Facing Reality: Barack Obama and the Democratic Party
The single biggest obstacle to building an effective and organized mass movement for human rights, social justice and peace in this country and in this community is the Democratic Party. This is not a statement I make lightly. I have many friends who are committed Democrats. I have no doubts as to their sincerity or their intelligence. But a person can be intelligent and sincere and wrong.
Consider the presidency of Barack Obama as a case study.
1. Obama ordered the execution without trial of a U.S. citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was “suspected” (but never charged, much less convicted) of terrorism. Al-Awlaki was killed by an illegal drone strike. Two weeks later, another illegal drone strike in Yemen failed to kill its intended target, but killed al-Awlaki’s son, a 16-year-old boy born in Colorado, who was not even “suspected” of involvement in terrorism. The Obama White House maintained a “kill list” of people who were targeted for extrajudicial execution. Those placed on the list had no way to know they were on the list and no way to petition the government to be removed from the list. No previous American president has ever asserted the authority to order the assassination of American citizens.
2. Obama bombed Libya in violation of the War Powers Act (and numerous international conventions). This is something which candidate Obama explicitly stated a President didn’t have the right to do. The U.S. intervention turned Libya into a jihadist wonderland drowning in civil war and terrorism.
3. He signed the NDAA which gives the military authority to indefinitely detain anyone including U.S. citizens. Obama signed it after promising he wouldn’t.
4. He murdered Osama Bin Laden. A lot of Americans – perhaps most – thought this was praiseworthy. I did not. Bin Laden was a civilian and was executed in a country with which the U.S. is not at war. He was never indicted for involvement in 9/11, because the FBI acknowledged they lacked sufficient evidence against him. As a civilian, Bin Laden was entitled to all the legal protections afforded every other civilian. If suspected of crimes, he could have been arrested and prosecuted in a courtroom. The Nazi leaders who survived World War II were tried in court. Their victims numbered in the millions. Bin Laden’s alleged victims numbered in the thousands. Amnesty International has condemned the raid that killed Bin Laden as "unlawful." The assassination of Bin Laden undermined the rule of law. Furthermore, treating Bin Laden as a combatant instead of as a civilian was not only contrary to the law, it awarded him a status which he did not merit.
The CIA used a fake polio vaccination program in Pakistan to try to track down Bin Laden. This undermined anti-polio efforts in Pakistan. Villagers along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border chased off legitimate vaccine workers, accusing them of being spies. Taliban commanders banned polio vaccinations in parts of Pakistan, specifically citing the bin Laden ruse as justification. Nine vaccine workers were subsequently murdered in Pakistan, eventually prompting the United Nations to withdraw its vaccination teams. This led to an unknown number of deaths and unspeakable misery for children who contracted polio.
5. Obama refused to investigate (much less prosecute) the crimes of the previous administration, particularly the widespread use of torture. The U.S. is bound by treaty to investigate credible allegations of torture. Here, there are not just allegations; Bush and Cheney openly admitted to authorizing torture. Failure to investigate these crimes is itself a crime. The only person to go to prison over the torture scandal was the person who leaked information about it to the press.
6. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize increased spending on nuclear weapons.
7. He escalated Bush’s drone war and bombed more countries than any president since World War II. Obama’s drones killed thousands of men, women and children in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen (all countries with which the U.S. is not at war). Every single instance of drone attacks on civilians is a war crime.
8. By supporting Al-Qaeda linked rebels in Syria, Obama helped create the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
9. The Obama administration engaged in unprecedented levels of secrecy. A provision in the Freedom of Information Act law that allows the government to hide records detailing its internal decision-making was invoked by Obama agencies more often in his first year in office than during the final year of President George W. Bush. Government agencies cited that exemption to refuse records at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, compared with 47,395 times during President George W. Bush's final full budget year, according to annual FOIA reports filed by federal agencies.
10. The Obama administration set new records for deportations of undocumented immigrants. In fiscal year 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 387,790 people, a 5% increase in "removals" (in the parlance of immigration officials) over the previous year. In 2010, 392,826 immigrants were deported. In 2011, the figure increased to 396,906. You get the picture.
11. Obama increased the level of overseas arms sales. In fact, in 2011, U.S. arms sales overseas tripled. Half of U.S. weapons sales that year went to the United Arab Emirates and to Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive regimes on the planet. Saudi Arabia used those weapons to slaughter people in Yemen. The U.S. now accounts for 77% of the world’s total weapons sales.
