I’m going to go out on a limb and make a few unorthodox statements and predictions concerning the Obama victory. The first question, of course, is why did Obama win in the first place? Most conventional analysis tends to argue that Obama’s victory is traceable to the poor state of the economy, the shabby performance of the Bush administration across the board, and the fact that Obama had a superior organization and ran a more effective campaign. All of these things are true, but attributing Obama’s win to these alone ignores what I believe to be the genuinely decisive factor in this election: demographics.
Way back in the middle part of the reign of Bill Clinton, I realized that the center-left would eventually become dominant in national politics. I attributed this to the fact that as the 1960s generation became the elderly generation, persons shaped or influenced by the 1960s “cultural revolution” would be in unquestioned control of American institutions. This would be particularly true since persons with stereotypical “60s values”, for instance, anti-racism, feminism, environmentalism and the sexual revolution, tended to be disproportionately concentrated among the ranks of educated persons and the elites, and in those institutions that shape opinion, such as schools, universities, mainline religion, the arts, entertainment and the media. By this point, virtually everyone under the age of 40 has grown up under this influence.
In 1997, the conservative commentator Peter Brimelow argued that in the year 2008 the Democrats would become the dominant political party due to shifts in the ethnic demography of the US, i.e., a shrinking white population and a growing minority and immigrant population. In 2002, John Judis of The New Republic published his “The Emerging Democratic Majority”, which argued for an eventual Democratic dominance based on the growth of not only the minority populations, but also “left-wing” social movements like feminism, environmentalism, and “gay rights”, and the growth of the urban professional class, including an explosion in the number of professional women, and a corresponding decline in the traditional middle class and a blue-collar class that is under attack economically, a process accelerated by globalization. Judis likewise predicted that 2008 would be the year that the Democrats achieved superiority. The growth of urban populations in general and the decline of the size of the rural population also has to be taken into account.
I believe what we saw on Election Day was the fulfillment of Brimelow and Judis’ prophecies. Poll after poll indicated that the economy was by far the most important issue to voters, with Iraq, terrorism, health care, education, the environment, abortion, gay rights, etc. all trailing far behind. A bad economy is always an obstacle for an incumbent party, but it is likely a mistake to attribute Obama’s victory to the economy alone or perhaps even primarily. The Democrats likely blew much of their political capital concerning the economy with their support of the hugely unpopular Wall Street “bailout” (corporate welfare hemorrhage). That so many prominent Democrats, including Pelosi, Frank and Obama himself supported or figured prominently in the bailout no doubt damaged Obama’s pretended populist message.Â The Iraq war seems to have been only a secondary issue for voters, and the antiwar vote was likely canceled out to no small degree by the hawk vote from those who consider terrorism to be a primary issue.
Obama ran a superior campaign, but, once again, his campaign style fit well with the changing demographics of the US. His perceived optimism and idealism no doubt appealed to the younger voters who tended to be among his most enthusiastic supporters. At the same time, it is doubtful that the Republicans’ efforts to taint Obama by references to the likes of Bill Ayers was very effective with his key supporters, such as young people who weren’t born until years after Bill Ayers was doing his thing, and moderates and independents not particularly motivated by ideologically rigid or culturally reactionary forms of campaigning.
In short, Obama won because those population groups who vote Democratic are growing numerically and those who vote Republican are shrinking.
It remains to be seen whether an Obama presidency will be “successful” or not. Continued economic downturn and foreign policy failure could produce a “Jimmy Carter effect” and allow the Republicans to make a comeback in 4-8 years. The likelihood of this is lessened by the aformentioned demographic issues and by the lack of the likely emergence of a perceived Republican strongmanÂ a la Ronald Reagan as a candidate. Look for there to be a big fight in the Republican Party between those who want to follow the advice of the likes of David Frum and David Brooks and have the GOP become the party of economic “conservatism” (lower capital gains taxes, reductions in marginal income tax rates, etc.) and foreign policy hawkishness, but more liberal on at least some social issues like gay rights or the environment on one hand, and those who think Bush and McCain were too liberal and want a straight-down-the-line hard-core conservative party. There will be plenty of loud voices in the GOP for the latter perspective, and perhaps these are numerous enough to get control of the party itself, but this will be a losing formula in national elections because of, once again, the demographic issues previously mentioned. Even Ronald Reagan had to maintain some crossover appeal to centrists, independents, moderates, “Reagan Democrats”, etc. It is doubtful the Brooks-Frum formula would be all that workable either as the GOP would then be just “Democrats Lite” or “Right-Wing Democrats”. Not particularly inspiring.
