The U.S. Senate voted down an amendment that almost every American could have approved of heartily, a Chuck Schumer-sponsored measure that would have allowed the FAA to tell airlines to stop packing passengers into planes like sardines. At a time like this can anyone doubt that this isn’t a democracy?
Watching our millionaire president hobnobbing with celebrities at his luxurious vacation in Martha’s Vineyard as Ferguson, Missouri convulses in rioting after a cop shot unarmed Michael Brown, it’s obvious that electing a black president isn’t enough to change reality for millions of less privileged blacks. The only thing that separates Michael Brown from Barack Obama is a thin veneer of borrowed privilege.
Mainstream news outlets in the United States, whose politics are closely aligned with those of the U.S. government, frequently criticize mainstream media outlets in Russia, whose politics are closely aligned to those of the Russian government. Current example: recent events in Ukraine.
“Russian officials have been doing everything they can to make it clear that they don’t recognize the legitimacy of this current parliament or its right to form an interim government,” NPR’s Corey Flintoff reported February 26th. “The impression that ordinary Russians would get from [their] news coverage is really that the Ukrainian Revolution is very much a thing to be feared.”
Flintoff made fun of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who called the overthrow of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych “essentially the result of an armed mutiny.” Russian Interior Minister Sergey Lavrov said it was “an attempt at a coup d’état and to seize power by force.”
Here we go again.
In U.S. and Western media, both the Tahrir Square “people power” demonstrations that removed Hosni Mubarak and the military coup that imprisoned the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi are called Egyptian “revolutions.” So is the Benghazi-based insurgency that toppled Libya’s Col. Moammar Gaddafi. If the civil war in Syria leads to the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad — even if, like Gaddafi, he gets blown up by a U.S. drone or a NATO fighter jet — they’ll call that a revolution too.
But those weren’t/aren’t revolutions. A revolution is “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.”
A new system. Those are the key words.
Even if it occurs as the result of dramatic street violence, a change in leaders doesn’t mean there has been a revolution. If the system doesn’t change much, a revolution has not taken place.
Egypt’s Tahrir Square was dramatic, an important event. But it wasn’t a revolution. This became evident last year, when General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi arrested and jailed President Morsi. If the 2011 Tahrir uprising against Mubarak had been a revolution, Sisi — a high-ranking officer who served most of his career under Mubarak — would not have been in the military at all, much less a figure powerful enough to stage a coup.
In a real revolution, the old system — all of its most important components — are replaced. Military leaders aren’t merely shuffled around or replaced; the army’s core mission and organizational structure are radically altered. It isn’t enough to rejigger boardrooms and change CEOs; the class structure itself — which defines every other role in society — is changed. (In China, for example, landlords went from a privileged class to impoverished pariahs after 1949.) Reforms don’t make a revolution. In a revolution, everything old gets trashed. Society starts from scratch.
The bar for whether a political change qualifies as a full-fledged revolution is extremely high.
And yeah, the definition matters. It matters a lot. Because revolution — capital-R, blood-in-the-streets, head-on-a-stick Revolution is by far the biggest threat to our system of corporate capitalism and the ruling classes who have been stealing almost every cent of the fortune we the people create with our hard work. If our business overlords convince us that revolution is something short of actually changing the system — in other words, getting rid of them — then they’re safe no matter what. Even if we protest, even if we turn violent, we will never truly emancipate ourselves.
Maybe they’ll pay higher taxes. For a little while. Until they bribe their way back out of them.
Until we destroy the 1%, stripping them of their money, power and social status, we will be their slaves. And that will never happen if we forget what revolution is.
Bearing in mind what revolution means, Ukraine comes nowhere close.
