Mitt Romney’s choice of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate makes clear that members of the elite believe this is their time to change our country, once and for all. Ryan is the ideological standard bearer for the decimation of American social programs and the idea that all power and government largesse should favor the elite. His selection was greeted ecstatically by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the journalistic voice of the nation’s super-rich. The Journal‘s owner, Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News and who presided over this generation’s rightward turn in the United Kingdom, labeled the choice of Ryan as “almost perfect.”
Romney-Ryan ticket represents a 180-degree turn in the narrative of America. We are not a country that has progressed together, the Republican candidates argue, we have done it individually. As Adam Gopnik notes in the current edition of The New Yorker, Mitt Romney believes “with shining certainty, in his own success, and, more broadly, in the American Gospel of Wealth that lies behind it: the idea that rich people got rich by being good, that riches are a sign of virtue, and that they should therefore be allowed to rule.” Romney’s choice of Ryan shows they are serious about imposing this idea on all Americans.
Having succeeded in blocking much legislation in Washington, and in Sacramento for that matter, members of the elite feel that the coast is clear for them to eliminate all programs that do not directly support their money making ways. In a sense the choice of Ryan may be an example of Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine.” This is the idea that the elite have perfected the art of turning crises into opportunities for them. Post-financial crash America is certainly in crisis, and voters know it. While overall things are better in the Bay Area and a few other fortunate spots, much of the country is slowly sinking into austerity and poverty for the majority. Services that the non-wealthy rely on, such as parks, schools, and libraries, are being starved. Middle-class Americans who work in public service are being demonized while their pensions and benefits are being taken from them. And much more pain is to come.
However, members of the elite still face obstacles in their quest for a complete redefinition of the American Dream. And their choice of Ryan means they think they finally have their chance to eliminate those obstacles.
This November is likely to be forever known as the Citizens United election. A growing backlash to this decision may change things in the future, but the One Percent wants to get while the getting is good. They control the Supreme Court, and if they can get the White House along with the Congress, they have the chance to change this country for decades to come. Combined with dirty tricks like voter suppression, the ability to spend lavish amounts on advertising will allow Romney and his Super PACs to create a fog that will be difficult to cut through. Their money will make it seem to many that Ryan’s plans, which savagely cut health care for the elderly, is doing the opposite.
Like a successful football coach, the elite knows that when you have an opponent down, you have to crush them. You don’t want them to get back up.
What is so amazing about all this is that President Obama has really, really been good for the elite, who have seen their wealth swell during his administration. The president has filled his administration with Goldman Sachs types and refused to go after Wall Street crimes. And it is hard to argue that Obama has fulfilled his 2008 election promise of “change we can believe in.” Overseas, he has continued most of the wars of his predecessor, even ordering deaths of American citizens abroad. His domestic policies have disappointed those concerned about environmental, consumer, and labor issues. And many in the East Bay are shocked at the ramped-up assault on medical marijuana. But this is not enough for the elite. Obama has not been willing to make wholesale structural changes, and he does seem to care about health care for Americans, even if the way he is getting there is by expanding the “public-private” partnership of governmental officials and health care corporations.
Even knowing that American electoral politics is a viciously imperfect game, all this makes it tough for the many who have been disgusted by Obama’s broken promises and the loving bear hug that the Democratic Party has given to the corporate elite. Many folks had planned to sit this one out, but Ryan changes the calculus.
With Scalia and his gang running the Supreme Court, and Boehner and his pals in Congress, having Mitt “Gordon Gekko” Romney and Paul “Ayn Rand” Ryan in the White House would be simply too much. The elite have to be stopped in November.