Follow the Campaign Money: The (Relative) Difference between Obama and Romney

Look, I’m not excited about the possibility of another Obama administration, either. I think, as the independent historians and intellectuals Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky repeatedly argue, and as any honest look at his policy record shows, Obama has proved relatively little hindrance to the military-industrial and corporate-lobbying interests that have steadily gained control of the US political system since the First and Second World Wars. In some ways — particularly in terms of imperial expansion, indifferent drone warfare, and decreasing safeguards for civil liberties — Obama has been worse than Bush. (We should remember, of course, this doesn’t imply any actual difference in intent, character or loyalty; Obama is simply continuing the Wall-St-governed policy trajectory shared by Democractic and Republican administrations for decades.)

However, like many progressives and leftists, this whole campaign I’ve personally teetered on what I’m actually going to do with my vote come November — hold my nose and vote for Obama as a small but necessary gesture toward obstructing the more-explicitly corporatist agenda of a Romney/Ryan ticket, or just wash one’s hands of the system and “throw away” one’s vote, by either writing in a loser or abstaining altogether.

And, like many, for me the real issue in terms of practical “support” depends on just how seriously we should take the symbolic differences represented in the mainstream media between Obama and Romney. The “new libertarians” I’ve recently been writing against, alongside progressives and other real leftists, are indeed correct on the one basic point that on the most significant political and social threats to authentic democracy in the US and across the globe today, the differences between Obama and Romney are, to quote Cornel West, “more a matter of style than substance.” However, from Ron Paul to Chomsky and back, the single thread unifying the US prophets of systemic doom has been an acute awareness that it is corporate capitalism driving the political engines of US foreign and domestic policy, wreaking havoc on civil liberties and human rights the world over and drawing America further into a neo-feudal class system controlled by a police-state.

Given this (albeit thin) level of agreement between the new libertarians and traditional leftists of any stripe about the corporate-state alliance, I think it worth re-posing the question about the “real issues” at stake in November by gesturing toward the most recent data about campaign financing. If the FEC data released in late July is anything close to accurate, then how in the hell can we ignore the fact that the most powerful institutions — the ones whose fraud and gambling directly caused the 2008 crisis — have chosen Mitt Romney over Barack Obama? (click names for info)

So, for God’s sake, yes — let’s unite to work for a real alternative. It’s true, the corporate-state will have its way in this campaign, no matter who’s elected. These centers of global finance will be the real winners in November, irrespective of the color of their figurehead. However, before we refuse the lesser of two evils, by either “voting with our conscience” or “throwing our vote away” because the system is indeed broken, we should think long, hard and pragmatically about the point of politics: which is not for us to devise and implement some incorruptible, ideal political system, but to ward off the most severe threats to a humane social order by restraining institutionalized greed and evil. In the language of the bible, all human institutions are fallen, but they are powers “ordained” with the task of preserving the basic social conditions in which justice and freedom can be lived. When all signs point to the fact that the regnant centers of institutionalized hubris and self-serving power decisively prefer one candidate over another, that ever-present political vocation of slowing down systems of social death should give the realists among us — who aren’t looking for a savior in any party figurehead, anyway — at least a moment’s pause.