Closer Than You Think: Top 15 Things Romney and Obama Agree On

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Republicans and Democrats, like Romney and Obama are of one mind on many more things than they disagree about. From war and empire to their policies on Big Ag, Big Energy, “clean coal and safe nuclear power,” and the war on drugs their areas of agreement are vast and troubling, and perhaps far more important than the rhetorical and stylistic differences highlighted by US political campaigns.

Closer Than You Think: Top 15 Things Romney and Obama Agree On

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Too much agreement between Republicans and Democrats has always been bad news for those at the bottom of America's class and racial totem poles.

Back in 1875, Frederick Douglass observed that it took a war among the whites to free his people from slavery. What then, he wondered, would an era of peace among the whites bring us? He already knew the answer. Louisiana had its Colfax Massacre two years earlier. A wave of thousands upon thousands of terroristic bombings, shootings, mutilations, murders and threats had driven African Americans from courthouses, city halls, legislatures, from their own farms, businesses and private properties and from the voting rolls across the South. They didn't get the vote back for 80 years, and they never did get the land back. But none of that mattered because on the broad and important questions of those days there was at last peace between white Republicans and white Democrats --- squabbles around the edges about who'd get elected, but wide agreement on the rules of the game.

Like Douglass, the shallow talking heads who cover the 2012 presidential campaign on corporate media have noticed out loud the remarkable absence of disagreement between Republican and Democratic candidates on many matters. They usually mention what the establishment likes to call “foreign policy.” But the list of things Republicans and Democrat presidential candidates agree on, from coddling Wall Street speculators, protecting mortgage fraudsters and corporate wrongdoers to preventing Medicare For All to so-called “foreign policy,” “free trade,” “the deficit” “clean coal and safe nuclear power” and “entitlement reform,” is clearly longer and more important than the few points of mostly race and style, upon which they disagree.


Although unemployment is the highest it's been since the Great Depression, the federal government should NOT enact any sort of WPA-style program to put millions of people back to work. Under Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, Depression-era unemployment was tackled head on by direct federal hiring to dig subways, build roads, schools, parks, sewers, recreational facilities and public buildings. Oblivious of this history, Democrat Barack Obama maintains that only the private sector can or should create jobs.


Medicare, Medicaid and social security are “entitlements” that need to be cut to relieve what they call “the deficit.” Republicans have been on record for this since forever, though they claim not to want to mess with the Medicare people already over 65 are getting. One of the first acts of the Obama presidency was to appoint a bipartisan panel stacked with “deficit hawks” like Republican Allan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles to recommend raising retirement ages and cutting back Medicaid, Medicare and social security, and pass a law directing Congress to have an up or down no-amendments vote on its recommendations. Fortunately the “cat food commission”, as it was called, was deadlocked and offered none. But Obama and top Democrats, most recently House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi continue to express their readiness for some kind of “grand compromise” with Republicans on this issue.


Climate change treaties and negotiations that might lead to them should be avoided at all costs. The differences between them are only style. Democrats admit that climate change exists and is man-made, Republicans say it's a myth. But both ignored the Kyoto protocol and Obama like Bush before him, has worked tirelessly to delay, derail and boycott any actual talks that might lead to constructive international climate change agreements.


NAFTA was such a great thing it really should be extended to Central and South America and the entire Pacific rim. Again, there are differences in style. On the 2008 campaign trail, Obama sometimes mumbled about renegotiating parts of NAFTA, and such. But even before the primaries were done, press reports had him assuring the Canadian government this was only campaign rhetoric, raw meat for the rubes. In four years he has pushed NAFTA-like “free trade” corporate rights agreements with South Korea, most of Central America and is now secretly hammering out something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.


Banksters and Wall Street speculators deserve their bailouts and protection from criminal liability, but underwater and foreclosed homeowners deserve nothing. Well, maybe not exactly nothing. Republicans think underwater homeowners deserve blame for forcing banksters to offer millions of fraudulent high-interest loans were then re-sold to investors around the world. Democrats think underwater homeowners deserve empty promises of help that never quite arrives for most of the foreclosed, the about-to-be foreclosed, their families and communities. But both agree on free money for banksters and speculators but no moratorium on foreclosures and no criminal investigations of mortgage and securities fraud.


