Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Some thoughts on the election, etc.

I am passing this commentary by Immanuel Wallerstein along because I think it represents a pretty sober assessment of where things are at although I would note that Wallerstein doesn't take into consideration the fact that a very large number of people in this country who are of age and qualification to vote don't vote and for the most part these are working class voters who are thoroughly just plain fed up. So fed up they refuse to participate in the electoraL PROCESS because they don't think anything they say or do will matter.

Also not considered here is THE FACT that of those voting for Obama there were huge numbers of people who voted for Obama for no other reason than their opposition to Romney. In my opinion, it is these people who we must open up a dialog with when it comes to third party initiatives.

The fact that the leaders among liberals, progressives and leftists from the three main third parties--- Greens, Justice and Socialist--- who ran very good campaigns in 2012 have not been able to come together around a very specific program aimed at creating jobs by putting people to work solving the problems of the people paid for through massive government programs like re-established WPA, CCC and C.E.T.A. financed  with cuts from militarism and wars and taxing the hell out of the rich should point us in the direction of where are weaknesses are--- beginning with UNITED ACTION.

In my opinion, the main obstacle to third parties making a major break-through in the elections is that people don't view our parties being splintered as the way to present real alternatives.

As we saw, Jill Stein's assessment wasn't based in reality and I think Rocky Anderson's suggestions that there needs to be more cooperation and his assessment that the Green Party doesn't provide a framework most liberal, progressive and left voters will relate to remains valid. We have certainly witnessed the fact that Jill Stein's advisers like Ben Manski were wrong about what was realistic for Green Party breakthroughs. 

While Wallerstein seems to think it was good that the third parties didn't influence the outcome of the elections in the "swing states;" I think it shows a severe weakness that our third parties didn't focus on the states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the states of Minnesota and Michigan where the working class is suffering and all indications are that people in these states are thoroughly fed up with both the Democrats and Republicans; ready to break free from this two-party trap. And if we add to these states the states of Washington, Oregon, California and New York where working people have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to vote outside of the two Wall Street parties we have a very solid base to build from when it comes to breaking free from the two-party trap.

I would further note that a rather large number of "leaders" from liberal and progressive organizations (no left-wingers were present as far as I can tell) who held a meeting with Obama while holding to some kind of secret pledge not to divulge what was discussed--- a meeting in which recordings weren't allowed, and even note-taking was not permitted. Yet these liberals and progressives--- who included the leaders of the unions and outfits like MoveOn.org who remain silent on the Israeli attacks on Gaza and drone strikes--- came out of this meeting shielding Obama from criticism even claiming Obama was some kind of barrier to austerity measures when in fact Obama is leading the charge to shove Wall Street's austerity measures down our throats in the guise of bi-partisan "reaching across the aisle" for "reforms."

Obviously, we can't trust any of these "leaders" who would meet with Obama while agreeing not to discuss what was discussed in their meeting when it comes to developing real struggles intended to solve the problems of the American people.

Obama tried to hold the editorial board of the Des Moines Register to such an agreement and even they refused to play this game with Obama. Obviously Obama made some very outlandish statements to this carefully chosen and selected group of liberal and progressive "leaders" in order to try to divert any struggles for real reforms. In my opinion, especially shameful in this secret meeting with Obama, was the participation of Ben Jealous of the NAACP and Jim Wallis of Sojourners.

I don't think the "exit polls" conducted during this election tell us the facts concerning "foreign policy" because I saw some of these "exit poll" questions at three different polling places here in Michigan and the way the questions were framed did not enable voters to consider if they preferred militarism and wars to universal social programs and all the polling data I have seen for decades tells us the American people want an end to militarism and wars, and want the wealth of this Nation used to finance everything from healthcare to education and infrastructure, instead, which provides us with a very solid foundation upon which to build a third party alternative.

There really shouldn't be any reason why the three parties who put forward major efforts in this campaign--- the Greens, Justice and Socialists (along with many other liberals, progressives and leftists) --- shouldn't be able to come together to agree on a national ticket and present a cabinet united around a very basic platform to the American people while working at other levels promoting their own individual party candidates, programs and platforms.