Consider this quote from Nicolai Petro, a politics professor at the University of Rhode Island, on Amy Goodman’s radio show:
“Yes, [Ukraine] is pretty much a classical coup, because under the current constitution the president may be—may resign or be impeached, but only after the case is reviewed by the Constitutional Court and then voted by a three-fourth majority of the Parliament. And then, either case, either the prime minister or the speaker of the Parliament must become the president. Instead, that’s not what happened at all. There was an extraordinary session of Parliament, after—it was held after most members were told there would be no session and many had left town. And then, under the chairmanship of the radical party, Svoboda, this rump Parliament declared that the president had self-removed himself from the presidency.”
Note the trappings of “legitimacy”: Constitutional Court, Parliament, preexisting political parties, laws created under the old regime.
Under a revolution, old institutions would be abolished. Anyone who had anything to do with them would be discredited, and possibly in danger of being executed. Parties, if there were any, would be new (unless they’d been operating clandestinely), with revolutionary politics and brand-new organizational structures. You certainly wouldn’t see old establishment figures like the recently released former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko (a leader of the “Orange Revolution” of 2004, which also wasn’t a revolution), seriously discussed as a potential new ruler.
Many Ukrainians know what revolution is — and they want one. “We need new people who can say no to the oligarchs, not just the old faces,” a 25-year-old economist told The New York Times. “The problem is that the old forces are trying to come back to take their old chairs,” said a shipping broker who waved a sign outside parliament that read: “Revolution, Not a Court Coup!”
U.S. reporters quote the would-be revolutionaries, but they can’t understand their meaning. After all, their country’s founding “revolution,” the American Revolution, was nothing of the sort. The elites became even more powerful. Slavery continued. Women still couldn’t vote. The poor and middle class didn’t gain power.
Just another coup.
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COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
President Obama and the Democrats have finally decided, five years after his election, to begin talking about the issue of income inequality, which has been increasing since the early 1970s. But their rhetoric makes it sound like inequality is a weird byproduct of capitalism when, in fact, it is a key feature of an economic system that relies on poverty and exploitation. This is the best system ever conceived?
Nelson Mandela is credited for shepherding a peaceful transition from apartheid to a democratic South Africa. But his South Africa and his African National Congress were hardly democratic — and he left the essential work of the revolution unfinished. Today, poverty among blacks remains much higher than among whites. The system never really changed.
Many black South Africans are disillusioned by Mandela and his ANC government. Residents of the townships are suffering horribly, yet this “black” “democratic” government hasn’t done much more for them than the old apartheid regime. This was due to two terrible decisions by Mandela in 1994. First, he decided against seeking justice against the apartheid-era criminal whites. Obviously this was the result of pressure from the USA and the West. The ANC called it “reconciliation.” Others called it a sellout. These horrible murderers got away with murder. The lesson to the murderers of the future is, don’t worry, you won’t pay for your crimes.
Second, Mandela and the ANC decided not to implement the communist programme of their socialist and communist allies. Income and wealth redistribution were left on the table. The result is a South Africa that looks the same as before: rich whites, poor blacks. Heckuva job, Nelson.
The lionization of Mandela follows a familiar pattern. Radicals and revolutionaries who betray their former militancy to become accommodationist scoundrels win Nobel Peace Prizes, high office and nice tweets after their die. That’s why former “terrorists” like Mandela, Gerry Adams, Gandhi and Yassir Arafat who stop fighting for their causes and accept establishment sinecures get lionized. Those who hold firm and keep fighting for the people, like Malcolm X, are scorned — compared to the relatively safe/peaceful MLK. The media loves the sellouts, hates the heroes.
I am already being criticized for releasing today’s cartoon about Mandela’s unfinished work because it’s the “wrong time.” That’s what people always say about critical obituary cartoons. But that’s ridiculous. This is exactly the right, appropriate time to weigh Mandela’s life — the good and the bad.
Obituary cartoons have long been a bane of editorial cartooning. A famous person dies and appears at the pearly gates, being welcomed in some incredibly cheesy way to the hereafter. The message, such as it is, “this guy died and it is sad.”
I decided a while ago that obit cartoons could also be an opportunity to provide a corrective to the ocean of praise that follows a Great Man’s death. Reagan, for example, was a turd. Among other things, he intentionally starved AIDS research during the 1980s. So when he died, I showed him in hell.
