Wednesday, 8 August 2012

What's Going On In American Politics? Five Things To Keep An Eye On

This is complicated. There are three main ideologies in the Republican Party in America: Neocon, Libertarian, and Tea Party. There is one presumptive candidate who is being pulled in all three directions, and there's an uproar in the States (again!) about the validity of Barack Obama's presidency at a time when the Republican-led Congress has done everything they could to block any progress he could have made. War with Iran is becoming increasingly likely against a backdrop of hysterical conspiracy theories. What does this mean for us and does it matter who wins the November elections?

To understand what's going on you need to know what the factions are, who's leading them, and what's likely to happen if one becomes dominant. One thing is certain; if the Republicans get in at the next election, we'll almost certainly be plunged into a war with Iran, and it's likely that Britain will follow them in. This will result in the possible collapse of our economies because weapons and logistics aren't cheap and we'll be paying for Iraq for years as it is.

Americans have a choice between "bad" and "worse" in the two main parties, so I've been urging them to consider third parties instead. Unbought politicians in Congress will change the political landscape and that needs to happen. These are the things to consider if you either are American or have American friends and you want to make a difference:

  1. What's happening on the Right

  2. The Democrats

  3. Third parties

  4. Iran

  5. The economy

What's happening on the Right

There are, as I've said before, three main ideologies in the Republican, the main conservative political party in the US. It's important to keep an eye on them because they're responsible for the mess we're in at the moment. They're the ones who got us into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and crashed the economy by deregulating the banks. They're also in favour of strengthening intellectual property rights laws since they don't understand the harm they're doing.

The three ideologies

Neoconservatism is an authoritarian form of conservatism that combines traditional conservatism with free (unregulated) market economics and interference in other countries to promote Western democracy. Libertarianism emphasizes freedom, liberty, and voluntary association in a society with a government as free of bureaucracy and regulations as possible. Ideally, they want to pare down the Federal government to a shadow of what it is now.  The Tea Party movement advocates strict adherence to the United States Constitution , reducing government spending and taxes, and reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit. Famous Neocons include Dick Cheney and John McCain. The best known Libertarians (Republican) are Ron Paul and Herman Cain, and the Tea Party favourites are Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.

What they do

The presumptive candidate (it's not official yet and he's not got a running mate) Mitt Romney, left to himself, is fairly centrist with a decent reputation from his days as governor of Massachusetts. Obamacare is actually Mitt's baby, not the President's. He seems to be leaning towards the Neocon position, which infuriates the Tea Party and the Libertarians. The recent accusation that the President was acting to prevent troops from voting early in Ohio may have been a sop to them, but it's been exposed as a lie. Actually, Mitt lies a lot and the campaign ads they're making about each other are downright ugly and full of half-truths to shock people into taking sides. It's actually having the opposite effect; people are getting fed up of it.

The Republicans do themselves no favours when they exercise their authoritarianism while in office. I've seen a raft of bad laws voted onto the state legislature in the Southern States where they rule, and the laws they've passed against womens' rights are just a taste of what a GOP-run America would be like. It's not pretty. Now factor in their disdain for the poor and their hunger for war with Iran. Don't get me started on their conspiracy theories. Basically, they're making out that the President is a Muslim plant and that he's unfit for office because he was either a low-scoring or non-existent student at Columbia University, depending on whom you believe. I've got a list of rebuttals for it in this Google Plus rant, if you're interested. Meanwhile, the party is beginning to splinter as a result of infighting over policy and the purity test.

If the misogyny and racism aren't enough to put you off, there's the stupidity that comes with filtering facts through religion and blindly following their ideology wherever it leads them. Please bear in mind that Libertarians want to shut down the Federal Department of Education. They're blaming it for the falling standard of education in the US, but actually a good look at the ALEC report card shows that those states where Fundamentalism is strongest leaves students unprepared for jobs in science, engineering, and technology. Meanwhile, here's the Republican plan for science and technology:

Notice that there's little for education and training. "We will examine current education programs to make sure they are operating efficiently. We will also examine current visa and immigration laws to make sure we attract and retain the best and brightest minds from around the world" is not the same as "We will provide funding for education and training programs to fill those three million job vacancies our country is experiencing." The national party platform has yet to be released but if it's anything like that of Texas, Obama is a shoe-in for November.