Palestinians should be occupied, dispossessed and ignored. Iran should be starved and threatened from all sides. Cuba should be embargoed, and Americans prohibited from going there to see what its people have done in a half century free of Yankee rule. Black and brown babies and their parents, relatives and neighbors should be bombed with drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and similar places. The politicians and corporate commentators have a misleading name for this. They call it “foreign policy.” The realistic term for it is global empire.


Africa should be militarized, destabilized, plundered and where necessary, invaded by proxy armies like those of Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi or Kenya, or directly by Western air and ground forces, as in Libya. President Georgia Bush announced the formation of AFRICOM, the US military command for the continent which has officially swallowed all US civilian diplomatic presence. But only a black US president, even under the cover of “humanitarian war” could have invaded an African nation and openly dispatched special forces to Central Africa.


US Presidents can kidnap citizens of their own or any nation on earth from anyplace on the planet for torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial or murder them and neighboring family and bystanders at will. To be perfectly fair, there are distinctions between Republicans and Democrats here that don't amount to differences. Republicans Cheney and Bush got their lawyers to say these things were OK and did them. Democrat Obama got Congress to enact “laws” giving these acts a veneer of fake legality, something a Republican probably could not have done.


Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere, and permitted to poison land and watersheds with fracking to achieve “energy independence”. The Republicans say “drill baby drill” but it seems only Democrats can chill out enough supposed “environmentalists” to make this happen. Obama campaigned on restricting offshore drilling four years ago, and reversed himself just before the BP oil disaster in the Gulf. The White House cooperated with BP in lying to the public about the extent of the disaster and has shielded BO from paying anything like the value of actual damages incurred to livelihoods, human lives and the environment.


The FCC should not and must not regulate telecoms to ensure that poor and rural communities have access to internet, or to guarantee network neutrality. Republicans have always been in favor of digital redlining, against network neutrality. Barack Obama claimed on the campaign trail he'd take a back seat to nobody in guaranteeing network neutrality. But he appointed as FCC chair a man who helped write the infamous Telecommunications Act of 1995, which gave away the government-built internet backbone to a handful of immensely powerful telecoms like AT&T and Comcast, and flatly reversed himself on network neutrality. The Department of Justice was forced to stop the ATT-T-Mobile merger by a storm of public outrage, but approved the Comcast-NBC deal.


Of course there really ARE such things as “clean coal” and “safe nuclear energy”. Again these are things Republicans have always pretended to believe. At the 2008 Democratic convention Democrat Barack Obama joined them, declaring he intended to be the president of “clean coal and safe nuclear energy.” Obama is building a wave of 33 nuclear plants across the country, the first two in mostly black and poor communities of Georgia and South Carolina where leaky existing nukes are causing cancer epidemics. The people know these things are myths. But Republican and Democratic candidates for office, all the way down to state and county officials seem not to.


Immigrants must be jailed and deported in record numbers. To be really fair, one should note that on this issue Republicans talk a mean game about sending them all back and jailing tens or hundreds of thousands along the way. But only President Obama has walked the walk, deporting over a million immigrants in his term in office, often with little or no due process and after housing many for months in atrocious privatized immigration prisons.


No Medicare For All. Forget about it eliminating the Medicare age requirement so that all Americans would qualify.. Republicans never wanted Medicare even for seniors, let alone everybody. Six or seven years ago Illinois State Senator Obama was telling audiences that if they elected Democrats to Congress, the Senate and the White House, they'd get single payer health care. But once in office he excluded Medicare for All from the proposals on the table, and enacted a national version of Massachusetts Romney, requiring everybody to purchase private health insurance or be penalized.


No minimum wage increases for you, no right to form a union, no right to negotiate or strike if you already have a union, and no enforcement or reform of existing labor laws. Again, Republicans have always opposed minimum wage laws. Obama promised to boost the minimum wage his first two years in office, while he still had majorities in the House and Senate. But he didn't do this, or pass legislation beefing up the right to organize unions, which has been eroded under Democrat and Republican administrations alike.


The 40 year war on drugs must continue, and even mention of the prison state is unthinkable. There are 2.3 million people in US prisons and jails today, a per capita total that beats the world. Politicians of both parties wag their fingers in multiple directions. But as Michelle Alexander points out, if the US prison population were rolled back to say, only 1 million, the level it was about 1980, this would mean one million jobs, as contractors, sheriffs, cops, bailiffs, judges and functionaries of all kinds would have to go out and find real jobs.

