Tagged: US Politics

“Democracy Endangered: Democratic Socialists of America’s Strategy for the 2012 Elections and Beyond”

The National Political Committee of Democratic Socialists of America 

http://www.dsausa.org

August 1, 2012 

I. The Threat of Right-Wing Hegemony 

The 2012 election poses an extreme challenge to the future prospects for democracy in the United States. This threat demands the focused attention of the broad Left – the labor movement, communities of color, feminists, the LGBTQ community, environmentalists and peace activists. The task for the U.S. Left is two-fold. First, we must defeat the far-Right threat to democracy. Second, we need to build a grassroots, organized Left capable of fighting the corporate interests that dominate the leadership of both major political parties.

The Left confronts a Republican Party thoroughly controlled by right-wing forces that are determined to cement long-term control of the federal government and of the majority of states. Its agenda is to extend the reign of the corporate oligarchy over the whole of American society from top to bottom. The wish list of the 1% includes dismantling not only Social Security and Medicare, but all government programs designed to benefit the large majority of people – the 99%. This reactionary plan intends to repeal not only the New Deal and the Great Society, but also the reforms of the Progressive Era and the post-Watergate legislation of the 1970s. A Romney victory would likely be accompanied by Republican control of both the Senate and House, as well as the Supreme Court. Such a governing majority would endeavor to pass the reactionary Ryan budget, deny federal funding for women’s reproductive health, wage a sustained and fundamental attack on the rights of workers and unions, and overturn already weakened federal civil rights laws.

A major weapon of the Radical Right is an unprecedented flood of money from super-wealthy individuals and corporations into the political arena, buying influence and votes on a massive scale. This intervention has been enabled by a long series of decisions by the Supreme Court, culminating in the Citizens United decision (and the recent Montana case) that essentially encourage buying electoral results through massive negative advertising – itself aimed at suppressing voter turnout – under the guise of “free speech.”

Another right-wing tactic is to suppress voting by African-Americans, Hispanics, students and poor people generally, under the guise of preventing non-existent “voter fraud.” New forms of photo ID requirements and restrictions on early voting and independent voter registration efforts threaten to remove millions of potential Democratic voters from the rolls. This is part of a Republican racial strategy to convince swing white voters that their economic distress is caused not by a predatory corporate elite but by alleged government hand-outs to undeserving poor people of color.

A third assault is to further weaken unions, particularly in the public sector, by eliminating collective bargaining and discouraging membership and imposing onerous new restrictions on the use of union dues and agency fee payments in political campaigns. Since unions, especially public sector unions, are a major source of political opposition to right-wing causes and campaigns, the Right is consciously out to destroy their very existence.

II. The Tepid Democratic Response 

How can such a radical restructuring of American politics and policy, one that benefits the plutocracy at the expense of the majority, have a real prospect of success in 2012?

One reason is that the national leadership of the Democratic Party is not a consistent, credible champion for the interests of the majority. The top of the party serves the interests of its corporate funders over the needs of the party’s mass base of trade unionists, people of color, feminists and other progressives. Thus, when the country cried out for a vigorous defense against the ravages created by Wall Street greed, Obama’s economic advisors (largely drawn from Wall Street) extended the Bush administration’s bailout of the banks and financial elite without exacting a return in restored, strict financial regulation. The administration also failed to take effective measures against foreclosures and job losses associated with the crisis. Republicans and conservative Democrats blocked any more far-reaching proposals, like those of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Furthermore, in a misguided effort to appear as a “strong” foreign policy leader, the president unnecessarily extended the failed war in Afghanistan and engaged in the indiscriminate use of drone warfare in clear violation of international law.

Rightwing obstructionism and the waffling of the majority of the Democratic Party understandably led to large Republican gains in the Congressional elections of 2010. Thereafter, the Tea Party-influenced House Republican majority curtailed any possibility that the Obama administration would govern in a progressive manner. Newly established Republican political control over several Midwestern states turned into sweeping assaults on public sector unions and on the social safety net.