12. His military budgets were the largest in human history.
13. American forces are still killing and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Obama’s first term, twice as many Americans died in Afghanistan as in both of G.W. Bush’s terms. Obama is the first two term president in history to preside over eight years of continuous war.
14. The Obama administration oversaw a sharp increase in the number of people subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance of their telephone, email and Facebook accounts by federal law enforcement agencies.
During the Electronic Frontier Foundation's litigation against the National Security Agency for the warrantless wiretapping of countless Americans, the Obama Administration made two arguments. First, they argued, exactly as the Bush Administration did on countless occasions, that the state secrets privilege requires the court to dismiss the issue out of hand. They argued that simply allowing the case to continue "would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security." As a candidate, Senator Obama had lamented that the Bush Administration "invoked a legal tool known as the 'state secrets' privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court." Second, Obama’s Justice Department claimed that the U.S. Government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying — that the Government can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy statutes. This is a radical assertion that is utterly unprecedented. No one — not the White House, not the Justice Department, not any member of Congress, and not the Bush Administration — had ever interpreted the law this way.
15. In a report released on November 6th, 2009, by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the annual Candidate Notice of Review revealed a dismal record of the Obama administration for protecting species under the Endangered Species Act. The report concluded that the Obama administration had been even more complacent than the Bush administration in terms of granting species protection under the Act.
16. Despite a campaign pledge to get lobbyists out of Washington, the Obama White House weakened regulations in favor of corporate interests more than the Bush administration. A study entitled 'Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment,' examined more than a thousand meetings that took place over a decade between lobbyists and a little known regulatory office, and then checked to see how proposed rules were weakened to accommodate industry requests. It found the Obama White House changed rules 76 percent of the time, while Bush changed them just 64 percent of the time. EPA rules were changed at a significantly higher rate — 84 percent.
17. Obama’s record on civil liberties was simply terrible. Here, from 2011, are twenty examples of serious assaults on the domestic rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience that occurred once the Obama administration assumed power.
Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University, said: “In time, the election of Barack Obama may stand as one of the single most devastating events in our history for civil liberties.”
Bill Quigley a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and Associate Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said: “The Obama administration has affirmed, continued and expanded almost all of the draconian domestic civil liberties intrusions pioneered under the Bush administration.”
18. He launched an unprecedented war on whistleblowers. The Obama administration charged more people under the Espionage Act for the alleged mishandling of classified information than all past administrations combined. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/06/obamas-whistleblowers-stuxnet-leaks-drones
19. The Obama administration unleashed a multi-agency crackdown on medical cannabis that went far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush.
20. For most people in this country, and particularly for African-Americans, the Obama “recovery” was worse than the Bush recession. While corporate profits were at record highs, the average person saw his/her income decline. During the Bush recession, which officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, median household income declined 2.6%. During Obama’s first term, which included an economic “recovery” that officially began in June 2009, median household income declined 4.8%. For black Americans, it fell by 11.1%.
In the Clinton economic expansion (1993-2000), 45% of the income gains went to the top 1%. In the Bush II recovery (2002-2007), the top 1% received 65% of income gains. In the Obama recovery, a whopping 93% of income gains went to the wealthiest 1%. This is in a country where the wealthiest 1% already owns more of the country’s financial wealth than the bottom 95%.
The labor-force participation rate dropped to its lowest level in decades, 62.8 percent compared to a peak of 67.1 percent in the late 1990s.
As a percentage of GDP, wages reached record lows while corporate profits reached record highs. The wealthiest 1% was literally the only group whose economic fortunes improved during Obama’s term in office.
Incomes for the bottom 99% showed some gains during his second term, but still didn’t reach their pre-recession levels. Inequality continued to grow. In short, Obama presided over the greatest redistribution of wealth to the richest 1% and the greatest increase of economic inequality in U.S. history. It is no exaggeration to call Obama the best president the 1% ever had.
21. Despite his reputation for eloquence, Barack Obama’s speeches seem to indicate that he thinks most Americans are idiots. His State of the Union addresses were written at an eighth-grade level. Obama's first three SOTU addresses had the lowest average Flesch-Kincaid score of any modern president. (I don’t have the data for the final five speeches.)
22. The Obama administration sent the largest amount of military aid to Israeli in U.S. history. In October 2012, more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers arrived in Israel for the largest-ever joint military exercise between the two nations.
