The US Presidential Elections
A view from India
First the question: does it matter much whether America elects a Republican or a Democrat as its President?
May be not to the rest of the world, but to American citizens it does.
After all, there are worries related to whether taxes shall go up or be cut—and for which segments of the population; whether health care systems will see greater privatization or greater and more equitable state sponsorship; whether more young people can or cannot afford a college education; whether prices of food and fuel—already the lowest worldwide-- shall likewise go up or down; whether corporate profits stand to dwindle or multiply, at home and abroad; whether jobs will continue to be outsourced or retained within the U.S of A; and whether or not more warfare will be in the offing to clean up the world for democracy and concomitant virtues.
Speaking of virtues, the other important consideration must be whether more "pro-life" or "pro-choice" judges will come to adorn the Supreme Court.
Always a wonder, though, that "pro-life" America should worry so little about hundreds of thousands of little babies who through the years have had to die before their time in consequence of its righteous crusades in, for example, Iraq and Afghanistan. Increasingly now also in the friendly land of Pakistan. A mystery that no doubt some innovative twist of evangelical ingenuity can resolve.
Additionally, in the context of an America post the September, 2001 trauma (avoiding with some satisfaction the ritualized nomenclature "9/11") whether state policy will tilt more towards greater security clampdown on citizen's "inalienable rights" or whether America's global pursuit of "democracy" will entail further curtailment of democratic rights at home.
And whether the new President prefers to cut emissions and absorb within indigenous precincts toxic materials, or continue to ship them to regions of the world that after all are too distant and too dark to matter.
I said at the outset that these elections may not matter to the world outside America, for the simple reason that it is no longer sensible to count India as being "outside America."
Indeed it now is the case that elections within India are no longer of great concern (especially after the Left has been excised) to India's corporate classes, or indeed, to any classes at all. It hardly matters whether these are won by the Congress or the Bhartiya Janata Party—the two "mainstream nationalist" parties—singly or in coalition (the Left excluded), since both now subscribe to a governing hypothesis that comprises a mutually- agreed ideological confluence.
That confluence includes the pursuit of strategic military dominance, the transfer of wealth from public to private interests—both national and foreign--, a generic suspicion of Muslims, a brazen disregard of right-wing Hindu vigilantism of the most violent kind, a statist indulgence of such vigilantism as constituting, after all, not "terroristic" but "nationalistic" impulses, despite some recent proven instances of right-wing Hindu terrorist activity (Nanded, Tinkasi, Kanpur etc.,), a close militarist and technological embrace with the Zionists, superceding India's traditional links with the Eastern and Middle-Eastern cultures and regions, and a readiness to facilitate American strategic interests to penetrate the Asian and Far-Eastern dominions through strategic defence arrangements, joint military exercises, and inter-operable infrastructures.
In India, therefore, the Presidential election in America is viewed with great trepidation. And chiefly by our corporate ruling class and their influential consumerist support base among upwardly- mobile Indians who define their "nationalism" entirely in militarist, racial, and "cultural-nationalist" terms, in stark contrast to other segments of the intelligentsia who remain boorishly wedded to an anti-colonial and anti-imperialist construct of nationalism. The latter construct entailing archaic ideas about "seculalrism" and "equity" within the self-reliant sovereignty of the nation-state. As well as a commitment to universal disarmament and peaceful co-existence.
Something of that trepidation has been coming across on India's corporate TV channels, some directly now subsidiaries of American corporate media conglomerates.
Only last night there was this anchor opening her "face the nation" routine by first tendentiously announcing the name "Barrack Hussain Obama" to the two "experts" on the show that asked the question whether, after all, this gentleman would make an adequate "twenty- first- century President."
To her visible dismay, the ongoing poll on the ticker-tape suggested that some 62% thought he would. How wrong-headed can you get!
Also, none of her pointed prodding would elicit any of the following:
--that maybe even now the Hussain bit, of which "Indonesian past" Barrack spoke not at all, complained the anchor, would put paid to Obama's chances;
--that maybe, after all, the colour of his skin and his so ‘differentness' from a "proper" American persona would yet halt his illicit ambition;
--or that, may be, madam Palin's admirable family values and gun-loving patriotism would, in tandem, rob the Democrats of votaries of Hillary Clinton.
In fairness to her two "experts," neither of them seemed to think such fears were of substance, as they sought to dwell upon the great changing moment in America. Leaving the good anchor in wonderment as to "which side they were on."
The fact of the matter is that having gone far far to the right over the last decade, and often unabashedly so, to the extent of risking the government recently over the Indo-US nuke deal, the Indian state has real stakes in what might transpire in Washington come November 4.
