Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Two cheers for American democracy

Why is Obama’s victory a good thing? I’d like to say it’s because he’ll introduce transformative social programmes, put a stop to casino capitalism, and lead a green revolution. But that might be over-optimistic. He will certainly promote relatively progressive domestic policies and, in spite of continuing drone strikes and renditions, restrain America’s more dangerous impulses abroad. And the alternative really would have been ugly. Here are my top reasons for celebrating.

Because the people who brought us the Iraq war were lining up behind Romney to push the button on Iran. It’s over 70 years since we last fixed Iran by installing the notorious Shah and we’re still living with the blowback.  

Because if someone on the Supreme Court dies or retires in the next four years, Obama gets to nominate the replacement. Anyone who thought these justices were above politics got a rude awakening in 2000 when they awarded the presidency to Bush, having stopped the Florida recount on the grounds that it was undermining the legitimacy of… uh… Bush. More recently they blew a hole in electoral finance reform by ruling that a donation is an act of free speech, and a multinational corporation is as entitled to its opinion as the next guy. Any shift in the balance of the Supreme Court could affect American politics for a generation.

Because Carl Rove’s bubble has finally burst. Now he has to explain to his billionaire donors why he got them zero return on their investment. And everyone’s reminded that who votes is more important than who signs the cheques.

Because it’s a victory for maths. Nerdy number crunchers like Nate Silver were pilloried on Fox News, but turned out to be right. The real scandal of Romney’s overheard remark on the 47% wasn’t that it was rude but that it was statistical nonsense. He muddled the 47% who don’t pay income tax because their wages are taxed at source, or they’re retired, or students, or unemployed, or live on investments like Romney himself, with the very different 47% who happen to be attached to the Democratic Party, many of whom pay lots of income tax. Anyone who could make such an elementary mistake shouldn’t be trusted anywhere near a political campaign, let alone a national budget.

Because no one seriously thinks those voting problems were an accident – the misinformation, the hours of queuing, the malfunctioning machines. If there’s any chance of doing anything to sort those problems before 2016, it won’t be Republicans pushing for change.

Because Obama leads a party for whom compromise isn’t a dirty word, and fact-checking isn’t something to sneer at, and which doesn’t confuse enforceable laws with assertions of religious dogma. The Republican manifesto declared that, from the moment of conception, the foetus should be afforded all the rights of personhood as defined in the fourteenth amendment – the rights not to be deprived of life, liberty or property, or denied equal protection under the law. Which is quite a sledge-hammer to take to the morning after pill. 

Because now there’s no chance that the Affordable Healthcare Act will be repealed before people have discovered that it's not really a charter for government bureaucrats to pull the plug on granny.   

Because as the slow recovery of the American economy begins to accelerate, Obama’s moderately Keynesian policies will get the credit. If Romney had won, any recovery seeded in the Obama years, however hampered by Romney’s policies of welfare for the rich and austerity for the rest, and however endangered by further financial deregulation, would have appeared on Romney’s watch, apparently vindicating the old trickledown voodoo. And Europe’s conservatives don’t need any encouragement.