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By Kevin Barrett, VT Editor
Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign defeated incumbent president George HW Bush with the help of Ross Perot and an unrelenting focus on the be-all-end-all of presidential campaigns: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton’s slogan pithily summarized the accumulated wisdom of more than two centuries of presidential politics: Voters identify the incumbent president and incumbent party with their perception of the current state of the economy. If times are good, the president and/or his party will likely be re-elected. If not, it’s time to “throw the bums out.”
I learned this in 1979 in a course on American Economic History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. According to the professor, it was an open secret that every president tries to strong-arm the Fed into juicing up the economy prior to his re-election campaign, usually with some success.
The 2020 election provided a classic example of the power of current economic trends over national election results. As of late 2019, the US economy was booming and Donald Trump was cruising toward an easy victory. Then COVID-19 hit, the economy imploded, and suddenly Trump no longer looked like a “very stable genius” to the crucial tranches of undecided, uninformed, and/or independent voters. Also, thanks to COVID and the economic implosion, Democrats could be whipped into a much more hysterical anti-Trump frenzy than would have been otherwise possible, leading to frenetic and heavily-funded get-out-the-vote efforts. So whether or not Trump is correct about alleged vote padding in swing states, he is certainly right that absent the COVID pandemic he would have won easy re-election.
Now that we have established the crucial connection between economic trends and incumbent parties’ prospects in national elections, it’s time to ask the million-dollar question: What the @&# are the Democrats thinking?! The Biden Administration, facing very tough midterm contests this year and at least equally monumental challenges in the 2024 presidential race, has made the apparently idiotic decision to blow up the US and global economies by provoking war with Russia.
As I write this, stocks, crypto, and even the bond market aren’t just swirling around the porcelain bowl, they’re plunging through the pipes and well on their way to the sewage treatment facility. The worst inflation in 40 years, driven in part by higher food and energy costs from Biden’s war on Russia, has forced the Fed to start ratcheting interest rates upward, pushing America towards 1970s-style stagflation at best, or a 2008 or even 1929 scenario at worst. Biden’s ever-escalating giveaway of US tax dollars to Ukraine is contributing to the economic as well as military mayhem.
Is Biden senile? Is Harris an idiot? Are the Democrats suicidal? Though the answer to the first two questions is undoubted “yes,” I’m not sure that the Democratic Party leadership and the oligarchs who own it are entirely bent on political self-destruction. There must be some sort of method in their apparent madness. And I think I know what it is:
“It’s the war mobilization, stupid!”
The oligarchs who own the Democratic Party (who may overlap somewhat with the ones that own the Republicans) aren’t going to seek success in 2022 and 2024 by riding a strong economy. Instead, they are hoping to win by dragging us into war and pounding their chests and telling us to support our fearless wartime leaders—and if you don’t you’re a treasonous unpatriotic Russia-loving Putin-loving Trump-loving transphobic white nationalist conspiracy theorist scumbag.
If the war gets bad enough, and the propaganda gets loud enough, people will put up with just about any amount of economic devastation. Consider World War II. Even though the US didn’t enter the war until more than two years after it started, and never experienced the level of combat and losses other nations suffered, the American people were quickly convinced to endure draconian rationing, forced conscription, virtual slave labor in war factories, and various and sundry economic unpleasantness, all in the name of defeating the evil racially-inferior slanty-eyed Japs and the evil white supremacist Adolf Hitler. FDR, who had cruised to re-election in 1940 by promising to keep America out of the war, had no problem winning in 1944 despite his broken promise (and his Pearl Harbor treason). When the nation is on a total war footing, people snap to attention and salute and do what they’re told and don’t ask questions, and the incumbent party and president enjoy almost godlike status.
My parents were children during World War II, and they (and my grandparents) experienced food rationing, gasoline rationing, and the near-total unavailability of all sorts of consumer goods, from appliances to automobiles. Sounds familiar? It’s like what we’re heading into now—only in 2022, we’re merely facing de facto rationing as many people can no longer buy their customary allotments of food, gas, and goods. Fortunately, the authorities probably won’t start issuing ration coupons until the war really heats up.
And heat up it will. Biden’s seemingly crazy policies, foreign as well as domestic, make sense only on the assumption that we’re heading into all-out World War III. Why would the US refuse Russia’s repeated entreaties to negotiate Ukrainian neutrality and cap NATO expansion, thereby provoking a ruinous war? Why would US leaders refuse Russia’s (and Zelensky’s) overtures for a negotiated solution? Why would they create what will soon become a 100-billion-dollar arms pipeline to Ukraine, while pushing Finland and Sweden to join NATO—a move that Russia will inevitably greet with military strikes?
The real rulers of the US empire, the neoconservatives who overthrew the Republic on 9/11/2001, are bent on world conquest. A decision has apparently been made behind the scenes to fight World War III sooner rather than later, in service to the Wolfowitz Doctrine that the US will tolerate no challenges to its global hegemony.
The neocons have made their position clear: They will either rule the planet unilaterally or destroy it. That is why the Empire and its vassals are inflicting economic devastation on their own people, and the people of the world, as they frantically mobilize for the biggest and most destructive war in human history.
If we are going to stop it, the time is now. Once NATO is officially at war with Russia, dissent will be ruthlessly quashed. And once the nukes start flying, we will spend whatever is left of our lives wishing we had done more to stop the neocon Strangeloves from pursuing their mad dream of world conquest.
Dr. Kevin Barrett, a Ph.D. Arabist-Islamologist is one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror.
He also has appeared many times on Fox, CNN, PBS, and other broadcast outlets, and has inspired feature stories and op-eds in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Tribune, and other leading publications.
Dr. Barrett has taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin; where he ran for Congress in 2008. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, author, and talk radio host.