Chavez Succeeded Where Obama Failed

by SHAMUS COOKE

When President Obama campaigned in 2008 in Portland, Oregon over 70,000 people came to hear his speech. And although I missed the event, I was intrigued by the raw emotion that the candidate’s words inspired in my community. Obama re-visited Oregon during his 2012 campaign, but the inspiration had faded from his voice, and the audience had drastically changed. The Oregonian explains:

“The Obama campaign said about 950 tickets, costing $500 to $1,000 were sold for the main fundraiser at the Oregon Convention Center. The president also spoke, out of view of the press, to about 25 donors who bought $30,000 tickets.”

The late President Chavez, on the other hand, steadily increased the crowds of people who came to hear him speak, year after year, election after election, rally after rally. The secret? Whereas President Obama could only speak about “hope” and “change,” President Chavez actually delivered.

It was this delivery that earned Chavez the hatred of both Bush Jr. and Obama. Chavez humiliated Bush Jr. by surviving the U.S.-sponsored military coup against him and humiliated the entire U.S. media by winning election after election by large margins, elections that former President Jimmy Carter said were the fairest in the world. Meanwhile, the U.S. media tied itself into knots trying to explain how a “would be dictator” easily won elections that nobody disputed.

Chavez won elections because he was loved by the working and poor people of Venezuela. Chavez was loved by his people because he was a politician like none they had ever experienced. He was “their” politician, and he loved them.

And one doesn’t become the official politician of working people, the poor and downtrodden in an extremely poor country by using fancy words. Chavez backed up his big talk time after time, consistently overcoming barriers erected by the wealthy by taking bold action that benefited the majority of Venezuelans. Their hope in him was repeatedly renewed by action.

Inequality shrank under Chavez, poverty was dramatically reduced, education and health care improved, and illiteracy was eliminated. When the economy reeled from the 2008 global crisis, Chavez didn’t bail out the banks and pander to the wealthy, but increased social spending for the most vulnerable. When cataclysmic landslides threw hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans into homelessness, Chavez housed them all.

President Obama has nearly the exact opposite track record. The big banks remain the big winners in the Obama Administration, having been bailed out and then given an endless supply of cheap money via the Federal Reserve that has boosted their profits. All of this takes place while the job crisis grinds on for working people, creating an endless supply of austerity budgets on the city, state, and national level. When new jobs become available they are below a living wage.

Although Obama’s speeches are masterful renditions of a watered-down Chavez speech, the action component of the English version was always left un-translated.

Whereas Chavez confronted the wealthy and corporations, Obama succumbed to them. Ultimately, these are their respective legacies. Obama, via action, has chosen a path in support of his corporate sponsors, whereas Chavez’s path went in the opposite direction — a much rockier, conflict-laden path, made all the more difficult by U.S. foreign policy in support of Venezuela’s anti-Chavez top 1%. Above all, Chavez insured that the oil wealth of his country did not stay in the hands of Venezuela’s oligarchy, which had previously kept a tight grip on it. Chavez used it to raise millions of Venezuelans out of poverty.

Chavez’s legacy will live and breathe in those who will continue his fight for a better world, still inspired by his words and actions. Obama’s legacy, however, was stillborn after the 2008 elections, with “hope” never delivered alongside “change” never attempted.

Obama’s 2008 campaign slogans now only inspire feelings of betrayal to those who believed in him, while the corporations and wealthy will celebrate Obama’s legacy, a tribute to his pro-corporate policies. In the final analysis, Chavez will be remembered for boldly taking action against the same inhuman inequality that is growing in most countries in the world. In so doing, Chavez earned the hatred of the elite who benefit from this system-wide inequality, while the rest of us on the bottom of the inequality-spectrum owe him our appreciation, since Chavez’s fight was our fight too.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)  He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”