That’s what today’s cartoon is about: a request that we think outside the box. My cartoon isn’t the full measure of Mandela. Neither are the ones that praise his resistance against apartheid before he sold out to become president. The full assessment will await his biographers. As usual, I’m simply pointing out: “Hey, there’s also some bad stuff here, and we should do something about those.”
Not a Revolution, Just a Useless Protest
Two years ago, when I was in the Occupy movement, my comrades and I argued about revolution. Was revolution necessary? What is it? The split that destroyed our movement — as it did the Left during the Sixties — pitted revolutionaries against reformists. The most frustrating part of the debate, however, wasn’t ideological. It was linguistic.
Even on the Left, few Americans know what revolution is: the violent overthrow of the ruling classes. In a revolution, everything — beginning with the power structure — changes.
The Tahrir Square encampments that led to the ouster of Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak were a huge influence on Occupy. But we couldn’t agree about what they meant. Was Tahrir a “revolution”?
No doubt, the 2011 Arab Spring was a powerful mass movement. Everyone agreed about that. For reformists — people who want to fix the system rather than replace it — Tahrir Square was a perfect example to emulate: a peaceful people-power transition that changed things for the better without shedding blood. Cut-and-paste the same phenomenon from Cairo to the United States — convince millions of peaceful demonstrators to camp out in American cities to demand change — and you’d get similarly dramatic results, reformist Occupiers urged. “Egypt had a peaceful revolution,” they said.
Revolutionaries — people who want to get rid of the existing system and start from scratch — countered that the Arab Spring uprisings were not revolutions at all and were thus insufficent. “Tunisia and Egypt,” I said, “were merely personnel changes.” The system, the way society, politics and the economy are organized, remained unchanged.
As recent events prove, the resignation of a president does not a revolution make.
In all the ways that matter, post-Mubarak Egypt remains the same. Those who were rich before are still rich; the same-old poor are the brand-new poor. Egypt’s generals, awash in billions of barely-audited American taxdollars and high-tech military hardware, continue to call the shots.
Egypt’s military brass is a canny lot. Corrupt and autocratic, they tack left and right along with the winds on the dusty streets. When Tahrir got big, they called back their rapists of demonstrators and told Hosni it was time to take a powder. When Mohammed Morsi won the election, they golf-clapped — until Mo’s numbers fell. Then it was his turn to vanish into house arrest.
The crowds in Tahrir cheered as fighter jets streaked overhead. Applauding their own oppressors.
The proles get their concession. The figurehead performer everyone thinks runs the show, the big star who plays Mr. President on TV, gets fired after he turns stale. Yet, no matter how chaotic the politics, regardless of how much blood flows (spilled by projectiles made in the U.S.A.), the real bosses — the military, their business cronies, the publishers and owners of state media outlets — remain in charge.
Which now is plain as day.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew Morsi in a coup that dare not speak its name (in Western countries, whose quaint 20th century human rights laws would otherwise require the severing of lucrative weapons contracts that benefit major campaign donors), has apparently gotten so caught up in the serious business of slaughtering members of the Muslim Brotherhood that he’s completely forgotten to pay lip service to restoring democracy.
In the ultimate symbol of restoration (or feeling so confident they feel free to tip their hand), the military’s old friend/employee Mubarak is out of prison and may soon be released.
As two visiting U.S. senators recently witnessed firsthand, power has gone to al-Sisi’s telegenic little head. This isn’t a crackdown, but rather an attempt to grind the Muslim Brotherhood into oblivion. Al-Sisi’s soldiers have arrested the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie, on brazenly trumped-up charges. And his fellow coup leaders are gearing up for a fascist-style ban of the party — another return to the Mubarak era.
As usual, Western liberals are smart enough to foresee future blowback from the Egyptian junta’s brutal campaign. “Attempts to exclude a party with the level of support recently secured by the Muslim Brotherhood will simply prolong Egypt’s agony. That is a tragic lesson from the history of Algeria in the 1990s,” Douglas Alexander writes in The Guardian.
