by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Only fools should feel sorry for Obama as he prepares for a Republican-led House and weakened Democratic control of the Senate. This is Obama’s “comfort zone,” where he can continue to woo Republicans to join his grand center-right coalition. The only people Obama has no tolerance for are liberalish Democrats, who will emerge relatively stronger in the new Congress thanks to the decimation of Obama’s Republican-Lite friends in conservative Democratic ranks. By freezing federal wages, Obama signals that he has no philosophical problems with the GOP’s general aims.
Obama Moves Effortlessly to the Right
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Obama rushed to align himself with what he anticipates will be the ‘new’ center, following the GOP’s mid-term gains.”
True to his center-right DNA, President Obama surrendered critical political ground to the GOP even as the lame duck Democratic Congress remains in session. In declaring a two-year pay freeze for federal workers (who are disproportionately African American), Obama endorses two central corporate axioms: that too-high worker pay and benefits is what’s wrong with the American economy, and that federal spending is a drain on economic growth. Once one accepts these core rightist assumptions, there is nothing to stop the spiraling wage “race to the bottom,” as AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka points out, and no remaining rationale for meaningful public intervention in the total corporatization of American life. Obama has, essentially, dismantled any principled opposition to Republican dogma. It has for some time been apparent that this is the president’s primary political mission.
With unseemly haste, Obama rushed to align himself with what he anticipates will be the “new” center, following the GOP’s mid-term gains – but he would have gotten to the same political place, anyway, as soon as the new Congress convened in January. The truth is, with his pay freeze shuffle, Obama surrendered nothing dear to himself to the GOP since he is a true-believer in the rule of capital, having transferred more of it to Wall Street – $12 to $14 trillion – than anyone else in history.
“Obama has, essentially, dismantled any principled opposition to Republican dogma.”
The president enjoys cuddling with the putative opposition, just as he did in his first months in office when he packed White House health care events with Republicans and corporate CEOs, while banishing leftish Democrats from the premises. This is Obama’s comfort zone, his element, the political space where he might actually be the most “progressive” person in the room, by some minute calibration. And even if he is not, many folks will assume he is, based on his skin color – the corporate president’s perfect camouflage.
Republicans cuddled back, affectionately, at news of Obama’s freeze. “We are pleased that President Obama appears ready to join our efforts,” said incoming House majority leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia.
On Tuesday, Obama’s Frankenstein, the budget deficit reduction commission – a monstrosity he invented on his own volition, under no pressure whatsoever from his own party and relatively little from the GOP minority – emerged from solemn conclave to announce all 18 members will vote on a “final product” on Friday, December 3. Democratic co-chair Erskine Bowles, a rich former investment banker from North Carolina, and his Republican counterpart Alan Simpson, the troglodyte former Wyoming senator, had earlier released their own, shared vision of a low corporate tax rate, barely existing safety net future. The irascible Simpson predicted that progressives will react badly when they see the end result: "We will listen now in the next few days to the same old crap I've been dealing with all my public life: emotion, fear, guilt and racism." He means that people will be calling him, accurately, a hardhearted, racist bastard.
“Obama values the Simpsons of the world for making his own corporate politics look enlightened by comparison.”
Simpson need not worry. Obama, who scoffs at the very idea of white guilt and specializes in assuring racists that they can hold their heads high with no apologies, has Simpson’s back. Obama values the Simpsons of the world for making his own corporate politics look enlightened by comparison. Therefore, Obama will speak warmly of Simpson, the man who called Social Security “a milk cow with 310 million tits,” and then choose a position substantially to the left of the Utah Neanderthal – but way to the right of most of the Democratic Party and its remaining members of Congress.
Although reduced to a minority, House Democrats are a dramatically more progressive group than before November 2. The good ole boys of the Blue Dog Caucus lost half their members, while one-third of the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council’s “New Democrats” – Obama’s nearest soul-mates – are gone. In contrast, less than a handful of Progressive Caucus members lost their seats. This is very bad chemistry for Obama, who has always regarded the Democratic “left” as his main adversaries, the people that might, at least theoretically, trip up his steady, stylized dance to the right by insisting on such nonsense as “public options” for health insurance or – heaven forbid! – defunding America’s wars.
Thinks tanks associated with “progressive” Democratic politics recently produced two budget counterproposals (see here and here) that are reminiscent of the Progressive Congressional Caucus’s budget-conjuring exercises of years ago. These alternative budgets cannot be pleasing to President Obama, since they are direct challenges to his deficit commission’s devilish machinations – and his own.
“Congressional Democrats have the potential to embarrass and unmask Obama as he seeks an ever-rightward consensus with the GOP.”
With the decimation of his like-minded Republican-Lite Blue Dogs and New Democrats, Obama will be forced in the next Congress to collaborate even more openly with Republicans if he is to continue to prop up Wall Street and sustain the American imperial offensive in the world, his primary concerns. Congressional Democrats have the potential to embarrass and unmask Obama as he seeks an ever-rightward consensus with the GOP. Judging by his behavior in the health care battle – which was entirely a clash between the right and left wings of the Democratic Party, with Obama leading the right – the president can be expected to act mercilessly to break the back of any movement to assert progressive principles in the House, or among “the base.” As usual, Obama can be depended on to move decisively against his fellow Democrats, even as he bares his neck to Republicans who have declared their intention to bury him.
In the midst of such brazen betrayals and deceits, Obama will call urgently on Blacks in and out of Congress to circle their wagons around him – to, in effect, join in his pact with the devil by becoming conservative Democrats, for the sake of the First Black Presidency.
During the presidential campaign, we at BAR warned that Obama was too heavy a burden for Black folks to carry. He has methodically fouled his own political nest, and demands that Black America – the people he told us did not exist, in 2004 – sacrifice its historical principles and proud progressive legacy, for his sake.
Let him march to hell on his own; he has plenty of friends there.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.