Obama: The corporate choice
BY JEFF MACKLER
The $6 billion U.S. election extravaganza—conducted virtually year round in the modern era to consciously dull the senses of capitalism’s working masses with an unending torrent of myths, half truths, and lies—is over. The mask of a progressive, humanistic, caring, environmentally concerned, if not antiwar president, Barak Obama, has been carefully fitted over the white racist, warmongering, corporate ruling-class elite. The one percent—or better, the one thousandth of one percent ruling-class elite—who employ the world’s best minds to create a “Truman Show” or “Potemkin Village” fantasy-world reality aimed at convincing its victims that their “choice” is significant, emerged victorious—as was expected.
In the absence of a serious working-class alternative, the Big Lie school of politics prevailed yet again, and the vast destruction wreaked on tens of millions of people, stemming from a crisis-ridden U.S. and world capitalism, went unchallenged. Anger was channeled, as intended, into the two-party “lesser-evil” shell game that U.S. politics is designed to be.
President Obama’s victory speech to some 10,000 cheering and flag-waving campaign workers at Chicago’s McCormick Place was a staged performance of a fairy-tale America. The highly skilled and tutored head of the executive committee of the ruling rich proclaimed without shame that the strength of the nation was “not in its military might”—the world’s greatest, he felt compelled to note—but rather in the “unity of its people,” in the promise of “equality and justice for all, including Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, gays, straights, rich and poor.”
We want a nation, he asserted, “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” We need to “fix our tax code,” and to “reform our immigration system,” he pledged. Obama declared that our “economy is recovering” and that “a decade of war is ending.” The president repeatedly insisted during his campaign that his bailout had “saved the U.S. auto industry” and tens of thousands of jobs, that he was a champion of women and abortion rights, of America’s teachers and education.
The tragedy of our times—which are rapidly changing to be sure—is that there was no working-class-based, fighting-union candidate or party to challenge Obama’s ruling-class party and its real bipartisan agenda. There was no opposition, except the modest, courageous, and unintimidated band of socialists, unswerving mass-movement antiwar and social-justice campaigners and radical activists to tell the truth that under the Obama’s watch:
• Racism is on the rise in capitalist America, with an ever-expanding and increasingly privatized near slave-labor prison-industrial complex that incarcerates 3.5 million of the nation’s poor and oppressed—the majority Black and Latino. In total, 7.1 million are under the jurisdiction of the criminal “justice system.” Unemployment among Blacks and Latinos is double the rate of whites and increasing.
• A record 400,000 immigrants have been deported in each of the past two years.
• Military spending for new and expanding wars has reached an historic high, with the U.S. accounting for close to the entire world combined.
• Civil liberties are under unprecedented attack. Some 700,000 Muslims have been interviewed by the government in regard to “suspected” terrorist activity. Islamophobia and the associated “war on terrorism” have become the vehicles to justify the heinous presidential “kill list,” indefinite detentions, drone bombings, grand jury/FBI persecution of political activists, extension of the Bush-era Patriot Act and imprisonment of leaders of innocent Muslim charitable organizations.
• The use of privatized mercenary death-squad armies in Afghanistan and around the world is on the rise, and now comprises close to a majority of the U.S. fighting forces in Afghanistan.
• The U.S. government, which bailed out the banks and corporations to the tune of more than $20 trillion, oversees and implements the greatest disparity of wealth since the years preceding the Great Depression. The rich are richer than ever while the 99 percent have suffered the brunt of a failing U.S. capitalism.
• New wars, overt and covert, in Libya and across Africa, and threatened wars, sanctions and blockades against Iran and Syria are today top government priorities.
• Massive deterioration of social services and public education: Next on the legislative agenda are “grand compromise” bipartisan agreements to reduce expenditures for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and public education.
• In the name of “energy independence,” the government has projected an increase in the use of fossil fuels of 25-40 percent over the next 10 years, a death-sentence for the environment and millions, if not billions, of the earth’s people.
