By Ted Braun
Our political campaign's moment of judgment has finally arrived. In a few days we'll know the outcome of it all. But will it make any difference in the major problems before us: our massive Wall Street bailouts, continuing foreign wars, a bloated military budget, tax breaks for the rich, off-shoring of jobs and assets, growing economic inequality, skyrocketing debts, and the climate warming that seems to be having such an effect this week on our east coast?
There is one new factor that has significantly influenced this last round of campaigning. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that money is free speech, the role of wealthy people and shadowy front groups has grown and the role of average citizens has shrunk. When very wealthy individuals or groups can come to dominate a political discourse, and when such political forces can determine a tax structure to make it more beneficial for themselves and less so for everyone else, it gives evidence that the democratic process is unraveling. There are increasing signs that we no longer live in a democracy but a plutocracy.
For this campaign season we've now run out of time. We won't have time to debate the virtues of Bain Capital, the model of venture capitalism preferred by Mitt Romney. Bain has absorbed, downsized, and chopped up business firms, outsourcing jobs to China, gifting CEOs with huge financial rewards, and helping them protect their assets in safe harbors such as in the Cayman Islands. Ask the people who used to work for Sensata Technologies in Freeport, Illinois, what they think of Bain Capital. They were even forced to train their Chinese replacements.
We won't have time to debate the economic importance of contraception for women, or the theology in back of Indiana senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock's comments on rape and impregnation: "Life is a gift from God. I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." It is often stated that we should not mix politics and religion, but that kind of theology will wreck politics for sure. Both Romney and Ryan continue to endorse Mourdock, a train wreck in the making.
We won't have time to debate our nation's drone program or our government's claim that it has the arbitrary right to kill anyone on earth deemed to be a terrorist or an enemy combatant. Every Tuesday President Obama and a group of military and intelligence advisors gather at the White House to draw up such a list of people to be killed all over the world. Unfortunately, many civilians have been killed through this program—people who have gathered for weddings, funerals, or just for neighborly conversation, but who have looked suspicious to the person piloting the drone above from a base on another continent. This has greatly increased widespread hatred against our nation whenever it has occurred.
This past week the United Nations' special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, announced that the Human Rights Council at the UN will likely initiate an investigation into civilian deaths caused by the CIA and US military's use of drones and other targeted killing programs. If certain allegations against the US prove true, he will consider them serious enough to be called "war crimes."
Emmerson said, "The global war paradigm has done immense damage to a previously shared international consensus on the legal framework underlying both international human rights law and international humanitarian law violations... It has also given a spurious justification to a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations."
Unfortunately, both Obama and Romney have supported our nation's drone war. On other issues, however, it has often been hard to get clarity on Romney's varying positions. In the primaries, to court Tea Party support, he may have announced one position, but in running as the Republican Party's choice, he often supported a contradictory position as evidenced in his comments concerning Romneycare, Obamacare, equal pay for equal work, and other issues. We do know that the future of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will be decided on Election Day.
One of our biggest challenges after Judgment Day will be to share ideas about what it means to be a critical, engaged, and constructive member of society: how we understand ourselves, our relationship to others, and our relationship to the world. As media scholar Nick Couldry has argued, "This means reclaiming a discourse of ethics and morality, elaborating a new model of democratic politics, and developing fresh analytical concepts for understanding and engaging the concept of the social. The social has to be reconfigured so as to eliminate a market-driven project that individualizes responsibility while also eliminating claims made in the name of democracy. Reclaiming a democratic notion of the subject goes hand-in-hand with reinventing a new understanding of social conditions, civic responsibility, and critical citizenship."
Let's see how Judgment Day turns out.