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A symbol of hope's limitations

Poorer workers, Latinos, Afro-Americans, young urban professionals and women put their trust in Barack Obama. And this morning they are celebrating. But despite their vote of defiance against the rich, right-wing, racist Republicans the euphoria will melt away.

The re-election of Obama for a second term is certain to disappoint the voters as, in the words of historian Simon Schama, the triumph of reality returns to the surface. As the Washington Post recorded, Obama ran as a “symbol of hope’s limitations”.

The changing demographics of the United States have brought millions into the working, or as they call it “middle” class from across the border. They were attracted by the promise of a better life, drawn in by the expanding economy but now left hung out to dry by the global slump.

The pressing demands of the so-called fiscal cliff of tax and budget cuts towers over the renewed administration. Republicans who control the House of Representatives have pledged to block Obama at every step.

In any case, the power behind the billions of corporate dollars – estimates say $6 billion were spent in support of the candidates – will secure Washington’s allegiance to the future of global capitalist interests.

This came through in almost the first words of his victory speech, with Obama promising to talk to the defeated Romney to see "where we can work together to move this country forward".

And he will have to. Agreements will have to be forged to get federal spending limits raised yet again and budgets passed.

Obama may have demonstrated good intentions and won many votes with his largely frustrated attempts to improve access to health care for the tens of millions who’ve lost jobs and hence health insurance along with their homes, and no doubt he’ll be seen to be trying even harder.  

But the pursuit of growth to secure more jobs will see an accelerating spiral of decline in real incomes as the global competition to attract production back from China and elsewhere intensifies. Inequality will grow even deeper than it is at present.

The president’s watchword is “hope” but the savage programme of cuts that must follow in the attempt to stave off the world’s biggest economy declaring itself bankrupt will vastly overshadow the European austerity programmes which have brought millions to the brink of revolution in Greece and Spain. Romney would have handed the responsibility to the states – many of which are already bankrupt – to do the job. Obama will do it at federal level.

The election pushed fears of a new storm into the background, temporarily. But another was threatening the East Coast even before the effects of Hurricane Sandy which still left more than a million without power had begun to sink in. Staten Island is still in darkness, and the looters are at work.

These record-breaking, life-shattering storms draw their enormous power from the energy poured into the atmosphere by the corporations that bought the presidency. Neither Obama nor Romney had anything to say about climate change during the campaign. No doubt their corporate backers ruled it out.

With or without Romney, Obama may well authorise spending on improved storm defences, but will continue to break records in oil drilling, tar sand extraction and fracking, and he will approve the northern half of the Keystone XL pipeline. All in pursuit of energy independence and profits for Big Oil.

Obama may seem like a nice enough family man, but, whatever he wants to achieve, he and his administration will intensify the economical, technological and psychological warfare against any and every government or movement that stands in the way of corporate advantage.  The threat of a military strike against Iran mounts, day by day.

Millions voted for Obama in the often desperate hope his election would ward off the ravages threatened by the Republicans. Their support was reluctantly given. Their frustration, their aspirations for a better future will have to find another route if they are to be fulfilled in practice.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor
7 November 2012

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