Posted 7 months ago on Oct. 14, 2012, 12:32 p.m. EST by flip
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One month before the 2012 presidential election, the “Public” Broadcasting System’s investigative journalism show Frontline last week broadcast a show purporting to “present the definitive portraits of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.” The show, bearing the dramatic title “The Choice,” provided sensitive, highly personal biographies of the two official contenders, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
“The Choice” was as remarkable for what it left out as it was for what it included. It was loaded with details about each candidate’s family histories and marriages and past careers and campaigns.
All of this was very impressively researched and presented. At the same time, “The Choice,” was deafeningly silent about the different yet all too similar policy agendas of the two business-backed candidates and about the massive amounts of elite money that have paid for both of the campaigns in what has become by far and away the most expensive U.S. election ever. By deleting policy, Frontline suggests that only real choice on offer is whether one wants to the White House to be occupied by (A) a fantastically rich white male who was born into great wealth and power and the Mormon Church close to this father or (B) an often lonely half-black man born into a broken, middle-class family who smoked a lot of weed in high school and had almost no contact with his father, was raised for many years by his white grandparents in Honolulu, and wandered the streets of Harlem before finding a home and a political base in Chicago’s black South Side?
Beyond the standard shrieking of Romper Room radicals who insist that the two parties and their candidates’ agendas are “indistinguishable” and “the same” – totally or almost completely without any relevant difference – there are policy divergences that ought to matter to any serious progressive who actually cares about his fellow human beings and livable ecology. The G.O.P. has become yet ever more “publicly committed to dismantling and destroying whatever progressive legislations and social welfare has been won by popular struggles over the past century” (Noam Chomsky). Writing of the Republican Party four years ago (in an important left-liberal critique of the U.S. political order that did not spare the Democrats),  political scientist Sheldon Wolin observed in 2008 that “It is hard to imagine any power more radical [than the G.O.P.] in its determination to undo the gains of the past century.”
That judgment is no less relevant four years later, to say the least. Nobody, probably not even Mitt Romney, knows if Romney actually means what he says on the campaign trail. But if the Republicans complete their takeover of Congress – a possibility – next November, a President Romney would face overriding pressure to act on what he says. And here’s some of what he’s claimed he would do as president:
•immediately okay the disastrous Keystone Pipeline •end federal tax supports for wind power •further escalate fracking and offshore drilling •let the states re-criminalize abortion •seek a constitutional amendment outlawing new same-sex marriages •seek a constitutional amendment requiring two-third congressional majorities for tax increases •replace unemployment benefits with unemployment “savings accounts.” •“double Guantanamo” •officially re-authorize torture •deport undocumented aliens en masse •start a new Cold War with “our main strategic enemy” – nuclear Russia •significantly deepen inequality with further giant tax cuts for the wealthy few •further gut financial regulations •further cut Food Stamps, Medicaid and what’s left of public family cash assistance
Romney’s selection of “Tea Party” favorite Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate amounts to a de facto endorsement of Ryan’s plans to voucher-ize Medicare and to thoroughly bankrupt what’s left of the government’s capacity for social expenditure – this while acting to significantly increase the upward distribution of wealth and income.
Still, the nation’s two dominant political organizations are more alike than different in any meaningful world-historical sense. A recent Black Agenda Report column by the left activist and commentator Bruce Dixon uncovered no less than 15 critical political and policy matters on which Obama and Romney basically agree behind the official media story line of an epic contest between two “very different” and indeed “sharply polarized” parties and candidates. Dixon’s list includes the following:
•‘The federal government should NOT enact any sort of WPA-style program to put millions of people back to work.’ •‘Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are “entitlements” that need to be cut to relieve “the deficit.”’ •‘Climate change treaties and negotiations that might lead to them should be avoided at all costs.’ •The corporatist investor-rights North American Free Trade Agreement is ‘such a great thing it really should be extended to Central and South America and the entire Pacific rim.’ •‘Banksters and Wall Street speculators deserve their bailouts and protection from criminal liability, but underwater and foreclosed homeowners deserve nothing.’ •Racist imperialism should march on in the Middle East: ‘Palestinians should be occupied, dispossessed and ignored. Iran should be starved and threatened from all sides…. Cuba should be embargoed…. Black and brown babies and their parents, relatives and neighbors should be bombed with drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and similar places.’ •Racist imperialism must march on in Africa: ‘Africa should be militarized, destabilized, plundered and where necessary, invaded by proxy armies like those of Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi or Kenya, or directly by Western air and ground forces, as in Libya’ •‘US Presidents can kidnap citizens of their own or any nation on earth from anyplace on the planet for torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial or murder them and neighboring family and bystanders at will’ •‘Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere, and permitted to poison land and watersheds with fracking to achieve “energy independence”.’ •‘The FCC should not and must not regulate telecoms to ensure that poor and rural communities have access to internet, or to guarantee network neutrality.’ •‘There really ARE such things as “clean coal” and “safe nuclear energy.”’ •‘Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere, and permitted to poison land and watersheds with fracking to achieve “energy independence.”’ •‘Immigrants must be jailed and deported in record numbers.’ •‘No Medicare for All. Forget about it eliminating the Medicare age requirement so that all Americans would qualify.’ •‘No minimum wage increases for you, no right to form a union, no right to negotiate or strike if you already have a union, and no enforcement or reform of existing labor laws.’ •‘The 40 year war on drugs must continue…mention of the prison state is unthinkable.’