Election Year Garbage

Whatever is awful about the US political process is magnified in the election season, and increases each day until it's mercifully over

These episodes, all from the last 24 hours, demonstrate why I cannot wait for the election to be over:

Mitt Romney, Monday, in his heralded foreign policy speech:

"This is the struggle that is now shaking the entire Middle East to its foundation. . . . In short, it is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair."

Mitt Romney, yesterday, in the same speech, moments later:

"I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf."

So to recap: we're in a war for freedom against tyranny, and for justice against oppression - a war which Mitt Romney will fight in close alliance with the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Then we have this, from Romney's foreign policy speech, in which the GOP nominee diagnoses what he sees as the problem in the Middle East:

"The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia. Our embassies have been attacked. Our flag has been burned. Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs, shouting 'Death to America.' These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks."

And here are his solutions:

"Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight . . . . I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region - and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. . . . I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security - the world must never see any daylight between our two nations. I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf."

To summarize: in light of extreme anti-American sentiment, we must drone-bomb more, kill Iranian civilians with sanctions, send more symbols of military occupation to their region, move still closer to Israel (which could only be accomplished by some sort of new surgical procedure to collectively implant us inside of them), and even more vigorously support the repressive Gulf regimes. In other words, to solve the problem of anti-American hatred in the region, we must do more and more of exactly that which - quite rationally - generates that hatred.

Then we come to this, regarding Romney's foreign policy speech, from

Andrew Sullivan, Monday:

"[Spencer] Ackerman points out that Romney's foreign policy sounds a lot like Obama's . . . . 'the policies Romney outlines in his speech differ, at most, superficially from Obama's.'"

Michael Cohen, the Guardian, Monday

"[O]ne would be hard-pressed to find a single substantive difference between what Romney is proposing as a candidate and Obama is actually doing as president."

Michael Cohen, the Guardian, several paragraphs later:

"In the end, Romney doesn't have much of a coherent policy agenda and his critique is wildly off-base. His real problem, though, is that he barely seems to grasp how the world - and, in turn, American power - actually works."

Barbara O'Brien, Monday, reviewing Romney's foreign policy speech:

"Please, people, this man must not become President. Must. not. become. President. A Romney administration would be a global catastrophe."

This was reflective of the two-pronged consensus in Democratic partisan circles yesterday: (1) Romney's foreign policy speech advocated what is basically a replica of what Obama is already doing; (2) when it comes to foreign policy, Romney is a dangerous, bellicose extremist. Both of those propositions are hard to dispute (the second is harder than the first), and the combination of those two precepts - and the logical conclusion it generates - is particularly worth reflecting on today, the third anniversary of the selection of Barack Obama as the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Finally we arrive at one of the latest progressive endorsements for Obama's re-election, from Deepak Bhargava in the October 22 issue of The Nation, entitled "Why Obama?":

"[H]owever we judge the past four years, it is crucial that we lean into this election without ambivalence, knowing that while an Obama victory will not solve all or even most of our problems, defeat will be catastrophic for the progressive agenda and movement. . . .

"We confront a conservative movement that is apocalyptic in its worldview and revolutionary in its aspirations. It is not an exaggeration to say that this movement wants to roll back the great progressive gains of the twentieth century . . . .[including] the great pillars of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid . . .

"We need to protect and strengthen Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other critical programs, particularly those serving the most vulnerable people."

Presidential debate, October 3:

"MR. LEHRER: 'Mr. President, do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?'

"PRESIDENT OBAMA: 'You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we've got a somewhat similar position.'"

The Washington Post, July 6, 2011, "In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts":

"President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue."

It's a bit bizarre, to put that generously, to insist that protecting Social Security is one of the prime reasons to dedicate oneself to Obama's re-election when he not only worked hard to cut that program substantially, but himself said just last week that he and his opponent have a "somewhat similar position" on that issue.

Whatever is awful about the American political process is magnified in the election season, and exponentially intensifies each day as the election approaches. That would all be perfectly tolerable if not for the fact that the election process is 18 months long, or close to 1/3 of each president's term. One of the most effective tactics for keeping the electorate distracted and confused is ensuring that the time when they pay the most attention to the political process is exactly the time when political reality is most obscured.

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