The Obama Election: Lessons for a Political Movement
By Harriet Fraad, Monday, 26 November 2012 Truthout | Op-Ed
Obama was elected to arrest US fascism, not because he can deliver hope, jobs, prosperity or a fulfilling life to the majority who elected him; but that majority can become a movement that will achieve those goals.
Obama has not delivered on the economic promises of hope and change he offered in 2008. He added a new conflict in Pakistan to the other two losing imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cause thousands of senseless deaths and create millions of enemies for America. Why did Obama win? What lessons are there for us to learn from his victory?
First, I want to offer some background information about the votes in this election. In times of economic and social pain, people tend to look for different and more extreme solutions to their problems. The social status quo in their nations fails to provide adequate jobs and decent lives. In nations like Greece, France and Spain, we are watching people polarize between the Left and the Right, between anti-capitalist socialism and fascism. (These nations have long had parties socialist in name only). The US does not have a viable Left. However we do have a Right fascistic movement with a particularly American program. Romney approached that program in the primaries. His vision was characterized by a politics for the top 20 percent that throws the rest of the American people under the bus.
The American fascistic tendency has a religious face. Those who are born again in Christ, evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, fundamentalists or Mormons are worth saving. Others are condemned. Like Hitler and Mussolini, the far right extols marriage between submissive women and dominant men who have numerous submissive children. The same, “traditional family” Hitler and Mussolini endorsed, is endorsed by many Mormons, evangelicals, Southern Baptists, fundamentalists, Orthodox Jews – especially Hasidim – and Catholics. Those who question hierarchical religion, such as spiritual progressives and non-believers, are condemned. Church state separation is damned. In the words of Jerry Falwell, “The Idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country….”
Related features of a US fascistic agenda shared by other fascist movements and political parties are a mythical past of unmitigated American glory, homophobia, misogyny, extreme nationalism, anti-intellectualism and anti-multiculturalism. In a particularly strange manifestation, the US fascistic agenda includes hatred of immigrants in a nation of immigrants founded on ethnic cleansing of the only native people originally here. Throughout Romney’s campaign, there emerged occasional and powerful fascistic memes such as the violent reformulation of rape, the rejection of science – climate change and conception. These offer a retreat from frightening realities down a slippery slope toward imaginary pasts that were neither inclusive nor ideal. For most, Obama’s victory was built on uniting those constituencies who are condemned by the Right. It was that majority of Americans who voted to defeat a fascistic agenda. I believe they did so not because Obama will deliver the better lives his policies have thus far failed to deliver. Instead I believe that they voted for Obama to reject US fascism.
Pro-Obama constituencies are emblematic of a new America. Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans, referred to as “minorities,” are the actually the new majority. Most American children are what is called “minorities.”
The women who supported Obama were not part of the “gender gap” that was so widely reported. The majority of married women backed Romney. Romney garnered 53 percent of married women’s votes. It was unmarried women who strongly supported Obama. Fully 68 percent of unmarried women voted for Obama, as opposed to only 30 percent for Romney. Unmarried women supported Obama by a more than 2-to-1 ratio. For the first time in recorded US history, the majority of US women are single That is not only because women grow older and live longer than men. For the first time since the census began in 1880, the majority of women in what is referred to as prime fertility ages, 18 to 34 years old, are unmarried. These women voted against what was known as Romney’s “war on women.” Unmarried women are another majority that is largely unrecognized as a political force.
Still another group that is unrecognized is non-believers. We have never had a US president or presidential candidate declaring himself a non-believer, even though non-believers constitute 20 percent of Americans. The Mormon religion captures only 2 percent of Americans. One in five Americans is a non-believer. Approximately 40 percent of US citizens state that they attend church. However, they do not. Because of the false impressions delivered by US media, the truth is actually distorted. In actuality, less than 20 percent of US citizens attend church. There are fewer people attending church than the number saying they are non-believers. Non-believers are off of our public radar even though they are growing as fundamentalists, evangelicals, established Christian denominations and Catholics are decreasing their numbers. Non-believers voted for Obama. Non-believers are fully 30 percent of young Americans under 34 years old. They, like unmarried women, are an unrecognized political force.
Young people are another Obama constituency. They have suffered terribly in the last four years, but three out of five of them voted for Obama. They too are a powerful and not yet organized constituency. They differ from older Americans in that a majority of young people from 18 to 29 prefer socialism to capitalism.
Gays are yet another constituency for Obama. It is estimated that one out of 10 US citizens is gay. An impressive 76 percent of gays voted for Obama.
Obama was elected as a way to hold back the tide of US fascism with its misogyny, nationalism, militarism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, anti-multiculturalism, anti-labor, and religiosity. Obama cannot deliver hope, jobs, prosperity, or a fulfilling life to the majority who elected him. The past election cost more than $6 billion. Obama cannot desert his economic backers. He will not create the 22 million decently-paid jobs that would be the equivalent of the 11 million or more jobs FDR created during our last Depression. (Our population has doubled since the last Great Depression). FDR created those jobs because there was a mass Communist and Socialist movement that threatened the capitalist system by exposing capitalism as the source of the Great Depression. FDR raised taxes on the rich to 94 percent. Those taxes financed government jobs and programs. The mass US Communist and Socialist movements impelled many powerful capitalists to support radical changes that would stop the threat to the entire capitalist system.
It took approximately 50 years for the alliance of capitalist giants, anti-labor forces, racists, religious fundamentalists, and anti-civil rights, anti-women’s rights, anti-intellectuals, anti-multiculturalists and anti-gay rights groups to tear down the protective legislation that FDR and his government put in place.
This election showed that there is a basis for a powerful movement based on toleration of difference, economic rights and equality, full civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, multiculturalism, an educated population and church state separation. That coalition lives among the constituencies that prevented a fascistic agenda. It is that coalition that reelected a president who did not deliver his promises of peace or prosperity. At least he was not a fascist.
We can do better. It is time for the US to create a democratic and socialist movement for tolerance, separation of church and state, equal opportunity and full human recognition. This time we will not be fooled into enacting regulations to protect and support our vision, while leaving the majority of the wealth and with that wealth, the power, in the same capitalist hands that brought America down. That wealth must be used for the majority, the 80 percent who own only 11 percent of America’s wealth, while the top 20 percent own 89 percent of our wealth. The demographic of the movement we develop is right there in the election results. It is time to build a movement based on that strong coalition.
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