The rabbit hole goes still deeper. We didn't have to stop at these fifteen points of Democrat-Republican agreement, but you get the idea. Just as in Frederick Douglass's day, the more Democrats and Republicans agree, the worse it is for the rest of us.subscribe to our free weekly email notice of new content at Black Agenda Report

There was a time when black America had its own principles, and formed the immovable leftmost rock of the American polity. But in the 21st century, that rock has been dissolved by a tide of corporate money. With the rise of a cohort of black corporate Democrats and a right wing black Democrat in the White House there is no longer even any vaguely leftish influence on Democratic party politics. The House Progressive Caucus is the biggest in Congress, with over seventy members, but is powerless and irrelevant. Except for stylistic flourishes, the music they listen to and the color of some faces, the differences between Republicans and Democrats seem to exist mostly in political marketing campaigns and inside our own heads.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)


True, but I hadn't noticed-

I know the feeling, "Oh, I didn't include..." but, you get another chance next week or whenever...You've done well at limiting the length -

Great article!

Something else to add to the next installment might be how both Obama and Romney pretend to believe in the official myth of 9/11 and the so-called War on Terror, which should be more accurately called the Series of Unprovoked Wars for Energy Resource Dominance. By default it means that both men at least tacitly agree:

    that guys with not enough flying experience to master flying Piper Cubs could somehow suddenly fly commercial airliners like experts;

    that nineteen guys (including several that have turned up alive after 9/11) who behaved like westernized party animals who snorted coke, drank liquor, got lapdances from strippers, rented prostitutes and gambled in Vegas were somehow so devoted to their religion that they apparently didn't even bother adhering to would be willing to sacrifice their lives to kill Americans purportedly in the name of their religion;

  that there's a harmless and innocent reason why the world's most expensive and technologically-advanced air force was as useless that morning as if it had been flying biplanes;

 that Bush's Secret Service agents had a valid reason (aside from knowing that Bush was not a target that morning which they couldn't have known if the official mythology of 9/11 is true) for allowing him to remain in Booker Elementary for over a half hour after Andy Card told him "two planes hit the World Trade Center... America is under attack";

that it's just a coincidence that somebody placed record amounts of "put" orders (betting that a stock is going to drop in value) on the stocks of United Airlines, American Airlines and several businesses located in the World Trade Center in the week before 9/11;

that it's just a coincidence that the attorney general stopped flying on commercial airlines that summer and that the mayor of San Francisco and several military generals were warned to not fly on 11 September 2001;

 that Bush must be psychic in order to have had war plans for the invasion of Afghanistan on his desk ready to be signed two days before 9/11 when common sense tells us that there is no way in hell that he would have been able to sell the prospect of an invasion of Afghanistan to the American public without a 9/11 event;

 that metal airliners weighing over 200,000 lbs. can vaporize into nothingness when they crash, leaving only a crater (in Shanksville) or a hole in a wall with tiny chunks of debris no bigger than my hand (in the Pentagon);

 that the uppermost portion of steel-frame skyscrapers can "collapse" into and through the remaining vast majority of solid building underneath them, all that steel and concrete and everything else, as quickly meaning as effortlessly as falling through air, something that is clearly impossible in the real world without resorting to explosives to reduce the underlying remainder of the building to such a state that it offers no more resistance than air;

or any of the other numerous bits of information that show that 9/11 was a false flag operation, not some terrorist attack by "nineteen Muslims with boxcutters".

Please don't mention this

Just don't mention that part about the Pentagon's comptroller, on the day before, 9/10/01 and at a public news conference, mentioned that their auditing team had uncovered $2.3 trillion which was unaccounted for, and on the very next morning, a plane crashes dead center into the Pentagon's west wall, killing most of their auditing team and severely injuring the rest (the DIA's Financial Management staff).

Wouldn't want that to get any public notice . . . .

Very true.

With the 9/11 inside job there are so many "coincidences" and other holes in the official mythology that I'm likely to leave out something here and there if I just go with the information that springs to mind (as I did the other day) without looking at my notes. I had forgotten about the $2.3 trillion gone "missing" and announced on 10 September 2001 so it could be conveniently buried by the news of the following day. And yes it certainly does seem that the plane was aimed right at the auditing staff. Thanks for reminding me about that.

The weirdest thing ....

Outstanding article and great points, Mr. D., and as you said, " many things.."

