Prominent newspaper columnists have become despondent about the prospects of the Republican party selecting a politically-responsible presidential candidate. The primaries have become a televised circus – or rather pantomime, with Newt Gingrich as the dame and Mitt Romney as the principal boy.
Paul Krugman writes: “Think about what it takes to be a viable Republican candidate today. You have to denounce Big Government and high taxes without alienating the older voters who were the key to G.O.P. victories last year … you also have to denounce President Obama, who enacted a Republican-designed health reform and killed Osama bin Laden, as a radical socialist who is undermining American security. … the fact that the party is committed to demonstrably false beliefs means that only fakers or the befuddled can get through the selection process.”
E.J. Dionne agonizes over the influence of the Tea Party politicians who control the party. He points out the cleavage between the Republican party establishment and the extreme rightwing fantasies of their constituency. These are the crazy ideas of rightwing billionaires, of whom there is a history in US politics going back to the 1920s – and the more pragmatic conservatives can no longer keep them under control.
His commentary reads: “The Republican Party’s core electorate has changed radically since 2008 — and even then John McCain won the nomination against the wishes of many on the Republican right because the opposition to him was splintered. … There is talk of the ‘Republican establishment’ swooping in to save matters, and things certainly seem ripe for a draft write-in campaign for some new candidate. But the Republican establishment, such as it is, is essentially powerless. It sold its soul to the Tea Party, sat by silently as extremist rhetoric engulfed the GOP and figured that swing voters would eventually overlook all this to cast votes against a bad economy. That’s still Romney’s bet; yet his failure to break through suggests the right wing will not be trifled with. Republican leaders unleashed forces that may eat their party alive.”
The more sophisticated conservatives want to continue to extract relative surplus value from business activities, and so would prefer to keep the middle class more or less in thrall while the underclass is kept out of sight. The Republican extremists don’t care about the middle class: they want to appropriate the savings held in trust for the rest of society in order to preserve the value of their fortunes – a financial zeal that threatens the political subjection of the 99 percent through crushing First Amendment rights.
Obama is a conduit for the calculations of the rational elements of the state to maintain governmental power, but is caught between the extremism of the Republicans and the pushback of the working class. He is vainly trying to achieve “balance” by a small increase of taxes on the rich combined with large cuts in entitlements – an orientation that could have succeeded in other circumstances, but won’t work today because the crazed refuseniks of the Republican right won’t cooperate, even though he saved Wall Street for them through the bank bailout.
The gulf between the political establishment and mainstream America is shown by a study cited by In These Times, which found that 45 percent of U.S. residents live in a household that lacks economic security. The survey’s conclusion makes clear the middle class has been hollowed out: “That nearly 40 percent of the nation’s adults and 45 percent of adults and their children lack basic economic security incomes suggests that the nation’s economic middle is not very broad and may not, in fact, exist.”
Another report, based on stories from 1200 members of citizen groups, described three broad themes: frustration at hiring discrimination, emotional and financial distress, and despair about the future. This was illustrated by the story of Molly Wasserman, who lost her successful job track when she moved from New York to Ohio to care for her mother, who was ill with cancer. “I just don’t understand what happened to this country,” she said. “I don’t recognize my place in it any more. More and more of us are marginalized, ignored or happily forgotten because we’re not working. … What exactly is a person supposed to do who is not being hired? Are we just supposed to die? Are we supposed to commit suicide? Are we supposed to die, homeless in the streets?”
By capturing the political imagination of Americans and taking on board the struggles of different social groups suffering the fallout from the bailout recession, the Occupy movement has been able to bring together individuals facing impoverishment and turn despair into a vibrant resistance to the abuse of authority. Evicting the occupations has simply channeled the movement outwards to seek new alliances and joint campaigns.
CNN reports that “Occupy Wall Street and other housing activists are heading to neighborhoods hit hard by foreclosure Tuesday … Among the actions expected to occur is so-called foreclosure defense, where protestors try to stop police from evicting residents of homes that are being foreclosed upon. … Protestors in New York are expected to march to Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood, an area that has been hit hard by foreclosure. The demonstration, which will be led by New York Communities for Change (NYCC), will end with the protestors occupying a foreclosed home that has been vacant for several years. …
“Max Rameau, an organizer with Take Back the Land, said his organization has been taking these actions for years but it has gotten a boost from Occupy Wall Street. He expects a large turnout tomorrow. ‘We think it’s going to be huge because of the energy of Occupy Wall Street,’ he said. ‘The size and scope will be considerably bigger because of that’.”