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Obama-Clinton: Siamese Twins of Reaction

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Language is corruptive, giving legitimacy to present-day power relations, screening out critical meaning and analysis as fortifying existing power. Thus, liberalism, already in the 18th century code for a propertied-society valuing exclusive appropriation of wealth is stretched in 21st century America into a Cold War mental set that sanctions capitalism down the line, its militaristic underpinnings of survival and growth, and the commodification of the individual, socially regimented to represent the integration of patriotism and consumerism. From the standpoint of human freedom, there is little to choose between it and its supposed antithesis, conservatism. Both, as practiced in the US, lead to alienation and war, one needful of the other to stomach the national aspiration of global hegemony.

What brings on this seeming tirade? Simply, the hollowness and moral emptiness of the present Administration, which, by default, allows its presumed opposite to have credence, gain support, and participate, as a joint-partner, in the stimulation of false consciousness leading to an unqualified acceptance of capitalism in its true complexion as the systemic historical vehicle for inequality, expansion, aggression, reproducing within the society the features projected onto the world: a regimentation of sameness in thought and practice, an ideology of greed and selfishness interlaced with mistrust of Others, a compulsion to barbaric acts when viewed as the advancement of self-interest.

Obama’s recent seeming concessions to environmentalism, as though cleansing his bloody hands of armed drone targeted assassination, is a case in point: policy is unitary, setting aside national monuments not offsetting the nuclear modernization of America’s destructive force, its engagement in regime change, its mounting of global paramilitary and related operations, its drive—despite reports of national income gains—to increase/intensify wealth-differentiation, and with it, the basis of status, power, and ideological acceptance, all leaving not-so-pristine forests and lakes and atmosphere, sullied by the stench of war crimes, domestic hardship, a people of bitterness disguised as superiority.

But why single out liberals (for our purposes here, Democrats) when a presumed greater menace lies on the horizon, or rather, is conspicuously present: Trump and Republicans? I revert to the 1940s, a more straight-talking time, when words had their designated meaning. Confronted with The Donald, we would have characterized him as a political douchebag, dumb in all things save wealth acquisition, and on that score, beneath contempt for chasing the dollar as a private God, warmed-over fakery his stock-in-trade, altogether detestable were the society not already in conformity with his self-image. But it is, or is becoming so; and here we see the convergence of the Obama-Clinton and Trump syndromes, slightly alternative paths to the same destination: contemptuous of all that does not serve wealth and wealth-making.

The world’s people are so many inanimate integers to be plotted, victimized, abandoned when it suits, herded into settings and situations where profits can be extracted from them, looked down on and condemned so that they become habituated to subordination, a procession fed into the maw of capitalism. Could Putin and Xi possibly be any worse, either to their own people or the larger world? In fact, Putin and Xi are vital to American interests, inducing a patriotic response to any who might dissent from America’s hegemonic claims. Invoke the devil, to silence the worthy. Democrats and Republicans alike are skilled practitioners in red-baiting, and with rare exceptions, like the New Deal, always have been (with Wilsonian liberalism leading the charge in modern times). This is to say, Obama-Clinton, by articulating so well and so subtly the Right, legitimate Trump, who might, given substantive alternatives, stand out instead as the Clown Prince of Native Fascism. He doesn’t, because they, too, are playing on the same court, giving him ample wiggle-room to score at will.

Obama-Clinton extends the range of Reactionary politics, society, and governance, and makes them respectable, Trump merely polishing the rough edges. We await the verdict, not with trepidation, however, but with disgust. Anyone who can see light between the two candidates is a better observer than I—and parenthetically, I still want, for the sake of consistency and conscience, to see more done with foreign policy from the third parties. This is no time to be single-factored in agitation and presentation of an agenda. If policy is unitary, for all sides, issues are interrelated. One cannot speak on behalf of the environment, and simultaneously fail to make distinctions on the international scene. I realize this is unpopular to say, but Putin is not Obama-Clinton, and does not merit the demonization presently accorded him to make the American Left appear more patriotic. And even if he were equally reprehensible (a good 1940s word, like douchebag), America has its own problems to straighten out and rectify.

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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