President Obama is nobody’s fool and nobody’s tool. Nor is Obama a doormat-in-chief.
The Harvard-educated former University of Chicago professor isn’t being hoodwinked or outmaneuvered by the right in budget and foreign policy dealings. The man who wooed and captivated much of the world’s population with his magnificent speeches and performance of defiance against vacuous warmongers is no dupe of the right.
As a Black man of modest means who managed to navigate a path to the helm of empire in a nation where racism and ignorance dominate, Obama deserves credit for a certain sort of brilliance and charisma. But let’s not reduce someone as powerful as a president of the United States to personality and image. The man, after all, fits the bill.
Barack Obama embodies the essence of Democratic Party logic steering an empire through its decline. Profits and military power must be maintained at any cost. If human needs be damned in the process, a reasonable-sounding justification can be improvised. The Democrats didn’t earn the moniker “the world’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party” from conservative policymaker Kevin Phillips for nothing.
Like the rest of the Democratic leadership, Obama appears as a hapless fool these days. He’s not. Even a politician skilled at selling high-minded bullshit is having a tough time polishing that turd of a budget. Since working and poor people must be tossed under a bus in order to maintain profits, the Dems think an appealing figure capable of occasional performances of oratorical empathy is still of use. Obama pretty much earns his keep for them.
Paul Waldman’s piece, “It’s Only Going to Get Worse,” in the American Prospect is revealing of a certain layer of disgruntled Dems,
You’ll notice that in none of these negotiations will Democrats actually put Republicans on the defensive about anything. At the end of each stage, Obama will surely say, as he did on Friday, that “like any compromise, this required everyone to give ground on issues that were important to them.” But the only ground Republicans gave was on the amount of destruction heaped upon the things Democrats hold dear. It wasn’t as though Republicans accepted some tax increases for the wealthy, or some increased regulation of polluting industries, or some expansion of health coverage for those who need it. No, their “giving ground” consisted of refraining, just for the moment, from taking away contraception and STD screening for women.
It’s interesting because even folks who will throw themselves on a sword for Obama come November 2012, think his strategy sucks, but Waldman characterizes the betrayal of ordinary people as an attack on all that “Democrats hold dear.” Not so about the Dems in charge.
Like the U.S. empire that has no permanent friends, only interests; so too the leading Democrats have only concerns, not principles. Their current concern, in addition to maintaining the profit system at the expense of the workers who create that profit, is winning the next election.
It’s not so much that Obama “punched below his weight,” as the Guardian‘s Gary Younge argues, it’s that as president, Obama knows who is financing this “fight,” and they’ve paid him to throw the bout. The actual role the Democrats play in maintaining the power structure and holding back the masses is never more clear than when Democrats are actually in power.
Younge goes on to comment, “if Wisconsin has shown how Republicans can be forced into retreat through collective action, then last week’s budget negotiations illustrated how they can be emboldened by capitulation.” He’s right about that. Not only are Obama and the Dems’ policies—they are one and the same—ruinous to working people (and those who’d like to work), but they are guaranteed to strengthen the right and wealthy against the rest of us.
From the mass resistance in Wisconsin that set back the right’s agenda to the drubbing that teachers, parents and New York City activists gave schools chancellor Cathie Black, leading to her ouster last week, a model of genuine change is on offer.
Word has it that Obama may offer up a few populist murmurings about taxing the super rich when he speaks later this week—a platform that would have been inconceivable without the union battles raging throughout the Midwest these last weeks. Fears of “revolution,” in the words of the Wall Street Journal, have led that corporate mouthpiece to argue for higher taxes on a tiny slice of the wealthiest.
Rachel Maddow reports that 81 percent of Americans are for taxing the rich—a position expressed mostly by socialists up until a few weeks ago. Now that Obama’s helped gut health care for the old and poor and handed more of the District of Columbia’s Black poor into the loving arms of Boehner and Co., Obama will pretend to stand up against the right by offering a few crumbs of relief.
Let’s face it, folks can either continue to hope against all evidence that Obama and his party that’s overseen the greatest transfer of wealth from poor to rich in human history will become saviors or we can take up the fight ourselves. Maintaining independence of the Democrats and their right-wing agenda has never seemed more urgent.
To learn more about how to build an independent alternative to the Dems, check out Socialism 2011: Revolution in the Air.