This week, at the Democratic National Convention, in North Carolina, Democrats made their case for why America should reelect President Obama.
And as the election draws near, many pundits have made the argument that this election is a referendum on the economy.
But isn’t this election, primarily, about the politics of privilege and prejudice?
There’s no doubt America’s economic indicators show a nation still in recession recovery after the precipitous disaster of the Wall Street Crash of 2008—and after eight years of wars and tax-breaks for the rich.
For starters, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 12.8 million people unemployed. The national jobless rate stands at 8.3 percent—for African-Americas and Latinos, the rates are 14.1 and 10.3, respectively.
As of August 25 this year, 374,000 people have filed jobless claims. Of the 12.8 million people that are unemployed, 40.7 percent of them, 5.2 million people, have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.
To make matters worse, many Americans are facing foreclosures and financial ruin from bankruptcy.
According to Neighbor Works America, every year approximately one million people now enter into bankruptcy.
And, according to Statistic Brain, over 12 million people have been foreclosed on since 2008. Moreover, with the prospect of lost jobs and foreclosures, over 5 million people have filed for personal bankruptcy since 2008, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.
American students—aren’t allowed by law to file for bankruptcy. Their debt has now surpassed $1 trillion. Many of those students—who marched into the Occupy Wall Street Movement—are now being gouged, with debt and interest payments, by the very same vulture capitalists that have led America into its current economic tailspin.
Given all those statistics, the conversation should be squarely on the economic situation.
However, when has America ever had a serious conversation about the economic inequality that has existed since the nation’s founding? And isn’t it just an illusion to think that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan—two sons of privilege who’ve benefited from said economic injustice—will engage in such a conversation or even offer solutions given the social spending cuts and tax-breaks for the rich contained in the now Romney/Ryan proposed budget?
Some progressives argue that President Obama didn’t fulfill all the promises Candidate Obama made. Truthfully, in some respects, that is the case.
Guantanamo is still open and the healthcare bill is not totally inclusive. Moreover, as I’ve stated before, this president has continued some of the same imperialistic policies as his predecessors, like skirting the War Powers Act of 1941 to hypocritically meddle in the Libyan conflict and engaging in a counter-productive escalation of troops in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately—given America’s divided government and the influence of big money—can any president really fulfill all the promises they make when the political machinery is so rigged?
Too many people, naively, expected the first African-American president to miraculously, single-handedly, change the intransigence of Washington’s political cesspool and turn it into a utopian ideal. Not even Superman could achieve such a feat alone. Only a mass movement of Americans can accomplish this.
The simple fact is: the American Presidency isn’t a dictatorship—and many Americans seem unaware that any president’s success is contingent on some level of cooperation from the Congress.
Was President Obama given any such modicum of assistance by the Republicans in Congress?
Last week, Mitt Romney in his convention speech claimed he had wanted President Obama to succeed. Mr.. Romney’s lies would make even Pinocchio blush. How can he make such a claim when he decided to run for president after Mr. Obama won in November of 2008? Is he telling us he wanted the president to succeed even though he planned to run against him in 2012?
Moreover, how can he lie like this when his Republican cronies like Senator Jim DeMint said “If we’re able to stop Obama on this—the healthcare bill—it will be his Waterloo”?
And how can he say this, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Haven’t the Republicans done everything to make the Obama Presidency a “one-term” affair?
Now after blocking most of the president’s agenda Republicans claim he has failed to lead. Given all the Republicans have done to stymie the president’s policies—while ignoring the sputtering economy—this election shouldn’t even be close. So, why does polling suggests this election will be much closer than the 2012 Presidential Elections?
The true answer to that has to do with the politics of privilege and the use of prejudice. It’s true to say many on the Democratic or “progressive” side are not as enthusiastic as they were in 2008.
Voter suppression will also be a major problem. But, this election will feature a groundswell of those regressive racists who’re clamoring to “take the country back” to a time when “Negroes” stayed in their place at the back of the bus.
Racial politics have been a part of the Republican playbook for decades. And they have used it, as elites have, to perpetuate the class divide that has existed since the formation of the nation.
Racial politics and class privilege have always worked hand-in-hand to blind working-class whites from the fact that they too were being exploited by economic elites—and to stop them from mobilizing with Blacks to fight for economic justice.
The RomneyRyan ticket is a manifestation of this political phenomenon at work, especially, since both candidates are rich kids born with silver and golden spoons.
Mr. Romney was rich long before he added millions to his wealth by outsourcing jobs from companies that Bain Capital took over. He inherited millions from his father George W. Romney who made his money in Michigan’s auto industry.
Mr. Ryan also inherited family wealth. His great grand-father Patrick Ryan founded the P.W. Ryan and Sons earthmoving company—now known as Ryan Incorporated.
In this campaign, we’ve heard disparaging talk about Food Stamps and Welfare: two red-meat topics that have always been used to incite prejudiced whites. Also, besides the “Birther” issue there have been repeated aspersions that President Obama “doesn’t understand America” or how “America works.” This is coded language meant to question the president’s, supposed, “foreign” nature.
But while Republicans have no problem promoting prejudiced politics the truth is: they, primarily, do so to perpetuate class imbalance. This is why they always insist on tax-breaks for the wealthy—even in times of economic turmoil, in a nation where the top one percent owns 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.
As Election Day draws near the bigoted bile, against President Obama, will continue to be packaged in ads flooding the airways.
Many voters will have to ask themselves: are they willing to allow America to backslide socially, and economically, because of Republican appeals to bigotry?
By Colin Benjamin