Now that Barack Obama has provided Wall Street with the economic and political aid it craves, wrecked Health Care Reform for a generation or more, prosecuted two politically senseless and criminal wars, tipped the Supreme Court to the right, has the 2010 midterm elections the results of which he can use as shields when his deceptions prove too damaging to his persona — now that he has accomplished so much, he appears poised to ruin Social Security. His first trick in this game, the Cat Food Commission, failed to complete its mission. But Obama seems determined, and the Commission’s failure only requires he use another tactic. The destruction of Social Security would be considered a decisive historical moment if it came to be, as Andrew Levine suggests: “The danger that the last nail is about to be driven into the New Deal’s coffin is real and imminent.”
Levine continues by stating a point that is obvious but often ignored:
Republicans may still be better than Democrats at engineering the tax system to redistribute wealth upwards. But Republicans can’t touch the ‘third rail’ of American politics. Even with the vaunted “political capital” he acquired after the 2004 election, the first that he actually won, George Bush couldn’t privatize (gut) Social Security. Clinton probably could have but for la Monica, and so can Obama, at least so long as the “folks” who routinely vote Democratic, the only people left who can block the Reaganite tide he is riding, continue to stand by their man.
We might hope that Obama faces strenuous opposition to his plan when it becomes publicly evident that he intends to wreck Social Security. Will he? Perhaps not. On the one hand, Obama would need to confront popular unrest before he trimms his sails. On the other hand, he knows he can count on the Republicans for their votes on this matter and for more than that. Levine writes, that “Obama is counting on Tea Partiers and their representatives in Congress to scare those voters into line and to bring ‘moderates’ back into his fold. Perhaps they will.” This is the “lesser evil argument” in action, revealing to be a mechanism which forces some to abandon their interests and others to follow the physically safe path.
Would it be surprising if Obama were to derive indirect political benefits from America’s white terror? I think not! As Walter Karp remarked (Karp, 1993, p. 31) years back when he discussed state party politics:
It is not electoral competition which characterizes the relation between two state party organizations, but strict and pervasive collusion. That collusion does not necessarily require conspiratorial plotting in smoke-filled back rooms. It springs up automatically between two state party organizations by virtue of powerful bonds of common interest. Neither party organization could retain control of its party unless the two organizations were in collusion. As Senator Robert Lafollette rightly remarked in 1912: “Machine politics is always bipartisan.” It is because it has to be.
An insight today even though the American political system is much different than it had been when Karp wrote these words (circa 1973).