People tend to forget two incredibly important events:

(1) When President Obama went on national TV and applauded the decision by the Chicago Public Schools superintendant when they fired all the teachers at a Chicago high school, ostensibly due to the mediocre performance of only a few teachers (an honest judge later reinstated them for their wrongful termination); and,

(2) Bradley Birkenfeld, the first whistleblower the Obama administration prosecuted into jail.  He's the guy who came from that UBS bank in Switzerland, armed with a list of super-rich American tax dodgers, with Mitt Romney's name on that list, its publication would have ended his future political career, but that list was buried, as Birkenfeld was buried in jail and away from the public limelight.

So the only reason Romney could pursue and receive that republicon nomination was soley due to Obama.

Please Provide Sources for Your Bomb-Shell Accusation RE Romney

I heard of the Birkenfield whitsle-blower case RE the USB banksters, & that instead of giving him immunity [which I don't know why he would have even needed immunity] to go after the USB banksters & those that hired their services- the FEDs, under Obama / Holder's DoJ, instead persecuted & jailed the whitsle-blower & the case effectively died after-wards. 

But I NEVER Before heard that this case was linked too rich / too slick Romney. Can you please provide sources for this info??? Such info would be proof positive that Obama & Holder not only provided legal cover for his predecessor the Bushite / Cheney / Rumsfeld / Rove Criminal cabal, but also Obama ['Look forward not back'], but that they're actively providing legal cover for his potential Repug successor's corrupt Wall St Bankster type financial dealings! Thus all of the rhetoric Obama & the Dims are making about Romeny @ Bain Capital & the Ryan austerity budget is just that- poly-trickal rhetoric, if it's true Obama & Holder effectively provided DoJ cover for Romney by going after USB whistle-blower Birkenfeld!  And it would prove there's no real difference between the Dims & Repuugs & that they both work for the interests of Power / Corp elites on Wall St, NOT in the interest of the people, not even working-class people. 

Because it's so big- your comment got us ready for today

today's strike by Chicago Teachers.  Mr. Dixon,  Because the topic is so big, you were saving it.  Your ongoing coverage of education and Obama, with his chosen Duncan led privatization of public schools has been great.  I look forward to your next one in the series.   Dem.Now is covering the strike today, a little segment.

    I support the teachers in Chicago, as a teacher who was an active striking new teacher in the early 1960s, in the first two teacher strikes ever, in NYC.  We had a short strike for the right to have collective bargaining, 1961 (including right to have a union; a first for teachers) and got it.  Then we began a strike on April 11, 1962 for a reasonable first contract.  The date is fixed for me because my protest sign that I held up at our delegates meeting to vote for the strike, the night before, was on p.1 Daily News (Sanda Blum, and the editor spelled Sanda wrong), also carried in center fold of the Daily Mirror.  My mother saved the p.1 and sent it to me in 2000, when she found it again.  I never knew she'd seen it nor had it.  More people saw my art (and me) when I was 22, than all my art combined since, including online art pages.  "Don't Burn Us Again - Joan of Arc - JHS118M" was my sign.  Some of us wildcatted to continue the strike for a better contract. The NYS legislature banned strikes by public employees in the early 1970s. Penalties include fines of $1,000,000. a day to a public union whose members strike.(I left teaching in 1965 when I moved to NOLA with first spouse and began my professional art career - a life dream since age 10.) 

   I do want to point out Howard Zinn's "if you don't know history, it's like your were born yesterday and the government can tell you anything." in a speech given right after the 2008 Presidental election.  People don't remember, or never knew, that unions were frowned on by teachers, using the propaganda, which I heard all through my years in a NYS teachers college (1956-60) :"you're a professional and professionals don't need a union"....I didn't know why the school administrators of NYS (and the education faculty) were pushing that propaganda until my first day on the job.  It was teachers who fought then and now for themselves as workers and for the children.  Yes, many union leaders have been "co-opted" (bought off) and many quit fighting once some success is achieved - but many teachers know history and there's a re-emergence of teacher support with working with parents for schools because of the effect it has on the whole community.  Viva Chicago!  Viva the striking teachers!  Viva parental control and involvement!  Viva kids learning what community activism is by living it!   (Yes, the propaganda continues in various forms in the media to break unions as ways devised by government in cities across the U.S., starting with privatization gone big, in Chicago under Obama's Presidency....The murder of unions in private sectors was successful and so the target is public unions---it's that simple. As well as clever ways to rob the public  purse, that aspect covered ongoing on BAR by Glen Ford. It's the details that are complex.)


