Racism’s strident rise and imperiling of Obamacare

October 23, 2013, 12:00 pm

In these times of economic hardship, it is quite easy for the political Right to play on the racial sensitivities of ethnic majorities. Immigrants, for instance, could be projected by the Right as the arch enemy of the majority community, since it could be made out that these migrants grab economic and employment opportunities which should be solely acquired by the racial majority. Thus are racial animosities relentlessly builtup by the Right to the point of complete social disruption. But Social Democracy develops antithetically to Rightism and fascism. This needs to be borne in mind by developing countries which are racially, religiously and linguistically plural. It would be politically tragic for developing countries to dismantle their democratic institutions in the misguided belief that this could accelerate economic and material growth.

While the economic difficulties currently assailing the West are a cogent pointer to the steadily declining fortunes of capitalism in the hemisphere of its birth, the uphill struggle being waged by US President Barrack Obama’s Healthcare Law to win domestic acceptance is proof of the continuing perils confronting Social Democracy as a development and governing option. Capitalism, however, may be somewhat down but not out. Republicans came very close to ‘shutting-down’ the US governance system recently, and President Obama’s healthcare plan or ‘Obamacare’ was very much at the centre of that crippling crisis. Such are the threats to even a measure of equity. ‘Obamacare’ connotes much more than could be ascertained at a cursory glance. This healthcare programme needs to be debated in consideration of what it could cost the US Exchequer, besides other connected matters, but what is also at issue is the ideology and development option of Social Democracy. In its essence, this is what ‘Obamacare’ boils down to. That is, through its goal of providing a

measure of healthcare for the US citizenry on an equity basis, the programme aims at empowering the people to a degree and to that extent the health plan is Social Democratic in orientation. That is, it aims to distribute material growth evenly, on the basis of the principle of re-distributive justice. The US Right would do well not to react in a destructive fashion to the healthcare plan, although constructive criticism would be the needed thing currently. Among other things, the health plan would blunt to some extent, the hardships of the current economic downturn in the US. An indirect benefit of this process could be the defusing of racism or ethnic tensions to a degree, for, the latter invariably come in the wake of widespread economic discontent. A failure to see these ‘Obamacare’- linked developments in this light could help ignite in a big way in the US too, the unenviable political developments currently manifesting themselves in Europe. That is, a steep rise in the popularity of Far-Right parties or those political formations espousing white supremacy. The political fortunes of the Far Right are so much on the upswing currently in Western Europe in particular that France’s principal Far-Right ideologue Marine Le Pen could today boast of winning more than 20 seats in the European Parliament at the upcoming elections in May next year, and thereby go on to form an ‘official group’ in the European Parliament of the Far-Right from among some of Europe’s principal countries. Some of those Far Right parties of Europe which are expected to be in league with Le Pen’s outfit are, the Anti-Islamic Freedom Party of Holland, the Freedom Party of Austria, Vlaams Belang of Belgium, Sweden’s Democratic Party and Italy’s Northern League. They are said to campaign on an ‘anti-immigrant, anti-integration’ platform. In other words, they would seek to be powered by racism and ethnic chauvinism. Ideological positions of this nature could have a wide appeal among some of Europe’s whites in these times of widespread economic discontentment. It is against this backdrop that initiatives such as ‘Obamacare’ gain in significance. While we are witness to the wildly swinging vagaries of capitalism in the West, it is to Social Democracy that one must turn to keep intact the essential pillars of the democratic system. That is, the basic thrust of governance should be to combine growth with equity. ‘Obamacare’, although not a comprehensive answer to the need for Social Democracy, could go a little distance in meeting some requirements of this governing and development model. On the other hand, Far-Rightism which is an easy stepping-stone to fascism, could have a ruinous impact on democratic institutions and the spirit of inclusivity, which is synonymous with the democratic ethos. The world was witness to such processes in Germany under Hitler and in Italy under Benito Mussolini, for instance, in the run-up to the Second World War. Therefore, the rise of the Far Right anywhere cannot be taken lightly. In these times of economic hardship, it is quite easy for the political Right to play on the racial sensitivities of ethnic majorities. Immigrants, for instance, could be projected by the Right as

the arch enemy of the majority community, since it could be made out that these migrants grab economic and employment opportunities which should be solely acquired by the racial majority. Thus are racial animosities relentlessly built-up by the Right to the point of complete social disruption. But Social Democracy develops antithetically to Rightism and fascism. This needs to be borne in mind by developing countries which are racially, religiously and linguistically plural. It would be politically tragic for developing countries to dismantle their democratic institutions in the misguided belief that this could accelerate economic and material growth. The establishment of authoritarianism could help in quickening economic growth but this would not lead to material equity, which Social Democracy could facilitate. Accordingly, Social Democracy emerges as an advisable development option for the developing world because it would not be in the latter’s interests to have growth at the cost of social peace. It would be relevant to point out that Britain’s opposition Labour Party is now speaking in terms of the need for Social Democracy. Perhaps, we are having here a nostalgic going back to the times when social equity was high on the national agenda. Once more, it is being realized that the mere trappings of democracy minus social empowerment is self-defeating and antithetical to the democratic ethos.

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