On the run
Earlier today President Barack Obama formally launched his re-election campaign – roughly 1 year and 7 months before the presidential election on November 6, 2012. This is actually quite astonishing, and yet the practice of launching campaigns long before most voters even care to think about who they might vote for has become a disturbingly normal trend in American politics, where the billion-dollar, high-stakes electoral game never ends.
Consider, by contrast, the semi-presidential system of France, where incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy has yet to announce that he is even running for re-election in April 2012. A handful of opposition Socialists have already announced their intentions to run, but the Socialist primary isn’t until October 2011, and the official election season doesn’t begin until a few weeks prior to the actual first round. French law prohibits paid commercial advertisements in the three months preceding the vote, and mandates that candidates are given equal air time on national television and radio stations during the official campaign. Sure, crooked Sarkozy was busy soliciting illegal donations from the Gaddafi regime and cash from L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt in the run-up to the 2007 vote, but how does that compare to the United States, where money is speech and candidates unabashedly rush to corporate coffers just to be able to compete?
As much as President Obama rightfully criticized the Citizens United decision in the Supreme Court, he’s going to depend heavily on corporate interests to finance his re-election bid—and as a result, will likely reap the benefits of the decision. One can be certain that the banking industry won’t forget the favor(s) the President bestowed on it—even in 2008, Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup, JPMorgan and UBS were among his campaign’s top donors, accounting collectively for a grand total of $3.5 million in donations. Needless to say, that’s about a fraction of what will likely be a $1 billion re-election campaign. He’s just trying to get started early. Sadly, that the President’s rush to earn the financial support of big business has started so early and so openly speaks volumes about the state of our democracy.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party high-brass will now formally begin the process of silencing anybody who talks of mounting a challenge to Obama. One might suspect a challenger from the left in the midst—for all of the President’s talk of “shared sacrifice” amid the federal budget deficit, he has no qualms about financing the failed imperial foray into Afghanistan, or hell, even beginning a new military engagement in the Middle East. As Japan emerges from a horrific nuclear disaster, Obama has responded by touting the benefits of nuclear power back home. And then today, we were reminded once more that when it comes to the rule of law and the War on Terror, the latter always triumphs—whether it’s Obama or Bush in the Oval Office.
Now that the President’s getting ready, it’s time to get mobilized: civil libertarians, people against the wars, organized labor and environmentalists need to get serious and find another candidate for 2012.