31 May Black Face (or, “Identity Politics Is For Suckers”) — Part 5:
IDENTITY POLITICS IS FOR SUCKERS!!!
When I first embarked on this multi-installment series, I had high hopes that it would represent a successful milestone and turning point for this blog. I would offer a more detailed account of my journey from genuine Barack Obama fan to bitterly disappointed detractor, stunned and reeling after three years of betrayal (I’m sorry, I just don’t know what else to call it when the same individual who called for reigning in executive power and secretive government as a candidate has now become the premiere advocate of dramatically expanded executive power and extreme secrecy).
I hope that I’ve demonstrated in this series that I’m not some knee-jerk Obama hater and clarified that my support for Ron Paul’s candidacy over the previous year was based entirely on Rep. Paul’s consistently principled positions regarding war, torture, the drug war, the corruption of the Federal Reserve (his assessment largely shared by respected mainstream economists, including Simon Johnson), and the post-9/11 assault on civil liberties. As many of the President’s defenders reflexively dismiss all his critics as “racist,” I wanted to reiterate that my support for Paul’s candidacy is in no way an endorsement of the shameful, race-baiting tactics he embraced in the 1980s and ‘90s — and no indication that, in my estimation, the congressman has sufficiently addressed this egregious error in judgment (indeed, when responding to journalists’ questions about his infamous newsletters, Mr. Paul bears an uncanny resemblance to his evasive, imperious, full-of-crap colleagues — a sight that is otherwise rare). This matter unquestionably remains a blot on Rep. Paul’s record, however much I respect his integrity on those other issues dear to my heart.
Beyond the clarifications, I also wanted to reflect on my previous positions and, if possible, pivot. I’d spent the previous year metaphorically jumping up and down shouting that folks should BAIL ON THIS ROTTEN ESTABLISHMENT. “Abandon the crooked establishment that has so clearly abandoned you!” I exhorted on this page and elsewhere. I hoped to see principled progressives and conservatives reject the establishment’s two lame choices: President Obama and Governor Romney, WHO AGREE ON FAR TOO MUCH. In addition to participating in hundreds of conversations on-line, I distributed as many posters and fliers as I could in my own community, directing people to this site and hoping my ideas would prove infectious…
Apparently they have not. It seems I have yet to pen the 21st-century equivalent of “Common Sense” or doodle the perfect “Tammany Tiger” political cartoon — the one that spreads like rebellion, wildfire, or the bubonic plague (of shrewd political thought, that is). Fair enough. So I set out to write this blog — this multi-installment series — prepared not only to explain what I’ve been up to and why (for the first time presenting my thesis about this presidency), but also to help myself to a nice serving of humble pie. After all, virtually all of my publicly-expressed hopes for the last few years have failed to materialize. I can’t help feeling a little foolish.
So here’s what I’m saying going forward…
I can understand casting a vote for nice-guy Barack Obama over vulture-capitalist robot Mitt Romney. I’m sure that plenty of people for whom I have a great deal of respect and affection will be doing precisely that this fall. Many of them, I’m sure, understand perfectly well that the President has not delivered on the promise of his election, but they also know that a second term for Obama means thousands of appointments (judges, technocrats, etc.) across the government that will go to competent, generally progressive individuals, rather than aggressively partisan, crony-zealots with little or no relevant expertise (the typical appointee under the last Republican president). Democratic voters know that President Obama’s government will probably be more war averse than Romney’s, somewhat more inclined to regulate out-of-control corporations, and at least willing to contemplate the needs of the poor (not that food stamp enrollment didn’t EXPLODE under George W. Bush, because it did).
