Of all the stuff that tickled my funny bone this election season, complaints from the Right that Obama “campaigned as a moderate” in 2008 and then revealed some sort of “hard-Left agenda” are perhaps the most gut-bustingly funny of all.
Yeah, Obama’s imposing a regular Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution on the country, all right. Continuation of the Bush version of TARP, doubling down on the war in Afghanistan, a scorched earth battle to defend Bush-era war criminals from their rightful punishment, new claims of plenary Executive power … His most “progressive” innovation is a national version of Romneycare (you can almost hear the insurance CEOs crying “Please don’t fling me in that briar patch!”).
Obama’s an even more dedicated managerial centrist than he let on during the campaign. He was entirely truthful when he called himself a moderate. The real lie is the ideology of moderation itself.
Obama lied when he said, “There is not a rich America, and a poor America … We are one nation, one people.”
No, we’re not. As Howard Zinn said, the U.S. political leadership talks as if there was some single “national interest” that “applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.” But it’s a lie.
I don’t belong to the same people as the rentier classes who make their money off of other people’s labor through political capitalism.
I don’t belong to the same nation as Bill Gates, living off monopoly rents on his so-called “intellectual property.” I don’t share a common “national interest” with the Copyright Nazis at the RIAA and MPAA.
The same goes for the bankers who collect interest on money they created from thin air, the military contractors who profit from selling instruments of murder to the wicked, or the Fortune 500 CEOs who downsize their workforces and then give themselves bonuses.
The slave-owner and the slave don’t belong to the same “American Club,” or share the same interest, just because they both happened to be born between the Rio Grande and the 49th parallel.
The Iraqi worker is my fellow countryman. The American plutocrat is my enemy.
The notion that Obama is “hard-Left” is utterly laughable. There is no Left in mainstream American politics. Nancy Pelosi’s husband is an investment banker. Joe Biden was the Senator from MBNA, and now he’s the Vice President from the MPAA.
The genuine American Left was virtually destroyed, as a major political force during Woodrow Wilson’s War Hysteria and Red Scare. Since then, popular anger has been effectively distorted and channeled by the myth of America as a “middle class country” with a common “national interest.”
A lot of people are hurting and angry after forty years of stagnant pay and a decade of chronic underemployment. Karl Rove politics has been devilishly effective at directing that anger toward targets of opportunity like “illegal aliens,” gay marriage, abortion, and ACORN. As Chris Hedges said at Truthdig (“The Phantom Left,”), the Tea Partiers
can use hatred as a mobilizing force because there are tens of millions of Americans who have very good reason to hate. They have been betrayed by the elite who run the corporate state, by the two main political parties and by the liberal apologists … who keep counseling moderation as jobs disappear, wages drop and unemployment insurance runs out. As long as the liberal class speaks in the dead voice of moderation it will continue to fuel the right-wing backlash …
Where Hedges goes wrong is in believing that a genuine Left can achieve anything by participating in mainstream politics, or that those controlling the state will ever speak in anything but “the dead voice of moderation.” There has never been a time when the so-called “Left” party in our two-party system represented a genuine alternative to the ruling class. Always, at all times, it has represented the “liberal” wing of the ruling class. The state, by its nature, cannot be controlled by a majority. It’s an instrument for extraction of wealth from the producing majority by a ruling class.
The phenomena Hedges points to are, if anything, an indictment of the ineffectiveness of political action.
I have no quarrel with those who think they can achieve something, however miniscule, by voting for the lesser evil. But as Zinn said, once you finish that two-minute act it comes back to the stuff that can make a genuine difference: Building a new society by our own efforts and choices, outside the political process, without waiting for permission from the state or from political parties.