Presidential Debate II: This Time It’s Personal

I’m preparing a really detailed analysis of the second debate, but I’m holding it back until I’ve seen Round III, since otherwise my content would be largely (but not entirely) the same as my commentary of the first, with ‘Obama turned up’ replacing ‘Obama was asleep’.

Instead I’ll just link you to a couple of very good articles I’ve read which attack the two-party system in general, which might give you food for thought when you see news reports on II, or indeed reframe your watching of III on Monday.

The first is Open Democracy’s essay, “Why has Barack Obama done so little about America’s most racist domestic policy?

This well-researched and very readable article examines the myths and facts of the War on Drugs and the penal system. Many of the statistics revealed are truly shocking – how blacks and Hispanics are prosecuted and jailed many times more than whites, despite drug use being almost equal between ethnicities. How the 1964 Civil Rights Acts was been steadily eroded by the Supreme Court, allowing skewed juries and ignoring all possible racial bias that doesn’t have solid evidence. Then, of course, how the ferocious incarceration levels only contribute to minority communities poverty and lawlessness, as education, employment, social housing, social security and the vote are all denied to felons (even those arrested on personal possession charges.)

The article goes on to look briefly at the ‘Prison-Industrial Complex’, a variant of the Military-Industrial Complex which shows private prison systems, highly unionised guard labour organisations, and the right wing form a pressure bloc which continually forces state and federal governments to perpetuate America’s prison system, despite strong and growing evidence that it simply doesn’t work as a crime deterrent or rehabilitation.

The second and third concern Glenn Greenwald, commentator for Grauniad and veteran of Standpoint. He appears on paper here in video here, hosted by Democracy Now alongside someone else clever.

Greenwald basically attacks the constraints of the two-party system, saying (as I noted) that the Reps and Dems actually agree on an awful lot, and make a great performance quibbling over details to try to perpetuate the illusion of choice. In the video, he interrogates some of the questions put forward by the moderator in the VP debate, which entail some pretty contentious assumptions which neither Jokey Joe nor Raven Ryan challenged (being that the welfare system is in moral peril, and that Iran is the biggest foreign policy concern).

Democracy Now are rather splendid in that they hosted other candidates for presidency, from the Green and Liberty parties, who answered the questions in a manner more akin to my wishes (i.e. interrogating the question’s premises first).

Greenwald uses this platform to illustrate the dangers, real and potential, from having such a monopolised consensus in the political system. He argues that, if the Democrats don’t really fight on issues like Guantanamo (which the Republicans support), they’ll be perpetuated even though an anti-GITMO majority voted Obama in.

More scary, he argues, are the areas of policy on which the two main parties agree to such an extent that no debate appears necessary. War on Druuugs? Prison Reform? American Indian abject poverty? Climate change? Serious bank reform?*
Fat chance.

Obama’s drone strikes haven’t even come up! The legality of assassinating a US citizen appears to be a fait accompli! That there are no moral or international-legal concerns around technically invading Pakistan to kill Bin Laden is evident! And when we get onto Iran, the whole debate centres around 1) whether war is necessary and 2) who is a better chum to Israel. Not ‘Wait a second, maybe there are other issues in invading Iran. Like, further destabilising a massively volatile area. Or something. Or killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. Or something. If only we had some recent precedent we could learn from. Oh well. SEND THE MARINES!”

Giggle.

*I still don’t understand why the bank ‘ring-fencing’ idea hasn’t happened yet in UK or US. Everyone seems to say it’s a good idea, so what’s the fucking problem?!

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