By Dan Kervick
New Economics Perspectives is an economics blog, not a political one. So in the past, while I have written freely about some political issues, I have avoided the partisan political wrangle. But an election is taking place on Tuesday, and some things must be said. With the reader’s indulgence, I will be fairly brief.
I am voting on Tuesday to defeat Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. In my view, Romney represents the very worst aspects of American capitalism. Unlike so many of our politicians in Washington, he is not just a venal and servile defender of the barbarian plutocracy that runs this country. He is actually a ranking chief of the tribe. In his world of compulsive financial plunder, human beings and their labor are just chattel resources to be bought, traded, dismantled, used, abused, hired, fired and sold in the avaricious pursuit of personal gain. Now some might believe this approach to life is truly the American way. But whether that depressing proposition is true or not, the America of Romney’s hyper-capitalist pillage not the America I want to live in; and while I continue to breathe the air for which, so far, we do not have to pay, I will keep struggling against that darker America.
Romney famously expressed contempt for the 47% of Americans who do not measure up to his princely standards of serene and affluent independence from government. If anything, I believe that percentage vastly understates the number of Americans who mean nothing at all to him. And Romney is not the only self-satisfied sadist on the ticket. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, is a man whose political vocation was inspired by his reading of the crackbrained hellion of egotistic individualism, Ayn Rand, but who also claims to be a Roman Catholic and admirer of Saint Thomas Aquinas. One might well wonder how a rational and literate human being could fail to grasp the extent of the vast moral gulf between these two thinkers. The most obvious solution to this cognitive puzzle is that Ryan is simply a liar and an opportunistic psychopath.
But Romney and Ryan are not just par for the Republican country club course. They are the prettified, airbrushed faces of a surly and slavering gang that is, if anything, even worse. Candidate Romney is the anointed leader of a party that is now vehemently dedicated to hatred, ignorance, backwardness, bigotry and fanaticism. The contemporary Republican Party has allowed itself to become a rolling, contaminated tide of stinking evil, and their representatives in Washington have spent the last four years doing everything they can to prolong and intensify economic pain in order to capitalize politically on our devastation. No one can doubt Republicans have pursued this course deliberately, and with zeal, and it is a measure of the cynicism of our Washington political class that the kind of dereliction of duty that would once have merited floggings and a trip to the stocks now earns only admiring smirks and knowing shrugs from embedded pundits. If the Republicans’ presidential candidate wins this election, their party will be encouraged and emboldened even further in their reckless career of social destruction. I believe it is important to stand up to that kind of malevolence, and punish Republican malice with electoral defeat.
It is not enough to repudiate Romney and his ilk by voting for some attractive candidate from a small party, or by not voting at all. Elections aren’t exercises in self-indulgent self-expression. The point is actually to defeat Romney. And he can only be defeated by voting for the only candidate who can defeat him, that that is Barack Obama. Nobody needs to tell me how many failures and betrayals Obama has notched on his belt so far: the endless war-making abroad; the failure to prosecute crimes on Wall Street or to pursue serious structural reforms of the economic system that wrecked the world in 2008; the neglect of mass joblessness and the deluded embrace of the new Washington witch craze of debt fret; the acceptance of conventional neoliberal wisdom on economic philosophy; the obsequious groveling after plutocratic acceptance and right-wing respect; the betrayal of homeowners; the complacent acceptance of rising inequality and corporate profits while the America dream evaporates for millions; and the trading away of a public option in health care. Following the catastrophic and manifest failure of US-style financial capitalism in 2008, many progressives hoped for a crusade of economic reform and restructuring, if not an outright revolution. We got a restoration of the ancien régime instead.
But this is the hand we have been dealt. The Republican cretins can only be defeated by a failing and corrupted Democratic Party. Ordinary Democrats sometimes mean well. But the Democratic Party rank and file in 2012 is paralyzed by fear and submission, lost in a wilderness of confusion and disinformation, and addicted to timidity and a visionless program of mere hanging on. On top of that, they are lorded over by a technocratic political elite whose members seem personally satisfied with the status quo, comfortably plugged into the money machine, actively anti-democratic in their tastes and social outlook and uninterested in the instinctive egalitarian values of more progressive Democrats. All of that is true. But I regard the current political landscape as a two front war. And we must defeat one opponent at a time. After the election, the fight can be redirected against the Obama administration and its insipid grand-bargaineering, neoliberalism and financial sector hugging. Progressives are not powerless in this fight. The Democratic caucus needs progressive support to get almost anything through Congress.
So there is it. You will hear no peppy rallying cries and bandwagon boosterism from me in 2012. Some might say mine is not a hopeful message, and they are right I suppose. And purists might decry, as always, the sorry appeal to a lesser of two evils argument. But there is such a thing as evil, and some of it is lesser. That’s life. I do have hope that progressives – the same people whom the President’s former chief of staff derided as “retards” – can eventually win great victories for the American people and help create a more equal, decent, prosperous, sustainable and democratic society. But there are many enemies to defeat along the way.