President Obama’s Right-Wing Success: Silencing Black America and the Left
By Max Eternity
President Obama is enjoying overwhelming success at what no other hard-right or center-right President in US history has ever been able to do. Not on his record, but on his assumed internalized black identity and his articulate oration and charm. With his phenomenal likability factor, Obama has seduced nearly all of black America to support and endorse anti-black, anti-poor, anti-FDR, policies, first put forth by George W. Bush. Since his election, black Americans continue to experience a diminished quality of life, and for the working poor and middle class of all stripes and color in America, the same can essentially be said, but perhaps to a lesser degree.
Obama has achieved this right-wing wet dream, while simultaneously silencing nearly all criticism from black America and the liberal left.
Now, who’s to officially say what constitutes blackness or whiteness? Determining that can be a very slippery slope, and yet the experience of being black or white in this country goes way, way back. So at least historically, there are acknowledged differences on legacies and experiences based on racial perception and/or identity.
A person can be perceived as black—as having an internalized black identity because they look black—and still be someone, like Condoleeza Rice and Clarence Thomas, whose right-wing political loyalties consistently show grave contempt for African-Americans, the middle-class and the poor.
There’s no need to be black, or a rocket scientist, to figure this one out. Look at the track record.
“The Betrayal of Generation Hope” is the title of an article written by anti-war activist and former Obama supporter, Evan Knappenberger, who wrote one year after campaigning long and hard for Obama’s election:
Most disappointing of all to the youth, though, is Obama’s betrayal of their values. Particularly, his extensions of Bush policies and war-mongering. Obama’s “dumb war” theory (i.e. that some wars are just and some are just “dumb”) is, to us, a complete abomination of the concept of peace. By evoking the Reverend Doctor King in his Nobel acceptance speech while in the same breath dismissing non-violence, Obama has bastardized the concept of peace and alienated us, anti-war youth, permanently from his politics.
For myself, I have come in my time in college to an understanding of the beauty of MLK’s philosophy of world peace. That violent force cannot ever be justified –that two wrongs don’t make a right– seems like second nature now. Obama’s twisted pseudo-intellectual rationalization of war-mongering stands in strict opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ (love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, blessed are the peacemakers, thou shalt not kill, et cetera) and make this veteran sick. I would not feign to argue with the leader of the free world, but then again I have seen war from the ground up, and he has not. I know that I speak for the young anti-war movement when I say that Obama has betrayed us. I also speak for the anti-war youth when I say that we won’t forget it.
In speaking to President Obama’s boycott of the Durban Declaration in 2009, journalist and author of the Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism—Naomi Klein—was raising questions about Obama’s contempt for blacks 2 years ago when she penned a piece entitled “Obama’s Big Silence: the race question.” It called out Condoleeza Rice’s betray against blacks, also asking if Obama had “turned his back on black America?”
In part, Klein wrote:
In 2000, Randall Robinson published The Debt: What America Owes To Blacks, which argued that “white society… must own up to slavery and acknowledge its debt to slavery’s contemporary victims”. The book became a national bestseller, and within months the call for reparations was starting to look like a new anti-apartheid struggle. Students demanded universities disclose their historical ties to the slave trade, city councils began holding public hearings on reparations, chapters of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America had sprung up across the country and Charles Ogletree, the celebrated Harvard law professor (and one of Obama’s closest mentors), put together a team of all-star lawyers to try to win reparations lawsuits in US courts.
By spring 2001, reparations had become the hot-button topic on US talkshows and op-ed pages. And though opponents consistently portrayed the demand as blacks wanting individual handouts from the government, most reparations advocates were clear they were seeking group solutions: mass scholarship funds, for instance, or major investments in preventive healthcare, inner cities and crumbling schools. By the time Durban rolled around in late August, the conference had taken on the air of a black Woodstock. Angela Davis was coming. So were Jesse Jackson and Danny Glover. Small radical groups such as the National Black United Front spent months raising money to buy hundreds of plane tickets to South Africa. Activists travelled to Durban from 168 countries, but the largest delegation by far came from the US: approximately 3,000 people, roughly 2,000 of them African Americans. Ogletree pumped up the crowds with an energetic address: “This is a movement that cannot be stopped… I promise we will see reparations in our lifetime.”
The call for reparations took many forms, but one thing was certain: antiracism was transformed in Durban from something safe and comfortable for elites to embrace into something explosive and potentially very, very costly. North American and European governments, the debtors in this new accounting, tried desperately to steer the negotiations on to safe terrain. “We are better to look forward and not point fingers backward,” national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said. It was a losing battle. Durban, according to Amina Mohamed, chief negotiator for the Africa bloc, was Africa’s “rendezvous with history”.
No one in Obama’s family tree is entitled to reparations for slavery, because no one was a slave. So, is it mere coincidence that Obama does not support reparations?
In 2004, after Obama had given a rousing, keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, The New York Times ran a story entitled “The Nation; An Appeal Beyond Race.” On the topic of Obama being black or white, Scott Malcomson, the article’s author, wrote:
Obama…was not raised by black parents. His mother, who is white and from Kansas, split with his father, a Kenyan economist, when he was just a toddler. His father returned to Africa — and visited his son just once, when Barack was 10.
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama’s mother and her parents raised him, mainly in Hawaii. He did not grow up in a black world and his family had no particular connection to the black experience in America. Yet Mr. Obama had black skin and that made him, like it or not, a black man with a place in the centuries-long story of race in America.
