The Iowa caucuses were last night, and after months and months of exciting horse-race politics in which nearly every single Republican candidate surged to front-runner status and then fell back again, the winner was the guy everybody originally thought would win.
Mitt Romney came in first place ahead of Rick Santorum by just 8 votes. The narrow margin made the night as dramatic as the rest of the race has been so far, but like the entire presidential electoral process in general, it was mostly inconsequential. Santorum only did so well because his popularity happened to peak at just the right time, but like every other alternative-to-Romney candidate in the field, his numbers will plummet once people start paying more attention to him.
And so as early as January 5, with only one primary contest finished and ten months to go before the general election, I can boldly pronounce who the winner of the 2012 election will be: Wall Street, and the rest of Corporate America.
It’s all over, folks. The corporate plutocracy that owns the media and our politicians now has this one in the bag. They already own Barack Obama, and they’ve owned Mitt Romney for quite some time. Both of these guys have demonstrated that they will do whatever the big corporations want them to do, with a few minor exceptions Obama has to make for political reasons (e.g. the consumer financial protection bureau).
The choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is a choice between two different brands of the same product. It’s like being offered Pepsi or Coke when what you really want is orange juice. (Or more accurately, it’s like a choice between Coca-Cola and Royal Crown Cola, both of which are owned by the same company.)
The powerful financial interests which make up the establishment would call the shots no matter who gets elected, be it Obama, Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, or almost any of the others. There are only three candidates in the entire race who would not be beholden to them: 1- Rocky Anderson, who is a third-party candidate and therefore has no chance, 2- Buddy Roemer (a.k.a. “who is that?”) and 3- Ron Paul.
Yes, the last best chance for real change in 2012 was a Ron Paul victory in Iowa. He was the only real threat to the establishment, but they were able to snuff it out in Iowa. Unfortunately, he was too easy of a target.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s a lot to dislike about Ron Paul. Those racist newsletters are a disastrous reflection on his character and his obvious lies to pretend he knew nothing about them made it clear that he’s not quite as honest as he seems. His die-hard libertarianism, if fully implemented, would be a disaster of epic proportions.
But he’s not running for dictator. He’s running for president, and the president does not have nearly the kind of power it would require for him to implement his entire agenda. He would try to eliminate the department of commerce, of education, of energy, the EPA, and so on, but Congress wouldn’t let him. There would be bipartisan opposition to all extremist legislation he proposes, and while a few Republicans would take his side in some fights, the vast majority are owned by the establishment and the establishment would make defeating him their top priority.
On the other hand, there are certain things the president has the power to do all on his own without approval from Congress. He could and would stand against the military industrial complex and get our troops out of Afghanistan immediately, saving billions of dollars of the national budget currently being wasted. He could end the war on drugs, freeing up law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes and deal a death-blow to the cartels. Finally, he could aggressively go after and prosecute every single one of those Wall Street bankers who committed the fraud that crashed the economy and then walked away with millions in taxpayer-funded bonuses.
But this is all a fantasy. Ron Paul would never win the Republican nomination, though I think he’d probably stand the best chance of beating Barack Obama because unlike any other Republican he actually appeals to liberals for the reasons stated above. No progressive is going to vote for Romney, but plenty would be tempted to vote for Ron Paul.
At the very least, a Ron Paul nomination would turn the establishment media on its head. The mainstream media, owned by the same corporations that own the government, would throw everything they have at Paul including, possibly, rational arguments over policy! There would be a real debate over things like the proper extent of the role of government in people’s lives, and conservatives would look at his extreme views and be forced to acknowledge that it should at least play some role. There would be a real discussion over the efficacy of the war on drugs, and if enough people look at the statistics it might finally tip the scales against prohibition, an obviously failed and counter-productive policy. Finally, we’d have a real debate over the wars, and with the Democratic candidate in favor of them and the Republican candidate against, people would have to consider their own opinion instead of just accepting the default position of their team.
But the best thing about the imaginary Paul vs. Obama scenario is that Fox News and the rest of the conservative corporate media would take Obama’s side. After all, he’s a part of the establishment and Paul is not. It serves their purposes to be against Obama now because they are still hoping for a more corporate-friendly president, but if Paul were to be the Republican nominee all that nonsense about Obama being a socialist left-wing radical would go straight out the window and the likes of O’Reilly and Hannity would be talking night after night about how Obama has actually been governing pretty much like a moderate Republican.
Sadly, none of that will happen now, so the establishment can rest easy. There will be no real change this year. The middle-class continues to be squeezed and squeezed but the tipping point has not yet been reached and that slowly roasting kettle will not boil over. In 2011 many people finally took to the streets in a genuine rebellion against the establishment, but that political energy will be absorbed by the election as people eventually accept a candidate and line up behind them. Instead of fighting for real change, most of these people will be fighting to re-elect Obama for the sole reason that they believe Romney will be far worse. But in reality, it will make almost no difference.
The American presidential electoral process used to have the potential to bring about change, but ever since the government has been completely absorbed by the corporations and all of the candidates bought by the same interests, it’s become little more than a sideshow—a useful distraction for the politically-active to direct their energy away from actually fighting for real issues. It’s only January, but the election is already over. The 1% win. The rest of us lose.