Also as usual, Western liberals are too stupid to push for a stronger remedy than wouldn’t-it-be-nice hoping things will magically feel guilty and stop mass murdering. “The Muslim Brotherhood needs the opportunity,” Alexander continues, “to ‘get out of the streets and into the voting booth.’ Yet to do so, its supporters must believe there is a viable democratic path.”
Which of course there isn’t.
Which brings us back to Tahrir Square 2011. What should Egypt’s proto-Occupiers have done instead?
If their goal was actual change rather than new window-dressing, the protesters at Tahrir shouldn’t have settled for a personnel change at the pseudo-top. Mubarak’s departure wasn’t enough.
If you want to eliminate oppression, you must eliminate the oppressors. In Egypt, that would have meant rounding up every major official in the military as well as the government, and seizing control of the nation’s economy. Everyone who was anyone, rich and/or powerful, should have been imprisoned.
This would, of course, have required violence.
Revolution isn’t pretty. But as we’re seeing now in Egypt, neither is the alternative.
(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)
COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL
Egypt Offers Lessons for America’s Left and Right
The U.S.-backed military coup that ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi reconfirms two historical lessons that Americans repeatedly refuse to accept.
The first is for American activists, the idealistic progressives working to make the world a fairer and more decent place. Once again in Egypt, we are seeing how you can’t make a revolution without revolutionizing society – which requires the complete, violent overthrow of the ruling class. The second lesson is for elite policymakers in Washington and other Western capitals, but they won’t learn it until the inevitable blowback from their incessant manipulation and backroom schemes prompts another September 11 — or worse.
First, the takeaway for leftists.
Western critics, most of them unabashedly pro-coup, blame the Muslim Brotherhood for its own overthrow. They weren’t inclusive enough, they presided over a lousy economy, after decades of exile they just weren’t ready to govern. For the sake of argument, let’s concede all that.
No matter where you stand on Morsi, it is undeniable that his nascent presidency never stood a chance. The 2011 “revolution” that began and ended in Tahrir Square, which defined the Arab Spring and inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement, toppled an aging U.S.-backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak. But Mubarak’s regime mostly remained in place. Mubarak’s old judiciary blocked Morsi and his party, a political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, at every turn. The other major holdover, the military and security forces, orchestrated his political demise, culminating in last week’s coup. Now there is a strong chance that Egypt is about to disintegrate into a civil conflict whose scale of violence might eclipse the mayhem in Syria.
Western analysts, liberals and even leftists who ought to know better have so cheapened the word “revolution,” attaching it to developments that, though notable, are nothing of the kind: independence struggles, civil rights movements, and most recently events like the Arab Spring, which enjoyed support by Western media and governments precisely because they were not violent, or at least not very violent, and thus not revolutionary — and therefore not a threat to the power of elites in charge of the current system. Although there may be strains of continuity in government and culture before and after a true revolution, such as the maintenance of some ministries and place names and so on, real revolution is characterized first and foremost by the replacement of one set of ruling elites — economic, cultural and political — over another. Revolution is also indicated by a vast set of radical transformations in the way that ordinary people live, such as the legalization of divorce, the abolition of the Catholic Church, and the establishment of the metric system after the French Revolution.
Though important and meaningful, what happened at Tahrir Square in 2011 didn’t come close to qualifying as a bona fide revolution. The rich remained rich, the poor remained poor, and though a few officials here and there lost their jobs, the ruling class as a whole retained their prerogatives. Meanwhile, life on the street remained miserable — and in exactly the same way as before.
Similarly, the 2013 coup d’état — weasel words to the contrary, if language has any meaning whatsoever, it is always a military coup when the military deposes a democratically elected ruler — isn’t a revolution either. Even if it was demonstrably true that, as General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi claimed and many protesters agree, that “it is not the army who took over, it is the army who acted on behalf of the people,” what we have here is nothing more than a personnel change. The system remains intact.
