Obama’s First Visit To The White House Since His Presidency Was Celebrated By The Neoliberal Establishment.
But His True Legacy Should Not Be Forgotten.
On April 5th, Barack Obama visited the White House to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Democratic Party loyalists expressed great enthusiasm for Obama’s return to the White House over social media. Congressional Democrats flocked around the former President and took full advantage of the photo opportunity. President Joe Biden also used the occasion to announce an Executive Order that will allow about 200,000 people to gain access to the ACA marketplace beginning in 2023. An atmosphere of confidence surrounded the White House despite Biden’s recent polling numbers which suggest that the Democrats find themselves mired in a crisis of legitimacy.
That Obama’s popularity remains high is a reminder of the Democratic Party’s role as the more effective evil of imperialism. Under Obama, endless austerity and war reigned supreme. Some notable achievements of the “first Black President” include:
- The transfer of trillions of public wealth into private hands via the bail out of Wall Street.
- The bombing and destruction of Libya in 2011, the most prosperous African country at the time.
- A world historic refugee crisis that was precipitated by U.S. wars on Syria, Somalia, and across the Middle East and North Africa.
- The mass privatization of public education through Obama’s DOE policy, Race to the Top.
- The Affordable Care Act, which provided public subsidies for the very private health insurance monopolies that created the healthcare crisis in the United States.
- The failure of Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) to use its powers under the Fair Sentencing Act to release thousands of prisoners convicted under racist War on Drug policies.
- The creation and enforcement of a “Kill List” which unilaterally targeted Muslims for assassination and drone strike, including U.S. citizens.
- The expansion of the surveillance state to include the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the military and the unprecedented prosecution of whistleblowers.
- The deportation of 2.5 million undocumented people also known as “immigrants.”
- The reckless military encirclement of Russia and China, a policy that threatens to bring about a World War III scenario currently taking shape under Joe Biden.
This just scratches the surface of what the Obama era wrought on the people and the planet. In 2016, I wrote a ten-part series that expounds upon Obama’s policies and their significance to the class struggle. Part ten of the series concluded that Obama was a weapon of counterinsurgency wielded by the ruling class to neutralize the most left-leaning section of the U.S. population: Black America. Black politics moved furthest to the right than at any other point in history. Anti-war activists abandoned the peace movement and the entire left was consumed by a state of Obama-mania which has yet to recede fully.
I don’t care that Obama stole the show at the White House from Biden.
I care that he stole the lives of millions in Yemen, Palestine, Libya, Detroit, Honduras, Ukraine, and Syria via endless war and austerity.
— Danny Haiphong (@SpiritofHo) April 6, 2022
This is evidenced by the fact that Biden and the Democrats continue to escape mass protest for their ongoing role in expanding the deportation, military, and policing regimes. Austerity and endless war are rarely attributed to Joe Biden despite his decades-long career in facilitating the immiseration of the working class. However, the political landscape isn’t completely hopeless. Under Obama, Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter arose out of the disillusionment created by the Democratic Party administration. Biden’s plummeting public approval rating, the rise of organized labor, and the U.S.’s self-imposed isolation on the global stage presents positive and legitimate threats to the empire’s hegemony.
Democratic Party regimes have politicized countless millions about the realities of the U.S. empire, including myself. The eradication of welfare, the enormous expansion of mass incarceration, and the whitewashing of U.S. militarism were staples of the Clinton era. The deregulation of Wall Street plunged my family into enormous debt. My father refinanced our childhood home twice to help pay it off only to watch his children take on enormous student loan debt. Clinton’s War on Drugs relegated a number of my Black peers to a criminalized and impoverished existence.
Still, many in the liberal and left-leaning working class believed their lives were better off under Bill Clinton’s rule. People were propagandized to believe that the U.S. was a more peaceful and prosperous place even as the Democrats were building a bipartisan machinery of endless war and austerity. Obama only worsened the situation. The Democrats under Obama were able to expand the imperialist regime of exploitation and war to lengths that the GOP could only have dreamt of at the time. Only Obama could bomb an African country amid the Occupy Wall Street uprisings and escape without significant consequences to his reputation or legitimacy.
It was in this moment that I realized that the Democratic Party was the more effective evil of the U.S. imperialist system. It was a lonely period, one where the Left was more likely to defend Obama than oppose wars or attribute the ongoing decline in living standards to his administration. But Joe Biden’s flailing administration is pregnant with possibilities and challenges. Mass support for progressive, socialist-ish policies like Medicare for All exists alongside a hesitation among large sections of the Left to confront Joe Biden head on. Biden’s escalations with Russia threaten a global conflagration and have done little to increase confidence in his administration.
Joe Biden is merely a placeholder presidency. He was chosen by the elite to eradicate the threat of Bernie Sanders-style reform and give the Democrats time to find a suitable corporate candidate. Biden possesses neither Obama’s capacity to lie to the people nor the protection that the reputation of being the “first Black President” affords. In many ways, Obama’s presidency was the last gasp of U.S. imperialism from the standpoint of public relations.
Obama’s appearance at the White House further reminds us that nothing will change until self-described leftists confront the Democratic Party’s role as the more effective servant of imperialism and corporate power. The Biden era offers an opportunity to do just that. But for any movement to be successful, leftists will need to build an army of politically educated revolutionaries willing to face down the demons spawned under 8-years of Obama-mania. The first commitment of a revolutionary is to the truth. This means that exposing Obama’s true legacy and how it has brought humanity to its current moment of crisis is one of our central tasks in the struggle against the bipartisan consensus on war and austerity spearheaded by the Biden administration.