April 3, 2008

What’s wrong with all the candidates

Filed under: politics — ubikcan @ 12:31 pm

One of the fault lines that goes through my mind, often in the background, is the split between the current crop of candidates and issues which remain unaddressed. Or if you like between the fairly weakly liberal Democratic candidates and true progressive values. (Obviously Republican candidates are not even worth writing about.)

Now “weakly liberal” is a value judgment and you may feel that it is wrong, but as a European I would assert that American politics has a particularly narrow political scope and history, especially in terms of dominant media narratives in recent history (I’m talking Manufacturing Consent, Walter Lippmann, Media Matters, etc).

So you will forgive me if I say that Clinton, Obama and (perhaps) Edwards are fairly weakly liberal in the overall scheme of things. As support of this assertion, here is an important post from Matt Stoller that I had missed until now. He presents five “untouchable issues” that none of the candidates have addressed and yet are truly fundamentally important:

Subject: End the War on Drugs
Factoid: There are 1 million people put in jail for doing what Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George Bush have done.

Marijuana is America’s largest cash crop, and it is responsible for around 225,000 arrests a year. Overall, the war on drugs incarcerates around 1 million people a year. Direct spending on the war on drugs this year is $50 billion dollars, about $600 a second. Around half of high school seniors have consumed marijuana (pdf). Simply put, why do some people go to jail for marijuana and cocaine, and others run for President?

Subject: End corporate media ownership:
Factoid: General Electric, a major defense contractor and conglomerate, owns NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC.

Our media is owned and controlled by a few major companies. One of them, GE, has major defense contracts, and strong incentives for war. It also has huge interests in the financial industry. Why is this company controlling our news content again, while we are in two wars? And why did the FCC just relax ownership requirements in local areas, again?

Subject: End American empire
Factoid: As of 1998, America had troops stationed in 144 countries around the world.

There are any number of ways to talk about this issue, from disparities of foreign aid to complaints about the IMF to the war in Iraq to the CIA and blowback. The bottom line is that America has troops everywhere in the world, it’s expensive, the way it is done now is a bad idea, and we need to bring them home and return to being a republic. That or we need to figure out how to be a responsible international power again and get rid of the Blackwater-style military we are building and the gunrunning vigilante CIA-style Cold War and post-Cold War nonsense.

Subject: End the war economy:
Factoid: Money for Iraq keeps passing in ’emergency’ legislation to avoid being subject to budget rules.

For some reason, Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans argue that they are fiscally responsible while ignoring their votes to spend 700-800B a year on war. Libertarian charlatans like energy expert Amory Lovins think that the corporate sector and the military sector are legitimate parts of the state, but that other spending is wasteful. The whole notion of the military not being a part of the overall government is crazy, and reflective of a huge, corrupt, and Soviet-style misallocation of capital through secret budgets and fear.

Subject: End the cradle-to-prison superhighway
Factoid: 2 million people are in prison in America, by far the highest total of any other country in the world.

Think slavery has ended? Think torture is ‘new’? Think again. With two million people in prison, and tens of thousands of sexual assaults every year, prison is a huge industry and a horrendous abridgment of the idea that is America.

It’s kind of hard to rank these, but there’s a reason shows like The Wire (which touch on #1, 2, and 5) resonates.

All of these are really important and we could probably add to the list (certainly American empire is a huge topic in academia these days and I would add the war on terror and the unitary executive we have suffered from). Many of these are intractable which is perhaps why they’re not addressed, but if so that’s even more disappointing.


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