by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
It is amazing how many lefties are just now discovering the Obama that has always been there, the corporate politician with contempt for progressives and a very bad opinion of Black folks. Now that the Democrats have been shrunken in Congress, Obama is “in his element, where he can maneuver among fellow rightist Democrats and Republican Neanderthals, seeking ‘bipartisan’ nirvana.”
The Left and Obama-Trauma
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“If Obama were not Black, and if his supporters had not been busy getting drunk in a wishing-well, he would have been widely recognized as a stylistically updated Reagan Democrat.”
Now that self-proclaimed progressives have passed the point of disenchantment with Barack Obama and entered the stage of active anger at their once-imagined ally, they should quickly take the next step and acknowledge that he is what we at Black Agenda Report have been saying for six years: a right-wing Democrat who has long been aligned with the corporate Democratic Leadership Conference, and whose mission is to expand U.S. empire and put the American state at the service of Wall Street. He has been remarkably successful in both endeavors.
Of necessity, these strategic goals require Obama to wage war against the left hemisphere of his own Party, the main obstacle, in the absence of effective grassroots progressive movements, to forging a grand coalition with Republicans. The president, whom deluded Progressives for Obama hallucinated might become the kind of “transformative” leader that would galvanize Left constituencies into a ready-mix, shake-and-bake “movement,” also sees himself as a transformative figure, but of the opposite kind. He presented his candidacy as the antidote to what he described during the Nevada presidential primary as the “excesses” of the Sixties and Seventies. His reverence for Ronald Reagan is genuine. Indeed, if Obama were not Black, and if his supporters had not been busy getting drunk in a wishing-well, he would have been widely recognized as a stylistically updated Reagan Democrat.
“His reverence for Ronald Reagan is genuine.”
As soon as Obama’s candidacy was pronounced “viable” by the high priests of corporate media he became a figure of historical significance, a walking, talking racial “breakthrough.” African Americans saw the possibility of a brand new day – and so did Obama, although his vision was much closer to that of those whites who have tired of – or, more likely, always resented – Black demands for redress of grievances, past and present. Anyone that listened to Obama’s actual words (rather than the voices in their own heads) would have quickly realized that he is ideologically opposed to all manifestations of independent Black politics, much less notions of Black self-determination. The Black Agenda Report team understood instantly, halfway through Obama’s coming-out speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, that the words “there is no Black America…there is only the United States of America” meant that Obama was the Anti-Black whose ascent would bring about the worst political crisis in Black America since at least the days of Booker T. Washington. It was equally clear that the Obamafication of Black politics would also neutralize white progressives, who have since the Sixties taken their cues from the dark side of town. Every element was in place for a general debacle in which leftish voters and activists, including virtually the whole of the Black progressive core, would loose their minds and become groupies for a guy who was already owned by Wall Street.
“Obama presented his candidacy as the antidote to what he described during the Nevada presidential primary as the “excesses” of the Sixties and Seventies.”
With a dusky Reagan Democrat in the White House, progressive Democrats were in deep trouble – made far worse by the fact that they refused to accept that they had deceived themselves so badly. From corporate health care to phony financial reform to off-the-books multi-trillion dollar bank infusions to expanded offshore drilling to widening theaters of war to targeting of American citizens for assassination – each predictable and previously telegraphed rightward lunge by the Obama regime was received as a “betrayal” by people who had demanded little, if anything, from candidate Obama. Finally, after two years of consistently corporate, militarist executive governance, after watching Obama’s deficit reduction commission time bomb threaten to explode in a crowd of entitlements, and after hearing “F-you” from the lips of a president who had just returned from consummating his post-mid-term relationship with the GOP, the Left is pissed off and threatening to bust a move of some kind.
This very late awakening includes the Congressional Black Caucus, representing the constituency most enamored of the First Black President – for no other reason than that he is the First Black President – and the most abominably treated by Obama and his Wall Street masters. At a press conference covered by C-span, Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott announced that an “overwhelming majority” of the Caucus opposed the Obama-GOP tax cuts for the rich. Earlier, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who co-chaired Obama’s 2008 campaign, issued a statement saying, "If we recklessly cut taxes for the wealthiest two percent, then Obamanomics will look an awful lot like Reaganomics.” Finally, the scales have fallen from the young man’s eyes. CBC chairperson Barbara Lee (CA) admitted, however, that she doesn’t know “how this will play out” when the definitive House votes roll around.
“Obama’s deficit reduction commission time bomb threatened to explode in a crowd of entitlements.”
Even if “progressive” lawmakers can remember where they left their spines so long ago, Obama is now in his element, where he can maneuver among fellow rightist Democrats and Republican Neanderthals, seeking the “bipartisan” nirvana he has craved his entire cynical, opportunistic career. The GOP may or may not withdraw their hit-contract on Obama, for the time being. After all, his capitulation spared them from actually having to go the mattresses over tax breaks for the super-rich. They may never have to consider taking government to the brink of gridlock, since Obama is so eager to spare them the necessity. The man has his uses.
But some things are certain. The ever-quickening pace of finance capital’s unraveling is creating multiple, overlapping crises that will be insoluble precisely because Wall Street wields decisive power over the political process. The very fact of bankster hegemony prevents other forces from saving Wall Street from itself. Just as with an old, broken down car, all of whose parts are on the verge of collapse, we don’t know exactly what will go critically wrong with the machinery, or when. But we do know it will happen, and soon – and then will happen again, and again.
We know that the very existence of a derivative market valued at $600 trillion, roughly ten times bigger than the gross planetary product of Earth, is proof – proof! – that the capitalists cannot garner the rates of return on investment in the real economy that are necessary for their survival. Thus, they have created a grotesque parallel or “shadow” economy that is both parasitic and inherently unstable.
“Obama’s capitulation spared Republicans from actually having to go the mattresses over tax breaks for the super-rich.”
We know that “Mad Finance,” as European social democrats described the phenomenon in an Open Letter back in May, 2008, is now engaged in an assault on basic structures of the modern bourgeois state around the globe, a desperate gouging of the wealth of nations by Lords of Capital who create nothing, but seek to monetize and dominate everything. This imperative is what compels the banks to milk the U.S. state dry through Obama’s Federal Reserve and Treasury Department, while stripping the government of the means to address social and infrastructural needs. Domestically, the assault renders society less and less capable of responding to more frequent and severe crises. Globally, it sets the stage for another imperial roll of the dice, as in March of 2003, when the U.S. attempted to rig the world in its own corporations’ favor through seizure of Asian land and resources. They reached too far, and accelerated the process of their own decline. Ultimately, the rulers called forth and financed a Black president to refurbish the imperial brand. Obama has since expanded Bush's theaters of war, in preparation for another push.
These are some of the burning issues that confront humanity at this critical juncture in history. It is good that much of the U.S. Left – including some Black folks – have become disenchanted with, and even angry at, Barack Obama. But a great deal has happened in the world since progressive Americans of all races got their heads stuck up Obama’s behind. It remains to be seen if the latest Obama-trauma is enough to dislodge them from that dark and nasty place.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].