More Palestinians died in 2014 than during any year since 1967. Illegal Israeli settlements expanded at an unprecedented pace during Obama’s eight years as president.
Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. military aid. This aid allows Israel to maintain an illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to impose a system of apartheid and colonialism upon the Palestinians under its control.
It is quite reasonable to say that – in terms of Palestinian suffering – Obama is the worst president in American history.
23. The 2008 election of Barack Obama helped derail the antiwar movement. “A study by U-M’s Michael Heaney and colleague Fabio Rojas of Indiana University shows that the antiwar movement in the United States demobilized as Democrats, who had been motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments, withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, first with Congress in 2006 and then with the presidency in 2008.”
24. Historically, African-Americans have been the most antiwar group in American society. Obama managed to change that.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Zogby America poll conducted during the leadup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq showed that less than a quarter of Blacks (23 percent) supported Bush's war against Iraq, versus 62 percent of the white public. 64 percent of Blacks surveyed were found to ‘somewhat or strongly oppose" the planned attack, while 13 percent were undecided.
Ten years later, in 2013, when Obama was threatening to attack Syria, the situation had changed dramatically. A Washington Post/ABC poll conducted between August 28 and September 1 showed 40 percent of African Americans supported President Obama’s threats of airstrikes against Syria – two points more than whites and nine percent more than Hispanics. Majorities of all three groups opposed bombing Syria – 56 percent of Blacks, 58 percent of whites and 63 percent of Hispanics – but African Americans were, for the first time in polling history, the most bellicose major ethnicity in the United States.
25. Obama was tremendously successfully at persuading “progressives” to endorse policies they previously claimed to abhor.
Obama campaigned on a promise to close the “prison” (torture chamber) at Guantanamo Bay. In 2012, a poll indicated that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats - supported his decision to keep it open.
Obama ordered drone attacks in seven different countries. He also ordered “double tap” attacks that targeted first responders to the initial attacks and drone strikes on funerals for those killed in the attacks. He refused to disclose a legal justification for these attacks, which are war crimes under international law. A 2012 poll found that 77% of Democrats approved of Obama’s use of drones to attack terror suspects in countries with which the U.S. was not at war. When specifically asked about the use of drones to target American citizens “suspected” of terrorism, Democrats approved of the strikes by a margin of 58-33, and even self-described liberals approved of them by a margin of 55-35.
26. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has maintained its “Doomsday Clock” since 1947. Midnight on the clock indicates a global catastrophe which brings human civilization to an end. In 1947, the clock was set to 7 minutes before midnight. The low point was in 1953, when the clock was set to 2 minutes before midnight. The high point was in 1991, when it was set to 17 minutes to midnight. When Obama entered office, it was at 5 minutes to midnight. Under his administration, it moved forward to 3 minutes to midnight. See: http://thebulletin.org/timeline
27. One month before the presidential election of 2008, the Wall Street bank Citigroup sent the Obama campaign a list of its preferred candidates for cabinet positions in an Obama administration. The list corresponded almost exactly to the eventual makeup of Obama’s cabinet.
The memorandum, revealed by WikiLeaks in a document release from the email account of John Podesta, who went on to serve as Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, was written by Michael Froman, who was then an executive with Citigroup and who went on to serve as U.S. trade representative under Obama. It was sent to Podesta a month before he was named chair of President-elect Obama’s campaign transition team.
The email was sent at the height of the financial meltdown that erupted after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, as Citigroup and its Wall Street counterparts were dragging the U.S. and world economy into its deepest crisis since the 1930s.
As the email proposed: Robert Gates, a Bush administration holdover, became Secretary of Defense; Eric Holder became Attorney General; Janet Napolitano became Secretary of Homeland Security; Rahm Emanuel became White House Chief of Staff; Susan Rice, United Nations ambassador; Arne Duncan became Secretary of Education; Kathleen Sebelius became Secretary of Health and Human Services; Peter Orszag became head of the Office of Management and Budget; Eric Shinseki became Secretary of Veterans Affairs; and Melody Barnes became Chief of the Domestic Policy Council.
For the position of Secretary of the Treasury, three possibilities were presented: Robert Rubin and Rubin’s disciples Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner. Obama selected Geithner, then President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Geithner, along with Bush Treasury Secretary (and former Goldman Sachs CEO) Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, had played a leading role in organizing the Wall Street bailout.