President Obama was explicit on his fossil fuel plans during the second presidential debate on Oct. 16. When challenged by Romney as to who was the best representative of “big oil,” he stated: “We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. … Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. … We still continue to open up new areas for drilling. …
“We’ve opened up public lands. We’re actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration—and the previous president was an oil man. … And natural gas isn’t just appearing magically. We’re encouraging it and working with the industry. … We made the largest investment in clean coal technology. … We’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once. … So, I’m all for pipelines. I’m all for oil production.”
The skilled and highly professional exponents of U.S. capitalism played the two-party election charade to the hilt. The initially “moderate” Massachusetts Republican opponent Mitt Romney was originally cast in the role of a right-wing Tea Party type, presumably to first win the Republican primary contest between assorted representatives of the “extreme right” in U.S. politics.
This had the desired effect of moving the ruling class’s political, economic, and military agenda to the right, affording Obama as much room as required to follow suit. The president eagerly obliged, matching Romney’s corporate agenda nearly word for word, while taking care to enunciate a few sound-bites on occasion to keep his presumed “nowhere to go” supporters on the leash.
It should be noted that several million, perhaps 20 million, likely disgusted previous Obama supporters did abstain from voting, with the 2012 popular vote declining below the totals registered in 2008 and 2004.
Upon winning the Republican primary, Romney’s advisers pulled the plug on his “nowhere to go” supporters and surprised a “deer in the headlights-like” Obama during their first debate by attacking the president from the left. Romney told the truth about the real unemployment rate being much larger than the official figures and otherwise effectively debunked the administration’s pretensions that a recovery was underway.
The fake debate over the auto bailout was similarly aimed at the naïve. Obama’s multi-billion-dollar bailout was carefully considered by the U.S. ruling class, whose top echelons debated whether the industry should move to bust the historic UAW contracts with General Motors via government-overseen bankruptcy proceedings, wherein a judge would be assigned to gut the UAW contract, or whether the government itself would orchestrate the affair to achieve the very same end.
Regardless of which scenario was contemplated, neither included ceding the manufacture and sale of autos in the U.S. to any foreign competitors.
GM, formerly the world’s largest corporation, still retains big-time clout in ruling-class circles. It required one or another clever mechanism to destroy what UAW workers had achieved over decades of class combat.
The auto-bailout charade, a debacle for workers and a boon to the bankers and GM’s corporate elite, was transformed by Obama administration strategists from an election-time minus to a Big Lie plus. The union-busting president was miraculously transformed into the “friend of labor.”
Similarly, the corporate elite’s “education reform,” pro-charter school, privatizing, and anti-teacher president—whose Arne Duncan and Rahm Emmanuel associates were backed by some of the richest Bill Gates and Co. billionaires in the country—was transformed into an advocate of teachers and public education. Duncan is Obama’s secretary of education; Emmanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff and currently mayor of Chicago, led the charge in the failed effort to break the Chicago Teachers Union.
CBS anchors/analysts covering Election 2012 couldn’t help but note that none of the “big issues” were subject to discussion or debate during the two-year campaign. It was “a knife fight,” one opined. I would suggest instead that the campaign was fought with feathers and replete with lies and invention to give the impression that there were serious stakes involved.
In truth, both candidates were sworn in advance to defend and advance the interests of corporate America. The fact that the very significant majority of voting trade unionists, Blacks (95 percent), and Latinos (75 percent), women, and youth voted for what they mistakenly considered to be the lesser evil, was more a reflection of their compulsion to express, as well as they could, opposition to the worst of what corporate America offered in this orchestrated contest than it was an expression of confidence in the system itself. The great majority of Americans, the polls indicate, believe that the rich run the country.
Those who voted for one or another of the socialist candidates—on the ballot or write-ins—and who struggle to advance the building of massive, independent, and class-struggle social and political movements, will prove to be the most effective fighters for a better future for humanity.
The gap between the present moment, when workers and their allies are reeling from the corporate offensive, and the time when these movements inevitably emerge to offer a fundamental challenge—in the electoral arena and in the streets—is drawing closer, the Obama “victory” notwithstanding.
Photo: Tony Savino / Socialist Action