It is - as a gay hating, anti-environmental, corporatist, war criminal of a former president once said - morning in America.
Obama was elected over Romney; the Democrats held or increased their lead in the Senate, gay marriage is legal in Maryland and Maine, and small victories were won against the insane drug war. Liberals were partying in front of the White House once again. I'm happy for all of that, and for them. Really, I am. Given the alternatives, these results buy us a bit of time for dealing with crucial issues, and will make significant differences in the lives of many Americans. So ok. Cool. I hope everyone had a nice celebratory evening. Now can we face up to the cold reality of the situation in which we find ourselves?
Health care: The US still has an economically unsustainable and morally bankrupt corporate controlled system of health care. The US system remains massively more expensive than Canadian and many European models, and produces worse health results. And millions remain without health insurance. (And of course the effects that US drug companies, US corporations, and US militarism have on the health of the rest of the world are not even worthy of discussion.)
The economy: We have a president who is a tiny bit more reasonable than his opponent, but who bases all his economic intervention around a faith in corporatism - the idea that productive economic life should be controlled by a coalition of government and an oligopoly of major corporations. There will be no move to break up corporatist control virtually all sectors of the economy from agriculture to tourism, no move to support cooperative business models, no move to re-introduce significant regulation of predatory financial institutions, no discussion of the idea that decent work is a right, no effort to eliminate poverty, homelessness, or hunger. And of course not a single mention of the millions who die each year internationally as a direct result of the function of the global economy.
Militarism: The US will remain one of the most militaristic societieson Earth: with roughly half the world's expenditures, half the world's arms sales, half the world's nukes, a massive deformation of the US economy toward military production, multiple wars or sort-of-war-like-encounters, troops stationed throughout the world, and a network of secret detention centers. In short, there will be no discussion and no pressure against the US empire. It is a given of electoral politics that the US is a militarized empire, that it is going to remain so, and that the military-industrial complex will function as a holy entity in the US imagination.
Foreign affairs: Obama may be a bit less dangerious vis a vis Iran, but he will certainly continue to inflame hostilities and not even discuss the obvious and simple solution: a nuclear free middle east. This is unmentionable because it would require criticism of the apartheid regime in Israel. And elsewhere, he will continue to support dictators whenever economically convenient, will enforce exploitative relations with countries in which important resources are to be found, and will largely ignore humanitarian disasters elsewhere.
Civil liberties: will, of course, continue to deteriorate. Surveillance will increase. Obama will continue to demand the right to execute not merely foreigners, but US citizens without trial. Kidnapped foreigners will remain locked away indefinitely without trial. Americans who inform on US crimes will remain locked up indefinitely without trial. Grand Juries will be used to coerce informing on political opponents. Police will expand, become ever more violent, and continue to spy on and disrupt political dissent. Drones will continue not only to carry out executive murders, but to kill dozens of random people unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Minority rights: The discussion on how disastrous a Romney administration would be for women and sexual minorities was, seemingly, endless. And there is no doubt that some will be better off under Obama. But the majority of women in America will have no meaningful reproductive choice. (The legality of abortion is meaningless if there are no abortion providers that one is economically capable of reaching.) The vast majority of lesbian and gay Americans remain without marriage rights, remain subject to arbitrary firing from their jobs, and remain de facto unprotected against public violence. (Obama will do nothing to change that.) Gender non-conforming Americans are not on the agenda of either party, remaing largely a hated or ignored minority.
Environment: And above all, trumping all this in terms of its effects on the future of civilization, is the fact that Obama will continue to expand the environmentally destructive aspects of corporatist development. He will likely expand the use of carbon and other destrutive practices at a slower rate than Romney would have, but be clear: he is expanding, not contracting, the suicidal behaviors at the base of this crisis. One of his signature "successes" - bragged about repeatedly, and likely responsible for handing him victory in Michigan and Ohio - was the rescue of the auto industry, and industry that clearly needs to be phased out of existence if we are to live in a sustainable manner on the planet. Obama will support fracking and tar sands extraction. He will continue to expand off-shore oil exploration. He will continue to work for economic growth. In short, he will continue to kill our environment.
Well, I could go on. Nothing above, so far as I can see, is rationally controversial. What does it all mean for us now that the frenzied spectacle of an election is over? I take it that is fairly obvious. It means that we must organize, must build grassroots institutions that function outside the corporatist economy, that do so in ecologically sustainable ways, that work via direct democracy and shared ownership, that make common cause with other communities locally and around the world. And we must build capacity to meaningfully resist the destructive power of the corporatist state.
There are two alternatives responses this morning. One could continue to revel in the happy haze of "hope and change". That is, if one comes from a privileged sector of society one can be confident that she and her children will be able to marry, have access to education and abortion, and not be directly affected by US wars. One can choose to sit back and enjoy that, trusting our shiny new Democratic government to lead us forward, meanwhile ignoring the reality faced by the rest of the world.
Or, one could acknowledge reality and give in to cynicism. Yep, the world sucks and is going to hell. I'll talk a bit about that over designer drinks.
The moral status of either of these approaches is too obvious to merit comment. Rather than debate them, let's the rest of us just get to work.