I would also note that there was an extremely important court victory where a U.S. Appeals Court has overturned the racist "ban on Affirmative Action" in the state of Michigan which I haven't heard any of these so-called liberals and progressives who met with Obama talk about. And, I would further point out that while the majority of black, Hispanic and women voters who voted for Obama have not stepped forward demanding Affirmative Action be enforced when it comes to all these huge publicly funded projects, be these projects undertaken through "stimulus funding" or projects like the billion dollar construction projects now underway in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota--- the Detroit to Windsor Bridge, the Viking Stadium or the bridge from Minnesota to Wisconsin.

I find it interesting, not to mention disgraceful and shameful, that people like Ben Jealous and Jim Wallis did not push Obama to have his Justice Department enforce Affirmative Action especially given the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals that was already in place striking down the Michigan ban on Affirmative Action in education, housing and employment.

But, there was little motivation from liberals, progressives and the left pressuring these "progressive leaders"--- so designated and anointed by Obama---  to bring forth anything that might embarrass Obama and the Democrats.

Isn't it rather obvious by now that it will require massive grassroots organization and initiative on all of these real issues--- nothing short of shaking this country up--- to force Obama and the Democrats to come to working people struggling for peace and real reforms instead of begging them for anything when their preoccupation is only to "reach across the aisle?"

Look; poverty is the number one issue in this country. People are poor because militarism and  these dirty wars are making us all poor. As any school child understands  people without jobs are going to be poor... concepts neither Obama nor the Democrats and Republicans are able to comprehend... and apparently Obama's chosen and selected "progressive leaders" don't understand either or they would have pressed him during their meeting with him to re-establish the WPA, CCC and C.E.T.A, enforce Affirmative Action and driven home the point that of the need to end militarism and these dirty wars--- which none of them did. Nor did they educate Obama on the need to increase the minimum wage to make it reflect all real cost of living factors. Nor did they attempt to couple Social Security benefits to all cost of living factors.

Do you have any thoughts on any of this?

Alan L. Maki

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Becky Dunlop <dunlop@binghamton.edu>
Date: Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 4:59 AM
Subject: Immanuel Wallerstein's Commentary No. 341
To: COMMENT@listserv.binghamton.edu

Please do not reply to the listserv. To correspond with the author, write immanuel.wallerstein@yale.edu. To correspond with us about your email address on the listserv, write dunlop@binghamton.edu. Thank you.
Commentary No. 341, Nov. 15, 2012
"Obama Won: What Will Happen Now?"

Obama won the U.S. elections with a significant margin both in the popular vote and in the Electoral College. The Democrats won every closely contested seat for the Senate except one. This relieved the Democrats, who had been worried, and astonished the Republicans, who had felt certain of victory. Now the whole world wants to know what this means for the immediate future of the United States and the world. The answer is not simple.
Let me start with foreign policy. The U.S. government still wishes to pursue an imperial policy throughout the world. The problem it faces is very simple. Its ability to do this has drastically declined, but the elites (including Obama) don't wish to acknowledge this. They still speak of the United States as the "indispensable" nation and the "greatest country" ever known. This is a contradiction that they don't know how to handle. As for the ordinary U.S. citizen, an exit poll that asked what motivated the votes of those polled found that only 4% said foreign policy. Nonetheless, most ordinary citizens still believe the mantra that the United States is the world's golden example.
We can therefore expect that Obama will continue to do what he has been doing: talking tough, but acting in fact prudently vis-à-vis Iran, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, China, Mexico, and indeed most countries. This of course exasperates most other countries and all sorts of political actors across the world. Whether he can continue to walk this narrow tightrope without falling off is not at all assured, especially since the United States can no longer really control what most other actors will do.

Obama is almost as helpless regarding the economy - the U.S. economy and the world-economy. I doubt that he can seriously reduce U.S. unemployment, and in 2014 and 2016, this will help the Republicans rebound. The crucial issue at the moment is the so-called (and misnamed) fiscal cliff. The real issue here is who is going to bear the largest burden of U.S. economic decline.

On these issues, Obama was elected on populist promises but actually is pursuing a right-of-center position. He is offering the Republicans a deal: higher taxes for the wealthy along with significant cuts in health and maybe pension expenditures for the majority of the population. This is the U.S. version of austerity.

