A Marxist Analysis of the 2012 elections
By Juan Diaz & Florence Oppen
The election debates are over and the ruling parties have sounded off the signal to get the vote out and re-affirm their austerity and imperialist policies. After all the TV debates, ads, phone-banking, and the general bombardment to vote for Obama or Romney, we still say that regardless of who wins, it will only make a cosmetic difference on the governing policies to tackle the crisis. In short, this campaign showed their common ground of agreement: austerity, cuts, and a spiraling down of wages and labor rights.
With the political theatre they just performed, their hope is to redirect the masses’ attention away from the cuts and brutalities they have performed (and are preparing for the future) and to direct their energy to a game of life or death – Obama or Romney. This tired old game of the U.S.ruling class first had to defeat and co-opt Wisconsin[i] and Occupy. And faced some small obstacles even in the last period- theCTU, Wal-Mart andDetroit public water worker strikes – showing that the masses aren’t going to gobble up the kool-aid without some resistance.
What did we learn about the candidates in this electoral period?
In a previous piece on the 2012 elections, we went over the differences in Obama and Romney, and the stakes of the elections for the US and world people. To sum our analysis up, re-electing Obama would mean more of the same experience of the last 4 years – a domestic policy of bailing out the rich and making the working-class and oppressed pay for the economic crisis through austerity measures, and for foreign policy, a continuation of Bush’s policies regarding wars and economic re-colonization. In the electoral debates, Obama stayed close to his policies and didn’t deviate his position on his main issues. This electoral campaign has been a dispute between the different sectors of the 1% regarding who is the most needed to save capitalism and the rule of this economic ultra-minority.
For Romney’s part, in the electoral debates and in his campaign, he basically said he would’ve done the same economic policy of bailing out the banks and ruling-class and would not change too much of Obama’s foreign policy – except use more “firm’ and “tough” rhetoric. In other words, Romney wants to be a president similar to Bush and the Republicans – to serve the needs of the ruling class and to put on a “tough cop” persona nationally and internationally.
As his presidential candidacy was confirmed earlier this year, Romney started distancing himself away from right-wing Christian fundamentalist positions tied to the Tea Party and the Republican right-wing. Once the Republican base was confirmed, he has tried to move more to the center to win over the undecided voters and those that are only slightly leaning towards Obama. This has made Romney’s candidacy weak and allowed Obama and his allies to attack him on being a flip-flopper and not having a consistent opinion on matters.
Furthermore, though Romney had a “good” first electoral debate by putting Obama on the defensive (it helped that Obama’s answers and mannerisms were vague and unclear), Obama was able to use his charisma and speaking strengths to outshine Romney in the other two debates. Leading up to Election Day, Obama and his allies were able to attack Romney by his association and support of right-wing Tea Party candidates (like tea party-backed conservative Republican senator Mourdock, known for his “apologetic” rape comments), his opposition to women’s and LGBT rights, and the general backwardness of the right-wing figures he and his party associates with.
The TV debates and campaigning by both candidates highlight their shared projects in the coming period. Both think that theU.S.economy and society is prevailing – they admit it’s facing a few “small” bumps – but nonetheless they ignore the great recession’s effects of the past few years. They want us to forget that we now have one the largest income inequalities between the rich and working-class poor in our nation’s history.
In terms of foreign/international policy, both candidates have almost agreed on the main questions – on what to do about the wars we already are in (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) and are looking to get involved in (Iran, Syria, etc.). They both want to make sure theU.S.is able to come out on top in its current wars and maintain its foothold in the Middle-East and other countries. In addition, they both seeIranas the next foreign threat. They both agree on applying pressures and to subjugate it toU.S.interests – through whatever force needed, up to and including war. Romney is more vocal on the need for war assaults sooner than later – Obama is willing to be a bit more patient.
In the international economic crisis arena, both are worried about the European economic and political crises’ development and want to make sure that the ruling governments there are able to keep their economies stable and the working class resistance quiet. Furthermore, both raved in the TV debates about the increasingU.S.reliance onChinain import and financial sectors; these “scapegoating” attempts on blamingChinafor the badU.S.economy is something to keep our eyes on as it could have important repercussions in future domestic and foreign policy.
In summary, one thing that the TV debates and subsequent presidential propaganda showed was that in domestic and international policy, both candidates have the same perspectives and goals – to keep theUSAas the chief imperialist power and to keep its ruling elite filthy rich. They share the same strategy to get there – to impose austerity and cutbacks to public & social services and to keep financing the projects and wishes of the ruling 1% in order to make profit at the expense of the majority and the environment. What they may differ in is the tactics and route to get there.
Following the trail of endorsements & campaign money
The polls of the ruling class – mainly the financial and corporate elite- are more illuminating on who they are betting will win. In this case, recent ruling class indexes like LPL Financial’s Wall Street Election index, Intrade, and theCNBCpoll of Wall Street pros have swung to Obama’s favor. This and the recent endorsements by the finance magazines of The Economist & Bloomberg for Obama shows that the financial elite are more and more putting their bet- and financial and political power, for Obama winning.
