A New New Deal
Many of us are inclined to believe that in regards to the election (and America’s trajectory) there are only two scenarios in store:
(1) A presidential victory on the part of McCain (at which time we would be in serious trouble for a myriad of reasons, which I will not get into here)
(2) A presidential victory on the part of Obama (at which time we can breath easy)
Unfortunately, scenario (2) is a fallacy – a pernicious trap. What America desperately needs is a resurgence in Keynesianism – A New New Deal. In other words, we need to demand that our government be accountable to us, ratchet down the veritable omnipotence of the corporation, and protect us from the vagaries of capitalism. If not, the powerful interests of the state will co-opt our elected leaders, leaving us with hollow dreams. So we must push for what we want, and history teaches us that people power works; this is how the New Deal became a reality. After the Great Depression, Americans were fervently pushing for change. Socialist activist farmers in Kansas were fighting for workers rights, Alabama was rife with progressive communists, the general mood was progressive. Faced with such overwhelming popular support for social change, Roosevelt was forced to enact the New Deal to appease the masses and quash the rising power of rival political parties.
But this can’t be where we stop. In conjunction with a New New Deal, we also desperately need an Environmental Keynesianism. And again, history can act as our touchstone. When the United States entered World War II, the entire state apparatus was altered. Production was geared towards war, economics was geared towards war, jobs were geared towards war… But America wasn’t the only country altering its state apparatus – as the British emerged from the horrors of that period, they thought “why can’t this be done in peace time?” Why can’t the state use its power for good rather than for war – why can’t this be done to combat climate change, resource depletion and peak oil?
I remember seeing the Dalai Lama in Central Park a few years back, and one of the many great things he said was that protesters should not simply protest something – they should write up solutions and come to their protest with paper in hand. Extrapolating from his words, it is our job to know what we want, to see the big picture and to demand that that picture be painted because it won’t be done out of the kindness of our government’s heart.