Obama’s principle task is to ensure sure that Black Americans do not vote in the direction of single-payer healthcare and housing for all.
“The ruling class needs Obama as an adviser and bully of the Black vote.”
Not a month after condemning “call out culture,” Barack Obama was once again the prized speaker at an event held by Democratic Party “mega donors” (Wall Street) in Atlanta, Georgia. Seated next to Obama protégé Stacy Abrams, Obama warned Democratic Party candidates of going too far left in their policy proposals. “The average American doesn’t think we have to tear down the system,” Obama said, adding, “They just don’t want to see crazy stuff. They want to see things a little more fair, they want to see things a little more just. And how we approach that I think will be important.”
Obama’s remarks are just the most recent demonstration of his role as a weapon of counterinsurgency warfare employed by the ruling class to dampen the expectations of workers and oppressed people. His two-term presidency particularly targeted the Black polity. Black America has historically been the most progressive constituency in the United States on the issues of war and economic justice. The ruling class has not forgotten that Black rebellion pressured the formal end of chattel slavery in the American mainland or that Black rebellion overthrew slavery on the island nation of Haiti. Even in the so-called post-slavery period, Black rebellions such as those witnessed in cities across America in the 1960s signaled to the U.S. ruling class that something had to be done to protect the Empire from the transformative aspirations of Black America.
“Obama is a a weapon of counterinsurgency warfare employed to dampen the expectations of workers and oppressed people.”
The Black liberation movement that emerged from the Black rebellions in American cities inspired a ruling class project to craft a misleadership class which could properly manage the affairs of neoliberal capital. This project was part of a broader two-pronged assault on the world socialist revolution. Black freedom struggles were deemed cells of a communist conspiracy or outright domestic terrorism. Revolutionary movements were violently undermined by the intelligence and military state from Oakland to Vietnam, Detroit to the Soviet Union. Neoliberalism sprouted from the war on socialism and national liberation to eviscerate the last vestiges of social solidarity in the United States. Wholesale economic deprivation provided fertile ground for Black political leaders, fully backed by the Democratic Party, to act as willing accomplices in the immiseration of the toiling masses in the Black community.
Barack Obama is the highest expression of the ongoing counterinsurgency war on the Black left. By targeting the very diverse, and significantly Black, Sanders base, Obama is striking two targets at once. Medicare for All and similar universal policies are “crazy” only to rich white Americans and their Black collaborators. Obama believes in a different kind of universalism, otherwise known as American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism assumes that the poor, especially the Black poor, only want their lives improved “a little” because there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the American system of racism and capitalism.
“Black freedom struggles were deemed cells of a communist conspiracy or outright domestic terrorism.”
Obama’s remarks are a warning to Black American voters who may be contemplating whether Bernie Sanders is in fact the most electable candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party. Black voter conservatism was massively intensified during the Obama period and gave credence to a decades long trend of Black Americans voting for any Democrat seen as capable of defeating the White Man’s Republican Party. Polls still show that Joe Biden’s relationship to Obama gives him an overwhelming edge with Black voters over Sanders and the rest of the field. Obama’s condemnation of Sanders and so-called left Twitter feeds certainly sends a false message that Black Americans should be satisfied with business as usual. However, Obama inspires little confidence that such an approach will lead to the nomination of a corporate friendly candidate capable of defeating Donald Trump.
The truth is that the ruling class needs Obama as an adviser and bully of the Black vote because the rest of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party is mired in a crisis of legitimacy. Many Democratic Party voters now want social democracy and Bernie Sanders’ economic agenda most resembles the class struggle orientation of Black America. Black Americans have always been overrepresented in domestic movements for socialism. Two of the most popular leaders in the Black struggle, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., both advocated for a socialistic economic transformation of U.S. society by the end of their lives. After eight years of rightwing political retrenchment under Obama, the ruling elite understands perfectly well that its political system has lost the legitimacy it once enjoyed with workers in the United States, especially Black workers.
“Obama sends a false message that Black Americans should be satisfied with business as usual.”
That’s because Obama’s two-term presidency absolutely worsened the forty-year long assault on the conditions of the working class. Black wealth suffered the most from Obama’s bank bailouts, which rewarded the very criminal enterprises responsible for the economic crisis. For decades, Wall Street devalued Black property and then sold what Wells Fargo financiers called “ghetto loans” to “mud people.” Obama not only let the racist bankers walk free, but he also implemented new and more innovative forms of austerity. His administration enforced trillions in deficit reductions and went so far as to place Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block in the name of bipartisanship.