At the height of the Occupy movement during the fall of 2011, many knee-jerk pacifists, besotted with the post-1960s religion of militant nonviolence (in spite of its repeatedly proven ineffectiveness), agreed that radical transformation — revolution — was necessary in the United States. Yet these liberals also argued that (even though there was no historical precedent) the triumph of the mass of ordinary American workers over the corrupt bankers and their pet politicians could result from purely nonviolent protest.
They have only to look at Egypt to see why they are wrong. The Arab Spring was a huge experiment in the efficacy of nonviolence to affect political change. No country has seen a true revolution since the events of 2011. There were, however, changes — and these were most dramatic in the nations that saw the most violence, such as Libya.
Unless you dislodge the ruling elites, who have everything to gain from continuity and everything to lose from reform, your wannabe revolution doesn’t stand a chance of getting off the ground. The privileged classes won’t relinquish their privileges, power or wealth voluntarily. They will use their control over the police and the military (and, as we have recently learned, their access to the intimate details of our daily lives) in order to crush any meaningful opposition. They are violent. Their system is violence. Defeating them requires greater violence. Nothing less results in revolution.
Egypt is about to teach America’s political class yet another lesson about blowback, the tendency of meddling in the internal politics of foreign countries to result in anti-Americanism, which manifests itself in the form of terrorism.
After 9/11 you’d think that the U.S. would tread lightly in the Muslim world. This would go double in Egypt, where America’s pet dictator Hosni Mubarak ruled for 29 years, only to go down in flames despite being propped up by billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid. In the end, like a bored and easily distracted infant, the State Department green-lit Mubarak’s removal. Now, two years later, they’re at it again, brazenly orchestrating and signing off on an old-fashioned military coup to remove the first democratically elected leader of the spiritual center of the Arab world — who just happens to be an Islamist.
The behind-the-scenes machinations of the White House are sordidly reminiscent of CIA-backed coups in Latin America in the 1960s.
“As President Mohamed Morsi huddled in his guard’s quarters during his last hours as Egypt’s first elected leader, he received a call from an Arab foreign minister with a final offer to end a standoff with the country’s top generals, senior advisers with the president said,” reported The New York Times over the weekend. “The foreign minister said he was acting as an emissary of Washington, the advisers said, and he asked if Mr. Morsi would accept the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet, one that would take over all legislative powers and replace his chosen provincial governors.”
Over my dead body, Morsi replied.
This was conveyed to Anne Patterson, Obama’s ambassador to Egypt, and Susan Rice, his national security advisor. Rice told Morsi’s advisor she had green-lit a coup. “‘Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour,’ an aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression for the country’s Western patron, ‘Mother America,'” the Times reported.
What could go wrong?
(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)
COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL
Things Have Changed. Time to Adapt.
The Occupy National Gathering, held July 1-4 in Philadelphia, perfectly captures the current state of Occupy Wall Street.
First, the cops pushed the Occupiers around, refusing them space in Independence Park. They wound up in Franklin Square. (Just like old times. In September 2011 Occupiers found Wall Street blocked off by the NYPD. Zuccotti was ad hoc option two.)
Second, the Philly confab was wimpy and watered-down. When one of your honored guests is Daryl Hall of the 1980s duo “Hall & Oates,” militancy is probably off the menu.
Third, the Occupiers weren’t really Occupiers (though many no doubt didn’t know that they’d been coopted by Democratic Party operatives). ONG was yet the latest attempt by front groups set up by MoveOn.org in order to channel the energies of the OWS movement into the Obama reelection campaign.
“What’s going on with Occupy?” people ask me. “We don’t hear anything about them anymore.” By which they mean, they haven’t seen or read anything about OWS in the corporate media. They also probably haven’t “heard” about the enormous street protests in Montreal, which routinely draw 400,000 to 500,000 people, or about Bill 78, a law passed by Quebec’s parliament that suspends the rights of free speech and assembly, which has transformed the province into a police state, or that the real unemployment rate—the way it was calculated before 1980—is 23 percent.)