Rubin had served as Treasury Secretary in the Bill Clinton administration from 1995 until 1999, when he was succeeded by Summers. Rubin and Summers oversaw the dismantling of the Glass-Steagall Act (1933), which had imposed a legal wall separating commercial banking from investment banking. Immediately after leaving the Treasury Department, Rubin became a top executive at Citigroup, remaining there until 2009.
Citigroup’s suggestions for Cabinet appointments came just three days after then-President George W. Bush signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which allocated $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue the largest Wall Street banks. The single biggest beneficiary was Citigroup, which was given $45 billion in the form of a government stock purchase, along with a $306 billion government guarantee to back up its worthless mortgage-related assets.
Then-presidential candidate Obama played a crucial role in shepherding the massively unpopular bank bailout through Congress.
As president, Obama not only funneled trillions of dollars to the banks, he saw to it that not a single leading Wall Street executive faced prosecution for the orgy of speculation and swindling that led to the financial collapse and Great Recession, and he personally intervened to block legislation capping executive pay at bailed-out firms.
Candidate Obama received more donations from Wall Street firms than any presidential candidate in history. But, of course, that’s just a coincidence.
Candidate Obama promised to pursue and prosecute any criminality by the banks that had been involved in crashing the American economy in 2008. But, two months into his presidency, he met with CEOs of leading banks and told them: “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks. … I want to help. … I’m not out there to go after you. … I’m going to shield you from public and congressional anger.”
Prosecutions of white collar criminals, which had already declined under Bush, declined even further under Obama.
Considering all this, the $400,000 Obama was paid by Wall Street to make two speeches could be seen as a gratuity for services rendered.
These facts might also help explain Obama’s response to the election of Donald Trump, in which he described the presidential election as an “intramural scrimmage” and declared “We’re all on the same team.”
28. Although precise figures are difficult to obtain, it appears that more Americans were killed by the police during Obama’s tenure than under that of George W. Bush, even while the number of police killed on the job fell to record lows. (Police are far more likely to die by suicide than by homicide.) People of color are disproportionately likely to be killed by the police than white people, even when they are unarmed.
29. In his autobiography, Dreams from My Fathers, Barack Obama says that, after graduating from Columbia University in 1983, he took a job at "a consulting house to multinational corporations" in New York City. A New York Times story of October 30, 2007, identified Obama’s employer as Business International Corporation. A previous Times article from 1977 disclosed that Business International provided cover for four CIA employees in various countries between 1955 and 1960. Business International was active in the 1980s promoting the candidacy of Washington-favored candidates in Australia and Fiji. In 1987, the CIA overthrew the Fiji government because of its policy of maintaining the island as a nuclear-free zone. After the Fiji coup, R.S.K. Mara, the candidate supported by Business International and Washington, was reinstated to power. Business International also has a long association with attempts to penetrate the radical left — including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). During the 1970s and 80s, Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was associated with at least five organizations that had CIA connections during the Cold War: The Ford Foundation, Agency for International Development (AID), the Asia Foundation, Development Alternatives, Inc., and the East-West Center of Hawaii. According to John Gilligan, Director of AID during the Carter administration (1977-81): "At one time, many AID field offices were infiltrated from top to bottom with CIA people. The idea was to plant operatives in every kind of activity we had overseas, government, volunteer, religious, every kind." In 2009, Alan Gross was arrested in Cuba and charged with spying. He is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba. The company he was working for at the time of his arrest was Development Alternatives, Inc. If Mitt Romney and his mother had such connections, I assume many on the left would have speculated about the possibility that Romney was a CIA mole. However, any such speculation about Barack Obama is dismissed as a paranoid conspiracy theory.
30. One of the arguments advanced to vote for Obama was that by voting for Obama one would strike a blow against the social disease of racism. It seems, however, that racism increased after his election. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/27/racial-prejudice-worsened-obama
31. Crime increased in 2011 after an almost two-decade decline. Anyone familiar with the correlation between economic inequality and violent crime should not be surprised.
32. Within hours of Romney’s concession in November 2012, Obama launched an illegal drone strike into Yemen, killing three people and injuring two others.
33. Obama’s signature piece of domestic legislation – the health care “reform” package – was written by lobbyists for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Its key features were repackaged versions of ideas previously advanced by Republicans. (See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris... )
It was estimated that the “reforms” would leave 23 million Americans uninsured. Obama has stated that a single-payer program that offers coverage to all Americans is “unrealistic.” Every other developed nation on the planet has some variant of this “unrealistic” program in place and it is the preferred choice of most Americans, according to every poll ever conducted on the subject. The Congressional Progressive Caucus had planned to introduce legislation calling for a single-payer option if the Supreme Court declared “Obamacare” unconstitutional. When the court upheld the Affordable Care Act, the Caucus declared it would not be pushing for a single-payer option anymore.