A speaker on station KPFA insisted that we would all vote for President Obama and the Democrats if we read the Republicans' party platform. As if the Democrats wouldn't either enact most of it themselves after being elected, or if the other party wins, simply fail to protect us from any of it while making the same predictable, tired excuses for their incompetence. Or is it indifference?

Peasehead: did anyone ever check on "later"?

I wouldn't have the stomach to do it, but I wonder how often party platforms end up as "scrap paper"? (Paper is what folks used in the olden days- a note for the young.)

On party  platforms: I had a weird experience -  I was contacted by a 3rd party state head, in the west, after she saw my name/comment on a website with programing & videos in support of, and protest by "fired and banned" from WBAI FM radio (the NYC Pacifica station; you mentioned another station in the network).  She invited me to join the 3rd party and I asked my priority question(s): could I get into your office in my wheelchair?  Do you hold events in wheelchair accessible places?  She said, "It's funny you should ask.  I was just wondering what if someone in a wheelchair wanted to come up to our 2nd floor (no elevator) office, but no one ever asked. I replied, why are you on 2nd floor?  She said it was too expensive to rent someplace wheelchair accessible.  And she hadn't thought, as I pointed out, that someone might want to speak with her but couldn't throw a rock up to the window, get a bell and consider a bake sale to get rent money and NO, I wouldn't join the party.  She said, "But we have the best party platform on disability".  To that, I had no answer.   (Note: my local branch of the 3rd party had meetings in apartments that were not wheelchair accessible and my quesstion was considered silly, that I'd want to get in.  Another local person from that same 3rd party, was telling me about a house where there were workshops for veterans, including art.  I was interested.  This person, who had a disability, but not a wheelchair user, told me it wasn't wheelchair accessible and that it was expensive and unreasonable for me to expect to be able to get inside.  I asked if he said that to veterans who were wheelchair users and he had no answer.

From ancient times

Quite a difference between Bonnie Faulkner and her wonderful "Guns and Butter" show, and some of the other people they have on that station from time to time.

Being ancient, I recall that same line was used to favor Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election, then Johnson went on to do almost everything Goldwater had promised:  waged war --- sent munitions and military aid to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Brazil, sent the military to occupy the Dominican Republic, ended the financial transaction tax, and instead of withdrawing that small number of advisors in Vietnam, which President Kennedy was planning on doing before the 1964 election, which was 16,792 and first sent there by Eisenhower, Johnson greatly increased that number in short order to 500,000.


That's all I can say...Wow, Mr. Dixon. For starters....

an idea for making a statement about the sham election

Here's an idea I just came up with. For the reasons Mr. Dixon so ably enumerated as well as other unmentioned reasons it is painfully apparent that both Obama and Romney are nothing more than the front men for the two slightly-different factions of the billionaire ruling elite, growing less different all the time. (For example even in F.D.R.'s day the two factions could at most be considered to be the "let's exploit the working masses to the Nth degree and don't worry about how they feel about it" versus the "Let's not kill the goose that laid the golden egg, let's throw the masses a few crumbs to keep them from revolting and overturning the one-sided capitalist social order" faction, with F.D.R. representing the latter.) Even this small distinction is getting less and less pronounced as time goes by and the "throw them crumbs" faction is getting more and more like the "let them starve" faction.

Anyway what I'm saying is, since this is obvious that this is all we get to choose between, an undisguised conservative versus a badly-disguised conservative, why don't we try the following idea for making a statement about what a farce the American political process is? I've already made up my mind to not vote for either one of them of course but how about this? Why not go to the polling place as if we are going to vote and instead take our ballot and write at the bottom of it "Nobody -- you're both whores of the billionaires" ?

For the touch-screen voting machines where it has the space for a write-in candidate we could just type in the above information. Granted, this won't get us a candidate worth voting for but if enough people do this it will at least make a statement that they haven't fooled us as individuals, that no, we not only won't participate in their farce of an election but we'll go one better and use our ballot to call them out on what a sham it is. Imagine hundreds of thousands (or more) of pissed off people using their ballots to make a statement. Like M.T.V. had its "Rock the vote" campaign we could call ours "Fuck the vote."