President Obama’s on-and-off flirtation with the neoliberal view that fiscal “austerity” is the road out of the Great Recession may prove to be his downfall in 2012. As federal support for state and local programs faltered in the contrived “debt crisis,” most Democratic governors and legislators also followed suit in slashing social programs and public employee benefits. In addition, Obama’s openness to “entitlement reform” may deny the Democrats the mantle of being the staunch protectors of Social Security and Medicare. If the Obama administration had fought for –and succeeded in continuing beyond – 2010 federal aid to preserve state and municipal jobs, today’s unemployment rate would be seven percent or lower. This is the first recession since the early 1900s in which public sector employment has fallen rather than grown.

III. Rebuild the Left by Defeating the Right 

In light of the threat that would be posed to basic democratic rights by Republican control of all three branches of the federal government, most trade union, feminist, LGBTQ and African- American and Latino organizations will work vigorously to re-elect the president. And in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and elsewhere, many DSA members may choose to do the same. But DSA recognizes that an Obama victory, unaccompanied by the strengthening of an independent progressive coalition able to challenge the elites of both parties, will be a purely defensive engagement in lesser-evil politics.

The Left proved too weak to force the first Obama administration to respond to popular needs. The Occupy movement of fall 2011 gave voice to popular frustration with the American plutocracy; but it emerged well after the Republicans had gained control of the House. The Left must now build upon the accomplishments of Occupy. Democratic socialists must work to build a multi-racial coalition of working people, the unemployed, indebted students and the foreclosed that is capable of forcing politicians to govern democratically. The first task of a movement to defend democracy is to work for maximum voter turnout in the 2012 election.

Building such a mass social movement for democracy is DSA’s major task; the 2012 elections are only a tactical step on that strategic path. Thus, while working to defeat the far Right, DSA and other progressive forces should work to increase the size of the Congressional Progressive, Black and Latino caucuses and to elect pro-labor candidates to state legislatures. The election this year of Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with the re-election of Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), would increase the number of progressive voices in the United States Senate.

DSA locals should use their work in progressive electoral campaigns to build coalitions opposed to further slashing of federally-funded anti-poverty programs. Such disastrous shredding of the social safety net will occur if the cuts mandated by the August 2011 “budget compromise” are not reversed before January 1, 2013. These “automatic cuts” in domestic spending could readily be avoided if Congress reversed the Bush and Reagan income tax cuts for the top two percent, returned effective corporate tax rates to the levels of the 1960s and reduced wasteful defense spending. In our educational efforts in favor of progressive economic alternatives, DSA locals should draw on the resources of the DSA Fund’s Grassroots Economics Training for Understanding and Power (GETUP) and The Other America is Our America projects. GETUP offers a comprehensive critique of neoliberal economic thought and policy. The Other America project draws lessons from the 50th anniversaries of the publication of The Other America (1962); the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice; and the 1964 advent of the War on Poverty.

DSA locals should also work against all forms of voter suppression, whether onerous photo ID requirements, harassment of independent voter registration efforts, or phony purges of voter rolls. DSA members should also take part in the voter registration and turnout efforts by groups like the NAACP, unions and progressive community groups.

DSA locals ought to also join efforts to restrict the role of big money in political campaigns, including local efforts in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, to permit public campaign funding and to restrict the abuse of “free speech” to buy elections.

This is a year to take the “democratic” part of our democratic socialism very seriously. Whatever our analysis of the numerous imperfections of US democracy, we should be absolutely forthright about championing the rights of the people to make their own political decisions.

Paid for by Democratic Socialists of America Inc. PAC, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 505, NY, NY 10038; not approved by any candidate or candidate’s committee. 

 

A Strategy for the Next Left

(Sections IV – VI of The Political Perspectives of the Democratic Socialists of America )


Section 4: A Strategy for the Next Left
Socialists have historically supported public ownership and control of the major economic institutions of society — the large corporations — in order to eliminate the injustice and inequality of a class-based society, and have depended on the the organization of a working class party to gain state power to achieve such ends. In the United States, socialists joined with others on the Left to build a broad-based, anti-corporate coalition, with the unions at the center, to address the needs of the majority by opposing the excesses of private enterprise. Many socialists have seen the Democratic Party, since at least the New Deal, as the key political arena in which to consolidate this coalition, because the Democratic Party held the allegiance of our natural allies. Through control of the government by the Democratic Party coalition, led by anti-corporate forces, a progressive program regulating the corporations, redistributing income, fostering economic growth and expanding social programs could be realized.

