Obama - makes some populist appeal, such as for tax "fairness". However, he is immediately checked by the fact that he is completely dependent on finance capital - the Wall St. moguls. He relies on a series of them for both political as well as financial (campaign) support
As the Democrats open their national convention in Charlotsville, North Carolina, they are operating at a disadvantage. The disadvantage can be explained in terms of political contradictions or in terms of brain biology, but either way, it amounts to the same thing.
Basically, both parties of big business are proposing the same assumptions: That only private capital can "create jobs" and that workers are totally dependent on this process. That there is no alternative to an economy based on assured and increasing profits. That there is no contradiction between rising profits and a rising standard of living for workers. They also propose certain assumptions about world relations: That "we" are all "one nation" and there is something uniquely special and good about the United States of America. That the number one threat in the world is Muslim terrorists. That US workers and US corporations have common global interests and the rise of Chinese capitalism is a threat to those interests. That the US and Israel are bound at the hip. That might makes right, at least in "our" case.
From time to time, the Democrats chief representative - currently Barack Obama - makes some populist appeal, such as for tax "fairness". However, he is immediately checked by the fact that he is completely dependent on finance capital - the Wall St. moguls. He relies on a series of them for both political as well as financial (campaign) support. The minute he starts to make those populist sounds, he starts to lose some of that support. It's the same with his support for minor increases in regulation of finance capital. He cannot escape these, his, roots.
This is where the Democrats are at a disadvantage. Both parties accept that big business must make large profits for workers to have jobs. The Republicans then point to the contradiction between this line and Obama's call for tax "fairness" meaning raising taxes on the rich and big business. Both parties accept that the US must defend Israel in everything it says and does. So how can Obama not support Netanyahu in his (Netanyahu's) administration's latest crimes (whatever they might happen to be)?
For a brief moment almost a year ago, this tide reversed itself. That was when the Occupy movement was in ascendency. Suddenly the resentment against the right started to surface more clearly. But now that that movement is fading (for the time being and largely due to its own mistakes and weaknesses), the corporate propaganda is once again more influential. (Of course, the class anger will surface again at some point as it is boiling over throughout the world, but that is a different matter.)
These tendencies can also be explained in terms of brain functioning. In "The Political Mind", George Lakoff explains a couple of newer discoveries about brain functioning and how it relates to politics. On the one hand, it appears that the same "neural structure" of the brain is active when we see something as when we act something out ourselves. Not only that, but these same neural structures seem to fire in a similar way when we carry out actions as when we observe others carrying out those same actions. So seeing, observing, and the resultant perception doesn't simply affect our behavior, but the reverse is also true: Our actions affect our perceptions. Thus it was that observing or participating in the actions of "Occupy" created or brought to the forefront a different set of perceptions.
The other point that Lakoff makes is that a perception of a particular item is conditioned by a matrix of perceptions. The human brain apparently forms an image of a general pattern and then perceives the individual items based on that general pattern. If the general narrative is that Islamic people are terrorists, or that "China" (as a whole) is a threat, then it will be easier to sell individual actions based on that general perception -- for instance the "necessity" of increased repression in order to keep the terrorists at bay, or the "necessity" of the US increasing its military presence in the Pacific in order to confront China.
Politics Stood on Its Head
The current confused situation has stood the traditional images of the Republicans and Democrats on its head. Historically, the Democrats were seen as the party of full employment, the party better able to handle the economy in hard times. The Republicans were seen as the party better able to advance "our" interests internationally, the party better able to stand up to "the enemy" (whether that be the International Communist Conspiracy or Global Muslim Terrorism). Today, it is the reverse, but unfortunately for Obama the economic issues are those foremost in the minds of most people in the US today.
Obama cannot change horses in mid-stream, especially when that stream is increasingly threatening to become a raging torrent. He cannot build a new base of support while maintaining the current one. The minute he takes even the first, hesitant steps in that direction, he would be abandoned by his present party and their base (Wall St., etc.) The only thing that is keeping the election close is the fact that the crazies have come to have such a dominant role in the Republican Party and this is turning off many "independent" voters as well as many women voters.
John Reimann is a retired carpenter and an expelled member of the Carpenters' Union in the United States. (He was expelled for leading rank and file struggles against the union bureaucracy.) He is a long-time socialist, who organized for a number of years in Mexico. He is presently a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.