On November 4, 2014 the USA will hold its midterm Congressional elections. Obama and the Democrats face the very real possibility of losing control of the US Senate in November, having already lost control of the US House of Representatives in the previous 2010 midterm elections.
Additional landslide losses of the Democrats in 2010 at the state level also resulted in Republicans taking control of almost two thirds of the state governorships. Their new governors then quickly proceeded to redefine Congressional districts, to ensure the majority of Republican House members would be ‘safe’ in future elections. They also began introducing measures to restrict the right to vote in their states. Many of these measures will take effect in 2014, targeting mostly the poor, recent immigrant citizens, blacks and Latinos, students, the unemployed working class, and early voters—all of whom do not typically vote for Republicans. Other anti-democracy measures being prepared will follow by 2016.
Redefining Congressional districts and repressing voting rights means the US House of Representatives will remain firmly in control of Republicans in the coming 2014 midterm elections and for years to come.
On November 4, the USA will elect 36 Senators out of its 100 total. Of the 36 seats up for re-election, 21 are held now by Democrats. Twelve states appear contested, nine of which are in states that Obama lost in 2012 in his re-election. Polls show that voters in the 12 contested states favor Republicans in Congress by a margin of 50% to 40%. Republicans need to win only 6 of the 12 states to completely take over the US Senate.
The Republicans failed to take the Senate in the last election, in 2012, because they allowed ultra right wing Tea Party candidates to run for the Senate. Those candidates lost. But they have taken care of that. The US Chamber of Commerce and other big corporate donors and power brokers in the party have been directly intervening in the Republican Senate primaries everywhere this past year, to ensure that no Teaparty radicals will be running as Senate Republican candidates this November.
It thus appears highly likely that the Republicans will take the US Senate on November 4 as well as retain control of the US House of Representatives. Should that occur, conservative and pro-corporate interests will quickly mount an even more aggressive offensive against workers, immigrants, students, and the US people in general than they have to date. As Mitch McConnell, head of the Republicans in the US Senate and favorite of US corporate interests, recently put it: “ We will be pushing back…all across the federal government, we’re going to go after it”.
The Key Question of the Day
A question now appearing repeatedly in the media and the press, raised by pundits and politicians alike, is ‘should the Senate go Republicans, will it mean another two years of US government gridlock?’ However, the deeper question that should be asked, but the media is ignoring, is: ‘Should Obama lose the Senate, how much and how fast will he agree with the new pro-corporate, conservative, and pro-war initiatives by Congress that will immediately follow the midterm elections?’
High on the Republican immediate agenda for corporate America will undoubtedly be a new aggressive push for even more corporate tax breaks for big US multinational companies. Another legislative push will be to dismantle what little remains of bank regulation in the form of the feeble Dodd-Frank law passed in 2010. Another will be a piecemeal attack on Obama’s Affordable Care Act, likely exempting even more businesses from coverage than Obama himself has already allowed. Forget any action on environmental reform or immigrants’ rights. And watch for even more aggressive USA support for the post-coup Ukraine government and for Syrian rebels, certainly in money and perhaps in military aid as well.
How will Obama respond to this renewed pro-corporate, pro-war, anti-US worker offensive? Will he exercise his Presidential veto, as liberals and progressives naively will hope? Or will he — like prior Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton before him — cave in even further to those interests in his last two years in office?
A Pattern of Democratic Presidential Capitulations
Capitulation to corporate interests by Democratic presidents in their final two years in office has become a pattern in recent decades. It is what occurred in 1978-80 with Carter and in 1998-2000 in the case of Bill Clinton. Obama’s track record to date already shows a willingness to concede time and again to corporate interests on economic policy, and to the military-industrial complex and Neocons on foreign policy. When the pressure by those interests intensifies in 2015-16 for Obama with the loss of the Senate—just as it did for Carter and Clinton in their last two years in office—Obama’s willingness to make concessions at any price will likely grow further.
History repeats itself, as they say. But one might add: by re-combining and reordering similar events of the past.
