Nov 02 2012

Economic Populist: The Radical Populist Case for Voting for Obama{+}

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

{+} in swing states

I don’t know whether you’ve seen Matt Stoller’s the Progressive Case Against Obama, Peter Coyote’s The Progressive Case For Obama, Cassiodorus’ The case against the case for Obama, or Priceman’s Peter Coyote’s Failed Status Quo Exercise in Condescension , but it seems making out “Progressive” cases for and against the incumbent US President is all the fashion. Not to be left out, I composed a little piece along the same lines for radical economic populism. Crossposted from Voices on the Square

Burning the Midnight Oil for Economic Populism

The case against a radical Economic Populist voting for Obama is pretty straightforward:

  • The Obama administration is a neo-liberal administration, and buys into the fantasy that eliminating the deficit somehow fosters growth;
  • The “all of the above” energy strategy is a path to slightly slower climate suicide than the “all in for oil and coal” strategy
  • Support for “smart wars” instead of “dumb wars” means more Americans die as a result of overseas conflicts that we do not have to have than dismantling the American Empire and eliminating the root cause of most attacks on Americans overseas.

I am aware of an argument that a vote for Obama is a vote for a “more effective evil” because the radical reactionary alternative is such an “extreme evil” that it is going to be “less effective”. I am not going to address that argument. This is more directed to the “no effective difference” argument.

There are two arguments in opposition to the above Radical Economic Populist case that I can see.

Climate Chaos

There are lots of things that can be done to lay the groundwork for a genuine push to fight climate chaos under the All of the Above framework that will not be pursued under the "hand Energy Policy to the Oil and Coal companies" framework being offered as an alternative.

One of the key institutions that we require are feed-in tariffs for sustainable, renewable electricity. Under the (government-chosen) marginal pricing of wholesale electricity, when sustainable, renewable electricity pulls down the average cost of electricity, by reducing the average days per year when expensive peak power plants must operate, and by stretching the supply of less expensive hydro-power electricity, it threatens to undermine the repayment of the loan of the capital intensive, fuel-free sustainable renewable harvesting of wind, solar, and etc. That risk increases the cost of finance to utility scale wind and solar. Its a good deal for wind and solar to offer a moderate, fixed rate when power is available, paying more in cheap "off peak demand" periods and substantially less in expensive "peak demand" periods.

Even without a Federal feed-in tariff, a state can pursue substantial development of sustainable renewable power with a feed-in tariff. Under existing law, it cannot establish a feed-in tariff that is greater than avoided costs ~ but under an Obama administration regulatory decision, it can use the penalties in a sustainable power portfolio standard when computing avoided costs, which in fact frees up a state to establish a feed-in tariff at a level sufficient to ensure construction of utility scale wind and/or utility-scale solar and/or residential-scale solar.

A Romney administration can simply reverse that ruling to close down that threat to coal companies.

One of the key infrastructure investments that we require to avoid stranded wind in the substantial Northern Plains wind resource is transmission capacity between the Northern Plains and the Great Lakes / Midwest. We know that the Obama administration energy policy is favorable for that infrastructure, because its being built as we speak. That again is vulnerable to radical reactionary regulatory capture, since this is an intrinsic question of interstate electricity transmission: we do not have any states that are so large they contain entire wind resources.

In transportation policy, a key element of the establishment of a modern intercity transport system that is not oil-dependent is the reformation of our 1950's era rail regulatory regime. We have made substantial progress on that front in the past four years, but it would be easy to double the effective cost per track mile of both Rapid Passenger Rail and High Speed Passenger Rail by appointing an anti-passenger rail head to the Federal Rail authority.

Four more years of half measures on Energy and Transport policy is substantially superior to four more years of radical reactionary policies on Energy and Transport policy, let alone a possible eight more years of radical reactionary policies.

Four more years versus Eight More Years

The second argument is simpler. Four more years of Obama and then the Obama administration is over. Four more years of Obama means the incumbent President and whatever malicious mischief he is getting up to is off the table as far as working toward raising the profile of a Radical Populist challenge in the 2013-2014 second midterm campaign season and the 2015-2016 Presidential campaign season.

Electing Romney means we are back in 2001. We have another 2004 election season to look forward to ~ "shut up about all that, don't you realize how bad this guy is? we got to get rid of him". Winning that fight means we are back in 2009 with a newly elected Democratic neoliberal in office. Except its 2017, and in 2021 we are caught in the same "but if you don't support the current LOTE you will get the GOTE instead!".

Losing that prospective 2016 fight means eight years of radical reactionary government. And while the fight against a radical reactionary government has its thrilling moments, and the feeling of building a movement in reaction to the reactionary, and the hope that it will lead to a bright dawn of a newly forged progressive populist coalition in power …

… it also likely means waking up in 2021 back where we were in 2009, with a Democratic neoliberal in power on the back of a promise of hope and change that we can believe in.

So, that’s the case that I can see.

So, that’s the Radical Economic Populist case that I can see for voting for Obama in a swing state.

Obviously if you live in a "safe" red or blue state, there's nothing that you vote can do in the short term, and the only vote you can cast that has the slenderest change of doing some good over the longer term is a vote for a third party.

However, I believe that there are premises under which it makes sense for a Radical Economic Populist who lives in a swing state to cast a vote for Obama.

With a different set of premises, of course, whether regarding the importance of climate suicide or regarding the utility of laying a physical foundation now to support for a more serious policy in the future, or regarding the likelihood of recycling 2000-20012 but worse if we elect another George W Bush (but worse), YMMV.

Message from Marley:

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