January 20, 2010
The end of politics-1: Obama and the one-party state
(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here. You can also listen to the podcast of the interview on WCPN 90.3 about the book.)
Is Barack Obama going to be a one-term president?
Given that this is the anniversary of only his first year in office, it might seem premature to pose this question, except as a hook on which to examine the state of politics in the country. That is indeed my intent in this short series of posts leading up to his State of the Union speech next week but before I do so, let me give my answer to the question anyway. At the rate he is going, Obama deserves to be just a one-term president. But what is likely to get him re-elected is that the Republican party seems to be in the process of being taken over by a coalition of wackos (religious nuts, birthers, deathers, conspiracists, tea-baggers, gun nuts, xenophobes, and outright racists) that is likely to repel most mainstream Americans, however much they may dislike Obama's performance in office. The current Republican party, once led by the likes of Abraham Lincoln, is now the party of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh, pandering to the lowest emotions of greed and fear and selfishness of a rabid core of supporters. They are leading the party into a political wilderness from which it will take a long time to return.
But the unlikelihood of this group gaining power is no reason for complacency amongst those of us who seek a more just society because the very lack of a reasonable and credible opposition only enables the Democratic leadership to sell out its supporters even more, the way that Obama and the current leadership are doing, because they know that voters have nowhere else to go. The fact that McCain-Palin in 2008 and a likely similarly bizarre Republican ticket in 2012 are truly ghastly alternatives does not mean that we should give Obama a pass and pretend that he is acting in our best interests. "I'm not as crazy as my opponents" is not an inspiring platform.
Obama rode to victory on the crest of public anger at the rampant crony capitalism that was the hallmark of the Bush-Cheney years and resulted in the looting of the public treasury to facilitate massive giveaways to the wealthy. Instead of channeling this anger to pursue a reform agenda, Obama and the Democratic leadership have instead eagerly served the needs of the same group. These people are not called the ruling class for nothing. Presidents and congresses may come and they may go, but this class rules forever.
Matt Taibbi is one of the few journalists able to see Obama's obvious selling out to Wall Street in the wake of his election:
What's taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.
People like Pat [a teabagger that Taibbi met at a protest] aren't aware of it, but they're the best friends Obama has. They hate him, sure, but they don't hate him for any reasons that make sense. When it comes down to it, most of them hate the president for all the usual reasons they hate "liberals" — because he uses big words, doesn't believe in hell and doesn't flip out at the sight of gay people holding hands. Additionally, of course, he's black, and wasn't born in America, and is married to a woman who secretly hates our country.
These are the kinds of voters whom Obama's gang of Wall Street advisers is counting on: idiots.
I think Taibbi has nailed it. Why do I think that Obama should be a one-term president? Long time readers of this blog will know that I had few illusions about Obama, either on domestic or foreign policy. I have repeatedly said that the US is a one-party state with two factions that can be labeled Democrats and Republican. This one party is united in its pro-war and pro-business policies, and its two factions differ only on some social issues (abortion, gay rights). And even there the differences are getting less. The Democrats have been giving only lukewarm support to the needs of their pro-choice and gay rights supporters.
The history of the US bears out this fundamental unity of aims of the two parties. Wars have been initiated and supported by both parties. When it comes to doing favors for the financial and business interests that give their parties so much money, the two parties fall over themselves to see who can be more obliging. Obama periodically makes speeches excoriating Wall Street bankers and threatening them with the prospect of even more speeches if they don't behave, while at the same time doing nothing concrete to rein in their recklessness or greed. Of course, the bankers know that this is all a show to placate the masses. So they obligingly act chastened while smirking over the fact that they effectively control the President and the government's economic policies.
If any doubts remained that the US is indeed a one party state, the election in 2008 of Barack Obama as president and of solid Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, and the subsequent policies pursued by them should, as I will argue in subsequent posts, put those doubts to rest.
POST SCRIPT: Jon Stewart nails what's annoying about Palin
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