With the end of the post-World War II economic boom and the rise of global economic competitors in East Asia and Europe in the 1970s came the demise of the brief majoritarian moment of this progressive coalition that promised–but did not deliver–economic and social justice for all. A vicious corporate assault on the trade union movement and a right-wing racist,populist appeal to downwardly mobile, disgruntled white blue-collar workers contributed to the disintegration of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the 1970s and 1980s.

Today, the mildly redistributive welfare state liberalism of the 1960s, which accepted the corporate dominance of economic decision-making, can no longer be the programmatic basis for a majoritarian progressive politics. New Deal and Great Society liberalism depended upon redistribution at the margins of an ever-expanding economic pie. But today corporations no longer aspire to expand production and consumption by raising global living standards; rather, global capital engages in a race to increase profits by “downsizing” and lowering wages.

With the collapse of the political economy of corporate liberalism came the atrophy of the very institutions upon which the progressive politics of the New Deal and Great Society had been constructed. No longer do the social bases for a majoritarian democratic politics — strong trade unions, social movements and urban, Democratic political machines — simply await mobilization by a proper electoral appeal. Rather, a next left must be built from the grassroots up.

Given the globalization of economic power, such grassroots movements will increasingly focus upon building a countervailing power to that of the transnational corporations. A number of positive signs of this democratic and grassroots realignment have emerged. New labor leadership has pledged to organize a workforce increasingly constituted by women, people of color, and immigrant workers. Inner-city grassroots community organizations are placing reinvestment, job creation, and economic democracy at the heart of their organizing. The women’s movement increasingly argues that only by restructuring work and child care can true gender equality be realized. And the fight for national health care — a modest reform long provided by all other industrial democracies — united a broad coalition of activists and constituencies.

But such movements cannot be solely national in scope. Rather, today’s social movements must be as global as the corporate power they confront; they must cooperate across national boundaries and promote interstate democratic regulation of transnational capital.

If socialism cannot be achieved primarily from above, through a democratic government that owns,control and regulates the major corporations, then it must emerge from below, through a democratic transformation of the institutions of civil society, particularly those in the economic sphere — in other words, a program for economic democracy.

As inequalities of wealth and income increase and the wages and living standards of most are either stagnant or falling, social needs expand. Only a revitalized public sector can universally and democratically meet those needs.

Economic Democracy . Economic democracy can empower wage and income earners through building cooperative and public institutions that own and control local economic resources. Economic democracy means, in the most general terms, the direct ownership and/or control of much of the economic resources of society by the great majority of wage and income earners. Such a transformation of worklife directly embodies and presages the practices and principles of a socialist society.

Alternative economic institutions, such as cooperatives and consumer, community, and worker-owned facilities are central to economic democracy. Equally important is the assertion of democratic control over private resources such as insurance and credit, making them available for socially responsible investment as well as over land, raw materials, and manufacturing infrastructure. Such democratic control must also encompass existing financial institutions, whose funds can be used to invest in places abandoned or bypassed by transnational capital, such as urban and rural areas, and in sectors of the population that have been historically denied control and ownership of significant economic resources. Such a program will recognize the economic value of childrearing and home care by family members as unpaid labor, and account for this work in all considerations of benefits.

Key to economic democracy is a democratic labor movement that plays a central role in the struggle for a democratic workplace, whether worker or privately owned. In workplaces that the employees do not own – traditional corporations, family businesses, government, and private nonprofits – only independent, democratically run unions can protect workers.

The importance of economic democracy extends beyond the ownership and control of economic resources. It is the only way to fulfill the democratic aspirations of the vast majority of Americans. The democratic ideal today has been drastically narrowed in scope and substance to reduce its threat to established power and privilege. The current assault on the welfare state led by corporate and conservative elites is also an attack on political democracy. Democratic socialists must reinvest democracy with its political and economic content to give full voice to popular democratic aspirations.

Finally, economic democracy is also the only way to mediate and overcome divisions based upon race, gender, religion, and ethnicity that undercut universal social justice.

Global Justice. A program of global justice can unite opponents of transnational corporations across national boundaries around a common program to transform existing international institutions and invent new global organizations designed to ensure that wages, working conditions, environmental standards and social rights are “leveled up” worldwide. The basis of cooperation for fighting the transnationals must be forged across borders from its inception. Economic nationalism and other forms of chauvinism will doom any expanded anti-corporate agenda.