In recent decades a pattern has emerged with Democratic Party politicians in office — Democratic presidents in particular. It goes like this: After Republicans wreck the US economy with policies ensuring their wealthy benefactors and corporate friends get richer even faster by ruining the economy, Democrats come in with promises to clean up the wreckage. Despite having a clear voter mandate and control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency in 1976, 1992, and again in 2008, Democrats repeatedly fail to clean up the mess. Corporate America and the wealthiest 1% are bailed out quickly, but not the rest of the country—i.e. the working classes. After the first two years, voter and popular disillusionment sets in. Democrats then quickly lose support in the US House of Representatives. That happened in 1978, 1994 and 2010, and by increasing margins each time.
In the following years Democrats then try to govern by placating, compromising, and cutting deals with the resurgent radical right and corporate interests. Concessions by Democrats further benefitting corporations and wealthy investor households (i.e. still more business tax cuts, more free trade, more social program cuts, more destruction of retirement systems and healthcare privatization, etc.) and still more Democrat-led military adventures follow (i.e. Carter’s bungled air invasion of Iran, Clinton’s attack on Somalia and Serbia, and Obama’s further attacks on Afghanistan, Libya, and ISIS-Syria).
Popular disillusionment with Democratic domestic and foreign policy thereafter deepens still further. The disillusioned refuse to vote. This sets the stage for yet another takeover by Republicans, who then reintroduce policies in new form—i.e. ‘old wine in new bottles’ as they say—warmed over old policies that wreck what’s left of the US economy again. This has been the cycle since 1976 now for almost four decades in the USA.
Democrats thus serve the role of taking the ‘heat’, as they say, for failed policies of Republicans and distract voters from the disaster of past Republican policies. The wealthy and corporate America get richer in the process leading up to the economic crises, then get promptly bailed out and even richer in the recovery. Working classes, in contrast, bear the brunt of the economic crises, aren’t bailed out in the recovery, and are called on to fight perpetual wars.
The repeated capitulation of Democratic presidents after their first two years in office has its origins in their failure to effectively address the economic crises in their first two years in office. That was true of Jimmy Carter, who failed to clean up the economic mess in 1976-78 inherited from Republican presidents, Nixon and Ford, in 1972-76. Carter’s failure led directly to his weakened political position and in turn to his ‘shift to the right’ and subsequent capitulation on economic and foreign policy during his final two years in office, 1978-80. It was similar for Clinton’s failed policies of 1992-94 and his later capitulation to corporate interests and foreign policy after 1998. Obama is now on track to repeat the process.
Obama’s Two Year Presidency
In the summer of 2010, as Obama was pumping trillions of dollars in tax cuts for corporations and investors and trillions more to bail out the banks, the US economy was still losing jobs, hundreds of thousands of homeowners were being evicted, and working class incomes were falling. Instead of directly addressing these real problems with new policies and programs, Obama turned that summer to even more corporate preferred solutions to the economic crisis.
For example, in the summer of 2010 as unemployment continued to rise, he put his ‘jobs program’ in the hands of General Electric CEO, Jeff Immelt. Immelt’s solution to the continuing unemployment crisis was more free trade, more tax breaks for multinational manufacturing companies, so-called patent reform, and other pro-business initiatives that would do nothing for jobs. Obama’s solution for the still rising home foreclosures problem was to ignore the ‘robo-signing’ bank scandal that erupted in 2010, whereby banks were illegally throwing homeowners out of their homes. Tens of thousands of workers were still losing jobs and more than 300,000 a month were losing their homes during the summer of 2010. Obama’s answer was to let the States’ attorneys general deal with the housing issue and, along with Immelt, to push for more free trade agreements. Another $800 billion in business tax cuts were then passed at the end of 2010 and another $650 billion in bank bailouts were announced.
It is not surprising that American voters were not impressed with Obama’s first two years of performance. They voted in the midterm 2010 elections to replace no less than 64 Democratic members of the House of Representatives with Republicans, many of them of the reactionary ‘Teaparty’ faction variety.