A new study shows that the number of poor people in America has drastically increased when inflation is accurately factored into poverty measures. The study found that inflation is .44 percentage points higher for the bottom 20 percent of income earners than for the top 20 percent of earners. In 2018 alone, 3.2 million more people would be considered impoverished in the United States. The report calls this phenomenon “inequality inflation.” A great number of workers in the U.S. do not qualify for state and federal programs and thus pay a far higher cost of living within a capitalist economy that caters to the consumption patterns of richer Americans. Furthermore, poverty would be three times higher than the official measure if the median debt in the U.S., which outpaces the median income in the U.S. by over $10,000, was also factored into the statistical analysis.
“Obama not only let the racist bankers walk free, but he also implemented new and more innovative forms of austerity.”
Obama’s tenure in the White House only exacerbated the great race to the bottom that the U.S. ruling class is smothering Sanders to protect. This explains why Black Americans in cities like Milwaukee decided to stay home rather than vote for arch-neoliberal Hillary Clinton in 2016. The situation has not improved in the 2020 election. Expert education privatizer and loyal servant of big pharma Cory Booker remains at the bottom of every major primary poll published to date. Mass Black incarceration advocate Kamala Harris has fallen so far from contention that even corporate outlets such as Politico have described her campaign as being in a state of meltdown.
Neither Booker nor Harris has been able to apply Obama-mania toward their own presidential success. The waning electability of the Black misleadership class in the presidential circus has forced the ruling class to call on Obama to smother the social democratic aspirations of Sanders supporters. Obama’s principle task is to ensure sure that Black Americans do not vote in the direction of single-payer healthcare and housing for all. Of course, Obama is not alone in his crusade to smother Bernie Sanders by way of the Black vote. The “Stop Sanders” movement is stuffed to the brim with the same big, nasty tent of militarists, Wall Street donors, and corporate media outlets responsible for Clinton’s losing bid in 2016.
“Neither Booker nor Harris has been able to apply Obama-mania toward their own presidential success.”
Former military intelligence operative and mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg has emerged from this tent to become one of the most favored candidates among rich Democratic Party donors. However, Buttigieg is unpopular among Black Americans, especially among Black South Bend residents who have been direct casualties of his support for racist policing and gentrification. “Mayor Pete” recently released the Douglass Plan for Black America to assuage the concerns of Black voters in the critical state of South Carolina. The Buttigieg campaign was obviously lacking confidence in mustering genuine Black support for the plan and felt compelled to make up such support out of whole cloth. According to Ryan Grim of The Intercept, Buttigieg’s campaign flaunted the support of three prominent Black representatives in South Carolina: Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Devine, state representative Ivory Thigpen, and chair of the state’s Black Caucus, Johnnie Cordero. None of them had endorsed Buttigieg or the plan, and it is unclear whether the rest of the 400 supporters (half of whom were white) listed on the plan had merely failed to “opt out” of their support as directed in a campaign email.
What is clear from the Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan blunder is that the ruling class has every reason to be nervous over how Black America will choose to behave in the Democratic primary. Deval Patrick’s late entrance into the race hasn’t offered any comfort, either. Patrick is a talentless corporate hack with extensive experience in stealing the wealth of working class people, especially Black people, during his time in prominent positions at Texaco, Bain Capital, and Ameriquest Mortgages. Ameriquest Mortgages was the largest retailer of subprime mortgages in the U.S. before it was sold to Citigroup in 2007. This career blemish alone has rendered Patrick’s campaign dead upon arrival.
“The ruling class has every reason to be nervous over how Black America will choose to behave in the Democratic primary.”
Obama, Buttigieg, and Patrick’s recent blunders reflect the crisis of legitimacy currently plaguing the U.S. political apparatus. A large section of the Democratic Party’s base is hungry for social democratic reform while a large section of the world’s population is hungry to free itself from the grip of U.S. imperialism. U.S. imperialism backed a coup in Bolivia, for example, to eradicate a direct threat to its rule abroad. Bernie Sanders and his millions of working class supporters currently represent the gravest threat to the domestic tranquility of the rule of the rich. The ruling class understands that leadership from the Black left is vital to the success of any movement for social transformation in the United States and is once again placing its hope in Barack Obama to save the American Empire’s political apparatus from itself.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News--From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @spiritofho, and on Youtube at The Left Lens with Danny Haiphong.
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