Why Obama Failed: Or did He?

A liberal lament among many Democrats these days is that President Obama has failed to implement—or has been prevented from implementing—the liberal agenda for America that he so eloquently outlined and continues to reference in his speeches. Of course, they continue to call for greater support for the president and his programs. The Republican politicians certainly play out their role as the usual suspects by kowtowing so mindlessly to their small but vocal Tea-Party primary-election base. That gives liberals plenty to crow about in excusing Obama’s failure to achieve the changes they could believe in. As if that weren’t enough, the Republicans in congress have flown so close to overt racism in demonstrating at every turn that they do not recognize him as a Legitimate President that their right-wings are beginning to melt.

Republicans have exercised their strategy of “no” from the very start when Mitch McConnell first blatantly proclaimed it. The Republicans thereby supply liberal democrats plenty of evidence of the gross obstructionism that allows liberals to cut the president some slack and continue supporting him in the midst of their disappointment with his refusal to entertain proposals for a single payer health insurance system, his escalated continuation of the neo-con military crusades, his assassination programs for citizens and foreigners alike, his pursuit of financial policies dictated by the banking and corporate elites that paid for his election—while he feigned support for underwater mortgagees, his relentless and unprecedented prosecution/persecution of whistleblowers who object to both blatant and secret violations of the constitution by his administration and agencies, and, well, of course, the list goes on. The so-called liberals who go along to get along with Obama’s administration would never tolerate such gross violation of liberal ideals if the president were a Republican. Rachael Maddow and Ed Schulz just keep looking for ways to support Obama—their cognitive dissonance scores must be astronomical.

For any reasonable assessment of presidential success or failure, we must look to the president’s actual behavior and the goals that such behavior implies. No, I didn’t say his speech, I said his behavior. As a card-carrying hopeful realist—itself a sometimes dissonant perspective—I had early on found the content and tone of Obama’s speeches a source of potential hope for a more progressive future for America if he were to be elected. Besides, I was committed to the idea that the election of a Black President would be a symbolic leap forward for American society. As it turned out, the leap forward came in the form of an uncomfortable exposure of the re-coded racism that permeates the ideology of a “color-blind America.” While consistently denied, re-coded racism is as widespread in the country itself as are the institutionalized racist practices that constitute the “New Jim Crow” era so effectively exposed by Michelle Alexander.

Unfortunately, it is even much worse than that. Charming though Obama is—bolstered by the charm and intelligence of Michelle and their daughters—the man is nevertheless a politician in the worst sense of the term. His actions belie his rhetoric, but they conform very closely to the financial-political-economic interests from which his big money flows.

Like so many, I had been charmed by Obama’s apparently passionate concern for the American people and their growing plight. But having looked at some early data on where the candidates’ contributions were coming from in the primary contests leading up to his first presidential campaign, my hope was tempered by a more realistic assessment of the candidate in terms of who he owed how much—political contributions are, after all, a form of debt, a loan secured by future favors. The financial and corporate elites were bankrolling him big time. The big boys were on a shopping binge and Barrack was their target. A Black President would make such a nice liberally enshrined instrument for achieving their political-economic plans for tightening their control over the American political economy.

The now well known Wall Street financing of the Obama presidential campaign had turned my early hope into a less hopeful skepticism about his likely performance. While I so strongly felt that America needed a Black President, largely for reasons of political culture, I now began to feel that from the governance perspective he would probably follow the standard political practice of the Democratic Party of pitching liberal rhetoric—and oh so well—while operating in the interests of the institutional forces I have come to think of as the “disinfotainment” (a term borrowed from Paul Krasner who published the infamous The Realist in the late sixties and seventies) media-framed ‘petro-mil-corp-bankster’ complex. “Deep Throat” remains an astute analyst of political behavior at the highest levels. “Follow the money” indeed! Follow it right from the pockets of ordinary Americans—and from the Fed’s vast purchases of bad debt—labeled “financial assets”—from the Bankster-gamblers, thereby flooding the Big Banks with “real” money by neutralizing the bad debt on their books—and right onto the balance sheets of the of the perpetrators of the greatest heist in history. This shell game, of course, runs up the “national debt” to the detriment of all Americans, but to the obscene profit of the perpetrators. But what was Obama’s role in all this?

The first principle of the Obama latent political-economic policy is to protect the rich and powerful who allowed him to be President, both from any risk that results from their sociopathic behavior and from any consequences for their crimes. At the same time, the people are tossed relatively small crumbs of social justice—the Lilly Ledbetter bill, Justice Department’s current efforts against voter suppression (which is the interests of the Democratic Party, of course), a not so strong effort seeking a real minimum wage, etc. When Larry Summers and his crowd were appointed to key economic positions I was shocked by the audacity, though I saw its consistency with the political money flow; now I am merely outraged by the reality of the Great Liberal Hoax that is Barrack Obama, coupled with a deep sadness that he turned out that way.
But at this stage in American history, we should expect some version of the same story accompanying the plundering of the American Commonwealth. With Mitt Romney there would have been less pretence (okay, he does lie a lot) but at least equal plunder; after all, Romney has achieved master huckster status among the plunder-capitalist class. He plundered real companies; the Wall Street operators plunder the nation’s economy as a whole. Obama is a mere political operator for more or less the same crowd—no serious effort has been made by his administration to reign in either variant of the plundering class. Of course not! The Obama administration is riddled with agents of the plundering class, with the full knowledge and consent of the Black President himself.

And where are the liberals in all this? Denial and projection explain a lot of it, if accompanied by a recognition that the Democratic Party has been bought off by the same forces that drive the Republicans’ politics. They just deny culpability while projecting their failures of conscience and practice onto their Republican colleagues. Chris Hedges was right after all, the “liberal class” really is dead—it just doesn’t know it yet because it still confuses rhetoric with action. Once the entire economy has been hijacked—we’re very close now—it won’t matter because as Bernie Sanders said recently, the government doesn’t regulate Wall Street, Wall Street regulates the government. We are well past the mid-point in the transition from pseudo-democracy—still pretending to be democratic, ‘cause we have elections, while government is latently, but near blatantly, controlled by the petro-mil-corp-bankster complex—to a fully formal corporate security/surveillance state without pretense.

The only remaining option for those who would like to live in a compassionate democratically governed society—rather than a ruthless corporate-run surveillance state—is to simply do it ourselves. Not easy, of course, but potentially realistic. Occupy Wall Street was a symbolic move in that direction—and continues in various scaled down ways in many places. If anything, OWS demonstrated the power of numbers focused on democratic change. The many small community actions for local mutual aid and local economic self-sufficiency, the new interest in publicly owned banks such as the long successful North Dakota state bank—are moves in the right direction. Public banking can support local self-reliance. Anyone who still keeps their accounts with Wells Fargo, chase-Manhattan, et al, is complicit, regardless of how small. Transfer your money to a local credit union or locally owned bank; support the growing public banking movement. Many other community actions are emerging. There are no guarantees, but at this point community action seems the only realistic hope for change. I would also support a third political party movement, but the chances seem so slim and time is so short.

Given the coming consequences of accelerating climate disruption—even the necessary massive de-fossilization of the economy cannot stop much of the impacts already in the climate pipeline and that have already begun to happen—local community actions will be absolutely necessary for survival, let alone to build humane democratic institutions. With climate rhetoric with minimalist action, President Obama’s success in aiding the institutional enemies of the American people’s future will provide a rather strange legacy for the first democratically elected Black President in American history.

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