In addition, some of the more revealing information that comes out in the electoral period is who the biggest campaign fundraisers and donations are. This is an important field where we can say that there are some differences between Obama and Romney – in which ruling class elite decide to fund their campaigns and thus be president. The millions of money ( for example, Romney fundraised almost $19 million for his campaign so far this year) they receive doesn’t come out of the wealthy peoples’ kindness but because they want something out of it – whether that’s business deals (see Bush Jrs. relation to the Haliburton and Blackwater military enterprises) or other benefits.
If we look at the recent patterns of funding for the candidates we are able see that there are some differences in fundraisers & supporters [individuals, companies and Political Action Committees (PAC)] but both are mainly funded by the bigWall St.banks and the other bigU.S.corporations. If we look at the numbers only up to the end of October, Romney had fundraised more than three times the amount that Obama got from Wall St. compared to 2008.
Romney’s biggest backers include SuperPACs created by finance, insurance & real estate PACs, the big banks (BoFA) securities, military/Defense corporations like LockHeed Martin and right-wing dynasties like the Koch Brothers. Specifically, his top contributors are people and organizations aligned with the big banks of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp. and Credit Suisse Group AG., according to Opensecrets.org. Furthermore, the Energy/Natural Resources (Big oil, Coal, etc.) Industries have been big supporters of Romney as well (in the top 10 according to Opensecrets.org: $101,241,304)[jmg2] .
Obama’s biggest fundraisers, on the other hands, this year are labor unions (in the superPacs arena) and big Communication/Electronics companies like Microsoft & Google, higher education institutes like UC and Harvard,DLAPiper Law (lawyers and their Lobbyers) Firm. Obama has also been getting support from the same Wall St. banks and corporations as Romney, but it was not until the home stretch (when they decided on putting their bets on him) that Obama has started to catch up to Romney in this sector.
When we start to look at the number in the last weeks leading up to the election, when Obama has edged out Romney in the popularity contest, Wall St and the big corporations have been putting all their funding to Obama- this is the common trend we saw in previous elections (1996, 2000 and 2008). According to recent fundraising data, Obama has the momentum in the last 4-5 weeks before the elections in funding from these sources and others: “The president raised $114 million in August, more than 40% more than he raised in July.”
Election’s campaigns effects on polls and the people
If we look at the mainstream polling agencies (i.e. Rasputin, Gallup, etc.) two weeks before the elections (week of October 31), we see that in terms of winning voters, the electoral debates did not drastically change the likely president much. Polling numbers from various sources still show the election as being close (259 electoral college votes for Obama vs. Romney’s 206[ii]) though there was a slight trend of votes moving a little to Romney in the electoral swing states (i.e. Pennsylvania, Ohio, N.C.) that has cost previous Democratic candidates the election.
Historically, the TV debates and big electoral push have had a couple goals: (1) to get Americans to “endorse” or not the policies of the incumbent president, (2) to convince the masses that electing the president is the one decision we all have that can change the path of the next four years, and (3) to make sure that Americans are only concerned about voting for one of the ruling class representatives at a time of crisis. The impact that these goals have in the general political and social arena is important, as important as which president wins which “swing” states (i.e.Ohio,Florida,Virginia).
The relevance of the electoral campaign for the working class
a. They are framing the debate within the rhetoric of austerity, cuts, etc.
Elections can provide revolutionaries and other radicals with the opportunity to bring the concrete needs and demands of the working-class & oppressed to the spotlight. The electoral campaign of the 1%, including the much-hyped debates, did not give any answers to issues affecting most Americans these days, including the need of well-paying jobs (still 23 million unemployed), affordable and functioning health-care, resolving the mass housing foreclosures (11 million homes foreclosed), resolving the inflation impacting food, wages, and other important items, student debt, the continued impoverishment of most Blacks & Latinos, and so on. Instead, their electoral campaign drowned out these important issues.
Revolutionary socialists, if they have the forces, should use the electoral platform to bring to light these issues. Furthermore, it should be pointed that out that these issues are problems inherent in capitalism and imperialism today, and that under a government of and for the workers it could be easily solved. We don’t see a mass electoral campaign of the workers and oppressed feasible with today’s left forces but socialists, radicals, unionists and the oppressed communities should be doing the groundwork for such a campaign to be able to happen in the future.
b. They co-opted Occupy and our independent initiatives
The ruling class has succeeded in one important thing during this electoral period: that is, framing the mass ideological arena so many of those who were active in the past couple of years of struggle are asking themselves “What will stop Romney and the Republicans?” instead of pointing out the class antagonism between the 1% and the 99% that was influential when Occupy & other independent movements, like the Wisconsin Capitol occupation and the Chicago Teachers strike, were in people’s consciousness.
