FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s Rightward Lurch

by GREGORY KAFOURY

Barack Obama arrived on the political scene with a smile as beautiful as salvation itself, like a visitor from an idealized future, one where the races have combined to a golden hue, sent here to show us the way.  Of course people fell in love with him.  Yet now we see Obama drawn into the great room where the Democratic/Corporate establishment dwells, and the door is slowly closing behind him.  This is not how it was supposed to be.

Obama has just opted out of public financing, the first presidential candidate to do so since 1972.  NewsHour’s Mark Shields, keeper of the flame for all that is good in the Democratic Party, called it “a flip-flop of epic proportions,” noting that Obama’s argument about a GOP financial advantage was “bogus.”  Shields even said it raised issues of Obama’s “character.” The New York Times editorialized that 2008 may now be “the year public financing died.”  In seizing a tactical advantage, Obama has handed an enormous strategic victory to corporate power.

Many progressives will argue that Obama, having raised huge amounts from small contributors, is akin to getting public financing, which liberates the candidate from dependence on corporate support.  Yet just the opposite is happening.  In the three weeks since Hillary Clinton fell upon her sword, Obama has lurched far to the right.  Consider:

– Obama announced a new financial team of supply-side economists led by Jason Furman, famous for declaring that it would be “damaging to working people” if Wal-Mart were to raise its wages and benefits.  Obama had recently criticized Clinton for serving on the Wal-Mart board, declaring, “I won’t shop there.”  In the Audacity of Hope, he sympathized with “Wal-Mart associates who hold their breath every single month in the hope they’ll have enough money to support their children.”

-When questioned in a Fortune interview about his promise to renegotiate NAFTA to protect workers and the environment, Obama replied, “Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified.”

– In a close congressional primary race in Georgia, Obama endorsed a troglodyte incumbent – a “Bush enabler” – over an exemplary progressive insurgent.

– In a speech to the Israeli lobby, he moved to the right of Israel’s government by ruling out negotiations with Hamas.  A day earlier, Obama had told Cuban exile groups that he would only sit down with Raul Castro if the exiles had a seat at the table, a precondition that Cuba will never agree to.

– Obama refused to criticize recent Israeli war maneuvers and accompanying threats to launch massive air attacks on Iran.  He failed to even urge restraint.

– Just as a move was growing in the Senate to strip the House-passed Telecom bill of its immunity provisions, Obama declared his support for the House version.  Obama’s opposition to immunity had been our best hope to learn whose phones and emails had been wiretapped by the Bush administration, and to punish those Telecom companies that assisted this massive criminal enterprise.

Is he lost to us?  Was he ever ours to lose?

Progressives were all too eager to overlook the warning signs in Obama’s brief career, his support for the Patriot Act, for nuclear power, his vote against limiting credit card interest to 30%, his calls for increased defense spending, and his equivocation on full withdrawal from Iraq.  These decisions were mere matters of political expediency, we were assured, not to be taken seriously.

Yet how can political expediency explain Obama’s retreat on NAFTA?  Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are all in play – how many of those voters have been broken on the wheel of NAFTA?  Those who contend that the real Obama will suddenly emerge after the election to overturn an imperial foreign policy and to bring justice to the home front, might be advised not to hold their breath.

Obama desperately needs pressure from the left, and he is amenable to pressure.  Once we on the left agree that this analysis is correct, then we must choose the correct strategy.

So far, blind support of Obama has yielded the same kind of benefits that we got from John Kerry.  With the united left in his pocket, Kerry went from a declared “anti-war” candidate to a thoroughly hawkish one, berating Bush for wimping out in the face of massive civilian casualties in Falluja, and promising to win the Iraq war.  Unconditional support for the Democratic nominee is unconditional surrender, with all the utter powerlessness that the terms imply.

As one alternative, we can complain, write and blog, for all these have their place.  But we are all too good at talking to ourselves, and disparate efforts without a focus are all too easily dismissed.

We must consider support for Ralph Nader’s campaign.  Nader has been as high as six percent in recent national polls, something he has achieved with only modest support from left intellectuals, and virtually no recognition by corporate media.

Yet Google has announced its intent to hold at least one presidential debate, and has set the bar at 10% support.  It is hard to imagine Obama or McCain snubbing Google, and the prospect of such a debate carries more promise than anything the left has seen in recent memory.

For those who claim that Nader can only hurt Obama, I suggest the opposite is true.  Gore and Kerry were both doomed by the accurate perception that they were corporate to the core.  People knew in their gut that these guys were not on their side.  (In 2004, Kerry fled from a living wage initiative in Florida; it passed nearly three to one.)  It must also be remembered that in 2000, when Nader was at 5%, a full 15% believed he was the best candidate.  More importantly, Nader’s positions are not just majoritarian ones, most enjoy overwhelming public support.  Full military and corporate withdrawal from Iraq, major reductions in the defense budget, a crackdown on corporate crime, single-payer health care, massive investment in renewable energy and conservation, a living wage – these would provide a platform that would send Obama to a historic victory, and all are available for the taking.

Those who insist we must work only within the Democratic Party have clearly failed to hold Obama to his promise.  We must get outside the box.  Obama needs a great big push, and we are the only ones who can give it to him.

GREGORY KAFOURY is a trial lawyer and political activist in Portland, Oregon.  He can be reached at kafoury@kafourymcdougal.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
Leslie Scott
Trump in the Middle East: New Ideas, Old Politics
George Wuerthner
Environmental Groups as Climate Deniers
Pauline Murphy
The Irish Dead: Fighting Fascism in Spain, 1937
Brian Trautman
Veterans on the March
Eric Sommer
Trumps Attack on Social Spending Escalates Long-term Massive Robbery of American Work
Binoy Kampmark
Twenty-Seven Hours: Donald Trump in Israel
Christian Hillegas
Trump’s Islamophobia: the Persistence of Orientalism in Western Rhetoric and Media
Michael J. Sainato
Russiagate: Clintonites Spread the Weiner Conspiracy
Walter Clemens
What the President Could Learn from Our Shih-Tzu Eddie
May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail