Republican operatives describe this year’s presidential election in apocalyptic terms. It will determine our future. It will seal our national fate. Well, they are probably right, but not for the reason they give. They tell Republican voters that President Obama, in a second term where he does not have to face re-election, will reveal and follow the full socialist agenda he has been trying to hide.
Only the gullible will swallow that. But the right does know that the future is at stake. That is because this election year gives Republicans one of their last chances—perhaps the very last one—to put the seal on their plutocracy. They are in a race against time. A Democratic wave is rising fast, to wash away the plutocracy before it sets its features in concrete, with future help from the full (not just frequent) cooperation of the Supreme Court.
It may seem odd to speak of the plutocracy as endangered. Surely it has established itself in every important political arena. Wealth is concentrated in a small fraction of the populace, the cosseting of whom with the Bush tax cuts plunged us into the great recession. Yet while the rest of the populace was suffering, the rich just got richer. In 2009 and 2010, years in which millions were unable to find work, the top one percent reaped 93 percent of the “recovery” income, and corporations are making more than they ever did. And the Republicans can still propose even further cuts in the taxes of “job creators” whose only job creation has been for their own lawyers and lobbyists.
Modern political activity is driven by an incessant and corrosive search for funds, the top priority of all current or would-be members of Congress, state legislators, and executive office holders. The Supreme Court has intensified this gnawing need by protecting huge and secret sources of unregulated funding. The principal source of countervailing funds has been, for the Democrats, the public-service labor unions. But the wave of 2010 state legislative elections has damaged, perhaps fatally, that source. Since the election of Scott Walker in Wisconsin—whose power is now strengthened by his survival in this week’s recall election—the membership of the important AFSCME union (the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) has shrunk by half. Democratic candidates are forced to mimic the obsessive need to raise funds, in a contest where they are heavily outgunned. So, hasn’t the plutocracy already won?
Not yet. There is help racing up over the horizon. The US Census for the year ending in July 2011, showed that white births in America were for the first time a minority compared to those of “minorities” (blacks, Hispanics, Asians). The state legislators seated by the 2010 elections have been fighting this drift with draconian immigration measures and new voter ID laws aimed at blacks and Hispanics, the young and the elderly. This slashing of the voter rolls may give them the edge of victory in 2012. But time is not on their side. It will get harder and harder to disqualify a growing majority of voters from non-plutocratic ranks.
That is why this election matters so much. It can give the plutocrats a seal on their accomplishments. New appointees to the Supreme Court can support drastic reduction of labor rights, voting rights, citizen rights. Further protections for corporate and lobbying power can be fixed by national and state legislators in laws difficult to undo or dislodge. The whole corporate superstructure of our economy can be made “too big to fail,” beyond retrospective regrets or futile tinkering. Finally, the plutocrats given power in 2012 can use their great ally, war or the threat of war. If, as Randolph Bourne said, “war is the health of the state,” it is doubly the health of a plutocratic state.
America accounts for almost half of the world’s spending on military defense (and probably more than half when we consider all the money that goes to contractors, “outsourced” military tasks , and future veterans’ health costs). Yet Mitt Romney thinks that is not enough; he would add another $96 billion to the military. Any cuts, he says, would fatally imperil us. In fact, we need more on defense expenditures since we now have more enemies than ever—terrorists all around us, abroad and at home. He still sees a threat from Russia. Iran must go on our war menu. Every possible (and expensive) new weapons technology must be developed and deployed.
Just think of it. We already outspend our nearest military-cost rival, China, by over four times. In fact, we spend more than the next twenty military-spending nations (including China). Yet this is not enough for the plutocrats. Not only does the military-industrial complex enrich corporations developing, making, and servicing the weaponry—it also gives the air of crisis that allows infringement of civil rights by way of surveillance, secrecy, detentions, and military trials.
Our present world posture is a rosy one for the plutocracy. Only a slim margin of our population fights (and returns to and commits suicide over) our wars; yet they give the excuse for intimidating the rest of the populace with war disciplining. Orwell made perpetual war the tyrant’s best tool in 1984. But the military personnel currently being used and abused and destroyed come largely from the minorities whose growth poses the threat the plutocrats fear. How long can they keep up their war-is-peace flimflammery?
The plutocrats have another tool they know how to use—religion. Not that the one percent crams our churches. But our religious leaders service causes helpful to the plutocrats. They are often supporters of war, of righteous certitude about America as an enforcer of “our values” around the world. They are also convenient opponents of the women who are part of the oncoming wave of a democratic demography. The explosion of anti-abortion laws and the opposition to workplace equality are used to placate and mobilize the religious allies of the plutocrats.
No wonder the plutocrats are desperate to get their present gains and future goals cemented into place while they still control the necessary means for their project. Plutocracy must work furiously against the coming of democracy. This could be its last chance.