The Affordable Care Act will likely set back the movement for single payer for years. Of course, only a “paranoid conspiracy theorist” would assume that the lobbyists for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries who wrote the Act intended that result.
34. Under Obama, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, local police forces, banks and private security firms collaborated on a campaign to disrupt the Occupy Wall Street movement. This campaign involved the arrests of Occupy activists as well as physical attacks on activists. Across the country, activists were punched, beaten, pepper-sprayed and dragged screaming by their hair by local police forces who were collaborating with the banks and with Obama’s FBI and DHS. The Department of Homeland Security participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests. At least six universities provided the FBI with information about Occupy activists, information which the FBI then shared with its partners in this campaign to crush dissent. See: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/dec/29/fbi-coordinated-crackdown-occupy
35. In 2016, deaths by drug overdoses reached their highest number in American history, becoming the leading cause of death in Americans under the age of 50. An estimated 59,000 Americans suffered fatal drug overdoses that year, surpassing the total number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. Most of the deaths occurred in economically depressed areas with high levels of poverty and unemployment.
During the Obama years, the death rate for middle-aged “non-Hispanic whites” continued a dramatic rise which began in 2000. This rise was driven by increases in “deaths by despair” by alcohol, drugs and suicide among whites without college degrees between the ages of 45 and 54. The mortality rate for that group increased by an average of half percent each year from 1999 to 2013.
Such an increase in mortality is almost unheard of in developed nations. The closest comparison is the Russian demographic disaster that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Between 1992 and 2006, an estimated 6.6 million “excess deaths” were recorded in Russia. The introduction of free market capitalism was accompanied by a surge in deaths from alcohol poisoning, violence, heart attacks and strokes, mostly among working age men.
36. The Obama administration quintupled the number of U.S. forces in Africa. Under Obama, the US African Command (AFRICOM) penetrated every African country but Zimbabwe and Eritrea. In 2012, the U.S. government planned fourteen major military training operations across the continent. In 2014, the US conducted 674 military operations in Africa. In 2016, U.S. Special Forces were deployed in more than twenty African nations.
37. The Obama administration also: supported a coup in Ukraine, which helped bring to power a regime stocked with neo-Nazis; supported a coup in Honduras, leading to numerous atrocities, including the murder of noted human rights and environmental activist, Berta Caceres; and applied concerted diplomatic pressure on South Korea and Japan to reverse progressive social change there and to maintain militaristic pro-American governments more acceptable to the Pentagon.
It's worth noting that Obama’s Republican predecessor left office with an approval rating of 34% (Gallup). Obama entered office with an approval rating of 67%. For two years, his party controlled both houses of Congress. It is also true that Obama was faced by overwhelming opposition from the Republicans and he faced a relentless torrent of racist abuse and ludicrous conspiracy theories involving his alleged Muslim faith and Marxist ideology.
There are several possible explanations for the preceding 37 items.
Many liberals and Democrats view Obama as a heroic figure who triumphed over Republican opposition to make life better for the average American. This view collapses under the slightest bit of scrutiny. For the clear majority of Americans (and for millions of people around the world affected by his policies), life got worse.
Another popular theory is that Obama “did his best” against incredible odds. Proponents of this theory admit reluctantly that Obama “wasn’t perfect” and was a “disappointment” in many ways. According to this theory, Obama had an agenda that was basically progressive, but was thwarted in his efforts by the Republicans. The more unsavory aspects of Obama’s record are ignored entirely, minimized, or rationalized as pragmatic concessions in the face of Republican obstructionism. Obama is acknowledged to have been imperfect, but his imperfections are blamed on someone else.
Another popular line of thought holds that Obama was never particularly progressive. Instead, he was a moderate or centrist from the beginning. He never had particularly liberal or leftist ambitions and was content to make incremental positive changes, all of which were vigorously opposed by Republicans. This pragmatic Obama allegedly also understood that the American public was allegedly too stupid and backward to accept anything but the most tepid and middle-of-the-road reforms.
These various theories about Obama have certain underlying assumptions in common.
