Election 2010: Right-wing glow will be brief


The political calculus of the Republican Party over the past two years has been simple: frustrate the president's agenda and especially his economic plans. Then blame the White House for the meager recovery, near double-digit unemployment, and exploding federal deficit.

A poorly performing economy and jobless recovery, the GOP leadership believed, would hurt Obama and his party at the polls in 2010 - especially when combined with fear-mongering about the deficit and "intrusive government," appeals to racism, male supremacy and nativism, and unrelenting vilification of the president.

Last night's election results proved them right. Enough people let their frustrations get the best of them, gave in to their worst demons, and bought into the right-wing spin to turn the midterm elections into a major victory for right-wing extremism.

With the unemployment rate stuck at 10 percent and the federal deficit at a record level, the political ground was fertile for a right-wing comeback, especially when you throw in truly unprecedented amounts of money funding Republican candidates and their demagogy.

Had the unemployment rate been 7 percent and falling, and had the economy showed more tangible signs of revival, the outcome would have been very different. Probably the Republicans and the tea party candidates would have registered some gains, but nothing on the scale that they did.

But the ugly economic reality on the ground has left millions in dire straights, confused and angry, and looking in all the wrong places for someone to blame. Yesterday, their wrath was turned on the president and his party - the party in power - whom they held responsible for the economic mess.

The House of Representatives went Republican by a large margin, while the Senate retained a razor-thin Democratic majority. And a number of key governorships went Republican too.

All of which gives right-wing extremism in its Republican and tea party guises a new lease on life. The terrain of struggle has shifted in their favor. Momentum and initiative for the time being is in their hands. Expect congressional Republicans to go on the offensive and press their advantage. They will claim a popular mandate to roll back "big government" and "Obamacare," restore "fiscal integrity" and give free rein to the "animal spirits" of entrepreneurial capitalism.

In practical terms this will translate into a renewed assault on the rights, regulations, protections and entitlements that have been one of the two underpinnings of what we call "The American Dream."

Its other underpinning is a dynamic economy that provides a living wage, a secure job, and retirement security for American workers, but that is also crumbling under the weight of financialization, corporate globalization and, not least, right-wing extremism.

The Republican victory last night will only hasten this "great unraveling."

And what they can't accomplish now, Republican strategists expect will be doable in 2012, when, according to their script, the GOP wins control of every branch of government.

The Democrats, including the president, had a hand in this debacle. In hindsight, it seems like Obama's biggest mistakes were to stabilize the financial system in the way that he did - bailing out Wall Street, to make health care reform his top priority, and to settle on a smaller stimulus package that did not bring down unemployment levels sufficiently to win public support for his efforts.

Nevertheless, whatever the administration's failings (and ours as well), they should not obscure the fact that right-wing extremism is the main obstacle to social and economic progress. The Republican Party has moved far to the right in spirit, policies and makeup compared to the Reagan era. It has a pronounced authoritarian streak.

And its singular aim over the past two years, with its tea party cousins, has been to bring down the Obama administration. Don't think that will change going forward.

Assisting the Republican/tea party movement in these midterm elections were major sections of corporate capital. Obama's tax, health care, environmental and financial reform initiatives didn't sit well with the corporate elite. Nor did they like his stimulus bill or talk of a second stimulus. They want government intervention only when it's a tool to maintain an unfettered capitalist economy and its class structure. Some small reforms are OK by them, but nothing that challenges the wealth and prerogatives of the top layers of our society.

Finance capital and capital in general aren't tethered to either party, but their comfort level with the Republicans is high. During the campaign they lavished GOP candidates with nearly unlimited amounts of money. And last night they were thrilled by the election results.

As for us, there is no need for gloom. Yesterday's defeat was not a knockout. Once the election hangover wears off the president and the coalition of people and organizations that elected him will adjust their agenda and resume their struggles, beginning in the lame duck Congress.

