Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D.
November 12, 2012
Barack Obama has won a second term as tenant of the White House, but by a paper-thin margin. Obama won the Electoral College by 332 votes to 206, and surpassed Romney in the popular vote by some 2.8 million votes, equivalent to 50.4% against Romney’s 48.1% (with the rest going to minor parties), but these figures obscure rather than reveal how close this race really was.
Victory in the US presidential election has nothing to do with the nationwide popular vote total, but rather results from 50 separate state by state elections in which the winner takes all principle prevails. From this point of view, the states which gave Obama a majority in the Electoral College were Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire; if these electoral votes had been transferred to Romney, the Republican candidate would have won the day.
Obama’s combined popular vote majority in these critical swing states amounted, according to preliminary figures, to about 315,000 votes – about 0.26% or just over one quarter of 1% of all votes cast. Therefore, if about 160,000 votes had gone into Romney’s column instead of going to Obama, we would now be dreading the onset of a Romney regime. In other words, Obama won by about 1/8 of 1% of the 118 million votes cast. This is no landslide.
In the Senate, the Republicans had been expected to score major gains, most likely seizing control of the upper chamber because of structural reasons, but the right wing party lost two seats and has to settle for 45 senators compared to 55 Democrats and pro-Democratic independents.
In the US House of Representatives, the Republicans have lost six seats but will retain their controlling majority. In terms of the nationwide total of all votes for all members of Congress, the Democrats have a 500,000 vote majority, and did not win more seats mainly because House districts in many states have been gerrymandered to the extreme by Republican majorities in the state legislatures.
Despite the close outcome, the 2012 election may soon be seen in retrospect as confirming a significant watershed in American politics, benefiting the Democrats and thrusting the Republicans into a disadvantaged position. The reasons for this long-term tendency are to be found in the demographics of the current US population. The population groups which typically support the Democrats – women, blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, young people under the age of 30, labor, and some other groups are growing in numbers by about 1% per year. By contrast, the social classes and ethnic groups who typically vote Republican are continuing their secular decline.
Romney’s plan for a permanent austerity dictatorship
Recognizing the handwriting on the wall, the Romney campaign mounted a last ditch attempt to create a permanent plutocratic austerity dictatorship now by quasi-legal means.
The goal of Romney and Ryan was to realize Karl Rove’s infamous design for a 40-year domination of the US government by the Republicans. The original goal was for the Republicans to use corporate money and computer-based election fraud to seize control of the presidency and both houses of Congress. Given the fact that two or even three seats on the Supreme Court may become vacant during the next four years, the Romney White House would have proceeded to pack the court with fascist and reactionary judges of the Scalia type.
The new Supreme Court majority would have approved a greater and greater role for financier contributions to political campaigns, while at the same time upholding the constitutionality of measures to virtually outlaw trade unions. Such a Supreme Court majority would also have approved measures to deprive blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the young, and the old of the right to vote. By limiting the franchise, the reactionary court majority would have neutralized the growing numerical inferiority of the pro-Republican voting bloc. The result would have been a regime which could only be called fascist, complete with numerous aggressive wars masterminded by Romney’s contingent of neocon foreign policy advisers. The second Obama regime will inevitably pose lethal threats, but probably less so than Romney would have.
The Republican design has been frustrated for the moment partly because some elements of the reactionary coalition jumped the gun and acted too soon. Romney proclaimed his scorn for the 47%, and voters punished him for this. Even now, the Supreme Court is actively considering the rollback of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which is still the only thing preventing racist and reactionary Southern states from re-imposing poll taxes and other barriers to minorities on their way to the ballot box.
Even more dramatically, Republican administrations in states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere tried to prevent blacks, Hispanics, the poor, and the elderly from voting by concocting outrageous identification requirements, by attempting to abolish or limit early voting, by failing to provide sufficient numbers of voting machines, and by a general climate of harassment and intimidation. This approach has backfired: black and Hispanic voters who were profoundly disillusioned by Obama’s many betrayals found a new determination to vote against the Republicans when the latter flaunted their desire to attack voting rights. This backlash against voter suppression was of primary importance in many of the swing states.
Romney defeat confirms party re-alignment vs. republicans
The long-term importance of Romney’s defeat has to do with the question of a multi-decade party realignment of the majority and minority status of the Democratic and Republican parties. Over the course of US history since 1789, we can observe 30 to 40 year political cycles which are marked by the dominance of one party over another, based on a formula for winning the Electoral College through the support of certain voting blocs, ethnic groups, ideological currents, or geographical sections. The outcome of the 2012 election now seems to confirm that such a party realignment in fact occurred in 2008, and is now continuing. A look back at the previous cycles may make this question clearer.
From 1789 to 1828, the first party system featured the Federalists of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton in command at first, but then pushed aside by the anti-national Jeffersonians, including Monroe and Madison. Only at the end of the cycle did economic nationalism return in the form of John Quincy Adams. The first party system succeeded in creating the federal government, guaranteeing financial independence through Hamilton’s Bank of the United States, and fending off the British threat the war of 1812.