2. The Democrats

To be honest, they're not much better. The President of the USA is basically a Neocon who has continued Bush-era policies, though to be fair to him, he has pulled the troops from Iraq, as he pledged to do. Although some of their members are disaffected, there's not much in the way of news of party splits over ideology because there's not a purity test and a wide range of ideologies has always been tolerated. Efforts to bring some order to the chaos created by the laissez-faire economics policies of his predecessor are being thwarted by the fact that the people whose companies they want to regulate are paying heavily into the campaign funds of the people charged with reform. We can already tell how that's going to pan out.

Current policies appear to be to keep things ticking over and not upset big donors, which means continued attempts at overbearing bilateral and multilateral treaties like ACTA and TPP. The President also seems to prefer a muted approach to Iran and appears to want to avoid war, though he permits Americans to donate to the anti-Assad factions in Syria, a rather neat way of avoiding directly engaging America there while weakening Iran by removing its ally.

On education, the President is doing the best he can and his record is pretty solid despite Republican intransigence in some quarters. Surprisingly, some agree with him. He's the better choice, to be honest, and it's only those Republicans who refuse to recognise him as sharing many of their values that's causing the problems he has with them.

3. Third Parties

I've been promoting third party voting to my friends on Google Plus in the hope of getting some Green or Libertarian Congressmen or women elected. To be honest, the system America has pretty much precludes third party voting and the historical refusal to even consider third parties as a rule for fear that the other party will get in has kept membership of the main condenders out of serious consideration.  The best way to discern how much support a party has is by its membership. These are the numbers, according to Pro Con:
Constitution Party
(Virgil Goode)
1992367,000Libertarian Party
(Gary Johnson)
Democratic Party
(Nominee to be chosen at party convention in Charlotte, NC, on Sep. 3-7, 2012)
179243,140,758Republican Party
(Nominee to be chosen at party convention in Tampa, FL, on Aug. 27-30, 2012)
Green Party
(Jill Stein)
1996246,145Other US Political Parties (PDF)

The Constitution Party is basically the Tea Party's party, complete with authoritarian fundamentalism. That's presumably why it's the largest. Gary Johnson's Libertarian Party runs along similar lines but minus the religion and authoritarianism. The Greens, who are widely perceived to be far to the left, languish in fifth place.

While Americans have been crying out for a third party for some time, they're actually quite reluctant to vote for them at the polls. Al Jazeera has a really good article that explains why. The bottom line is that third parties lack the money, fame, and national traction they need to move forward. That's why the more successful ones split off and join one of the bigger parties.

4. Iran

I've already blogged about Iran; the bottom line is, we seem to be heading into a war with them whether it is warranted or not, and we need to be ready to protest en masse if our government tries to drag us into it. It wouldn't hurt to start signing petitions now.

5. The economy

Am I the only one who thinks we ought to look at the causes of the economic meltdown we're in and work backwards from there to get to the state we were in before? My conservative nature demands that we do things that we know work well, and be careful when experimenting. Laissez-faire economics is an epic failure; we need to put back the regulations that used to protect us from the worst excesses of the banksters. Intellectual property law reform is essential to economic recovery since trolling costs us so much and inhibits innovation. And education and training opportunities need to be made available to fill those jobs vacancies. Putting us all under surveillance for the sake of the legacy content industries is costing more than it's worth, and the war on drugs needs to end because decriminalising them would save the state millions on enforcement. And it works!


Outsourcing our democracy to politicians has not been working for us, we need to be involved and we need to persuade other people to get involved. As an activist, I can count on a number of successes this year alone in terms of what we can achieve with direct democracy. Take a good, long look at the Internet Freedom Movement posts to get an idea of what we can do together.

The main problem has not really been the banksters, the politicians, or anything like that, it's us. We don't engage, so why are we surprised when politicians act in their own interests instead of ours? I suggest we keep an eye on them and make them represent us properly by calling and emailing them on the issues that matter, otherwise when things go (even more) pear-shaped, we'll have no one but ourselves to blame because we couldn't be bothered to call for change when we had the chance.

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