by Danny Pforte
The Obama brand has worked wonders as the face of U.S. imperialism and rule of the rich. Black America is the brand’s “most prized” consumer. “The Obama brand has used the media to pervert the history of the Black struggle for justice by using the dead-end, ideological conclusion that the first so-called ‘Black president’ is ‘racial progress.’”
The Best Corporate Brand Yet: President Barack Obama
by Danny Pforte
“Angela Davis opportunistically concluded that Obama was representative of the ‘Black radical tradition.’”
The system of American capitalism creates conditions where the majority of people are force-fed with the idea that consuming the products of labor is a material and social necessity. The corporate media conditions the American psyche into a consumer addiction. Everywhere we go we are urged to buy the newest phone, pair of shoes, automobiles, alcoholic beverages, and whatever else corporations put on the market. The American nation-state rewards those trapped in the largely low-wage, post-industrial service and military state economy with the trinkets and toys manufactured by the world’s exploited labor. The sheer wealth America extracts from the world’s peoples of color, Black and Indigenous America included, is masqueraded as perks of advanced economic development. In other words, the American ruling class equates mass-consumerism with American Exceptionalism. The mass exploitation and brutality involved in the process is a non-issue to those who profit from consumer addiction. U.S. imperialism’s most powerful thieves rely on this type of branding in all sectors of society to further its imperial agenda without repercussions from the victims of their robbery.
President Barack Obama is the American ruling class’s most valuable product to date. Once he went out on the presidential market in 2008, he was branded as a smooth-talking, elite educated symbol of “hope.” This has led to a highly successful 4-plus year campaign of rehabilitating the damage the Bush Jr. administration caused to the reputations of the financial speculators and war-hawk politicians. Of course, liberals and progressives are avid consumers of the Obama brand. However, the most prized consumer is the Black community. The branders target Black minds with the weapon of the corporate media. The Obama brand has used the media to pervert the history of the Black struggle for justice by using the dead-end, ideological conclusion that the first so-called “Black president” is “racial progress.”
“The American ruling class equates mass-consumerism with American Exceptionalism.”
The all too common answers to how Obama represents “racial progress” stem from outright ignorance and/or dismissal of the social justice and anti-war roots of Black politics. The reality is that a Black face in the highest place within the American government satisfies the consumption tastes of liberals and progressives who voted so enthusiastically for him in 2008, myself included. There is no underestimating the value of the Obama-brand. Angela Davis opportunistically concluded that Obama was representative of the “Black radical tradition.” The Obama brand gives opportunist liberals and so-called radicals like Davis a pass on revealing what their interests are in defending a racist empire. They are able to point to the brown-faced commander in chief as a method for sanitizing opposition to America’s racist policies. As for Black political power, the Obama brand relegated the most dispossessed people to cheerleading. It inflated the notion that Blacks need to seek electoral and corporate power, not their own self-determination, in order to change their conditions. After all, he is “one of us”, right? The Obama brand painted itself as Martin Luther King’s dream realized, an eerily slick way of stating the sheer presence of Obama as POTUS would end the progressive and radical politics Black people have espoused since their enslavement by European colonizers. Purchasing Obama was intentionally meant to satisfy any craving for liberation Black people might have now or in the future.
Because imperialists cannot rely on force alone to maintain exploitation, the exploited must be taught to work in solidarity with their masters’ interests. Obama was a useful tool in cementing the popular treatment of American presidents as brands: products to be consumed. This way of looking at politics is so pervasive precisely because the American electoral system serves the ruling and privileged classes at the expense of everyone else. It is a game for them every four years. It is a farce for us every year. Such a system cannot sustain itself without trust from its populous. The Bush administration struck fear in the eyes of the elites who desperately needed the best product possible to ensure they were once again trusted to pillage and plunder the earth’s human and natural life. And they found a gem in Barack Obama.
“President Barack Obama is the American ruling class’s most valuable product to date.”
Who else would be able to do what the Obama administration has done with impunity? The Obama team wasted no time waging new wars across the globe while simultaneously escalating the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles. They used NATO to overthrow the independent government in Libya in a racist, genocidal coup. Syria and Iran are next in line. US drones are now a common cause of death and terror for North African and Middle Eastern communities. The US African Command (AFRICOM) has further militarized Africa, which is present in all but two nations on the continent. Assata Shakur, a Black liberation exiled freedom fighter, is a most wanted terrorist as of this calendar year. The financial elites responsible for the largest transfer of wealth to the top 1 percent of the population from the 99 percent receives trillions in bailouts while people are losing their homes and jobs in high numbers. Even in the midst of staggering levels of poverty and unemployment for all and Black people especially, public schools are being turned over for profit and Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid are on the chopping block. Healthcare costs continue to soar. Obamacare does more for the profits of big pharmaceuticals and insurance companies than it does to expand coverage to Americans. Civil liberties have been eroded to dust with the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act and the re-authorizing of the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act is now under scrutiny after the NSA was caught spying on the private lives of US citizens.
“As for Black political power, the Obama brand relegated the most dispossessed people to cheerleading.”
It seems that no amount of Bush-on-steroids policy and politics can enrage the popular masses of America. Even when signs of resistance emerge, like in Occupy Wall Street, Barack Obama escapes blame. American progressives, liberals, and Black misleaders will defend Obama as the “lesser-evil” in comparison to the GOP and it doesn’t matter one bit what he does. Many voters felt compelled to use the “lesser-evil” excuse in the 2012 election for a variety of reasons, all of which disregard what he has wrought. This is what makes him so valuable to those who have shaped and branded his legacy: the ruling oligarchs and elites of Wall Street, multinational corporations, the corporate media, and the opportunist Black misleaders and white liberals who defend him at all costs.
It is year five of their brand’s collective abuse and we are tossing and turning in our slumber. Eventually, products wear out and consumers become dissatisfied with their current level of function or value. But it will not be enough to simply cease from believing that the Obama Administration contributed anything positive to the interests of anyone but those in power. Although Obama is branded as a commodity, he is a politician in the flesh. Politicians act in the interest of the powerful in a capitalist state. We should treat them as such.
We have a great task on our hands to devise the plans, programs, and actions that will chip away at fascism’s foundation and demonstrate to those seeking alternatives that placing our hopes in a “lesser-evil” is still evil. And evil in the form of Obama, as we have seen, will expand its evil policies no matter how the madness is framed. Assassinated Black political prisoner George Jackson believed that our collective liberation could only be achieved through Black, independent political resistance that brings our masters to their knees. What other option do we have? The administration’s war on the Black community, the poor, and the people of the world will not stop unless we give it reason to.
Danny is an activist and recently graduated student from Skidmore College from Cambridge, MA. He is founder of the college’s social justice organization, the United Minds. He is currently an Americorps National Direct Site Coordinator at LIFT communities in Somerville MA. Danny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org