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Absorptive Treachery, 2014

Obama and the Left

by NORMAN POLLACK

New Year’s Day, Michael Moore grudgingly, in a New York Times op-ed, finds something positive in Obamacare—not good enough, when comprehensive political-economic condemnation is in order. Liberals-progressives-radicals(?), toss out your rose-colored glasses—Obama and the Democrats are complicit in war crimes and domestic spying, indeed, more than complicit, they have valid creds as authors and/or enablers of a Reactionary Posture nudging America further toward fascism, if by that we mean, among other things, a corporatism so complete as to leave America an hierarchical framework of drastic wealth-inequality, military-incentivized, ideological-driven, all to the point of the globalization of American hegemony. Stukas and half-tracks, concentration camps and gas chambers, monster parades, these represent old-style fascism, and are no longer needed to accomplish the same results of societal conformity and, ultimately, thought control, all on behalf of a voracious capitalism never certain of absolute security.

In this light, Obama is the super-salesman promoting acquiescence in a permanent status quo, whereby the essence of democracy, the PUBLIC realm, is steadily encroached upon, falling under the domain of privatization in Alice-in-Wonderland fashion of regulation signifying its opposite, wealth-concentration on one hand, a truncated social safety net on the other. One need not be a socialist to recognize that capitalism, on Obama’s watch, is being emptied of traditional civil liberties and, as witness the New Deal, attempts, still capitalistic, at more equitable wealth-sharing, dramatic programs to assist the unemployed, and quite spectacular improvements of infrastructure, and instead, is transmogrified into the dystopian formation even Marx flinched from contemplating.

And the Left licks the hand of the master con artist, invoking Republican intransigence to rationalize a course hardly different in essentials: war, intervention, perpetuation of class divisions, monopolization, apathy toward societal reconstruction, in sum, the normalization of capitalist senescence, recognized as such, and therefore to be resisted at all costs by a political leadership holding democratization in open despisement as the means of reversing systemic course. Before, if one recalls, it was, “better dead than red,” and now, who knows? The “evil empire” lurks in the shadows—but even that no longer entices or suffices. The US goes its own way, no explanation offered or needed, explanation a sign of weakness and to be avoided. Obama has built up a good head of steam, 2014 promising more unrepentant aggression, more stiffing working people on behalf of a still-more-coiled corporate elite, more double-talk about American greatness, snappy salutes descending Air Force One.

I wish I could greet the New Year on a joyous note, share the optimism that Medea Benjamin and other CP writers—whom I honor for having earned their stripes—have found in recent developments, but as I write I’m suddenly reminded of what Marcuse once warned about, capitalism’s power to absorb its own negativity. Obama is the self-appointed champion of a perpetual-motion machine, churning out victims in never-ending display, whether women and children in far-off drone assassination, or an increasingly dispirited lower stratum of the working class facing the prospects of becoming a new American underclass. It’s time to put away the champagne (those who can afford it) and get serious, beginning with tossing out the rose-colored glasses and recognizing the enemy within.

My New York Times Comment on Michael Moore’s op-ed article, “The Obamacare We Deserve,” Jan. 1, follows:

Obama may have favored single-payer prior to 2004 (then again, his expediency is so obvious, he may have calculated it was popular and could advance him in liberal circles), but from his overall record–ANYTHING for corporations–it is even more obvious where he stands today: a shill for the insurers.

This comports well with an abominable record of targeted assassination, intervention, and, now, the pivot, intended to encircle and confront China. One who has militarism in his DNA is not likely to promote a health-care system which serves the public interest. Public policy is of a whole cloth, a consistency of operation; and here, whether one speaks of massive surveillance or drones or JSOC-CIA paramilitary operations for global counterrevolution, this POTUS is hardly the bringer of glad tidings in the New Year.

Moore should present deeper analysis of interrelated policy choices. I’ve always admired his work, but cherry-picking any possible good out of Obamacare and neglecting the outright slaughter of BOTH single payer and the public option, is not up to snuff.

The issue is a litmus test of liberal-and-progressive conscience–and what passes for the Left in America indeed disappoints. Better the blatant reaction of the Right, so that one knows where one stands, than snake-oil liberalism, itself advancing corporatism and militarism. Obamacare disgraces the memory of FDR and a liberalism that once possessed moral stature, now dumped in the sewer of politics.

Norman Pollack is the author of The Populist Response to Industrial America (Harvard) and The Just Polity (Illinois), The Humane EconomyThe Just Polity, ed. The Populist Mind, and co-ed. with Frank Freidel, Builders of American Institutions. Guggenheim Fellow. Prof. Emeritus, History, Michigan State.  He is currently writing The Fascistization of America: Liberalism, Militarism, Capitalism.  E-mail: pollackn@msu.edu.