Let's Get Past the Obama Illusion
By Paul Street at Jan 31, 2007
Please run to your local independent book store (or if you have no alternative) to your local Borders or Barnes and Noble and buy the latest (February) Z Magazine, in which (in an article titled simply "The Obama Illusion") I demonstrate yet again that Barockstar Obama's claim to being a "progressive" should not be taken seriously.
The liberal-left confusion over Obama - is he maybe someone we should get on board with or not? - is already tiresome. So is the left-liberal counsel that Obama just needs to "fill in the blanks" (John Nichols in the "February 5th" issue of The Nation [I have zero comprehension of why The Nation dates its weekly magazines two weeks in advance... perhaps they are trying to confuse future historians or something]) on his so-far missing (but soon to emerge) left policy agenda. And so are the recurrent references to his supposedly "inspired" (see Nichols, "Obama's Challanges," The Nation, "February 5," 2007, pp. 5-6) and inspiring 2004 Democratic Convention Keynote Address.
Let's get past this silliness. Like Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon (formerly of Black Commentator) over at the wonderful anti-racist/anti-capitalist zine Black Agenda Report, I just don't share all the liberal-left confusion over Obama. I think where he stands --- with the ruling class, the American Empire project and the white majority --- is easy enough to expose. And I'm already tired of doing the exposing. Beyond this month's Z Magazine piece, please see:
1. The 2004 analysis I did of B.O.'s reactionary, power-worshipping Keynote Address
2. A ZNet Sustainer Commentary I did under the probably over-the-top (I'm a hothead) title "Odious Obama's Path to Hell"
3. The best thing I've done on him yet (better even than this month's Z Magazine artlce): my critical review of his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope (a book that literally made me physically ill): "Liberal Left Myopia and Obama's Audacious Deference to Power."
Here are my three favorite three quotes in The Audacity of Hope: * On pp. 86-87, B.O. praises the United States' Founders for “recognize[ing] that there were seeds of anarchy in the idea of individual freedom, an intoxicating danger in the idea of equality.” If “everybody is truly free, without the constraints of birth or rank and an inherited social order,” Obama asks, then “how can we ever hope to form a society that coheres?”* On pages 287 and 288, Obama's power-worshipping praise of the imperial Cold War (the “successful outcome” of which marked “the Greatest Generation's greatest contribution to us after the victory over fascism”) falls to a nauseating low when he holds forth as follows on the Vietnam War – a savage and racist U.S. assault that killed at least 2 million Indochinese (the proportional American equivalent would have run into the tens of millions):
“The disastrous consequences of that conflict – for our credibility and prestige abroad, for our armed forces (which would take a generation to recover), and most of all for those who fought – have been amply documented. But perhaps the biggest casualty of that war was the bond of trust between the American people and their government – and between American themselves."
* On p. 315, B.O. says that poor nations should NOT follow “left-leaning populists” like “Venezuela's Hugo Chavez” in thinking they “should resist America's efforts to expand its hegemony” and try to “follow their own path to development.” Such dysfunctional “reject[ion] [of] the ideals of free markets and liberal democracy” will only worsen the situation of the global poor, Obama claims (p. 315).
Here Obama ignores a preponderance of evidence of showing that the imposition of the “free market” corporate-neoliberal “Washington Consensus” has deepened poverty across the world in recent decades. Millions are left to live in ever-more extreme poverty as Obama lamely instructs “developing nations” that “the system of free markets and liberal democracy” is “constantly subject to change and improvement.”
The book just goes on and on like that.
Here are some useful citations to help folks demistify Barockstar:Alexander Cockburn, “Obama's Game,” The Nation (April 24, 2006); Bruce Dixon (2003A), “In Search of the Real Barack Obama: Can a Black Senate Candidate Resist the DLC?,” Black Commentator (June 5, 2003); Bruce Dixon (2003B), “Obama to Have Name Removed From DLC List,” Black Commentator (June 26, 2003); Maureen Dowd (2006), “Obama's Project Runway,” New York Times, 21 October 2006, p. A25; Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, “Obama Mouths Mush on War,” Black Commentator, Issue 161 (December 1, 2005); Ken Silverstein (2006), “Barack Obama Inc.: The Birth of a Washington Machine,” Harpers's Magazine (November 2006):31-40; David Siorota (2006). “Mr. Obama Goes to Washington,” The Nation, June 26; Ted Glick, "Progressives Beware," January 2007 ZNet Sustainer Comentary .
See also the latest Progressive, which has a critical review of The Audacity of Hope written by Kevin Gray.
You can also look through some of my Empire and Inequality Reports (I'd really like to see some of this blog's ludicrous right wing trolls show the personal initiative to turn out some substantive research and journalism of their own)for numerous references to Obama's creepy Iraq war positions:
“Victory Without Vision,” Issue 1 (November 11, 2006), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11386; “Neanderthal Continuities of a Bipartisan Nature,” Issue 2 (November 20, 2006), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11511; “ ‘ You Just Don't Like George,'” Issue 3 (November 30, 2006), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11511; “ ‘ Nobody's Leaving': Never Mind Democracy and Imperial Fiasco,” Issue 4 (December 10, 2006), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11598; “Missions Accomplished,” Issue 5 (December 25, 2006 ), read at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11705; “Happy Imperial New Year,” Issue 6 (January 6, 2006), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11789;
Last words: I don't think that Obama's conservative stance in support of Empire and Inequality is just about needing to get past the corporate-imperial power brokers (you know...good "Mr. Obama Goes to [bad] Washington" approach). There's some of that but still...the guy was elite private school trained from high school on --- all the way up to Harvard Law --- and its like Noam Chomsky says: never underestimate the significance of a good indoctrination (I mean education).