Wednesday 7 November 2012

Should socialists be happy about the re-election of Obama?

 When I woke up this morning and heard the news, I was happy.  perhaps happier than I expected.  Maybe I was happier at  the defeat of Romney than the victory of Obama, but whatever, I was not neutral on the issue.

So what to make of this feeling of happiness?

Clearly, on policy issues there is barely a difference between the parties. Indeed, Obama has arguably followed a more hawkish foreign policy than many Republicans would have been prepared to countenance. But acknowledging that the parties are not very different on policy is not the same as not worrying either way about the electoral outcome.  The story is the same over on this side of the pond - you need have no illusions in Labour to want the defeat of the Coalition, and in electoral terms only Labour in the short term can deliver that defeat.

On the positive side, the Obama victory revealed that most Americans have no time for the ultra reactionary policies of the Tea Party, despite all the hype. This can be seen in Romney's mad dash for the centre ground at the end of the campaign - which did him no good because no-one believed it.  The Obama victory also represents a defeat for the Republican war on women, particularly on abortion rights, although they can still do a lot of damage through the State legislatures which they control. 

It is also significant that Obama could not allow the US motor industry to go to the wall.  He went for a bailout when Romney was advocating letting it go bankrupt. 

The Democratic Party is still the party with which the organised working class in the US identifies itself most closely, even if not always especially enthusiastically.

Most importantly, Obama's victory raises workers' expectations and intensifies their demands.  Of course, the Democratic Party is never going to be the vehicle for the realisation of those demands - the mass of ordinary people in the US need a new broad left party just as much as we do, and that is what socialists in the US, as here, need to build.

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