What does an Obama presidency and, more importantly, the prospect of long-term center-left dominance mean for the future of American politics? Essentally, it means that the traditional WASP ruling class is on its way down, to be replaced by a more multiethnic, multicultural, secular, feminized and gayized ruling class that will be ruling over a crumbling empire and decaying economy. The social unrest that will likely result from such circumstances will be met with repression and the emerging ruling class will have plenty of weapons of repression at their disposal thanks to the huge American police state and prison system generated by Nixon-Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush under the guise of the wars on crime, drugs, terrorism, gangs, guns, “zero tolerance”, “broken windows theory”, paramilitary policing, military commissions, provisions for martial law, eradication of habeus corpus, etc. An ideological superstructure will have to be utilized to justify the escalation of such repression, and “totalitarian humanism” (a combination of liberal ideology and fascist methodology) will serve this purpose. The 1993 massacre at Waco will no doubt be regarded by future historians as a prototype for what is to come. With regards to the future construction of an “anti-system” movement, the following scenarios are quite likely:
1. As the cultural Right shrinks numerically and is more out of favor politically, we can expect more attacks on the cultural Right in various forms, ranging from serious social discrimination, legal persecution or even violent repression. Consequently, much of the cultural Right will move away from its traditional “respect authority” stance towards a more oppositional or even revolutionary outlook. The militia movement from the 1990s may be a prototype for what is to come.
2. The “radical middle” or “middle American radicals” will become even more radical as their economic position continues to decline over the long haul, and will become more receptive to radical ideas.
3. The rank-and-file military will become more frustrated by persistently being required to fight in ever more numerous wars of increasingly dubious value. Remember the enthusiasms of Clinton and Gore for so-called “humanitarian war” (what Noam Chomsky has called military humanism)? Obama and his successors will likely bring more of the same.
4. Expect the growth of an increasingly larger “lumpenproletarian” class as more and more people are rendered unemployable either because of a deteriorating economy or because of the marginalization of more and more people through repression, imprisonment, persecution, discrimination, etc. The huge number of convicted felons under the “war on drugs”, for instance.
5. There is also the likelihood of an eventual split among the core constituent groups of the Left along several lines of fracturing. These include the division between the mainstream liberal-managerial-professional class and the class of more genuine dissident intellectuals, genuine anti-imperialist leftists, the pro-civil liberties Left, radicalized youth, lumpen, bohemian, countercultural or declasse sectors. Such divisions will particularly sharpen as political correctness becomes more powerful and has fewer qualms about fully displaying its fangs.
6. Look for an eventual splintering of the Left’s “official victim” groups (racial minorities, homosexuals, feminists, environmentalists,etc.) along both class and ideological lines. For instance, the marginalized gay counterculture vs the gay bourgeiosie, poor blacks vs the black bourgeiosie, and racial nationalist-separatists among the minority groups vs liberal-integrationists. These divisions will widen as the cultural Right becomes less powerful and is viewed as less of a threat by the cultural Left and by racial minorities and as the poor and working classes among the “official victim” groups notice they’re not really getting much out of all of this political correctness and triumphant liberalism.
7. The Left Establishment paradigm of “Western civilization vs the official victims of Western civilization” will become more and more ideologically untenable and demonstrably absurd due to the increasingly liberal-multicultural nature of the ruling class. Further, an increased number of women, racial minorities, gays, etc. holding political power will prove to be no more benevolent or competent than those whom they replaced.
In many of my past writings I have outlined a proposal for a new radical paradigm that recognizes the emerging dominance of center-left controlled imperialism, state-capitalism and police statism, and that offers a prospect for a new demographic and political alignment capable of defeating those now-dominant forces.Â This populist right-radical middle-extreme left-lumpen left-underclass-minority separatist alliance proposing foreign policy neutrality, political decentralization, alternative economics, across the board defense of civil liberties and authentic cultural pluralism would still seem to me to be the best way to go. We’ll see.