Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ignored by the Presidential campaign

The two-party system, for better or worse, forces a binomial choice on us in most elections. With very rare exceptions, third party efforts are significant in how they affect the outcome of the binomial choice between Democrats and Republicans. The last time a new party emerged to become a lasting one was the Republican Party, which was founded in 1854 and first ran a Presidential candidate in 1856.

And one of the effects of the two-party system, especially to the extent big money dominates the political process, is that important issues can and do get pushed to the sidelines of political discussion and debate. Regulating private stores of firearms, "gun control," has virtually disappeared from actual public discussion except as a scare tactic to sell more guns and demonize Democrats, who in reality (with all-too-rare exceptions right now) hope their passive opposition to gun control will just make the issue go away.

Global climate change has also dropped off the board for discussion in the Presidential campaign, at least in that form. The obvious consequences of various aspects of the phenomenon are addressed in isolation, e.g., emergency assistance to areas affected by extreme weather events. Charlie Pierce writes in 2012's Incredible Disappearing Issue: Climate Change Esquire Politics Blog 10/17/2012 that "climate change is an issue that has become an orphan in this campaign because it is simply too big for our political system to handle."

Dan Froomkin points out another matter of very serious concern in the continuing expansion of Executive power in the name of the national security state in The Big Chill: How Obama Is Operating in Unprecedented Secrecy -- While Attacking the Secret-Tellers Huffington Post 10/17/2012:

The post-post-9/11 period finds the U.S. aggressively experimenting with two new highly disruptive forms of combat -- drone strikes and cyberattacks -- for which our leaders appear to be making up the rules, in secret, as they go along.

Troubling legal and moral issues left behind by the previous administration remain unresolved. Far from reversing the Bush-Cheney executive power grab, President Barack Obama is taking it to new extremes by unilaterally approving indefinite detention of foreign prisoners and covert targeted killings of terror suspects, even when they are American citizens.

There is little to none of the judicial and legislative oversight Obama had promised, so the executive branch's most controversial methods of violence and control remain solely in the hands of the president -- possibly about to be passed along to a leader with less restraint.

More than a decade after it started, we still have no clue how much the government is listening in on us or reading our email, despite the obvious Fourth Amendment issues.

And the government's response to this unprecedented secrecy is a war on leaks.
Froomkin notes that the press is partially to blame for this in terms of their habits of deference to power, which too often extends to downright servility. (Judith Miller; do we need to say more?)

But it's even more a failure of responsibility and even explicit Constitutional duty on the part of Congress. Congress and the courts are supposed to act as a check on excessive Presidential power. And they aren't doing it nearly adequately enough, though the federal courts haven't yet been completely brought to heel. Since 9/11, Congress if anything has been more willing to authorized huge expansions of authority at the expense of individual rights than the Executive has. And that's a lot!

Digby "stop the Grand Bargain" Parton talks about another major failing of current politics, the framing of the discussion of benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the context of a Grand Bargain to cut them driven by largely scam assumptions in Obama and the vision thing Hullabaloo 10/16/2012. Speaking of President Obama's dedication to a Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, she writes:

I still do not know what his vision is aside from that glittering promise to transcend all divisions and make us all one. If he has a policy vision that's consumed him for his entire first term, I'd say it's what Matt Yglesias called his white whale: the Grand Bargain. But I still have no idea why he thinks that's such a worthy goal, except as a way to tick off a bunch of discrete policy objectives all at once, ostensibly in order to clear contentious politics from the deck so we can all get together an govern for the common good. More fantasy. ...

At this point I have to hope that the tepid reception to his speech at the convention, the downright poor reception to his debate performance (and the clear potential for an upset in this election) will have finally shaken the last of the gauzy cobwebs of 2008 out of the campaign's memories --- and forced them to recognize that for all the happy talk on the trail about how "we" did this and that, the problem is that people don't know what "he" is going to do. I don't think they need any more big vision statements about "bringing people together" -- they've learned about that the hard way. What they probably would like to hear from the president is some conviction that he will fight for them.
In that last sentence she gets at the frustrations that progressive Dems are feeling right now. On the one hand, a second Obama Administration would be more beneficial (or, if you prefer, less risky) than a Romney-Ryan Administration. So progressive are hoping he sounds enough like a Democrat to get re-elected, at the same time knowing that he will have bad policies that progressive Democrats need to fight, not least through primary challenges to EVERY Democrat in Congress who supports reductions in benefits to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Daniel Ellsberg makes a good expression of the frustration of progressives in this particular binomial Presidential election (Progressives: In Swing States, Vote for Obama Huffington Post 10/18/2012):

An activist colleague recently said to me: "I hear you're supporting Obama."

I was startled, and took offense. "Supporting Obama? Me?!"

"I lose no opportunity publicly," I told him angrily, to identify Obama as a tool of Wall Street, a man who's decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who's launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together. "Would you call that support?"
But label it "support" or not, what Ellsberg winds up saying is that in the binomial Presidential election, from a progressive viewpoint it's urgent that Obama beat Romney.

After that: the fight over the Grand Bargain.

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