Obama has 50% of his biological genetics from an African father, who was absent nearly all of Obama’s life. So unlike most black Americans, he never grew up hearing stories from his Kenyan father, his white mother, from uncles, aunts or other immediate relatives, directly expressing their first-hand knowledge of what it was like living through slavery, Jim Crow, the 1960’s civil rights fight or the 1970’s black power movement.
This cannot be ignored.
Supposedly we live in a post-racial society, but if that were true, economic and educational disparity would not exist, nor would be have the most skewed, unjust criminal justice system in the world. Troy Davis would still be alive…and most likely free. Thus, let’s keep it real and ask ourselves this question with honestly: Would black America be so lenient on President Obama if he were perceived as white?
With all the socioeconomic pain Obama has caused blacks in America and around the world, no one can keep a straight face and claim this to be true! Yet, because of his African-American appearance, Obama has achieved what Cheney and Bush could never do: Deceive black America into remaining silent when he orders the US military and C.I.A special ops teams to slaughter civilians of color in the Middle East and Africa, and overthrow governments–under the guise of humanitarian aid– throughout Africa and the Middle-East.
Like many American Jews who refuse to criticize Israel for its illegal and unjust policies towards Palestinians, the vast majority of black Americans and their core allies are allowing their name to be used in vain in an ongoing act of foolish cronyism and nepotism—providing human capital to shield Obama from the criticisms and indictments he rightly deserves.
What other reason can there be, except irrational partisanship loyalties, combined with, and more importantly, the fact he is perceived as black?
When Dr. Cornel West criticized Obama earlier this year saying the President is the “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats” The Nation Magazine was quick to publish an article by a black female contemporary to West—Melissa Hartwell Lace—admonishing Dr. West.
What a travesty.
Notwithstanding, constitutional lawyer and journalist, Glenn Greenwald wrote this summer in an article at the Guardian UK that president Obama’s attacks on America’s social programs, like Social Security, are “destroying the soul of the Democratic party’s platform.” Grennwald’s article was entitled “Barack Obama is Gutting the Core Principles of the Democratic Party,” and in it he went on to say:
[Obama] supported the transfer of $700bn to bail out Wall Street banks…earlier this year signed an extension of Bush’s massive tax cuts for the wealthy, and who has escalated America’s bankruptcy-inducing posture of Endless War, is now trying to reduce the debt by cutting benefits for America’s most vulnerable – at the exact time that economic insecurity and income inequality are at all-time highs.
Therein lies one of the most enduring attributes of Obama’s legacy: in many crucial areas, he has done more to subvert and weaken the left’s political agenda than a GOP president could have dreamed of achieving. So potent, so overarching, are tribal loyalties in American politics that partisans will support, or at least tolerate, any and all policies their party’s leader endorses – even if those policies are ones they long claimed to loathe.
Obama has continued Bush/Cheney terrorism policies – once viciously denounced by Democrats – of indefinite detention, renditions, secret prisons by proxy, and sweeping secrecy doctrines.
He has gone further than his [Bush] by waging an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, seizing the power to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process far from any battlefield, massively escalating drone attacks in multiple nations, and asserting the authority to unilaterally prosecute a war (in Libya) even in defiance of a Congressional vote against authorising the war.
In short, Obama has executed the Bush Doctrine better than Bush, with few direct complaints from leadership in black America, or from the traditional left forums like The Black Caucus, MoveOn.org or The Nation magazine. Why?
David Lindoff—a Philadelphia based journalist and author of Marketplace Medicine—wrote in a a 2009 article entitled “Barack Obama: Manchurian Candidate Version 2.0” that:
Almost immediately upon taking office President Obama announced that he was appointing Timothy Geithner, part of the Bush/Cheney financial team, to head up his Treasury Department. This is the same Timothy Geithner who, as head of the New York Federal Reserve, engineered the initial give-away of $85 billion to AIG, and the subsequent pass-through of tens of billions of dollars to a handful of the nation’s largest banks and investment banks-surely the largest theft of public assets by private billionaires in the history of mankind. Obama went on to name a whole gang of Wall Street crooks to run his economic policy, assuring that the recession would be not an opportunity to restore long neglected and undermined New Deal programs, but rather to crush workers and the middle class while shifting staggering sums to the wealthy.
Not all African-Americans, or lefties of whatever color, have remained silent while Obama panders to the anti-black, ridiculously-rich and super-powerful. Chris Hedges—one of Obama’s most vocal critics and truth-tellers—continues on exposing the President’s betrayals in an article after article published at Truthdig and elsewhere. A most recent piece entitled “The Rev. Jeremiah Wright Recalls Obama’s Fall From Grace,” finds Hedges saying that “Dr. King’s Vision is Grotesquely Deformed in Obama’s Hands.” In the article, Hedges went on to criticize Obama’s moral bankruptcy by saying:
Barack Obama’s politically expedient decision to betray and abandon his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, exposed his cowardice and moral bankruptcy. In that moment, playing the part of Judas, he surrendered the last shreds of his integrity. He became nothing more than a pawn of power, or as Cornel West says, “a black mascot for Wall Street.” Obama, once the glitter of power fades, will have to grapple with the fact that he was a traitor not only to his pastor, the man who married him and Michelle, who baptized his children and who kept him spiritually and morally grounded, but to himself. Wright retains what is most precious in life and what Obama has squandered—his soul.
Ever still, the polls do not lie, with Polito reporting just days ago that while Obama’s popularity is slipping with black America, he still rides high as “86 percent of black voters say that they view the president at least ‘somewhat favorably.’”