That said, MANY Obama supporters are apparently confused about the President’s actual record. In the interest of opening a few closed minds, the following is a SHORT LIST OF FALSEHOODS that many Democrats still believe about President Obama:
– He fought to close Guantanamo Bay (au contraire; not only did the President fail to push Congress to close GITMO, he blocked the effort by Secretary of State Clinton and Attorney General Holder to get Congress moving on that front);
– He made good on his commitment to end the war in Iraq (rather he doggedly pushed the Iraqis to extend the U.S. military presence beyond the Bush-negotiated agreement and, failing to win their permission, continues to support a vastly militarized, largely privatized, State Department-occupation of Iraq);
– He fought for the Public Option’s inclusion in the ACA (wrong again; Obama specifically had the Public Option killed — when it had passed in the House and had the votes to pass the Senate — complying with the terms of his campaign promise-betraying backroom deal with AHIP, the insurance lobbyist group);
– He ended warrantless wiretapping, rendition and torture, military tribunals, and indefinite detention (100% wrong; Obama has only cemented and expanded on the radical authorities Bush and Cheney claimed);
– He opposed subjecting American citizens (uncharged with any crime) to indefinite detention/execution by the U.S. military (instead, the President INSISTED that American citizens not be exempted from these provisions of the December 2011 NDAA, and had the law amended to reflect that preference)…
And hundreds of other decisions that have come out of this White House, from the very beginning, with the President standing with banks, corporations, neocons, the forces of austerity and conservatives, generally — and repeatedly brushing aside the concerns of labor groups, economists, scientists, environmentalists, foreign policy experts, civil libertarians, and progressives (whom his first Chief of Staff famously called “retards”).
I N C O N C L U S I O N…
The conversation over the last few days has been dominated by revelations in a New York Times article about how President Obama has managed his government’s secret drone assassination program. Among the many tidbits of information in this generally worshipful (obviously administration-blessed and facilitated) article is the fact that America now accepts as legitimate the once radical notion that national boundaries and international law are no obstacles to sending flying death machines anywhere the president secretly decrees, with the object of murdering people whose identities and activities are essentially mysterious, even to those ordering their deaths (“EXECUTION BY PROFILING” is the order of the day, turning the CIA’s drones into an official flock of George Zimmermans — all Arab-looking men of military age, beware!).
THE POINT: Just as most conservatives were starry-eyed during the majority of George W. Bush’s time in office, failing to see (until it was too late) what a reckless, godless, radical profligate he was, MANY liberals are similarly glossy in their perception of Barack Obama… and on the same basis: IDENTITY POLITICS.
– But where conservatives saw a good, hardworking man of faith in George W. Bush, surrounded by a council of cool-headed, veteran grayhairs, what they actually got was a petulant, apathetic, and impatient child surrounded by an ideological cabal of rabid, grasping extremists.
– And where liberals today see in Obama a careful, principled progressive battling against a conservative tide, what they’re really getting is a very conservative corporatist, battling progressives and working aggressively to mitigate the global backlash against the outlandish criminal predations of the .1% (he’s even done a considerable amount to thwart, co-opt, and pervert the Arab Spring, which helps explain why America’s image has continued to plummet in the Muslim world under this president).
And he’s doing it all in broad daylight, thanks to the cover provided by right-wing bigotry (which induces most thinking people, at least, to rally around the President); highly effective “liberal” branding; a terribly propagandistic media; and truly breathtaking left-wing hypocrisy — everything the left declared “fascist” under Bush it now condones, either explicitly or with its deafening silence. And that is President Barack Obama’s real accomplishment and lasting legacy: Cheney’s fascism normalized; the left muted in the face of neoconservative ascendance.
Yes, Barack Obama seems like a liberal, with his community-organizing past and Kenyan ancestry. Yes, he can convincingly make some liberal-sounding noises, and has occasionally governed as a halfway decent center-left politician. But one day this chapter of American history will be seen through dispassionate, nonpartisan eyes. And the tale that’s told will be one of lost opportunities — of easily-within-reach, desperately needed, and historically proven solutions utterly ignored — in favor of a doomed attempt to salvage a corrupt, morally repugnant agenda that most of the world was in the process of shrugging off.
Now that he’s not winning any elections for the GOP, George W. Bush has become a pariah to the Republican establishment. No one on the right dares even speak his name. If we on the left keep seeing President Obama through the rose-tinted, hyper-partisan lenses of the last few years — NEVER challenging him from the left — I say we’re running an awful risk of resembling our conservative counterparts five or so years from now, regarding Barack Obama: mortified to even acknowledge his existence.
I hope that doesn’t happen. But as things currently stand, I’m worried that a lot of people on the left will one day realize the enormous extent of what’s been lost over these last few years — and how expertly they’ve been played for suckers. Only with the Bill of Rights and Posse Comitatus officially retired by our current leaders — and with a new “President Bush” or possibly a “President Palin” in the Oval Office — what exactly will these Democrats have to say about anything then?
Probably not much.