The international financial institutions serving the interests of transnational capital are important arenas of struggle for a global social and environmental agenda. Elements of this agenda include efforts to advance social charters in free trade agreements; to propose alternative investment strategies for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; to strengthen the enforcement of existing treaties on the environment, labor standards, social policies etc.; and to promote international standards that put social justice before corporate profit. Stronger international ties among trade unions and joint actions across borders in defense of wage standards, working conditions and social rights are critical.

Social Redistribution. Social redistribution–the shift of wealth and resources from the rich to the rest of society–will require:

massive redistribution of income from corporations and the wealthy to wage earners and the poor and the public sector, in order to provide the main source of new funds for social programs,income maintenance and infrastructure rehabilitation, and
a massive shift of public resources from the military (the main user of existing discretionary funds) to civilian uses.
Although such reforms will be very difficult to achieve on a national scale in the short term, their urgency increases as income inequality intensifies. Over time, income redistribution and social programs will be critical not only to the poor but to the great majority of working people. The defense and expansion of government programs that promote social justice, equal education for all children, universal health care, environmental protection and guaranteed minimum income and social well-being is critical for the next Left.

At the same time, the military Keynesianism that has dominated federal expenditures, constricting the capacity of governments at all levels to respond adequately to social needs, must end. Much of the current distortion in government spending and taxation has its roots in the massive military and national security build-up in the 1980s, combined with the massive tax cuts for the wealthy. The great run-up in national debt is due directly to military-led deficit financing. Reduced military expenditures and more equitable taxation represent the only sources of funds on the scale needed to provide the social programs required to ameliorate declining living standards.

Together, economic democracy, global justice, and social redistribution are the linchpins of abroad-based anti-corporate left, that is international in character and local in its reliance on popular control of economic resources and decision-making.

Section 5: The Role of Electoral Politics

Democratic socialists reject an either-or approach to electoral coalition building, focused solely on anew party or on realignment within the Democratic Party. The growth of PAC-driven,candidate-based, entrepreneurial politics in the last 25 years leaves little hope for an immediate,principled electoral response to the rightward, pro-corporate drift in American politics. The fundamental task of democratic socialists is to build anti-corporate social movements capable of winning reforms that empower people. Since such social movements seek to influence state policy,they will intervene in electoral politics, whether through Democratic primaries, non-partisan local elections, or third party efforts. Our electoral work aims at building majoritarian coalitions capable of not only electing public officials on the anti-corporate program of these movements, but also of holding officials accountable after they are elected.

The U.S. electoral system makes third parties difficult to build at both the national and state level.Winner take-all districts; the absence of proportional representation; open primaries; executive-run governments that make coalition governments impossible; state legislative control over ballot access and election laws all combine to impede third parties. Much of progressive, independent political action will continue to occur in Democratic Party primaries in support of candidates who represent a broad progressive coalition. In such instances, democratic socialists will support coalitional campaigns based on labor, women, people of color and other potentially anti-corporate elements.

Electoral tactics are only a means for democratic socialists; the building of a powerful anti-corporate coalition is the end. Where third party or non-partisan candidates mobilize such coalitions, democratic socialists will build such organizations and candidacies. However, to democratize U.S. electoral politics – whatever its party form -requires serious campaign finance reform both within and without the Democratic Party.

Section 6: The Role of Democratic Socialists

Any differences are due to changing conditions,and not changing principles. The continuities are unmistakable. The same spirit animates both documents.

In fact, the most important difference between the documents is neither strategy nor program,mission nor vision, but rather expectation. The founding document called for carrying out a strategy and program that were already the mainstays of mass liberalism, but moving this broad liberal coalition considerably to the left. DSA’s new document points in another direction, toward the founding of a new progressive movement…a next Left. That is because the political momentum of mass liberalism is depleted. If we once positioned ourselves as the left wing of the possible, there is now no “possible” to be the left wing of. Of course, considerable opposition has arisen in response to the program of the conservative and corporate elites. But, that opposition confronts a profound crisis of leadership, particularly at the national level.

Increasingly, many of our fellow citizens recognize that the American dream is becoming a chimera. We as democratic socialists believe that it can be made real. No laws of nature or “free markets” dictate that we must destroy our environment, worsen global inequality, squander funds on useless deadly weapons, and continue to relegate women and people of color to second-class citizenship. But if the American dream is indeed ever more elusive, we seek much more than to simply revive it as an aspiration. For in one respect the right-wing would-be prophets are correct: The success of global capitalism demands that traditional democratic standards of justice, equality,and decency be undermined. For the simple dream of a comfortable standard of living, of community, and of equity to be realized, radical political, economic, and social changes in the established order are required.

