By Paul Street
Though Obama is getting consistently good at disappointing, breaking promises, and worse, he's fans are just as bad as ever. Here's a typical rant pulled from the story, "Whatever one thinks of Obama's policy on any specific issue, he is clearly a reform president committed to improvement of peoples' lives and the renewal and reconstruction of America... Progressives should focus less on the limits of the Obama agenda and more on the possibilities that his presidency opens up".
Since his inauguration, Obama as president has governed as predicted - well to the corporate, imperial, and racially neutral center-right. Heralded by Advertising Age for giving "tainted brand America" an "instant overhaul" (as open, progressive, egalitarian, and democratic) Obama has if anything out-done my "cynical" expectations od the largely media-created "Obama phenomenon."
Look at the extent he betrayed his many progressive supporters (some deluded and some not) and his more progressive-sounding campaign promises.
Washington under Democratic rule and the Obama administration (since January 20, 2009) provides potent evidence for left-liberal political scientist Sheldon Wolin's take last year ( before the election) on the chances for progressive change under the United States "corporate-managed democracy" and "one-and-a-half party system."
As Wolin predicted with haunting prescience in his chilling book Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism:
"Should Democrats somehow be elected, corporate sponsors [will] make it politically impossible for the new officeholders to alter significantly the direction of society." In the United States' election-focused political culture, Wolin elaborated:
The parties set out to mobilize the citizen-as-voter, to define political obligation as fulfilled by the casting of a vote. Afterwards, post-election politics of lobbying, repaying donors, and promoting corporate interests - the real players - takes over The effect is to demobilize the citizenry, to teach them not to be involved or to ponder matters that are either settled or beyond their efficacy....It's all been deeply enabled by a dominant national corporate media and propaganda system, of course, with disastrous consequences abroad as well at home. Just ask the survivors of the many hundreds of innocent Pakistani civilians who have been killed by Obama's drastically escalated "secret" Predator drone war, for example.
The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts points to the crucial fact that, for the poor, minorities, the working-class, anti-corporatists, pro-environmentalists, and anti-imperialists, there is no opposition party working actively on their behalf.
By the New Yorker writer Jane Mayer's account, Barack Obama had embraced and deployed the controversial killer drone program with remarkable zest.
"During his first nine and a half months in office," Mayer noted, "he has authorized as many CIA aerial attacks in Pakistan as George W. Bush did in his final three years in office [emphasis added]....
"So far this year, various estimates suggest, the CIA attacks have killed between three hundred and twenty-six and five hundred and thirty-eight people. Critics say that many of the victims have been innocent bystanders."
The first two CIA Predator assaults of the Obama administration occurred on the morning of January 23, 2009 - the president's third day in office.
The second strike ordered by the "peace" president on that day mistakenly targeted the residence of a pro-government tribal leader, killing his entire family, including three children.
"In keeping with U.S. policy, "there was no official acknowledgement of either strike." Thanks to the CIA/Xe Services/White House program's official secrecy, Mayer added, ""there is no viable system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war."
Obama's predictable (and predicted) betrayals of his more leftish campaign rhetoric and imagery have met only minimal and half-hearted opposition from what's left of a U.S. left.
Unjust wars and occupations, mega-bankers' bailouts and other regressive policies that were seen as intolerable under the nominal rule of a boorish moron from Texas (George W. Bush) have become acceptable for many "progressives" when carried out by an eloquent and urbane black Democrat from Chicago (Barack Obama).
A recent pathetic example - one of many - comes from the so-called liberal-left journal The Nation, whose bourgeois editor Katrina Vanden Huevel proclaims the following in an editorial titled "Obama, One Year On:"
"Whatever one thinks of Obama's policy on any specific issue, he is clearly a reform president committed to improvement of peoples' lives and the renewal and reconstruction of America... Progressives should focus less on the limits of the Obama agenda and more on the possibilities that his presidency opens up".
Ms. Vanden Heuvel announces here that she has fallen prey to what Chris Hedges, author of the recent book Empire of Illusion, calls "Brand Obama." As Hedges wrote last May:
Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury.Our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained.In the absence of meaningful anger and protest on the left, the dodgy Republican right wing and its still-potent "noise machine" is absurdly left to soak up and express much of the legitimate "populist rage" that ordinary Americans quite naturally feel over Washington's continuing captivity to concentrated wealth, corporate-direction, and the military-industrial complex in the Age of Obama. Resentment abhors a vacuum. This great left failure is, in part, a great, "expectation-managing" accomplishment of the fake-progressive Obama phenomenon and presidency. Obama was seen as a desirable candidate by the establishment partly because of his promise to encourage that failure.
We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.
... The Obama campaign was named Advertising Age's marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com. Take it from the professionals. Brand Obama is a marketer's dream.
President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertiser wants because of how they can make you feel [or because of crass and calculating motivations related to funding and perceived access to power at the upper ranks of the liberal Establishment.
This left malfunction was foreseen. After noting that Obama was "backed by the biggest Wall Street firms," the prolific left commentator and author-filmmaker John Pilger wrote the following at the end of May 2008:
What is Obama's attraction to big business? Precisely the same as Robert Kennedy's [in 1968]. By offering a ‘new,' young and apparently progressive face of Democratic Party - with the bonus of being a member of the black elite - he can blunt and divert real opposition. That was Colin Powell's role as Bush's secretary of state. An Obama victory will bring intense pressure on the US antiwar and social justice movements to accept a Democratic administration for all its faults. If that happens, domestic resistance to rapacious America will fall silent.For my part, I wrote as much about "the Obama phenomenon" as I did before the election because I was concerned about Obama's special capacity to co-opt and stand down the antiwar movement and progressive forces (already in a terrible weakened state) more broadly.
Obama had always struck me as an especially seductive corporate militarist in fake-progressive "rebel's clothing" and thus as a distinctive threat to popular-democratic force.
I was certain that he would prove to be an especially potent pacifier for the peace and justice activists and progressive citizens.
Given the fact Obama had no meaningful ideological or policy differences with his fellow centrist corporate Democrat Hillary Clinton and that he actually ran slightly to her right on domestic policy, in fact, I would later come to see the former First Lady as the "lesser evil" in her epic nomination battle with Obama.
A Hillary Clinton presidency, I reasoned, would do every bit as much (however limited) policy "good" as a president Obama but would not possess the same capacity as Obama to shut down progressive politics and protest.
And, intimately related to that pacification role, to deceptively "re-brand' and re-legitimize American capitalism, racism, secxism, eco-cidalism, and imperialism at home and abroad. ,/blockquote>