This is a bad deal for the vast majority of Americans, but Obama will pursue it vigorously. The deal may nonetheless fall through, if the Republican right wing stupidly refuses to go along with it. The business elites of the United States are putting pressure on the Republicans to accept the deal. The trade-unions and the liberals (inside and outside the Democratic Party) are pushing against the deal. But thus far, the liberal anti-deal push has been far weaker than the business elite pro-deal push. This is essentially a class struggle of a very traditional kind, and the 99% do not always win these struggles.
On so-called social issues, which were a true divider between the Republicans and Democrats in this election, the U.S. voting population defeated the troglodytes hands down. Gay marriage won on the ballot in four states, and the shift in public opinion indicates this trend will continue.

Even more important was the absolutely lopsided vote for Obama and the Democrats by African-Americans and by Latinos. It seems that the ferocious attempts by Republican governors to impede voting by these groups stirred a backlash, in which even more of them voted than previously. For Latinos, the key issue was immigration reform. And major figures in the Republican party (including Jeb Bush, himself a potential future presidential candidate) are now saying that, unless the Republicans cooperate with immigration reform, they can never hope to win national (and many state) elections. My guess is that some legislation will in fact now pass Congress.

Obama has been a big disappointment to that large group of his supporters who are motivated by environmental and ecological concerns. He has talked a good line but has done rather little. One reason is that another group of supporters - the trade-unions - have been arguing in the other direction because of the risk to jobs. Obama has waffled, and he will probably continue to waffle. This is marginally better than Romney, who would have shut down the agencies that still try to protect the environment.
Obama's record has been bad on civil liberties issues, indeed in some ways worse than that of George W. Bush. He has moved aggressively against whistle-blowers. He has not shut down Guantanamo and he has actively supported the Patriot Act. He has used drones to assassinate presumed enemies of the United States. In these actions, he has been supported by most members of Congress and the courts in general. There is no reason to assume he will change his behavior in this regard.

One major reason evoked every four years to support the Democratic candidate for president has been appointments to the Supreme Court. It is true that, had Romney been elected and one non-conservative judge died or resigned, the Court would have been moved far to the right for a generation.

What will happen now that Obama has been re-elected? There are four justices over 70 years of age. There is no mandatory retirement age. None of the four seems about to resign, not even Justice Ginsburg who has been ill. The opportunity for Obama to make a difference depends however on whether Justice Kennedy will resign or die and whether Justice Scalia will die (he certainly won't resign). This is entirely unpredictable. But if this happened, Obama's re-election will indeed have made a difference.
Finally, what is the future of U.S. politics? This is the most uncertain element of all. The Republican Party seems to be starting an internal civil war between the tea party conservatives and everyone else. Everyone else notes that the Republicans blew their chances to win the Senate because of losses in the primaries of "sure winners" to quite extremist tea party-endorsed candidates. Only 11% of votes for Romney came from non-Whites. And percentages of Latino voters are rising even in presently sure Republican states like Texas and Georgia. But if the Republicans do begin to talk a more centrist line, will they lose a significant part of their base, who will abstain from voting?

The Democrats have a similar problem, although not as serious. Their votes came from a "rainbow coalition" - women (especially single mothers and working women), African-Americans, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, trade-unionists, young people, poor people, and well-educated people. Their demands are at odds with the preferences of those who control the party, including Obama. This time, the base stayed loyal. Even those who supported third-party candidates seemed to do this only in states where the Democrats couldn't lose. There was no swing state in which third-party candidates seemed to tilt the election.

Will the liberals within the party move now to third parties? It seems unlikely at the moment, but it is not impossible. It depends in part on how dramatic a fall the United States takes in the coming four years. It depends on how far Obama will cede on "populist" issues.

The bottom line is that Obama's re-election has made some difference, but far less than he claimed or that the Republicans feared. Once again, I remind everyone that we are living in a chaotic world in transition, in which wild shifts of all kinds are part of our current reality, including in political allegiances.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

Becky Dunlop
Secretary, Fernand Braudel Center
Binghamton University
PO Box 6000
Binghamton NY 13902

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell: 651-587-5541

Primary E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net