But what is the truth about Barack Obama? “By their fruits shall ye know them.”
The mantra was hope and change: a man of color in the White House. It was an extraordinary milestone that signaled the end of 500 years of oppression. Barack Obama was supposed to redirect the domestic debate and change the dynamic of international relations. He was to usher in a new post-colonial, post-imperial age that would change the world. That was the hope when millions danced in the streets after his election. No President-elect has ever taken office with more wind in his sails than Barack Obama. With a Democratic majority, and a Republican party that had been all but pronounced dead, Barack Obama could have been transformative, his accomplishments legion.
But it didn’t happen. It turns out that the “D” for Democrat next to his name is useless, a vestigial tail, left over from his younger days in Chicago where it was needed as the only way to play the game. And the saddest part of it all is that he didn’t squander the opportunities he had; he wasn’t blocked as many claim. No. He never intended to use his “political capital”, or the bully pulpit for real change to begin with. We have to be honest: Obama it turns out, is a player for Wall Street, a corporate shill.
Now mind you, Obama is not the first or only one. You can honestly question whether the “D” next to the name of any but a very few legislators in Washington has any real meaning anymore. And this has been going on for a while. Let’s not forget that some of the most detrimental, pro-corporate, anti-worker and foreign policies of the last twenty years: Iraq sanctions, the WTO, NAFTA, the Telecommunications Act, deregulating the banks and killing Glass-Steagall to name just a few, all came from the neo-liberal Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council.
Whether he refused to veto and signed the legislation or, by sin of omission, didn’t fight for what he promised to fight for: “The buck stops here!” Barack Obama is center-right at best and a closet neo-con in the mold of George Bush and Dick Cheney at worst. He is certainly not a “socialist”, “communist” or friend to the downtrodden or working man.
He bailed out the banks while he left the little guy in the lurch. Then he decided that those same banks are not only too big to fail, but the folks whose fraudulent behavior tanked the world economy and cost millions of working people their homes and retirements are also too big too jail.
But poor, undocumented immigrants are not so lucky. They have been arrested and deported, their families broken up in record numbers under the Obama administration. By the end of this year, deportations under Mr. Obama are on track to reach two million, or nearly the same number of deportations in the United States from 1892 to 1997. And his new budget promises even more money for stronger enforcement and more deportations!
Even in his signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, which could have been his legacy for the ages, Obama showed his hand. He never even attempted to put a single-payer system on the table. “Medicare for All” was never an option. And the Public Option? It got a passing mention but was dropped without a fight, before the Republicans could even lift a finger. And so we are left with a $100 billion dollar give-a-way to the private insurance industry. The uninsured must purchase insurance, but the industry is not required to deliver any significant level of coverage within the mandate for an affordable price.
Obama has recently proposed cutting Social Security and Medicare, in the name of “entitlement” reform, choosing to lay the burden of “deficit reduction” on the backs of seniors and the most vulnerable, spitting in the face of the New Deal. This has been a right wing, Republican dream for decades.
He signed the National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes the arrest and indefinite detention of American citizens on American soil by the military without trial or access to counsel. Not to mention that they can also be arbitrarily assassinated either here or abroad if the President decides they are “enemy combatants” and deserve to die.
Obama talked of Democracy during the Arab spring while secretly arming the security forces of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and others to crush the protests in the streets. And he has quietly begun an expansion of Guantanamo Bay after swearing on his first day to close it.
By their fruits shall ye know them.
No hope, no change, except for the color of the skin on the face of the man in the White House. In the words of the great democratic intellectual, Professor Cornell West of Princeton University: “Barack Obama doesn’t speak truth to power like Dr. King or Malcolm. He is simply a black face on the empire.”
Greg J. Welsch is the General Manager of WRFN-LP 107.1 Radio Free Nashville. You can listen over the air in West Nashville or on line at www.radiofreenashville.org.