This is an ideological and political defeat of the working-class and oppressed as the Democratic Party (DP) and it’s allies were able to demobilize the remnants of the Occupy movement and to push many would-be (or formerly) activists to campaign for Obama, an electoral proposition, or were just pushed out of politics altogether. This means that in many places we’ll have to start from scratch to rebuild the political consciousness and organization (i.e. on the need to fight the austerity offensive of the 1%.) that initiatives like Occupy brought.
The only real alternative to the current crisis of capitalism is the struggle for socialism
It is becoming more and more apparent that this crisis is a crisis of capitalism as a system, one of the cyclical crisis it produces because of the internal contradictions of the inner laws of accumulation of capital and profit making. But this does not mean that capitalism will collapse by itself. This crisis has not only showed us how much this system is leading the humanity towards misery, hunger, climate change, more exploitation and more wars. It shows us that as long as the capitalist class, the 1%, keeps the political power and rules through its parties, the 99% will suffer from this system.
The only alternative to this threat that is becoming more and more real is to organize our class to fight back. We have enough resources in this country and in the world to solve the effects of the crisis: we could expropriate all the empty houses owned by the banks to use them in a public plan of housing, put forward a public plan of works with federal money, put an end to all the wars and military interventions abroad to finance a fully funded free public education and health-care system, etc. Capitalism is the system that puts a minority in power & who uses the economy to extract profit, and therefore putting profit over people and nature. We need to fight for a democratic system where people have the direct control of the functioning of the economy organizing around the satisfaction of our needs, the preservation of our planet and the fight against all forms of alienation, exploitation and oppression, that is to say for an international and democratic form of socialism.
Yet, the fight against the effects of this does not only happen in the arena of the union struggle, and other social movements (like the education or immigrant rights)- it is foremost a political struggle. We can put forward all the policy alternatives we want (and we must do it to show that there is an alternative), but this alone will do nothing. We must be clear that as long as the working class and its organizations aren’t in power, all of our plans remain a piece of paper. Therefore, we need to start building the concrete social and political power of our class now by combining our small victories against austerity with the long term perspective of the construction of an organization that fights for socialism.
Regardless who gets elected, we need to build a campaign to fight back!
One thing to note in today’s social-political terrain, wherein the ruling class is figuring out which president is best to do the job, is that the foundation that they will govern in is shaky and another mass uproar like Occupy will definitely shake the political tectonic plates & make their job tougher. The electoral debates showed that through the back and forth debates, Romney was able to slightly close the gap in predicted voters for him, but not enough in the key swing states. In the end, Obama is still able to show that he is safest bet to govern the continuing economic crisis and austerity measures: we can look at the recent financial elite endorsements Obama got and also the big money he got in the home stretch of the elections.
Regardless of who gets elected, we must continue our efforts to build mass and democratic movements that will put the pressure on the next president, whoever it may be, in order to not let their policies make the working-class and oppressed pay for the economic, social and environmental crisis caused by Wall St. and the ruling 1%.
Setting the foundation for strikes and work actions- like many of the big Occupy protests of last year and early this year- are the only ways to start combating the austerity measures being imposed by Obama’s administration or his allies in the Democratic Party (like Mayor Rahm Emanuel in theCTUstrike). Likewise, we must not forget how they have repressed us not too long ago: the ones leading the police and state repression then and now on Occupy activists, undocumented workers (through E-Verify raids), black and Latino communities, workers and the general community are under DP administrations, like the DP mayors and governors in California, Chicago, New York and other DP-led states. Thus, workers and the community have no reason to trust the same party who has been repressing and hurting us not only during this electoral period, but long before.
To this end, we must build on the best of the working-class resistance that we have seen leading up to the electoral period. This includes what was done in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike in September of this year, the Wal-Mart workers who have been doing work-stoppages and a mass campaign to unionize and fight for better working conditions (like against sexism in the workplace) and for better wages, and the water public workers strike in Detroit. These strikes and work actions show us that on the ground organizing with workers and the community is more effective in attaining better working and living conditions then elections and their campaigns.
Unfortunately, the working-class and oppressed have no third party that can compete in this election and represent them. There are some independent socialists candidates running (like the Peace and Freedom Party and Freedom and Socialist Party candidates) and we support their efforts, but they will not be enough. As said in our last piece, the big task ahead for us class conscious workers, socialists and revolutionaries is to build a mass revolutionary party. Our embryonic forces of a revolutionary party in La Voz, with the assistance and support of our international world party – the International Workers’ League (IWL-FI) will do our best to push the struggle forward and continue the struggle after the elections are over .
 Which measures the stock performance of so-called Democrat- and Republican-friendly industries has swung strongly to the Democrats since June. 9/18/12. More here:http://articles.marketwatch.com/2012-09-18/commentary/33904463_1_romney–wall–street–president–obama/2
 Ibid. Intrades is a futures market set up for bettors looking to cash in on such probabilities
 Ibid. The Health industries have been supporting both candidates around the same (in total $166,669,314 as of10/25/12) and of note, the Agribusiness ($63,141,411),
Transportation ($55,753,653), Defense ($21,048,011) sectors have been supporting Romney substantially more.