Obama != Romney

Obama08, Politics

Below are my thoughts on a recent Truth-Out post entitled: Closer Than You Think: Top 15 Things Romney and Obama Agree On.

On foreign policy and the security state this is largely accurate, however on domestic policy I think it conflates political pragmatism with ideology in a way that is rather deceptive. It is one thing to say that they both agree on the use of drones, it is another to say that they both agree on the minimum wage or card check. Without a super-majority there is no way in hell that Obama could get this, especially when it is opposed by a significant minority within the Democrats as well. But I think he does support such policies and doesn’t agree with Romney on them. Yes, it is true he is a lot more to the center on a lot of issues than many of his supporters would like him to be, but the Republicans really are much, much, farther still to the right on these issues.

Moreover, I think the nature of the list hides the importance of these differences for America’s working poor: (1) While the stimulus was far less than it should have been, it is arguable that millions more would have been trapped in poverty without it. And (2) many existing policies, like labor laws, safety laws, and environmental laws were not enforced under Bush but have been enforced under Obama. This last point I think especially deserves much more attention than it has gotten, as the non-enforcement of these laws is essentially a huge policy shift away from the national consensus (i.e. “the center”).

A lot of people on the left seem to want to punish Obama for not being more to the left, but a Romney win would probably just punish the poor and move the Democratic Party even further to the right. I wrote before the 2008 election that we need a grassroots movement to push the Dems further to the left. But I worry when occupying Wall Street means abandoning electoral politics and turning over the keys to the White House to Romney.