by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
President Obama has nearly consummated his long courtship with the GOP, yet Black and labor leaders continue to pretend that he is a bulwark against austerity. In an even more nightmarish version of Groundhog Day, "the behavior of the Black and labor leadership actors remains the same, as the economic and political landscape crumbles around them.”
Four More Years of Groundhog Days
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Obama is ‘free at last’ from ever again having to depend on African American voters.”
In the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, the Bill Murray character finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. (William Shatner wound up in a similar scenario in Nick of Time, a 1960 Twilight Zone episode.) The endless looping eventually causes Murray to reexamine his life, and set a new course.
After four years of calamity for African Americans, one would think that at least some elements of
the Black Misleadership Class would be threatening, ever so softly, to break the cycle of reflexive subservience to Power in a Black face. Unlike Murray, however, our misleaders show not even a hint of honest introspection, much less genuine self-criticism for having failed to make a single serious demand of the First Black President through two election cycles. The clock has run out on those who purport to be Black power-brokers, now that Obama is “free at last” from ever again having to depend on African American voters.
Organized labor has also shot its wad – and many hundreds of millions of dollars – in servile allegiance to the corporate Democrat who is brimming with confidence “that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I've been offering to the Republicans for a very long time.” Blacks and labor are about to be shoved off the fiscal cliff, possibly in time for Christmas.
Yes, we’ve seen this story before. However, the groundhog days of Obama’s second term will be far more horrific than the cinematic version, because the objective conditions of life in which the story unfolds deteriorate with every passing day. Only the behavior of the Black and labor leadership actors remains the same, as the economic and political landscape crumbles around them. Now, that’s a real nightmare.
“The clock has run out on those who purport to be Black power-brokers.”
As Obama prepares the public for the imminent consummation of his romance with the GOP – a case of incest, since both lovers are spawns of Wall Street – labor is reading the same old script. “We expect to have the president’s back on the agenda that the voters just declared support for,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, as if she had just experienced the election of 2008. “The president has always said he needs a movement behind his mandate.” Apparently, in her world, a “movement” is anything that moves in tandem with the Democratic president, including into bed with the Republicans.
Labor fails to make a distinction between the president’s back and his backside, which is what he has actually been showing to working people for four years. The SEIU announced that it is sending letters to Congress, urging that “any deal” should protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The truth is, most Democrats in Congress could be expected to circle the wagons around these programs – except when their leader in the White House orders otherwise. The SEIU has it ass-backwards, and the outcome is numbingly predictable.
National Urban League President Marc Morial is hoping for a “fair and sensible” plan to get over the fiscal cliff. Morial told US News and World Report “he is worried that the fiscal cliff would disproportionately affect African Americans because budget cuts would likely slash jobs in state and local government. African Americans make up a disproportionately large share of the public sector workforce.” Caught in a groundhog day, Morial cannot remember that President Obama took the initiative to freeze federal workers’ wages in 2010, and extended the freeze in August of this year, despite (or maybe because of) the disproportionate harm done to Black employees.
“Not a word will be uttered in favor of publicly warning Obama not to sell out Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”
“Black Leaders to Discuss Fiscal Cliff,” reads the press release for a forum staged by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and labor’s A. Philip Randolph Institute, in Washington, November 14. The notables “will also discuss tactics to keep their people engaged in the political process so they hold elected officials accountable and increase black voter turnout in the 2014 mid-term election.” You can bet Romney-money that not a word will be uttered in favor of publicly warning Obama not to sell out Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Instead, the notables will pat each other on the back for beating down the Republican electoral challenge to… Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It’s in the script – reality be damned!
In October of 2010, the usual misleadership suspects among Black organizations and labor staged a One Nation rally on the Washington Mall. It was a pep rally for Obama, although his austerity initiative was already well underway, having targeted entitlements for slashing even before taking the oath of office. He followed through with his Deficit Reduction Commission, which recommended draconian cuts, mostly to domestic programs.
Wars had proliferated under Obama’s watch, but there was no complaint from the One Nation speakers, with the exception of Harry Belafonte. As we wrote at the time: “After spending millions to assemble a multitude, Big Labor, the NAACP and the usual Black entertainers - Reverends Sharpton and Jesse Jackson - could not fix their trembling lips to utter one demand to the Power in the White House, whose disfavor they fear even more than they dread the white nationalist hordes of the Tea Party.”
Two months later, Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts. By the summer of 2011, the president was offering the Republicans $4 trillion in cuts: the “grand bargain” that he last week reminded us was essentially what “I've been offering to the Republicans for a very long time.”
Somehow, none of this computes for the Black and labor leadership classes. They are trapped in a loop, oblivious to the rubble that surrounds them as they stumble through the last days before the austerity hammer drops.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].