When your media is this far gone, you don’t “hear” much.
Some say Occupy is dead. Others disagree. “Occupy Will Be Back,” liberal writer Chris Hedges wrote recently.” It is not certain we will win. But it is certain this is not over.” (I don’t know who this “we” is. As far as I’ve heard, the squishy former New York Times journo’s role at Occupy has been limited to book-shilling.)
As a person who helped plan the event that initially sparked OWS; as one who was thrilled by its instant popularity, potency and potential; as someone who participated in the branch of OWS in my own community through the winter, including direct action confronting the authorities—and as a long-time student of historical crises and revolutionary movements—I think it’s less important to guess whether Occupy has a future than to examine how a movement with widespread public support from left and right alike devolved from nearly 2000 public encampments to its current situation: marginalization and cooption.
That said, this summer offers good opportunities for OWSers to make some noise. Occupiers will protest the two major party conventions later this summer. The longer the campaign goes on without either candidate seriously engaging jobs and the economy—hands down the most important issue in Americans’ minds—in a credible way, the more removed from reality the political horserace and its media carnival barkers become, the longer the suffering goes on (and suffering, we sometimes forget, is cumulative, each pain and setback exponentially building upon the last), the more appealing Occupy, or perhaps some more aggressive successor, will be.
Whether the first major street movement since the 1960s survives, grows or metastasizes, we must learn the lessons of Occupy’s first year.
Like every political system, every movement contains the seeds of its future demise. OWS began with an unsustainable premise: occupy public space, yet remain nonviolent. What happens when the cops show up? You leave peacefully. Game over. Which, with the exception of Occupy Oakland—an interesting exception, insofar that clashes with the police increased popular support—is what happened everywhere from lower Manhattan to City Hall Park in Los Angeles.
Occupy should have permitted resistance, violent and/or nonviolent. That, or it shouldn’t have camped out in parks in the first place. Similar movements, in Spain and Russia for example, operate out of offices and churches and use flash-mob tactics to carry out hit-and-run direct actions against banks and other targets. If you’re going to make an Alamo-like stand, well…make a stand.
As I and just about everyone else pointed out at the time, moreover, camping out in the cold sucks. A dumb tactic for a movement that began in the fall and intended to last indefinitely.
Occupy has been overly inclusive. As a reaction to and rejection of the two big corporate-backed political parties, OWS was inherently radical. Yet for week after week, month after month, General Assemblies all over the country have been disrupted and hijacked by liberals, Democrats, and other traditional partisans who don’t share the OWS ideology of non-partisanship and non-affiliation with Ds or Rs, and militant resistance to their backers, the banksters and other corporate hucksters.
Others have criticized OWS’ unwillingness and/or inability to issue a list of demands. Not me. I have seen how the debates within Occupy have empowered voiceless men and women who used to think politics was for politicians. It was—is—powerful.
Let the oppressors try to guess how we may be mollified, how they might avoid revolution. Demands, we believed, would define us too narrowly and separate us from one another.
But things have changed.
We have been kicked out of our encampments. Occupy groups in numerous cities have split into radical and reformist (liberal and/or Democratic) factions.
There really is no place for the liberals within Occupy. Democratic apologists should go where they belong, to volunteer for Obama, to waste their time and money on the torturer of Guantánamo, the drone murderer of Waziristan, he who golfs while the 99% watch their wages shrink and their homes taken away, he who extended his “good war” against Afghanistan through 2024.
We real Occupiers, we radicals, should come together around a list of demands that define us, and allows the wait-and-see public what we’re about, to understand that we are fighting for them—demands that a somewhat reasonable and responsive government would agree to, but cannot and will not because it would counter their insane, addictive greed, their lust to control and own everything, everywhere, everyone.
They even trademark the germs.
There should be demands for justice: prison sentences and fines for the politicos and corporate executives of those whose behavior was not only reprehensible but illegal, along with the seizure of their companies and their properties for the public good. One would start, naturally, with the President.