They all assume that Obama’s intentions were entirely noble and that he truly endeavored to advance an at least marginally progressive and left-leaning agenda.
They all assume that, however limited his achievements may have been, Obama had at least some success in advancing a somewhat progressive or left-leaning agenda and in making life somewhat better for most Americans.
One other thing these theories have in common is that they all fly in the face of the available evidence. Among other things, these theories offer no explanation for why Obama didn’t advance his progressive agenda during the two years that his party was the majority in both houses of Congress, he was riding high in the polls, he had a mandate for change and the opposition party was in disarray and had been thoroughly discredited in the public eye due to the disastrous Iraq war and the financial meltdown. Nor are the proponents of these various theories able to point to a series of progressive policy proposals put forward by Obama over his two terms which were then shot down by the Republicans. Nor can proponents of these various theories explain why – on a host of issues – Obama took positions far to the right of those held by most Americans (according to opinion polls) and sometimes even to the right of those held by most Republican voters.
Perhaps there is another explanation. Occam's razor (or Ockham's razor) is a principle from philosophy. Suppose there exist two explanations for an occurrence. According to Occam, the simpler one is usually better. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you must make, the more unlikely an explanation is.
What is the simplest explanation for Obama’s record in office? I would suggest that the evidence points to a simple explanation along the following lines:
The United States is a plutocracy in which the wealthiest 1% exercises almost complete control over all significant economic, political and social institutions. It is essentially impossible for any candidate to attain and hold high office without the support of the plutocrats. Any politician who doesn’t sufficiently attend to the interests of the plutocrats will enjoy a short tenure in office. Those who play the game successfully will be richly rewarded.
Obama is and always has been a faithful servant of the plutocrats. If he ever had any genuinely progressive or leftist ideas, he successfully exorcised them from his psyche well before he began his campaign for president. He entered office with the intention of advancing the interests of those who run this country: the financial aristocracy and the military-intelligence apparatus. His relatively scant political biography allowed him to present himself as a tabula rasa upon which liberals and Democrats projected their hopes for the future. The fact that he was identified as black in a country in which blacks have suffered and continue to suffer hellish abuse made black Americans (understandably) and white liberals (perhaps less understandably) reluctant to criticize him. The fact that he and his wife were both attractive, intelligent and “cool” (at least in comparison to most politicians) made him particularly appealing to younger voters. Obama’s occasional use of left-sounding rhetoric was enough to convince most liberals and Democrats – who were understandably horrified by the Republican party – that he was on their side, since that is what they desperately wanted to believe anyway.
The relentless conspiracy theories and racist abuse rained down upon the Obamas by the troglodytes in the Republican party served Obama’s political interests. Most people with a shred of intelligence and human decency were repulsed by the ranting and raving from the white supremacists and fundamentalist charlatans on the right. A natural and perhaps noble human tendency was to rally in support of Obama to demonstrate one’s revulsion at his political adversaries. Those on the left who attempted to subject Obama’s performance in office to rational scrutiny risked being lambasted as racists, Republican sympathizers or sectarian ultra-leftists.
The Republican takeover of the House in 2011 and the Senate in 2015 gave Obama helpful political cover. This allowed him to pursue a plutocratic agenda while blaming his right-wing tilt on those terrible Republicans. (And, make no mistake: The Republicans are terrible.)
If one can remove one’s partisan blinders, one should be able to see that there was very little about the Obama presidency that was even remotely progressive. For everyone except the wealthiest 1%, life became harder during his two terms. Obama was probably more successful at advancing a right-wing, authoritarian and plutocratic agenda than John McCain or Mitt Romney would have been had either of them been elected, for the simple reason that most liberals and Democrats would have opposed these policies had they been proposed by a Republican president. If one views Obama’s presidency objectively, it is not at all unreasonable to describe his administration as one of the most right-wing in history.
Anyone who understands the history of the Democratic Party and its role in American society should not find anything I’ve written here difficult to understand or accept. The Democratic Party is one of the two parties of the plutocracy. As Eugene V. Debs said, these two parties are two wings on the same foul bird of prey. One of the functions of the Democratic Party is to co-opt movements for social change. Obama was particularly good at this. Under his leadership, the Democratic Party was able to channel popular support for human rights, social justice and peace into support for policies that were antithetical to human rights, social justice and peace.
This may not be particularly pleasant. But, in my opinion, this is the reality we must confront. And we cannot change the world if we can’t or won’t face reality.
- By PC