The belief is widespread that we stand at the beginning of a new political era — that the Left must create a new vision and a new mission rooted in a new sense of purpose. Democratic socialists have an historic opportunity and responsibility to play a central role in the founding of a next Left, and DSA is prepared to meet this challenge. We invite you to join us in this effort worthy of a lifetime of commitment.

Don’t Just Do Something,Talk by Slavoj Zizek

One of the most striking things about the reaction to the current financial meltdown is that, as one of the participants put it: ‘No one really knows what to do.’ The reason is that expectations are part of the game: how the market reacts to a particular intervention depends not only on how much bankers and traders trust the interventions, but even more on how much they think others will trust them. Keynes compared the stock market to a competition in which the participants have to pick several pretty girls from a hundred photographs: ‘It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligence to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.‘ We are forced to make choices without having the knowledge that would enable us to make them; or, as John Gray has put it: ‘We are forced to live as if we were free.’

Joseph Stiglitz recently wrote that, although there is a growing consensus among economists that any bailout based on Henry Paulson’s plan won’t work, ‘it is impossible for politicians to do nothing in such a crisis. So we may have to pray that an agreement crafted with the toxic mix of special interests, misguided economics and right-wing ideologies that produced the crisis can somehow produce a rescue plan that works – or whose failure doesn’t do too much damage.’ He’s right: since markets are effectively based on beliefs (even beliefs about other people’s beliefs), how the markets react to the bailout depends not only on its real consequences, but on the belief of the markets in the plan’s efficiency. The bailout may work even if it is economically wrong.

There is a close similarity between the speeches George W. Bush has given since the crisis began and his addresses to the American people after 9/11. Both times, he evoked the threat to the American way of life and the necessity of fast and decisive action to cope with the danger. Both times, he called for the partial suspension of American values (guarantees of individual freedom, market capitalism) in order to save the same values.

Faced with a disaster over which we have no real influence, people will often say, stupidly, ‘Don’t just talk, do something!’ Perhaps, lately, we have been doing too much. Maybe it is time to step back, think and say the right thing. True, we often talk about doing something instead of actually doing it – but sometimes we do things in order to avoid talking and thinking about them. Like quickly throwing $700 billion at a problem instead of reflecting on how it came about.

On 23 September, the Republican senator Jim Bunning called the US Treasury’s plan for the biggest financial bailout since the Great Depression ‘un-American’:

Someone must take those losses. We can either let the people who made bad decisions bear the consequences of their actions, or we can spread that pain to others. And that is exactly what the Secretary proposes to do: take Wall Street’s pain and spread it to the taxpayers … This massive bailout is not the solution, it is financial socialism, and it is un-American.

Bunning was the first publicly to give the reasoning behind the GOP revolt against the bailout plan, which climaxed in its rejection on 29 September. The resistance was formulated in terms of ‘class warfare’, Wall Street against Main Street: why should we help those responsible (‘Wall Street’) and let ordinary borrowers (on ‘Main Street’) pay the price for it? Is this not a clear case of what economists call ‘moral hazard’? This is the risk that someone will behave immorally because insurance, the law or some other agency protects them against any loss that his behaviour might cause: if I am insured against fire, for example, I might take fewer fire precautions (or even burn down my premises if they are losing me money). The same goes for big banks, which are protected against big losses yet able to retain their profits.That the criticism of the bailout plan came from conservative Republicans as well as the left should make us think. What left and right share in this case is their contempt for big speculators and corporate managers who profit from risky decisions but are protected from failures by ‘golden parachutes’. In this respect, the Enron scandal of January 2002 can be interpreted as an ironic commentary on the notion of a risk society. Thousands of employees who lost their jobs and savings were certainly exposed to risk, and had little choice in the matter. However, the top managers, who knew about the risk and also had the opportunity to intervene in the situation, minimised their exposure by cashing in their stocks and options before the bankruptcy. So while it is true that we live in a society that demands risky choices, it is one in which the powerful do the choosing, while others do the risking.

