I get a kick out of many Democrats. Readers would think in reading Barack Obama’s September 7, 2018 speech at the University of Illinois, that all we have to do is go out and vote for Democrats and we’d be on the way to restoring our troubled, but exceptional democracy (“Barack Obama: You need to vote because our democracy depends on it” Guardian, September 8, 2018). What an absolute crock of shit!
The former President states that “democracy has never been easy,” but that “November’s elections are more important than any I can remember in my lifetime.” Then he continues by stating that progress in America has been “fitful… incomplete” and that progress has been achieved by “acts of heroism and dedication by citizens, by ordinary people…”
He follows by serving up a litany of the Republican’s “threats to our democracy” that just about everyone who is not hiding in a fallout shelter already knows. He also castigates young people, who in the last midterm election voted at the rate of “One in five.”
How can the sane parse this exceptionalism-in-trouble narrative? Well, let’s begin with the former President. He completely ignored those in need during the economic debacle (read Great Recession) of 2007-2008. He bailed out the fat cats who have steadily increased their share of wealth in the U.S. and have now been lavished with even greater gifts from the dunce Trump. He left the rest of us to foot the bill and sucked the equity out of the homes of millions of people, a significant number of whom were his staunch supporters and depended on home equity for their financial footing.
Next, look to U.S. militarism for an answer to where the so-called nation’s treasure is being dumped. Obama went along with endless U.S. wars to get along with the power elite. He expanded the war in Afghanistan. Now there’s a lost cause if ever there was one!
In terms of public schooling in the U.S., Obama tried to install a kind of meritocracy among schools by ignoring schools in poor areas and giving a part of the small share of federal funds that go toward public education to those districts capable of mounting competitions for that money that was sort of like the gladiatorial fights of ancient Rome.
Obama was the consummate neoliberal, and when a black professor’s (Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) rights were egregiously violated by police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he had a beer fest at the White House.
And the greatest existential threat of our time, environmental destruction, got short shrift from Democrats. Again, it was tinkering around the edges of disaster.
The former President ends his speech at the the University of Illinois, stating that “Change happens. Hope happens.” “And that can be the legacy of your generation.”
I would like to be as sanguine as the man I voted for for President, but the reality on the ground is that government by the few and the wealthy has been on a long march to oblivion that began with the jettisoning of the values and programs of the New Deal during a Democratic administration (Truman’s) and has accelerated ever since with its worst expressions through the “Great Communicator” Reagan, right up until the white supremacist Trump. It’s no accident that a right-wing, low-functioning clown now occupies the White House and the neoliberals and those with great wealth with a lust for domestic and international violence put us in such extreme jeopardy. It may very well be too late to salvage anything like the quaint democracy that Obama invoked in Illinois. Those who pull the strings won’t let a socialist or social democrat past the threshold.