About Last Night

What We Wish We Hadn’t Heard
During the Last Presidential Debate

The final TV clash between President Obama and his GOP challenger gave us all a bitter taste in the mouth. Left with the arduous task of peddling a mostly fact-free campaign, Republicans may be feeling deflated: their millions have so far failed to guarantee the White House.
Supporters of the president’s reelection, however, may be in an even more unenviable position. Though there’s no question about who’s better equipped to rescue the U.S. economy, the number of ideological concessions he’d to make may prove to be too much to digest.
It’s bad enough that, altogether, the three presidential and the sole vice-presidential debates have not dedicated more than a minute, if at all, for the discussion of issues such as the tragedy of gun street violence, the continuous stream of home foreclosures, real job creation, and the rampant credit card debt forcibly contracted by students in order to finish their education.
There wasn’t mention about why Guantanamo is still open, and those held there without a fair trial, nothing about persecution of white collar crimes committed by Wall Street moguls, the wretched role of money in the campaign, and even the lack of legislative reform, to prevent absurdities like senseless filibustering and the need for a ‘majority’ of 60% plus to approve any bill in Congress.
In fact, those omissions, which also include a mature discussion of climate change, or its linked issue of an energy policy to prevent it, however painful, have been perpetrated without challenge by the multibillion dollar media conglomerates. Their failure to follow up any of them only reinforce the idea that their interests have little to do with the common good for the American people.
However, there’s something that’s giving pause to President Obama’s supporters, highlighted on last night’s debate: the scary coincidence of the candidates’ positions in several key issues. Despite all rhetoric about their different ‘styles,’ in substance, they actually agreed about some startling wrong foreign and domestic policies adopted by the U.S. of lately, and that’s very disturbing.
It’s really staggering to hear the president express support to ‘clean coal,’ when, scientifically, there’s no such a thing. Another terrifying moment came when both candidates declared that our war efforts have been on the right track, despite spectacular mistakes done via drones in Afghan, Pakistani, and even Iraq, in recent months.
We’re also alarmed that when discussing Israel, there was no mention of the suffering of the Palestinian people, and the ‘life-support’ status that the so-called two-state solution is currently in. Or the catastrophically misguided leadership of the current Israeli prime minister.
By extension, we’re also saddened that the same deranged policy of bombing first and seeking proof later, which led us to the 10-year carnage in Iraq, continues to be fanned, this time against Iran. That, despite the crippling effects of commercial sanctions on that nation’s poor, and the lack of scientific credibility to the claim that it’s on its the way to become a nuclear power.
Yet, whenever Israel’s invoked, there’s this underlying certitude that, anything outside its ruling party’s political strategy, is not to be considered serious, including domestic opposition to its escalating military and technological prowess. The fact that President Obama seems to have fully endorsed this approach, and can’t find a more nuanced vision to that situation, is downright myopic.
Finally, in what may have been the reason why many switched channels half-way through last night’s debate, is the fact that the president, once again, recited proudly how the U.S. military budget has continuously increased under his watch. Once more, he took the bait and said on record that, essentially, his defense policies are in line with George W. Bush’s and the Pentagon’s hawks.
So we can’t help it but empathize with the frustration and feelings of betrayal towards President Obama, expressed by so many progressive voices in the political spectrum. Even risking becoming what the GOP wanted all along, a one-term commander-in-chief, he continues to peddle to a dangerous and likely baseless middle of the road political approach to every issue.
If the biggest criticism of his first term is that he turned his back to his enthusiastic supporters, who really believed that change was attainable during their lifetimes, the probable cause for his still possible defeat next month may be even more serious: failure to go far enough, failure to recognize his political strengths, and failure to exercise the mandate his election has given him.
When former presidential candidate George McGovern died last week, many an eulogy pointed to the fact that his sound defeat at the hands of the man who’d leave office in disgrace, just 19 months after, caused a rupture in the hard-forged political coalitions that mobilized the U.S. at that time.
All of a sudden, the youth who hadn’t already ‘turned on, tuned in, and dropped out’ of the harsh realities of the times, had the perfect excuse to do just that. It’d have the same effect of giving it all up, of course, and one can still see the roots of that nationwide funk and disappointment, in today’s alienation and political disengagement displayed by so many young minds.
However, McGovern arguably endured the worst feeling than most of his supporters: that the U.S. would have been indeed a better nation, had he been elected. And even though it was a badge of honor for a well-deserving American hero, it was probably small consolation, specially when a former actor and FBI right-wing informer ascended to higher office just a few years later.
As he fooled and lied his way through two terms, and became immensely popular with bankers and military hawks, he also set the foundations, along with advocates for banking deregulation and shady political operatives, to the free reign the ultra-rich have enjoyed in all areas of the American society, while the country’s working class got progressively disenfranchised.
Neither McGovern had another chance, nor any other major presidential candidate with real chances to becoming one, have dared to professed the humanistic and liberal ideals he personified. That until a Senator from Illinois made a nationally televised speech at the Democratic Convention that chose John Kerry to be defeated by the no holds barred Bush’s reelection machine.
Now may be his best chance to reconnect to those values he so eloquently expressed at the convention, and get a new team of advisers, to make better choices in defense strategy, foreign policy, campaign finance, human rights, and all the other things he couldn’t possibly agree with someone like the GOP candidate (whose name, you’ve noticed, we shan’t pronounce).
Will he miss this historical opportunity is a question that may begin to be answered the night of Nov. 6. In the two weeks left between now and then, though, supporters of the president’s reelection may find themselves dangerously shortchanged ideologically, and most definitely outspent by the GOP steamrollers.
We simply hate when our gut feeling tells us something that the evidence doesn’t seem willing to endorse. It’s one of those times that may be easier for whoever likes to pray, and profess a faith, and declare that they still believe it. On that, we’re very much shortchanged. So, the reason why we’re still on board has more to do with a principle than with hope.
Just like you’d stop by the corner deli, and buy a Mega ticket, knowing full well that the odds are so terribly against you that you may as well not say anything at home, the ticket we may be writing at the voting booth may have the same symbolic meaning. In the ‘just in case’ scenario, we don’t want to be caught without even a meaningless piece of paper, proving which side we wanted to win all along.

One thought on “About Last Night

  1. Wesley, you put your finger on the right spot: Obama’s failure to go far enough. If Bush got away with “murder,” it may be that Obama could have been more aggressive. Yes his health-care reform are an improvement, but why didn’t he institute a universal health-care system, even after Congress became a Tea Party Congress.

    I read an article in Le Monde diplomatique that fully supports what you just wrote.

    Yet, I would re-elect Obama. He remains the best of the two candidates but voters are ambivalent.



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