A hot button issue will be whether to end or renew the Bush tax cuts for the rich. This is a fight worth engaging in, although the pressure on some Democrats to support their continuation will be considerable.

One of the silver linings - and there aren't too many - is that now the Republicans can't simply be the Party of NO! They have to move from abstract sloganeering to concrete solutions that the American people can take measure of.

Inevitably this will take away the populist sheen that so far they have been able to hide behind. The conundrum that right-wing extremism is up against now is that its actual policies will reveal its real allegiances - to corporate moneybags - and its political bankruptcy.

Neo-liberal economic orthodoxy wrapped up in a right-wing extremist skin will not put food on the table, aid families losing their homes and young people struggling to pay for college, or assist the millions who desperately need a job at a livable wage.

The Republicans will bask in the glow of their victory for a while, but don't be surprised when many who voted for them become disillusioned with their policies. And on this ground will emerge a people's coalition that is bigger and stronger than the one that elected Obama in 2008.

Nothing is more important at this moment. On the emergence of such a movement rests the success of the Obama presidency now and in 2012; on it rests a way out of this economic crisis that is worker and people friendly; on it rests the kind of country we will be in the 21st century - a country that is decent, inclusive, sustainable, peaceful and just, or a country that stoops to what is worst in our culture and history.

Photo: A voter casts his ballot at the Hayes Township Hall in Ottawa, Kan., Nov. 2. (AP/Charlie Riedel)


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  • I appreciate your analysis Sam. I fully agree and look forward to the coming period. Republicans are not able to look beyond their nose. It is evident that the forest of USA Capitalism is burning and spreading like wildfire. No savior will keep it from burning to the ground. Our country is the last real bastion of corporate greed and most likely will come down soon. But from these spoils will rise another garden... socialism USA.

    Posted by EmilioZ, 11/07/2010 5:03pm (4 years ago)

  • Have you ever even READ the Constitution?? I'm thinking not....

    Posted by Gene, 11/04/2010 11:43pm (4 years ago)

  • dont forget the unlimited corporate money that can now be poured into elections--the attack ads work.

    And we already have a preview of the near future--Obama has already caved on the extension of the bush tax cuts.

    The more things change, the more they remain the same.

    Posted by Myra Jones, 11/04/2010 5:34pm (4 years ago)

  • The biggest problem with Republicans and Tea party types is they are a bunch of whiners that cannot believe the mess they got us into. The corporate funded tea- bagger movement and their financial guardians may yet self-destruct when they face cutting government subsidies for the military defense lobby that can never get enough. As Sam indicated, economic reality will trump their politically expedient strategy to blame Pres. Obama for an ill-fated capitalist recovery that could not produce a better employment outcome. That may take years. This election was bought like 2000 and 2004. But two years of disallusionment will not quench the need to throw off the chains that were broken in 2008. Yes we can. In solidarity, Richard Grassl

    Posted by Richard Grassl, 11/04/2010 2:05pm (4 years ago)

  • I'm disappointed in this analysis. Two years ago I remember folks stating that "the Republicans have nothing to offer, they're done!" Given the nature of our corporate electoral structure, that was absolutely incorrect then and this is, unfortunately, lacking at this time. At the time of the rise of the fascistic, corporate funded tea bagger movement, we also, in my opinion, greatly underestimated their impact.

    One of the key principles of the science of working class ideology, battle tested and proven in the great struggles my our class, has shown that we must mobilize our class, fight and surpress our corporate class enemy in order to move from one level to the next, higher level, of struggle, in order to actually win victories for our people. Key is that our people MUST be brought into this fight. Unfortunately, this fight has not developed and the key forces within the people's coalition, mainly org'd labor, have not, as yet, understood the importance of bldg an ongoing grassroots movement to fight for jobs and improvements, as well as to protect our people, in this case, to defend our rights. This MUST change if we are to be able to win and consolidate victories of our people.

