January 1st marked the beginning of the transformative year predicted by the Mayan Calendar. Whether or not you believe that on December 21st a cataclysmic event will occur, you can agree that on November 6th there will be a monumental Presidential election to determine whether US democracy survives. An election the left can impact if they decide to support Barrack Obama and Democrats in general.
Unless you were a member of the 1 percent, 2011 was a dreadful year. For the 99 percent the past twelve months proved the United States are far from united and the American social contract is broken – the economy does not work for the benefit of all the people and the political system is deadlocked.
Most of the 99 percent agree the root cause of this failure is the increased power of corporations in American society. The most recent evolution of capitalism, multinational corporate capitalism, is at odds with democracy. Global corporations don’t want to be restricted by the common-sense rules and obligations that democracies require in order to survive. The 1 percent wants the US government to operate as a plutocracy where the corporate CEOs and the wealthy call the shots. In contrast the 99 percent wants the government to operate as a democracy for the common good.
For the thirty years since Ronald Reagan took office there has been a widening gap been the right and the left. 2011 saw this become an insurmountable chasm. The year began with an extreme faction of the right, Tea Party Republicans, seizing control of the GOP majority in the House of Representatives. Republicans ignored the jobs crisis, a feckless war in Afghanistan, global climate change, and other daunting problems, and dogmatically focused on “fiscal austerity,” their claim the US is going broke because government is cause of all our problems. As a consequence, Washington ground to a halt and the common good of the 99 percent was ignored.
The left responded with the Occupy Wall Street movement. On September 17th, protesters convened in the heart of New York City’s financial district and similar protests blossomed throughout the country. Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing expression of grassroots discontent with the US economy and political process. The majority of Americans, the 99 percent, have shifted focus from the budget deficit to jobs and economic justice. They’re upset about the extreme economic inequality where, for example, the 1 percent have an average family income of $1,137,684 while the bottom 90 percent have a family income of $31,244. (OWS says the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay is 475:1.)
Because it is an election year, 2012 will see the ideological battle between the left and right conducted across the length and breadth of America. In this contest the left, the 99 percent, has superior numbers. The October Time magazine poll asked respondents if they agreed with the positions advocated by Occupy Wall Street and discovered extraordinary concurrence. 86 percent agreed that, "Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington." 79 percent agreed that, "The gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown too large.”
On the other hand, the right, the 1 percent has much more money. Humongous multinational corporations have bought the Republican Party. Recently Mother Jones reported that corporations are gearing up to spend billions more to buy the 2012 election. In the run up to the January 3rd Iowa Republican caucuses millions of dollars were already being spent on right-wing negative “independent expenditure” TV ads.
Voters in the mythical middle will determine the November 6th outcome; those who either haven’t been paying attention or are confused. These are the same folks who tell pollster they agree with the objectives of Occupy Wall Street but aren’t sure about the movement.
Republicans will spend millions of dollars to convince these undecided voters that Government is the problem and Barack Obama is the socialist devil that caused everything bad to happen. Democrats will also run ads but they won’t have as much money as Republicans because the GOP has sold out to corporations. If Democrats are to prevail they will have to out organize Republicans.
In 2008 Barack Obama easily out organized Republican presidential candidate John McCain because Dems were riding a great wave of hope. In 2012 that wave is gone, but the left is energized by Occupy Wall Street. However, the most ardent supporters of Occupy Wall Street show no inclination to be involved in the conventional political process. Writer Sarah Jaffe recently listed Seven likely OWS actions in 2012 and only one involved supporting a Democratic candidate – Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.
The left has legitimate issues with Barack Obama and his Party, but commonsense suggests that Democrats are the only political alternative to a Republican Party that has been taken over by corporations and only listens to the 1 percent,. Occupy Wall Street organizers, and leftists in general need to funnel their energy and experience into the regular political process. The stakes are too high to do otherwise. The 2012 election will determine whether our Democracy will survive.
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org