If the bailout plan really is a ‘socialist’ measure, it is a very peculiar one: a ‘socialist’ measure whose aim is to help not the poor but the rich, not those who borrow but those who lend. ‘Socialism’ is OK, it seems, when it serves to save capitalism. But what if ‘moral hazard’ is inscribed in the fundamental structure of capitalism? The problem is that there is no way to separate the welfare of Main Street from that of Wall Street. Their relationship is non-transitive: what is good for Wall Street isn’t necessarily good for Main Street, but Main Street can’t thrive if Wall Street isn’t doing well – and this asymmetry gives an a priori advantage to Wall Street.

The standard ‘trickle-down’ argument against redistribution (through progressive taxation etc) is that instead of making the poor richer, it makes the rich poorer. However, this apparently anti-interventionist attitude actually contains an argument for the current state intervention: although we all want the poor to get better, it is counter-productive to help them directly, since they are not the dynamic and productive element; the only intervention needed is to help the rich get richer, and then the profits will automatically spread down to the poor. Throw enough money at Wall Street, and it will eventually trickle down to Main Street. If you want people to have money to build, don’t give it to them directly, help those who are lending it to them. This is the only way to create genuine prosperity – otherwise, the state is merely distributing money to the needy at the expense of those who create wealth.

It is all too easy to dismiss this line of reasoning as a hypocritical defence of the rich. The problem is that as long as we are stuck with capitalism, there is a truth in it: the collapse of Wall Street really will hit ordinary workers. That is why the Democrats who supported the bailout were not being inconsistent with their leftist leanings. They would fairly be called inconsistent only if we accept the premise of Republican populists that capitalism and the free market economy are a popular, working-class affair, while state interventions are an upper-class strategy to exploit hard-working ordinary people.

There is nothing new in strong state interventions into the banking system and the economy in general. The meltdown itself is the result of such an intervention: when, in 2001, the dotcom bubble burst, it was decided to make it easier to get credit in order to redirect growth into housing. Indeed, political decisions are responsible for the texture of international economic relations in general. A couple of years ago, a CNN report on Mali described the reality of the international ‘free market’. The two pillars of the Mali economy are cotton in the south and cattle in the north, and both are in trouble because of the way that Western powers violate the same rules that they impose so brutally on Third World nations. Mali produces cotton of the highest quality, but the US government spends more money to support its cotton farmers than the entire state budget of Mali, so it is small wonder that Mali can’t compete. In the north, the European Union is the culprit: the EU subsidises every single cow to the tune of five hundred euros a year. The Mali minister for the economy said: we don’t need your help or advice or lectures on the beneficial effects of abolishing excessive state regulations; just, please, stick to your own rules about the free market and our troubles will be over. Where are the Republican defenders of the free market here? Nowhere, because the collapse of Mali is the consequence of what it means for the US to put ‘our country first’.

What all this indicates is that the market is never neutral: its operations are always regulated by political decisions. The real dilemma is not ‘state intervention or not?’ but ‘what kind of state intervention?’ And this is true politics: the struggle to define the conditions that govern our lives. The debate about the bailout deals with decisions about the fundamental features of our social and economic life, even mobilising the ghost of class struggle. As with many truly political issues, this one is non-partisan. There is no ‘objective’ expert position that should simply be applied: one has to take a political decision.
On 24 September, John McCain suspended his campaign and went to Washington, proclaiming that it was time to put aside party differences. Was this gesture really a sign of his readiness to end partisan politics in order to deal with the real problems that concern us all? Definitely not: it was a ‘Mr McCain goes to Washington’ moment. Politics is precisely the struggle to define the ‘neutral’ terrain, which is why McCain’s proposal to reach across party lines was pure political posturing, a partisan politics in the guise of non-partisanship, a desperate attempt to impose his position as universal-apolitical. What is even worse than ‘partisan politics’ is a partisan politics that tries to mask itself as non-partisan: by imposing itself as the voice of the Whole, such a politics reduces its opponents by making them agents of particular interests.

This is why Obama was right to reject McCain’s call to postpone the first presidential debate and to point out that the meltdown makes a political debate about how the two candidates would handle the crisis all the more urgent. In the 1992 election, Clinton won with the motto ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’ The Democrats need to get a new message across: ‘It’s the POLITICAL economy, stupid!’ The US doesn’t need less politics, it needs more.