In the worst case scenario, the following might happen (the ruling classes think):
--Obama might just acquire virtue (like Jim in Hucklebury Fin?) and think that America ought to encourage the world to non-proliferate; then what happens to the nuke deal and India's tryst with super-powerdom? And with what face then might India go back to sign the pipeline agreement with Iran and Pakistan, or team up with the SCO countries to secure a portion of Caucasian oil etc.,?
--the "Hussain" in Obama might come to the fore and dictate a less belligerent or warlike policy towards the Muslim Middle-East, Afghanistan and Pakistan; then what happens to India's "war on terror"? How then might Narendra Modi be regarded as anything less than an anti-terror hero? How then might India's love of the Zionists be viewed by her own Muslim and other secular citizens?
--Obama might on a visit to New Delhi suddenly invoke Gandhi and Martin Luther King, sing praises of the peaceful struggle of oppressed peoples against social, racial and economic exploitation; then what happens to India's commitment to militarism, caste dominance, and class hegemony? Remember now that as of today Indians have some $1450 billion stashed away in Swiss banks—the highest of any country's citizens, while some 77% Indians subsist on less than fifty cents a day. Any lecture from an American President of inferior colour would not be less than a humiliating rebuke to such an order of things.
--or suppose that Obama were to indeed curtail oursourcing of skills to India, as well as cut down on those visas that allow droves of Indians to go to America first to study and then to usurp top-level jobs? What would happen to avenues of educated employment at home, and how might the comprador upwardly- mobile then view the prowess of their own government vis a vis their beloved America?
--or, heaven forbid, Obama might think that all human beings should have the right to free sexual choice; what would then happen to section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that designates homosexuality as a criminal offence? Would a twenty-first century Indian ruling class do away with it? And if it did, how would it then face the onslaught from the right-wing "value" constituency
On the other hand, were a good republican like McCain to be elected President, India's ruling confluence would remain happily intact, and India's American Dream become a realizable reality.
There are of course those other Indians who believe that just as at home a Congress-led or a BJP-led government only reflect two faces of the same coin, an American Presidency of any political variant carries but one message to the world: you are either with us or against us. The tone and style of the message might vary, the substance remains pretty much the same. Thus any country wishing to hitch its wagon to the American wheel must know that it can do so only on the directional terms of the wheel in question, and at its own speed as well.
Better thus to delink India's fate from that of the "only superpower"—one whose own fate today falls victim to its inordinate callousness and hubris. An economy in doldrums, and a supposedly unstoppable war machine stumped in Georgia, it may not be unthinkable for a sensible President to rethink both America's sense of itself, and of its international role and purpose. Indeed, the bulk of American citizens would hope he would do so. Having invoked Roosevelt and Kennedy, Obama might do well to go all the way back to Jefferson and Lincoln, and thereby recall America to traditions and idealisms that justly were to influence the best minds in the rest of the world. But to rebuke Bush and the Republican legacy of the last eight years, and then not to strike visible and substantive departures therefrom would only make of Obama's pioneering black Presidency a wasted opportunity and a loss to the world.
As to the people of India, alas, an American Presidency remains a matter of indifference.
Nothing that happens in America is likely to tell in any consequential way on the fate of the most oppressed of Indians. Their struggles must be conducted against oppressors at home—and what a diverse legion those are—struggles which have the best chance of bearing fruit in being most detached from recourses to social and religious identities, since nothing suits the purposes of class rule more than such a preoccupation with denominational identities.
The more anomie and alienation that capitalist development causes the more people rush to gods and suchlike; and the more they rush to gods and suchlike, the easier the task of the oppressor becomes, and the more profitable as well. No bigger enterprise today in India than catering to rituals and religions. To the extent that rituals and religions keep the oppressed from banding together on livelihood demands, capitalism remains forever beholden to religions and rituals, and forever willing and ready to fatten and embellish them.
Remarkably, unbeknown to the NRIs in America caught on one side or the other of the political contention there, India witnesses spontaneous combustions today through its length and breadth. From Kashmir to the North-East, in the Central parts, in the Western states, a million mutinies are on the boil while the state prances in New Delhi, or sneers at the fate of its smaller neighbours. What will any American Presidency do to thwart these mutinies? Or, for that matter any nuke deal either? Or any new configuration of political parties or any new parliament that remains oblivious, ostrich-like, to the lava that brews in the nation's entrails, and indeed slashes and burns every minute of everyday if only we had eyes.
Whatever then might be the stakes of the Indian ruling classes in America and its Presidency, some eighty percent of Indians had best take their cue from the following remarkable lines from Wordsworth, the English poet:
"Not in Utopia, subterranean fields,
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us,--the place where in the end
We find our happiness or not at all."