There should be demands for redress: payments and other material compensation for those who were the victims of crimes, economic and otherwise. Torture victims need counseling and homes, and deserve punitive and compensatory damages; those who lost their homes to illegal foreclosures need not only their old lives back, but also interest and cash penalties to serve as a deterrent to those tempted to engage in such behavior again; the same goes for those who rotted in prison for non-criminal “crimes” like using drugs.
And there should be demands for systemic changes: opening up ballots to third parties; making it illegal for elected representatives to talk to businesspeople, much less accept contributions from them; rigorously enforcing the constitution, laws and treaty obligations so that, for example, Congress gets back the exclusive right to wage war; expanding the Bill of Rights to include such obvious 21st century necessities as a right to a college education should a citizen desire one, a right to a living wage that doesn’t depend upon the whims of local employers, and a right to be treated for any illness, without charge, just because you’re American and you live in the wealthiest society that has ever existed, anywhere.
(Ted Rall’s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com.)
(C) 2012 TED RALL, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
How did a charismatic young president elected in an atmosphere of optimism and expectation lead the United States to the brink of revolution? From a chance encounter in the early 1980s to the Democratic primaries of 2007-08, I was one of the first to size up Barack Obama as we know him now: conservative, risk-averse and tone deaf. In The Book of Obama I revisit the rapid rise and dizzying fall of Obama–and the emergence of the Tea Party and Occupy movements–and draw a startling conclusion: We the People weren’t lied to. We lied to ourselves, both about Obama and the two-party system. We voted when we ought to have revolted. Here’s the story of what went wrong — and a prescription for real change.
In The Book of O(bama): From hope and change to the age of revolt, Rall lays out his case, and it’s a strong one, for why we should revolt instead of vote, how the only hope we have for real change in this country is to trash the broken Democratic-Republican duopoly and create something new that better serves a diverse nation. —Phoenix New Times
Political Analysis/History, 2012
Seven Stories Press Trade Paperback, 6″x9″, 240 pp., $14.95
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“Ted Rall is a terrific journalist and a take-no-prisoners political cartoonist.”
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Conventional Wisdom Is Wrong. It’s Romney’s To Lose.
Catching Barack Obama in a rare moment of candor, an open mic found the president confiding to his Russian counterpart that he expects to win this fall. “This is my last election,” he told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Last, yes. But I wouldn’t bet on Obama winning.
The corporate pundit class has largely conceded the general election to Obama, already looking ahead to 2016. The mainstreamers have their reasons. Their analysis is based on good, solid, reasonable (inside the box) logic. All things considered, however, I would (and have) put my money on Mitt Romney this fall.
This isn’t wishful thinking. I voted for Obama last time and wanted him to succeed. He failed. His accomplishments have been few and have amounted to sellouts to the right. Even so, the prospect of watching Mitt Romney move into the White House fills me with as much joy as an appointment for a colonoscopy. And I think he’s going to win.
For me, the D vs. R horserace is a parlor game with minor ramifications for our daily lives. Whichever corporate party wins, unemployment and underemployment will continue to worsen, income disparity will widen, and most of our taxes will fund the worst approach to international affairs since a former Austrian corporal blew out his brains out in a bunker under Berlin.
Thanks to the Occupy movement, real politics is back where it belongs—in the streets. That’s what I’ll be watching and working. With a lot of luck (and even more pepper spray) this will be a year of revolution rather than more electoral devolution.
Revolution is inevitable. But we don’t know when it’s coming. So the 2012 campaign may still matter. Besides, handicapping elections is a game I enjoy and am good at. During 17 years of syndication my pick to win has only lost once (for the 2004 Democratic nomination). So, on the off chance that you’re one of those who still cares about our husk of a democracy, who hangs on every meaningless development of a political process devoid of politics—or you’re just a betting person, here’s my thinking.
Barring an assassination or a scandal, Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee.
