As we approach the November elections it has become difficult to separate large portions of the peace movement from the daily operations of the Democratic party. In many places across the nation regular peace vigils, in many cases held throughout the Iraq occupation, have become Obama for president rallies. Many activists use the "we" word when talking about the Democrats as if the party is an extension of the movement.
Don't we wish it could be so. Or maybe I should say, be careful what you wish for.
In a recent article entitled "The Idiots Who Rule America" Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges writes, "Our oligarchic class is incompetent at governing, managing the economy, coping with natural disasters, educating our young, handling foreign affairs, providing basic services like health care, and safeguarding individual rights. That it is still in power, and will remain in power after this election, is a testament to our inability to separate illusion from reality."
"The democratic system, they think, is a secondary product of the free market. And they slavishly serve the market."
"The working class, which has desperately borrowed money to stay afloat as real wages have dropped, now face years, maybe decades, of stagnant or declining incomes without access to new credit.....We, as individuals in this system, are irrelevant."
We are largely irrelevant because most of us are no longer needed. Due to computerization, mechanization, robotization, and outsourcing of our jobs, we have superfluous populations in the U.S. and around the world. The time has come to thin us out.
No matter who takes office in early 2009, they will face massive budget and trade deficits. The U.S., now a debtor nation, will be told by its creditors that it must do like all Third World nations have long been told to do - cut back on social spending in order to balance the budget.
The final stage in the Karl Rovian plan is in place. Once asked who his favorite president was Rove replied, "William McKinley." Not usually thought of as one of our greater presidents, Rove had to explain that McKinley ruled before we had social progress in America. McKinley was president before we had public education, public health, Social Security, unemployment insurance, the 40-hour workweek, child labor laws, and a whole lot more. Rove dreams of a return to feudalism - the 21st century corporate variety.
Despite public claims that they disagree on U.S. strategy in Iraq, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama would both keep some level of U.S. troops there on permanent bases and both want to send more American troops to Afghanistan. They both also support expanding the size of the military. They both agree that the Congress must "rebuild the military" after eight years of Bush-Cheney abuse. Where will the funds come from to do these things?
Pentagon spending has doubled during the past eight years. By 2010 military program managers are going to be scrambling to get their expensive high-tech programs funded. There is already intense competition between the services for new funding for their endless military appetites. This Pentagon dysfunction can already be witnessed by the recent public relations campaign
called "Air Force Above All" that attempted to posture that branch of service as most deserving of high levels of funding as we hit the economic wall. Base commanders were sent out into their local communities to begin lobbying business leaders to support cuts in "entitlement programs" which translates to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and what remains of the severely diminished welfare program. The final shots of the war against social progress are now being fired.
So not only do we face the greed and excess of Wall Street, and are paying for their mistakes, but next we will be asked to continue to fund the crumbling military empire as it collapses around us with no regard for who suffers as it falls.
We will have one serious opportunity at hand to counter this spiraling downfall. No matter who you vote for in November, we must begin now to plan to utilize this potential opening because the elite will be working overtime to close the door as quickly as possible, not wanting to allow the slightest ray of light to pass through the crack. Already the talking heads on TV are telling the American people that if the Democrats win they must "moderate" their message.
As the new president attempts to formulate his budget plan during these trying times it would seem natural that in a real democracy there would be local public meetings so that the citizenry could give their best advice on how the nation should proceed. After all, following eight long hard years of endless war and cuts in social spending, the people will have their own thoughts on what direction the nation should go. This is even more true should Obama, as it now appears he will, win the election.
Local peace, social justice, environmental, women's, and labor organizations should form coalitions to host large public hearings to discuss the guns or butter issue. It is highly likely that the Democrats, who will fully control Congress, will tell us that we can still have both. We can continue some semblance of an occupation of Iraq, expand the war in Afghanistan, build Star Wars, surround Russia and China, and still have enough money to fund health care for all. They will urge us to just give them some time, say two years, to clean up the mess left by the Bush-Cheney cabal. If we listen to them, and step back even for a moment, we would be making a foolish mistake.
We must from the outset mount vigorous pressure on the new administration and the new Congress to overturn the anti-human budget cuts of the past eight years. We must demand major cuts in military spending and an end to corporate subsidies. We must articulate a vision that calls for the conversion of the military industrial complex in order that our tax dollars be used for peaceful and sustainable technology production - not the continued industrial production for war without end.
Only a narrow window of opportunity will await us. We must prepare now to stick our collective feet in the door to ensure that democracy and social progress are not destroyed as the oligarchy attempts to slam the door in our face.