    An electoral push cannot take the place of the needed mobilization of the people between the elections. This is especially true now that the corporate supreme ct has unleashed capital to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. In Ohio, labor mobilized and met all its goals. It was 26% of the electorite (goal--25%) & voted 66% for Strickland, the endorsed Gov (goal--65%). However, it was not nearly enough to overcome the massive and expected right wing wave.

    People are extremely frustrated, and, unfortunately, they do not see the present administration as acting in their interests, in many cases. An insurgent and angry people elected Barack Obama and a huge Democratic majority in order to end years of corporate right wing rule. However, in the eyes of the public, a nearly defeated army took power, compromising away, failing to fight and anything of importance to them. This is what people see! Without a movement to push for a fight on the people's agenda, the Democrats can only be what they are. Passing of health care reform, for example, without labor's real lead, mobilizing and fighting, became a tedious and uncomprehensiveable process devorced from the people's real lives.

    I strongly feel that we are greatly underestimating the danger of fascism, as well! The emergence of this type of movement is almost a guarantee is we in any way challenge the rule of the corporations/capital. This movement is not going to just go away. While it is certainly true that it will cause fissures in the GOP, at this point at least, the predicted major splits and demise of the main party of capital has not occured. The opposite has, in fact, occured!

    At least in my opinion, the silver lining in this electoral disaster (& dialectics teaches us there always, even in the worse of developments, IS one), is the possibility that the labor mvmt, with the help of the party/responsible left, will grasp the near to build the structure for an ongoing grassroots mobilization to build the people's fight. Only in this way can our suffering people be brought in the struggle and immunized to the 24/7 right wing, pro-corporate media ideological bombardment, and become the agents of their own fight for improvement. With this push, we can, & will, win! Without it, the future is extremely dangerous.

    Posted by bruce bostick, 11/04/2010 9:54am (4 years ago)

  • I swear, if we never have to hear another "left-wing" or "Marxist-Leninist" person claim elections don't matter or the politicians are all the same ever again, it won't be too soon.

    Posted by Joel Wendland, 11/04/2010 8:15am (4 years ago)

  • My friend Dr. Don Sloan used to have a column called: "Nobody asked me but..." and I always found it to be worthwhile. Something that seems to be missing from the discussion is that this generation is the first that is worse off economically than their parents. People aren't sure where to turn for answers. There is a lot of rhetoric and there are a lot of talking heads, but nobody seems to be addressing the people's needs. First of all, everyone needs a job. I hear a lot of talk about "growing the economy" but how can this be done when all of our manufacturing is disappearing and going overseas? The President tried to do the right thing by investing in the big three car companies, but all he got for his trouble was grief from the right wing corporate lackeys. In fact, every solution he has come up with to keep our manufacturing base from disappearing completely is met with opposition from these capitalists that are finding greater profits some place else. Their puppets in the congress and the tea party have confused honest workers by saying that government is too big and the deficit is too big. They say there must be more private sector job creation. This is true, but it must be in American manufacturing, not overseas. If they want to help the American economy, they must invest in American jobs. If they are not willing to do that because they are chasing higher profits elsewhere, then they are not really good American patriots and when the American working class figures out the lies of the Republicans, and that the President is the most loyal American of all, there will be a sea change in the congress, perhaps bigger than 2010. But this won't happen without a lot of educational work on our part. I agree with Sam Webb!

    Posted by Joseph F. Hancock, 11/04/2010 1:02am (4 years ago)

  • If I didn't know any better, I'd think you pretty much said that a vote on the "R" side of the ballot was a vote of weakness, fear, and demonic anger...? Interesting angle.

    I also think you listed "entitlements" in the things "under assault" by the right wing extremists. What entitlements, exactly, are the underpinnings of The American Dream? I thought The American Dream had to do with equal rights and opportunity for all, not handouts and dependency on government programs.

    You have a decidedly non-mainstream view and opinion of the core principles this country was founded upon...does that not make you an extremist yourself?

