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Proletarian issue 51 (December 2012)
Editorial: Obama’s re-election promises austerity at home and war abroad
Despite predictions of a close finish, Barack Obama secured a comfortable win against his Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the 6 November US presidential election.

Obama won the electoral college (US presidents are not directly elected) by 332 votes to Romney’s 206 – almost as convincingly as in 2008. However, his share of the popular vote declined by 2.4 percent. The last time a US president won re-election with a decline in his vote was in 1944.

The election results showed both that the US is a bitterly divided society and that millions of working-class Americans are becoming increasingly alienated from a political system in which they have no real choice or say.

Obama won support from just 39 percent of white voters, with 59 percent opting for Romney. However, 71 percent of Hispanics (and a similar number of Asian-Americans) voted for Obama, with 27 percent choosing Romney. In the case of African-Americans, fully 93 percent of those who voted cast their ballots for Obama, with Romney attracting a pitiful 6 percent.

However, Obama’s vote declined by nearly nine million compared to four years ago, although this did not translate into support for Romney, who also polled some 2.5 million fewer votes than did Republican candidate John McCain in 2008.

Of those who did vote for Obama, a great number will have lost the genuine enthusiasm that characterised his first run for the White House. Now there is merely the desperate wish that Obama somehow represents the ‘lesser evil’ – alongside a revulsion at Romney’s shameless and ruthless advocacy of the parasitic interests of the ‘1 percent’ of mega-rich finance capitalists from whose ranks he is drawn.

But even this modest hope is sure to be cruelly dashed. Particularly since the election, Obama has made it crystal clear that his agenda is one of austerity at home and aggression and war abroad.

Having created an artificial, but ominous-sounding, ‘fiscal cliff’, based on the simultaneous expiry of 2001 Bush tax cuts and a series of tax and budgetary measures, all scheduled to take effect on 1 January, Republicans and Democrats have lost no time in putting aside the contrived playground insults of the election campaign to effortlessly forge a bi-partisan consensus that will be based on swingeing cuts to such programmes as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And this at a time when a new official study has been forced to concede that one in six Americans, nearly 50 million people, are living in poverty.

In foreign policy, the very first post-election announcement from the Obama administration was to slap new sanctions on Iranian officials, whilst a bi-partisan bill is making its way through Congress that would impose crippling sanctions on the entire Iranian economy.

And the prospects for an all-out, overt war against Syria have been ratcheted up, with a green light also given to yet another genocidal zionist onslaught against the Palestinian people in Gaza. And it almost goes without saying that the United States was brazenly one of only nine countries to vote at the UN General Assembly on 28 November against Palestine gaining the status of an observer state.

Crucially, Obama has signalled that there will be absolutely no let-up in his ‘pivot to Asia’ – that is, in the strategy aimed at isolating, surrounding and threatening China as a prelude to a possible world war. Just two days after the election, the White House announced that the re-elected president’s first overseas trip would be to Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Cambodia, a trip that went ahead in November even as the Middle East slid into war.

US imperialism’s similar agenda against Russia was highlighted with the announcement that US ground troops are to be permanently stationed in Poland.

Building the broadest possible united front against US imperialism’s wars of aggression and its war preparations against China and Russia is the most important and pressing task in the contemporary international class struggle. The US proletariat’s struggle against austerity and immiseration is an integral part of that global contest.
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