As we enter into the New Year, six months into the presidential election, I think it is very important that progressives stop and think about what is important and what is not. The enormous outpouring of money into presidential elections, greatly assisted by the egregious and elitist “Citizens” United decision has exacerbated the already worrying and ever narrowing conception of American government to the executive office alone. The oversized concern for the executive branch is incompatible with Democracy and has assisted in the frightening concentration of government power into the two hands of the president. This should be worrying enough for not only to the common man of the 99%, but also to many of those elites in the 1% who would be the first to taste the steel of a hostile administration. These developments should make all self-identified progressives stop and reflect, in a period where the news media and political campaigns would like nothing more for us to keep marching to their narratives.
The last few years have seen some truly disturbing developments. The Democratic Party’s control over the legislature and the executive branch was not followed up with anything resembling bold policy. This allowed the virtually annihilated Republican Party to regroup around the Tea Party, rescue itself from obscurity, and obstruct all but the most conservative of legislation. Worse yet, much of the progressive energy derived from anti-Bush criticism were sapped by a supposedly progressive president assuming power. This obsession with the White House and the overconfidence placed in its new tenant’s promises quickly brought an end to the growing anti-war movement along with other progressive causes.
Unfortunately, the majority of candidate Obama’s promises, particularly the most important of them, were quickly dismissed or even opposed by President Obama. In some particularly alarming ways, President Obama has exceeded Bush in pushing for an all-powerful unitary executive. Obama has initiated several secret wars such as those in Yemen and Somalia and an open war with Libya without congressional approval and in blatant violation of the War Powers Act. The one-time constitutional scholar has also approved of measures to declare the United States a “battlefield” and approve of measures to indefinitely detain U.S citizens, even going so far to create a secret committee which has no oversight and deliberates on the assassination of any individual regardless of citizenship or whether they have been even so much as accused of a crime.
Despite Obama’s signing statement on the National Defense Authorization Act (another provision candidate Obama so criticized Bush on), he has opened the door quite widely for the worst imaginable abuses of civil liberties. It is at this point that as Americans particularly those of us whom identify as progressives, should question what we should be doing in 2012. No longer should any true progressive support the agenda of an administration which has so violated our basic principles, regardless of his political opposition. No longer should any true progressive live under the illusion that president Obama would bring about the change we desire if only he could be freed from Republican obstruction. It should be clear as crystal that an administration which has chosen not only to avoid persecuting Wall Street criminals, but to elevate them to positions of leadership within their ranks certainly has no concern for the >99% of us who haven’t initiated a world-wide financial meltdown.
Many American progressives have not come to these conclusions because they fixate entirely too much on the presidency, as do most Americans. It is so venerated in our society that it seems as a current that is inescapable. This current is leading us away from the shore of our vaunted ideals of Democracy and is moving us closer and closer to an ocean of tyranny. However it is vital that we swim against this current, difficult as it may be, and realize that the modern White House is not an institution which should be sought, but one that should be fought. No person in a true Democracy should hold the kind of power our president does.
One of the most reliable reactionary tools of the bourgeois in this country has always been the two party system. It can be seen quite clearly in the fear that a vote not cast for Obama will instead go to one of the uber-conservative cretins which infest the Republican party. By focusing intensely on this possibility and feeding the never ending horse race which is the presidential news cycle, truly progressive voices become silenced. Not simply in the sense of losing a potentially progressive candidate, but in also keeping ideas which threaten the status quo outside the realm of consideration. Thus a “major progressive victory” is the ability for homosexuals to openly serve in our military, bolstering the ability to wage aggressive wars and illegal occupations. One would hope that progressives have more to offer the LGBT community than opportunity to more comfortably die on some foreign shore in service to the greed of our ruling class.
We must shake off these petty and self-destructive fears. A better society will not be built from the White House, it will be built by our own hands and in the model of our hopes and dreams. We have everything to lose by playing into the shell game which is the presidential election. For if we vote for the lesser of two evils it will enshrine the most dangerous elements of the “war on terror” as the bipartisan norm. Is this truly “winning the White House”? For to me it sounds like a defeat of everything we stand for.