Given the loss of the US House of Representatives in 2010—for which his policies and he himself must accept significant blame—Obama has not been able to achieve anything of any significance in terms of notable programs for the past four years, 2010-14. His presidency is perhaps best described as ‘crab-like’—moving sideways but essentially going nowhere. Given this fact, should Obama lose the Senate in the coming November 2014 midterm elections as well, he will be more than willing to agree to even more concessions to corporate interests than he even has to date. He’ll want to point to something, anything in his last two years in office to claim his presidency had some effect—just as Carter and Clinton did before him after 1978 and 1998. But, like Carter and Clinton, that ‘something’ will be a dead fish, wrapped in nice paper and sealed with tape to keep out the stink—at least until he leaves office.
The process of new concessions has in fact already begun. Corporate pressure to grant even more corporate tax cuts is rising as multinationals businesses challenge the administration with so-called ‘tax inversions’. They want total elimination of paying US taxes on offshore income. Obama’s response has been a token threat to limit ‘inversions’ but not stop them. He’s been on record for years, moreover, in favor of cutting the corporate tax rate from present 35% to 28%. Some kind of ‘deal’ will no doubt follow the November election. Other evidence of more capitulation to come recently is his backtracking on promised immigration reform. While saying he would take executive action on this last June, he’s now put it off until after the November election. He’ll put it off again. The list of domestic policy retreats by the administration, and preparation for further such retreats, is indeed a long one. On the foreign policy ‘war side’ it is obvious that the resurgent Neocons in the US State Dept., the media, and Congress have cleverly dragged Obama into the Ukraine conflict and have used the ISIS events in the Mideast to open a back door for the administration to go after Syria’s Assad without admitting publicly it is attacking that regime. One can only imagine what further military adventures will follow the November 2014 elections. Sending special forces into the Ukraine is not impossible. US military ‘boots on the ground’, as they say, in Iraq to confront ISIS is almost inevitable.
The Most Likely Scenario 2015-16
So get set for even more pro-corporate, anti-working class, and pro-war policies by the Obama administration should the Democrats lose the Senate in the upcoming November 2014 midterm elections. That has been the pattern since 1978 with Democratic Presidents.
All have had short, two year initial presidencies, proposing policies that fail to clean up the preceding Republican generated economic crises. Failure to resolve the economic messes sets the stage for the revival of those policies. Weakened by their prior failures, and in an effort to placate and attempt to compromise with corporate-military interests after the first two years, Democrat presidents typically ‘shift hard to the right’ in their final two years.
History does not repeat exactly. But Obama’s post 2014 scenario will probably look much like 1978 and 1998. Sometimes resurging capitalist interests choose to dump their Democratic presidents altogether despite their concessions—replacing them with an even more compliant and useful Republican. That was the case of Jimmy Carter after 1978, who made concession after concession but was still abandoned in 1980 as corporate interests successfully pushed Ronald Reagan to the fore. They no doubt believed Reagan could deliver their new programs and proposals faster and more efficiently than might a second term Carter, who already showed himself to be quite politically inept.
Other times, corporate interests are willing to continue with a Democrat president a second term, so long as he shows signs he is able to continue to deliver—as Clinton clearly did in 1993-95 by delivering NAFTA free trade, by turning over the US Treasury policy to big banks like Citigroup to run, by his massive cuts to welfare spending, and by his ‘managed health care’ program that exempted health insurers from anti-trust laws and accelerated health insurance company price gouging. Once Clinton was mortally undermined with threats of impeachment in his second term, he capitulated still further to those interests in his final two years. The result in his final two years was comprehensive banking deregulation, more business tax cuts, free-trade like deals with China that cost three million lost jobs, allowing US tech companies to import to the USA hundreds of thousands of foreign workers on H1-B and L1 visas every year, oil industry deregulation, and promises even to consider social security privatization.
Now in his final two years, should he lose the Senate in 2014, like his Democratic predecessors Carter and Clinton before him Obama will almost certainly turn to even more concessions and capitulations to corporate interests on domestic economic policy and to Neocons and the military-industrial complex on foreign policy. He will seek further compromise with an even more aggressive anti-working class and pro-war Congress. That’s been the pattern, and no one should think it will change.