Post election waves of hope and exhilaration are hard to deny in the progressive circles of America. An end to eight years of the Worst rule the country has arguably ever seen is certainly cause for celebration. But how much? Friend and colleague, Professor Robert Abele, cautions on Obama: The Great Disappointment that may yet unfold. As we’re reminded, Cornell West, the philosopher from Princeton, said it best: “I will vote for Obama on November 4, and then be his harshest critic on November 5.” Let us all pay close attention to the real struggles that lie ahead. Let us be hopeful and vigilant. See more from Abele, including his radio commentaries, at his Modern Day Patriot website, Spotlight on Freedom.
Progressives, Beware of Premature Euphoria
By Dr. Robert Abele
Cornell West, the philosopher from Princeton, said it best: “I will vote for Obama on November 4, and then be his harshest critic on November 5.” I follow that line of reasoning. One should never give a pass to the President or President-elect, especially when they are poised to spurn half of the voters who voted for him. This is the case with the Obama presidency, for the following reasons.
First, these commentaries have previously made references to Obama’s deep corporate connections. His votes on the bailout, opposition to single-payer health care, increase of the military budget, and opposition to significant minimum wage increase are all in line with his corporate sponsors, from whom he has taken millions of dollars in campaign contributions. If that is not enough, consider his main economic advisors, Penny Pritzker and Robert Rubin. Pritzker was deeply involved in the fraudulent lending schemes that led to the home foreclosure crisis we now face. The bank she owned and operated, Superior Bank, engaged in deceptive and faulty lending practices, contributing to the crisis. When federal regulators closed the bank in 2002, Pritzker and her husband had already made millions from it. After threats to take them to court, the Pritzkers agreed to pay the government $460 million. Robert Rubin was Treasure Secretary under President Clinton, and was a fervent supporter of banking and market deregulation, including Clinton’s ultimate repealing of the Glass-Steagall Act, which paved the way for the crisis we are now experiencing.
Next, let us briefly examine his appointment of Rahm Israel Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. Emanuel is a right-wing Democrat, a former Clinton official, who was and is a rabid militaristic supporter of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. He is also quite adept at raising special interest money. Add to this Obama’s voting record on Israel. For example, while Israel was engaged in an all-out assault of the civilian population in Lebanon during the summer of 2006, Obama voted in favor of a Senate resolution expressing “steadfast support for the State of Israel.” When coupled with his fawning speech earlier this year to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one can see that not only will there be no change from the Bush Mideast policy, but Obama may well be to the right of Bush on the Palestinian question. This leads to the next issue.
Third, don’t expect a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq under an Obama administration. Obama’s call for a “residual force” to remain in Iraq leaves him the wiggle room necessary to keep troops there indefinitely. Obama himself said that we have to keep “logistical and intelligence support” in Iraq, in addition to “providing training for the Iraqi military,” in addition to keeping a “counter-terrorism strike force” there, in addition to “protecting our diplomatic forces,” our civilians, and our embassy there. These are all direct quotes from Obama himself, so don’t expect us to suddenly back out of Iraq. [The quotes come from an interview with Stars & Stripes, taken from Frank J. Menetrez, “Now What?” Counterpunch, November 6, 2008]
Fourth, out of Obama’s own mouth has come the following ideas: bombing or invading Pakistan to go after Al Qaeda; expanding the war in Afghanistan; condemning Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as an enemy of the U.S.; keeping Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense; opposing Bush’s impeachment. This list could be expanded far beyond what I’ve just mentioned, if time permitted.
Let’s be clear about this, before becoming too disappointed: Obama is no liberal, and definitely not a revolutionary. While in some areas he might be better than Bush and McCain, it is dubious that his presidency is going to differ that much from the Bush policies, at least when it comes to economic and foreign policy. We might expect more of him in other areas, but given the people with whom he has already surrounded himself, progressives should be prepared for further disappointments to come.
Time will tell. We should celebrate the end of an era, but the public voice should now have more of a say about where we are going as a people domestically as well as in a global context. We owe it to the world and the next generation of Americans to right our many past wrongs. Let’s hope Obama meant some of what he said, though early signs of what he’ll do tell another tale.