Obama currently leads Romney by about four to five points. But that’s not nearly enough of a lead to carry him to November. History shows that Republican nominees steadily increase in popularity throughout the summer and fall of an election year.
In April 2004, for example, John Kerry led George W. Bush by eight points. But Swift Boating erased that lead, and then some.
In order to win, a successful Democratic nominee has to begin with a big margin. That early lead must be large enough to wind up in the black, after months of being whittled away, when the votes get counted in November. I can’t see Obama pulling far enough ahead soon.
Incumbency is a huge advantage. If the election were held tomorrow, Obama would prevail. But the election is not being held tomorrow. It’s being held in November.
By the time they head to the polls this fall, voters’ brains will be drowning in months of hundreds of millions of dollars of slick, demographically targeted, pro-Romney attack ads. Republican campaigns are more effective at this sort of thing, and as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum can attest, Romney’s consultants pull no punches. Obama’s current lead will be a faded memory.
Every political campaign comes down to a contest of narratives. In 2008 Obama developed an effective sales pitch: Hope and Change for a nation exhausted by eight years of Bush, 9/11, war, taking off your shoes at the airport, and a full-fledged global economic crisis to boot. Obama’s advisers turned his biggest weaknesses—his inexperience, race, unusual name and foreign background—into assets. Here was a new kind of president. Just the guy to lead us out of the Bad Old Days into something better. McCain-Palin’s narrative—a cranky old ex-POW paired with a zany housewife-gone-wild—didn’t stand a chance.
This year the narratives favor Romney.
Romney is already pointing to the biggest issue on people’s minds, the economy, and claiming that his background as a turnaround artist qualifies him to fix what ails us. His prescriptions are Republican boilerplate, vague and counterproductive, but at least he’s doing something Obama hasn’t—talking a lot about creating jobs. Voters prefer useless attentiveness to calm, steady golfing (Obama’s approach). And—despite its illogic—they like the run-government-like-a-business narrative (c.f. Ross Perot, the Bushes).
Obama is boxed in by three-plus years of inaction on, well, pretty much everything. He’ll argue that he’ll be able to “finish the job” during a second term, but that’s a tough sell when you haven’t tried to start the job—in 2009, when Democrats had huge majorities in both houses of Congress. His single signature accomplishment, healthcare reform, is disliked by two-thirds of the electorate. The recent “good news” on the economy has been either insignificant (net positive job creation of 100,000 per month for two months, less than one-tenth of one percent of the 25 million jobs needed) or falsified (discouraged workers no longer counted as unemployed).
Despite what Obama tells them, Americans know things are still getting worse. Similarly, Obama’s recent, feeble, impotent rhetorical attempts to shore up his support among his Democratic Party’s disappointed liberal base will probably not generate enough enthusiasm to counter other factors that favor Romney.
You can’t vote for the first African-American president twice. Unless he picks a woman as vice president, a vote for Obama will be a vote for the same-old, same-old. The history-making thrill is gone.
At this writing the Republican Party appears to be in disarray. No doubt, Romney is emerging from the primaries battered and bruised. His awkward and demented soundbite stylings (“corporations are people,” “the trees are the right height”) will provide fodder for countless YouTube parodies. But Romney hasn’t been damaged as much as the official political class seems to think.
Republicans are a remarkably loyal bunch. United by their many hatreds (liberals, blacks, gays, poor people, Mexicans, Muslims, foreigners, etc.), they will set aside their comparatively low simmer of anti-Mormon bigotry this fall. Picking a standard-issue white Anglo Christianist thug as veep will cinch the deal.
The GOP enjoys a huge fundraising advantage, especially via the new-fangled SuperPACs. Romney has raised $74 million against $151 million for Obama, but look for that ratio to flip after he locks up the nomination. Cue those vicious, potent ads mentioned above.
About the only major factor working for Obama is the presidential debates. Romney doesn’t stand a chance against the cool, articulate Obama.
Of course, it’s a long way to November. A lot can happen. It’s very possible for Obama to win. But that’s not how it looks now.
(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 22. His website is tedrall.com.)