[Marxism] The Fall of Obama

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 16 10:59:10 MDT 2010


Counterpunch Weekend Edition
July 16 - 18, 2010
CounterPunch Diary
The Fall of Obama

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

The man who seized the White House by fomenting a mood of 
irrational expectation is now facing the bitter price exacted by 
reality. The reality is that there can be no “good” American 
president. It’s an impossible hand to play. Obama is close to 
being finished.

The nation’s first black president promised change at the precise 
moment when no single man, even if endowed with the communicative 
powers of Franklin Roosevelt, the politic mastery of Lyndon 
Johnson, the brazen agility of Bill Clinton, could turn the tide 
that has been carrying America to disaster for 30 years.

This summer many Americans are frightened. Over 100,000 of them 
file for bankruptcy every month. Three million homeowners face 
foreclosure this year. Add them to the 2.8 million who were 
foreclosed in 2009, Obama’s first year in office. Nearly seven 
million have been without jobs in the last year for six months or 
longer. By the time you tot up the people who have given up 
looking for work and the people on part-time, the total is heading 
toward 20 million.

Fearful people are irrational. So are racists. Obama is the target 
of insane charges. A hefty percentage of Americans believe that he 
is a socialist – a charge as ludicrous as accusing the Archbishop 
of Canterbury of being a closet Druid. Obama reveres the 
capitalist system. He admires the apex predators of Wall Street 
who showered his campaign treasury with millions of dollars. The 
frightful catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico stemmed directly from 
the green light he and his Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, 
gave to BP.

It is not Obama’s fault that for 30 years America’s policy – under 
Reagan, both Bushes and Bill Clinton – has been to export jobs 
permanently to the Third World. The jobs that Americans now 
desperately seek are no longer here, in the homeland, and never 
will be. They’re in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Indonesia.

No stimulus program, giving money to cement contractors to fix 
potholes along the federal interstate highway system, is going to 
bring those jobs back. Highly trained tool and die workers, the 
aristocrats of the manufacturing sector, are flipping hamburgers – 
at best – for $7.50 an hour because U.S. corporations sent their 
jobs to Guangzhou, with the approval of politicians flush with the 
money of the “free trade” lobby.

It is not Obama’s fault that across 30 years more and more money 
has floated up to the apex of the social pyramid till America is 
heading back to where it was in the 1880s, a nation of tramps and 
millionaires. It’s not his fault that every tax break, every 
regulation, every judicial decision tilts toward business and the 
rich. That was the neoliberal America conjured into malign 
vitality back in the mid 1970s.

But it is Obama’s fault that he did not understand this, that 
always, from the getgo, he flattered Americans with paeans to 
their greatness, without adequate warning of the political and 
corporate corruption destroying America and the resistance he 
would face if he really fought against the prevailing arrangements 
that were destroying America.  He offered them a free and easy 
pass to a better future, and now they see that the promise was empty.

It’s Obama’s fault, too, that, as a communicator, he cannot rally 
and inspire the nation from its fears. From his earliest years he 
has schooled himself not to be excitable, not to be an angry black 
man who would be alarming to his white friends at Harvard and his 
later corporate patrons. Self-control was his passport to the 
guardians of the system, who were desperate to find a symbolic 
leader to restore America’s credibility in the world after the 
disasters of the Bush era. He is too cool.

So, now Americans in increasing numbers have lost confidence in 
him. For the first time in the polls negative assessments 
outnumber the positive. He no longer commands trust. His support 
is drifting down to 40 per cent. The straddle that allowed him to 
flatter corporate chieftains at the same time as blue-collar 
workers now seems like the most vapid opportunism. The casual 
campaign pledge to wipe out al-Quaida in Afghanistan is now being 
cashed out in a disastrous campaign viewed with dismay by a 
majority of Americans.

The polls portend disaster. It now looks as though the Republicans 
may well recapture not only the House but, conceivably, the Senate 
as well. The public mood is so contrarian that, even though polls 
show that voters think the Democrats may well have better 
solutions on the economy than Republicans, they will vote against 
incumbent Democrats in the midterm elections next fall. They just 
want to throw the bums out.

Obama has sought out Bill Clinton to advise him in this desperate 
hour. If Clinton is frank, he will remind Obama that his own hopes 
for a progressive first term were destroyed by the failure of his 
health reform in the spring of 1993. By August of that year, he 
was importing a Republican, David Gergen, to run the White House.

Obama had his window of opportunity last year, when he could have 
made jobs and financial reform his prime objectives. That’s what 
Americans hoped for. Mesmerized by economic advisers who were 
creatures of the banks, he instead plunged into the Sargasso Sea 
of “health reform,” wasted the better part of a year, and ended up 
with something that pleases no one.

What can save Obama now? It’s hard even to identify a straw he can 
grasp at. It’s awfully early in the game to say it, but, as 
Marlene Dietrich said to Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, “your 
future is all used up.




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