The Obama delusion

Adam Kranz

Much was made of the fact that Barack Obama’s presidential campaign received significant funding from small donors. His election was heralded as a sign that the country was ready to move on from former President George W. Bush. Many progressives were excited enough by Obama’s radically decent campaign promises to support his bid for election. Since taking office, however, Obama has strategically and systematically disillusioned every true Progressive in the country.

Obama has not only continued, but escalated the war crimes initiated by his predecessors. Drone attacks on civilians have increased in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. More U.S. troops are in Afghanistan than ever before. Construction continues in Iraq on military strongholds, disguised as embassies, manned by morally bankrupt contractors like Blackwater.

Soldiers in Guantanamo and other U.S. secret prisons are still torturing people, including Wikileaks hero Bradley Manning. Weeks ago Obama authorized the bombing of Libya, involving the United States in another illegal, undeclared war that, in the long run, won’t help anyone but oil men and the arms industry.

Obama’s reign has held as much promise for the American people as it has for the rest of the world. His healthcare plan is projected to leave 23 million Americans without healthcare and shuffle some $447 billion from taxpayers to insurance companies. His fiscal policies have been particularly disturbing, though unsurprising, given the number of Goldman Sachs officials in his administration.

Obama continued the Bush tax cuts, batted nary an eyelash at enormous tax breaks to companies like GE and gave away mind-boggling sums of taxpayer money as bailouts to huge financial firms such as Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. These giveaways sent corporate profits to an all-time high in 2010, and set the stage for the present theatrics in Congress. Obama is systematically giving away our country to corporations.

Are all of these problems Obama’s fault? Certainly Congress shares much responsibility for them as well. Apologists suggest that in all of these cases, Obama has simply not had the power or charisma to do anything differently, and that to have such high hopes for a politician, even the president, is unrealistic.

This last point is certainly true, but not for reasons any mainstream Democrat realizes. It’s instead a matter of motivations: Obama doesn’t truly want to accomplish populist reforms.

A recent article by Glenn Greenwald in Salon magazine, titled “Obama’s ‘bad negotiating’ is actually shrewd negotiating,” shed considerable light on this issue for me. Greenwald suggests that Obama is not a bumbling, ineffectual man with a beautiful dream for his country, but rather a shrewd politician surrounded by expert D.C. advisors with decades of experience, with nothing on his mind but reelection.

Selling out the American people entirely and, in doing so, alienating his entire liberal base, might not seem like the best strategy for someone seeking reelection. However, it is apparently a time-honored Democratic strategy.

Party-line Democrats will support Obama’s decisions simply because he is the arbiter of that party line, while many radical Democrats still make excuses for him. Most importantly, Conservatives and Independents will laud him as a bipartisan compromiser, especially for his recent budget cessions to Congressional Republicans.

In truth, however, these are just convenient narratives. Obama’s campaign depends scandalously little on what the American people actually think about him. Political scientists have repeatedly demonstrated the advantage held by candidates with significantly greater funding.

In return for huge giveaways and business-friendly policies in his first term, Obama will ride into his second term on the — green — backs of an unprecedented $1 billion in donations from banks and big businesses. 

In his second term, Obama will again aid and abet Republicans in their bid to end every decent public policy our government currently provides — excluding those that act as implicit subsidies to business, like food stamps: Taxpayers feed Walmart’s employees because Walmart would rather not pay them a living wage. 

The middle and lower classes will be squeezed into desperation, to live at the mercy of corporate malefactors. Our economy will continue to stagnate as wealth accumulates in the bank accounts of the rich, who have no incentive to spend that money in ways that would create jobs.

Obama is not a progressive messiah because he doesn’t want to be. He and his party sell themselves as liberal in counterpoint to the conservative Republicans, but in truth both parties are equally beholden to corporate sponsors whose interests are the opposite of those of the American people.

It’s time to end the myth that Democrats are the party of the people. We need a new, true labor party. Now, when people are increasingly aware of the problem and increasingly angry about it, is the time for us to stand up and demand a government that truly represents the people!