    Extremes can be dangerous, and we've already seen that with the far left-wing extremism that has run the Democrat party for the last several years. I'm more than willing to try the other "extreme", since it happens to be closer to and based upon the ideas framed in the Constitution of this great Country of ours.

    By your description, I am certainly part of the extreme right wing, but I can honestly say I was more optimistic on the eve of the 2008 elections than pretty much any of the "left wing" venom I've heard between late last night and today. What happened to tolerance, working together, listening to opposing arguments, etc.? I don't think there is any left...on the left. I think since Katrina, all you and your ilk have done is found ways to twist any situation to justify calling your opposition "racist".

    Is that all you have left to offer??

    Posted by ETW, 11/03/2010 11:20pm (4 years ago)

  • I feel a little groggy this morning, not for the expected electoral results, but for that overdose of television cretinerie that, irresistibly, I had to go through. Patiently waiting for the results to come I had to endure one analyst after the other trying to rationalize the inter-bickering of the two headed monster that represent our Bourgeois Democratic system. Fox is plainly impossible to digest, CNN can be consumed on small doses, and MSNBC is the least painful to swallow. Most probably due to the Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann factors, I got stuck all the night long mainly with MSNBC. Not that I share their views, they all seem to fall and be blinded by this by-partisan trap, but Rachel and Keith seem to have enough integrity to actually sometimes move me, specially Rachel... What was then my surprise, this afternoon, when I read this disappointing post-electoral analysis sounding almost word per word a borrowed form of what I heard here and there all night long! As always those that expressed clearly their opinion of this "democratic" process were left out of this demagogic game. Those that didn't vote for "Obama" or simply didn't vote at all were compared to the frowned little boy who's daddy refused to buy him of an ice cream. Here the critic of the citizenry is gentle. I have hear in the past pathetic outcries of disgust against that shoddy miserable crowd which prevented the democrats from being re-elected again and again. Here the democrats personified by Obama, yes we live in the reign of mediocre simplifications, were crucified because of the economical circumstances and their social consequences. Not that neither one or the other were well dissected for the reader to have a better grasp on the event, but with a firm handle of the sword and three strokes, meager economy, double digit unemployment, and exploding federal deficit, the author had almost decapitated the topic. The fatal blow was dealt on the electoral question when Sam pocked through the hart of the culprit: The Party of "NO", the Republicans.

    It isn't the role of the responsible left, I dare not say the chocking M-L words here, to enhance social suffering. And one must be clear, although the differences are often almost a blur, there are visible distinctions between Democrats and Republicans. But one similitude, one common purpose, has also to contrast within the peripheral variations: they are both the instruments of the Great Capital! That wouldn't be of fundamental importance if we, as Marxists, haven't since our onset hammered on the same core contradiction which is at the hart of our socio-politico-economical struggle, the centrality of the antagonical relation between Work and Capital in our struggle. To hear Work and Capital contrasted in such a fashion must be shocking for those commenting this article. But, in fact more shocking is the sense that no lesson was learn here, that the energies and aims are already focussing on the electoral game in 2012, and far from creating a working class alternative and trying alliances with other working class forces in this country, and re-energizing the unions with working class consciousness, enthusiasm and solidarity, we will see the flag of the hammer and the sickle dragged in the mud, of unilateral alliances with the Democrats, for another, who knows how long, while in the name of some sordid "American dream". Other will, no doubt, carry the banner of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Fidel, etc. and exhort from the top of their lungs: "Workers of the world, Unite!"


    Posted by Miguel Ervedosa, 11/03/2010 10:28pm (4 years ago)

  • Nice analysis, Sam. You're pretty quick on your feet for an old guy. The adage "Be careful what you ask for" is an apt one for voters whose frustration led them to vote for the right. It'll be a tough couple of years for labor and our allies but we'll kick their ass in 2012!

    Posted by Mark Walton, 11/03/2010 8:20pm (4 years ago)

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