(my column for November 2010)
As I write, it’s just a couple of days after the 2010 midterm elections, so I have to ask: Is everyone OK? Did you survive? Have you recovered? The past months have been a series of constant mindnumbing assaults on our senses and our sensibilities – culminating, of course, in what can accurately be termed a “rout” of the ruling Democrats. Not quite a “bloodbath” or “massacre” or “tsunami,” by any means – the Democrats retained their Senate majority, after all – but a massive defeat nonetheless.
That rout was accomplished by a combination of forces, including unaccountable (in both senses of the word) sums of money, the shrill 24-hour propaganda drumbeat of FOX News and right-wing radio, and the grassroots eruption (or perhaps cynical corporate creation) of the “Tea Party” movement.
President Obama’s conciliatory style, his attempts to truly govern from the center and be a President of all the people, didn’t help his cause. By refusing to push for more far-reaching health care and financial reforms, refusing to permit criminal investigations of the Bush Regime, and appearing to be in the thrall of Wall Street, he let the progressive enthusiasm that swept him into office die away. (Ironically enough, he may find some House Republicans eager to pursue the kind of investigations – against Obama, that is – that Obama was so reluctant to pursue against the Bushies.)
But this result was also no surprise. It’s commonplace, as you know, for the President’s party to lose ground in the midterms. Indeed, given the size and intensity of the anti-Obama effort, the real news might be that the Republican victory wasn’t even larger than it was. And the cycles of politics suggest that the Democrats will recover, just as the Republicans have recovered from the repudiations they so deservedly endured in 2006 and 2008.
Moreover, there is no reason to think that the divided government of the next two years will have any more success in dealing with our problems than the hegemonic rule the Democrats have had for the last couple of years, or that the Republicans had before that. This is because there are some things on which the ruling class generally agrees as a whole, certain basic assumptions that they are unwilling to question, certain underlying conditions that they are unwilling to change – and those are exactly the factors that lie at the heart of our troubles.
One of those factors can be summed up in a single word, the word that was left practically unspoken throughout this whole miserable spectacle that we have just endured:
So far as I am aware, in no campaign was the question of our military involvements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the world even mentioned as a major issue. Few if any major-party candidates called for reductions in military spending, or even for closer investigation of fraud, corruption, or abuse in military contracts. (Greens and Libertarians, of course, are another matter.)
Waynepeace recently screened the documentary RETHINK AFGHANISTAN (which you can watch online at www.rethinkafghanistan.org). One of the points made in this documentary concerns the outlandish amount of money that has been used in the military efforts in Afghanistan, and what we could be getting for that money instead – such as health care, housing, education. Another is that these outlays have in fact been largely counterproductive. Well, let me qualify that – “counterproductive” if you assume that the point of our involvement is to stabilize Afghanistan. If, however, you start from the assumption that the point is to actually fulfill the neocon dream of “permanent war,” to create a conflict in which we can never definitively win or from which we can never completely withdraw, then such tactics as drone strikes make perfect sense. Permanent war, after all, requires a permanent supply of enemies – and every attack that causes collateral damage and the deaths of innocent civilians provides another fresh batch of potential insurgents and terrorists.
The economic effects of military spending have rarely been questioned – which is ironic. After all, it’s one reason why, as the man said, “the rent is too DAMN high!”