Columns

Lattanzi-Silveus ’14: The alternative to the lesser evil

By
Opinions Columnist
Thursday, October 25, 2012

We’re less then two weeks from the presidential election. President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney are each whipping up a storm about how we should vote for them because the other will lead us all to ruin. Both are eager to agree that there is a clear choice between the two of them and the two parties they represent.

But is there, really? True, the Democrats tend, if only in rhetoric, to support higher taxes for the rich, the right to abortion, softer sentencing and so on.

But the focus on the differences between Democrats and Republicans conceals the fact that they are really not very different when it comes down to what they actually do.

Obama is a prime example of this. In spite of his message of hope and change in 2008, four years later things are remarkably unhopeful and unchanged. In the midst of the greatest recession since the 1930s, Obama continued former President George W. Bush’s bank bailouts and tax cuts. At the same time, he enacted an austerity program that should make any conservative proud. He has cut public sector jobs and government spending on public programs while increasing the Department of Defense’s budget.

In terms of foreign policy, Obama has gotten us into war with Libya, followed the Bush timeline for withdrawal from Iraq and increased the number of troops in Afghanistan. On top of this, he has hugely increased the use of drone strikes that often murder civilians abroad, including American citizens. Drone strikes under Obama have killed up to 2,600 people. The “militant leaders” that they supposedly targeted account for only 49 of these casualties.

Social issues, in spite of the rhetoric, have also taken a hit. Access to abortion has in fact decreased under Obama more than any other period since abortion was legalized, a black person is being killed by police every 40 hours and the number of people being deported per year has doubled.

Even the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” is hardly a thing to be celebrated. The plan cuts Medicare by more than $700 billion while at the same time offering a huge handout to private insurance companies, which are now able to make money off of insuring those who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford it. This is why Romney implemented essentially the same plan as governor of Massachusetts.

Of course, this wasn’t all Obama. Democrats all over the country have been at the head of many attacks on the public sector. Take public education, for example. We need look no farther than Providence, where Mayor Angel Taveras, a Democrat, closed five public schools and fired every single teacher in Providence last year, though most of them were rehired.

So what should we do then? Obama may be bad, but Romney is worse. When I see Romney qualifying 47 percent of the country as parasites and threatening to gut the few welfare programs left in the United States – even more than the Democrats do – I cringe at the idea of him holding any kind of power.

I do not really object to voting for Obama to keep Romney out of office. But I would argue that you should not do any more than that. If you want things to improve you should not be campaigning for the Democrats, no matter how much they promise. It is not through them but through protest and struggle that you can change society. It is not about who is put in the White House or in Congress, but about the pressures that are being exerted on them.

Former President Richard Nixon’s term in office is perhaps my favorite example of this. Under Nixon, the Environmental Protection Agency was created, the Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed, the Vietnam war was ended, the first major affirmative action policy in the United States – the Philadelphia plan – was implemented and abortion was legalized by a Supreme Court dominated by Republican appointees. Nixon and the justices did not have some sort of progressive epiphany. They and the rest of the government were forced to make these changes by the mass movements of the 1960s.

Corporations have money, lobbyists and control over large industries that they can threaten to move abroad. In order to change society for the better, we must fight back against this influence. It was by going on strike that the Chicago Teachers Union managed to prevent Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, a Democrat and Obama’s former chief of staff, from making cuts and increasing high stakes testing in Chicago public schools. It was by building a strong student union and boycotting classes that Quebecois students stopped a 75 percent tuition hike. It was through nationwide protests that the courts were forced to put Trayvon Martin’s murderer on trial. And it was through occupations and protests that Brown students won the Third World Center, the Africana studies department and need blind admissions, among other victories. It is not by campaigning for Obama that you truly fight for hope and change – it is by organizing, protesting and striking.

 

 

Luke Lattanzi-Silveus ’14 is a proud member of the International Socialist Organization and can be reached at luke_lattanzi-silveus@brown.edu.

2 Comments

  1. First of all I do not dispute the critiques of Obama’s record, or the problems with our political system today. None of this is new information.

    But attempting to persuade young people not to vote is not only irresponsible, it is stupid.

    To say you don’t think people “should not do any more” than vote for Obama suggests little more than passive participation in our political process, one that we are privileged to have. Not only should young people who support Obama be voting, they should absolutely be campaigning for the Democrats, if that is who they want to be elected. It is nonsensical to suggest otherwise.

    It’s great that you are critical of the political system and of our leaders.

    But face reality.

    I am an alum, and reading your article not only made me cringe, but it made me terrified. I hope young voters are smart enough to see through this faulty logic.

  2. Apologies for the typo in the third paragraph. Should read “To say you think people ‘should not do any more’ than vote….”

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