ordinary working people and broken virtually all of the key campaign promises of 2008.
In the 2008 elections, Obama tapped into the anger at the failed Bush years and promised real change. The truth, however, is that on all major political issues his policies look a lot like those of his predecessors. Bush initiated the biggest corporate theft of public funds in U.S. history, more commonly known as the bank bailouts, and Obama continued them without blinking. Real financial regulation? Not a chance. The banks under Obama are still raking in billions using the same dirty tricks as always. Corporate America is sitting on an estimated $2.1 trillion in cash reserves and other liquid assets and won’t invest because it’s not profitable. But Obama turned a blind eye and instead extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.
Obama promised to bring a swift end to Bush’s imperialist adventures in the Middle East. Instead we got an escalation in Afghanistan, employing the use of flying drones which have indiscriminately killed civilians, including women and children. Obama promised universal health care, but his health care plan is just another corporate handout to insurance companies and pharmaceuticals and will only force people to buy overpriced and inadequate private health care.
His education policy is like Bush’s No Child Left Behind on steroids, with a major push on union-busting charter schools and high-stakes testing. Obama promised to support the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to organize unions and fight for their rights. Instead Obama engineered the GM bailout, which demanded drastic cuts to workers’ wages and benefits.
In many ways, the Obama administration has carried out what used to be considered a Republican agenda. No wonder the Republicans have gone off the deep end - the Democrats have occupied all their turf!
All the while, the super-rich have grabbed the lion’s share of the wealth. Heirs of the Walton family, the owners of Walmart, alone now own more wealth than the entire bottom 40% of families in this country. That’s completely insane! Millions of these families are drowning in mortgage debt and facing foreclosure. Unemployment remains persistently high. Thirty-six million Americans are saddled with over $1 trillion in student loan debt, which paid for an education that promised a way out but hasn’t delivered much more than a couch in their parents’ basement. Working people are losing ground, our future is slipping away, and Obama’s hardly lifted a finger to help while the rich are laughing all the way to the bank.
Two Corporate Parties
So now, four years later, can anything Obama says during the election campaign be trusted? The differences between the Democrats and Republicans – and they do exist – have more to do with disagreements between the ruling elite on how to rule. Romney just represents a more naked, unabashed rule of the capitalist class. Obama offers popular rhetoric, which he again began to promote once this new election cycle began, about taxing the rich, supporting LGBT rights, and other token gestures. But he still offers no fundamental alternative to Romney. They both represent the main interests of the capitalist class and defend this rotten system of capitalism as a whole.
The ruling elite and corporate America are funneling record millions into the 2012 elections, ensuring that corporate America will rule no matter which party is in office. As of June 30, the Obama campaign had spent a mind-boggling $400 million, vastly outspending the Romney camp. Obama’s top contributors are from finance, insurance, real estate, lawyers and lobbyists. But Romney’s fundraising edge grew over the summer, bringing in over $100 million in July alone.
In 2008, Obama received more campaign contributions from Big Business than John McCain in a number of sectors, including Wall Street and the health care industry. Wall Street and wealthy donors have always been the main backers of both political parties but the recent Citizens United court ruling, allowing unlimited spending in elections, has removed the last veil, revealing a political process completely dominated by the capitalist class.
We Need a Political Alternative for the 99%
It’s time to build a left-wing, anti-corporate, pro-worker party for workers and youth that will be completely independent of corporate cash and influence. The Occupy movement brilliantly exposed the ruthless, unaccountable power of Wall Street and the 1%, and the corporate character of both parties. We need to build on this and build a movement that ends Wall Street and corporate America’s domination of our political and economic system. This also means challenging the capitalist system that funnels all the wealth into the hands of the rich elite at the expense of workers and the environment. A new political party that is funded and democratically controlled by working people and the poor is necessary to organize a working-class alternative to Wall Street and big business.
We also need to fight for a real alternative to this failing capitalist system. We believe democratic socialism, which would replace the for-profit economy with one where the banks and major corporations are publicly owned and democratically planned for the interests of society as a whole, is that real alternative for the 99%.
With the main levers of the economy publicly owned, we could invest in a massive jobs program to put millions to work building renewable energy infrastructure. With the wealth of society in the hands of the 99%, we could easily provide high-quality education, health care and housing for all. But we won’t hear a word about this from either candidate or the corporate media. That’s why we desperately need our own political voice.
Vote Left in 2012
To further the movement during elections, we should get behind the strongest left-wing, pro-worker, independent challenge to corporate America and its two parties. Ideally, we would unite behind a single left-wing campaign, sending the strongest possible message that we are fed up with corporate politics. In the absence of a united left campaign in 2012, Socialist Alternative still argues for registering the strongest number of votes for a left independent challenge.
Jill Stein of the Green Party, though not well known, is running a credible campaign and will likely appear on at least 40 state ballots. She supports a Green New Deal jobs program, ending the wars, cancelling student debt, and a single-payer health care system, together with many other progressive reforms. Despite the failure of the Green Party to see capitalism as a central problem, Socialist Alternative has endorsed her campaign as probably the strongest national campaign. We support other left, independent candidates running at a local and state level, including Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant, running for state legislature in Washington State.
At the time of writing, Roseanne Barr, well-known as a stand-up comedian and for her TV role as a working-class mom on the show Roseanne, has just been endorsed by the Peace and Freedom Party in California. She and her running mate, Cindy Sheehan, have both spoken in favor of socialist change. If this campaign develops into a serious and credible challenge to the corporate establishment, it may capture the most attention from workers and youth looking for an alternative, despite the fact that the campaign may not appear on the ballot in many states. If so, it could be a further step in striking a blow at the dominance of the two corporate parties over U.S. politics. Former mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, is also running for President on his newly formed Justice Party ticket. As part of registering the strongest possible left challenge to the corporate two-party system, we support the efforts of both these campaigns as well.
Voting for an independent challenge isn’t a wasted vote, as many liberal Democrats will claim. It’s an important statement that your vote has not been bought by the two corporate parties. It’s also the first step in building a political alternative to the two major parties. There is unprecedented anger at both political parties and a hunger for an alternative that could be tapped into. A Washington Post-ABC poll taken earlier this year showed that two-thirds of Americans would support an independent candidate and nearly half support the idea of a third party. There’s more of an opportunity than ever to begin to build a new party for workers and youth.
As scary as the Republicans are, we should really be afraid of the corporate agenda of both political parties, as they both spell disaster for ordinary working people. We can have no faith in the Democrats, who have proven utterly incapable of standing up to the Republicans even when they’re in office. Instead, we need to support left, independent candidates who will continue to expose the power of Wall Street and build a powerful movement against corporate America and capitalism.