The second party system started with the victory of the demagogue Andrew Jackson in 1828, and ended in the chaos of the Civil War in 1860. The parties were now the dominant Jacksonian Democrats and the minority Whigs. This party system was a catastrophic failure. Jackson destroyed the Second Bank of the United States, opened the door to the Panic of 1837, and prevented the phasing out of slavery through modern economic development in the South.
The third-party system started with the victory of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 as the candidate of the new Republican Party, which had taken the place of the extinct Whigs. This party system was remarkably successful, safeguarding national unity against secessionism, eliminating slavery, establishing a protective tariff, land reform, and a controlled currency, and making the United States the premier industrial power of the world. The return of the minority Democrats to power with Grover Cleveland only towards the end of the cycle was accompanied by financial panic and the loss of financial sovereignty to Wall Street and Great Britain.
The fourth party system started with the election of Republican William McKinley over Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1896. The Wall Street Republican dominance continued, interrupted only by even greater catastrophes under the Democrat Woodrow Wilson. The Federal Reserve system, racist immigration laws, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan to a mass organization belong to this phase, which ends with a speculative bubble of the 1920s, the crash of 1929, and the onset of world depression.
The fifth party system, that of the Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal, began in 1932 and extended to 1968. This dominance by the Democratic Party was overwhelmingly successful, defeating the world economic depression, overcoming fascism in World War II, holding the Soviet Union at bay during the Stalinist phase, unlocking the secrets of the atom, and going into space. The New Deal cycle broke up in 1968 because of President Lyndon Johnson’s folly in accepting the demands of the Wall Street banking elite for the Vietnam war. The end of this phase was also punctuated by the assassinations of popular leaders like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and others.
GOP’s racist southern strategy in a shambles
From 1968 to 2008 there followed the sixth party system, launched by Nixon and dominated by reactionary Republicans. In retrospect, we can now see that the sixth party system came to an end with the collapse of the catastrophic Bush-neocon regime, which had managed to combine ruinous foreign wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a generalized hysteria about false flag terrorism, and a second world economic depression.
During this phase, the Republican formula for victory was known as the Southern Strategy, meaning that the GOP became a southern-centered party taking advantage of the racist backlash in these socially backward areas after the passage of the Kennedy-Johnson civil rights legislation of the 1960s. The solid South stopped being Democratic and went Republican. Southern voters, white men, evangelical Christian fundamentalists, rural voters, and low-wage or sweatshop small business interests composed the dominant bloc, at the service of Wall Street.
All indications are now that the seventh party system began in 2008. In addition to the voter groups already mentioned, the Democrats have been able to win back enough white blue-collar workers in the Midwest and Great Lakes region – thanks to Romney’s attempt to asset strip the auto industry — to hold states like Ohio and Wisconsin, which had been in play. As the numbers of reactionary white men declines in the future, states like Texas and Georgia may follow Colorado and New Mexico in becoming competitive, rather than exclusive GOP turf. Losers in this transition include Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and the warmonger neocons who had attached themselves to Romney. Another loser is CIA boss David Petraeus, who is heavily implicated in the staged Benghazi September 11 incident designed to defeat Obama, and who is now paying the price.
When Obama betrays his base, watch for a democratic split
But this perspective is threatened by Obama’s manifest determination to sell out the base of the Democratic Party because of his obsession with a grand bargain of austerity with the reactionary Republicans. He would be smarter to kick the can down the road indefinitely, since the Republicans can expect to decline by 1% per year. Obama imagines the Democratic Party as a loose confederation of ethnic and ideological groups, each one practicing its own identity politics. He fails to see that the vote-getting power of the party as a whole depends on an intransigent defense of the New Deal, New Frontier, and Great Society social safety net programs. If Obama demolishes these, he will also demolish the Democratic Party.
At that point we might witness a factional split among the Democrats. On the one hand, we would have Wall Street Democrats like Obama, Senator Schumer, Senator Durbin, House minority leader Pelosi, and others. But there would also be a populist faction, with figures like Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio (the most pro-labor senator), the newly elected Senator Elizabeth Warren (the most anti-Wall Street senator), Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Congressman Brad Sherman of California, and various other members of the Congressional Progressive and Black Caucuses.
This is the only visible faction which could turn away from the current US course of aggressive imperialism in foreign affairs, which Hillary Clinton hopes to continue. The populist advantage stems from the fact that 65% to 75% to 80% of Americans want their economic rights respected, a view which no party represents today.
In the meantime, we can expect Obama to rely more and more on sanctions and economic warfare, killer drones, special forces raids, assassinations and espionage, and above all on playing other countries one against the other to the detriment of both, such as France against Libya, Turkey against Syria, and other cases.
Hostility to Russia will remain high, and the threatening stance against China will be accentuated. On the whole very bad indeed, but still not as bad as what we might expect from a President Romney and a Secretary of State John Bolton, with Netanyahu whispering in his friend Romney’s ear.