Pity The Sad Legacy Of Barack Obama

Print Friendly

Above Photo: ‘Most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand.’

Our hope and change candidate fell short time and time again. Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility

Eight years ago the world was on the brink of a grand celebration: the inauguration of a brilliant and charismatic black president of the United States of America. Today we are on the edge of an abyss: the installation of a mendacious and cathartic white president who will replace him.

This is a depressing decline in the highest office of the most powerful empire in the history of the world. It could easily produce a pervasive cynicism and poisonous nihilism. Is there really any hope for truth and justice in this decadent time? Does America even have the capacity to be honest about itself and come to terms with its self-destructive addiction to money-worship and cowardly xenophobia?

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herman Melville – the two great public intellectuals of 19th-century America – wrestled with similar questions and reached the same conclusion as Heraclitus: character is destiny (“sow a character and you reap a destiny”).

The age of Barack Obama may have been our last chance to break from our neoliberal soulcraft. We are rooted in market-driven brands that shun integrity and profit-driven policies that trump public goods. Our “post-integrity” and “post-truth” world is suffocated by entertaining brands and money-making activities that have little or nothing to do with truth, integrity or the long-term survival of the planet. We are witnessing the postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world.

The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.

A few of us begged and pleaded with Obama to break with the Wall Street priorities and bail out Main Street. But he followed the advice of his “smart” neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street. In March 2009, Obama met with Wall Street leaders. He proclaimed: I stand between you and the pitchforks. I am on your side and I will protect you, he promised them. And not one Wall Street criminal executive went to jail.

We called for the accountability of US torturers of innocent Muslims and the transparency of US drone strikes killing innocent civilians. Obama’s administration told us no civilians had been killed. And then we were told a few had been killed. And then told maybe 65 or so had been killed. Yet when an American civilian, Warren Weinstein, was killed in 2015 there was an immediate press conference with deep apologies and financial compensation. And today we still don’t know how many have had their lives taken away.

We hit the streets again with Black Lives Matter and other groups and went to jail for protesting against police killing black youth. We protested when the Israeli Defense Forces killed more than 2,000 Palestinians (including 550 children) in 50 days. Yet Obama replied with words about the difficult plight of police officers, department investigations (with no police going to jail) and the additional $225m in financial support of the Israeli army. Obama said not a mumbling word about the dead Palestinian children but he did call Baltimore black youth “criminals and thugs”.

In addition, Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones. The top 1% got nearly two-thirds of the income growth in eight years even as child poverty, especially black child poverty, remained astronomical. Labor insurgencies in Wisconsin, Seattle and Chicago (vigorously opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close confidant of Obama) were passed over in silence.

In 2009, Obama called New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg an “outstanding mayor”. Yet he overlooked the fact that more than 4 million people were stopped-and-frisked under Bloomberg’s watch. Along with Carl Dix and others, I sat in a jail two years later for protesting these very same policies that Obama ignored when praising Bloomberg.

Yet the mainstream media and academia failed to highlight these painful truths linked to Obama. Instead, most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand. And most black spokespeople shamelessly defended Obama’s silences and crimes in the name of racial symbolism and their own careerism. How hypocritical to see them now speak truth to white power when most went mute in the face of black power. Their moral authority is weak and their newfound militancy is shallow.

The gross killing of US citizens with no due process after direct orders from Obama was cast aside by neoliberal supporters of all colors. And Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling and other truth-tellers were demonized just as the crimes they exposed were hardly mentioned.

The president’s greatest legislative achievement was to provide healthcare for over 25 million citizens, even as another 20 million are still uncovered. But it remained a market-based policy, created by the conservative Heritage Foundation and first pioneered by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikes unintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch – Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans.

Bernie Sanders gallantly tried to generate a leftwing populism but he was crushed by Clinton and Obama in the unfair Democratic party primaries. So now we find ourselves entering a neofascist era: a neoliberal economy on steroids, a reactionary repressive attitude toward domestic “aliens”, a militaristic cabinet eager for war and in denial of global warming. All the while, we are seeing a wholesale eclipse of truth and integrity in the name of the Trump brand, facilitated by the profit-hungry corporate media.

What a sad legacy for our hope and change candidate – even as we warriors go down swinging in the fading names of truth and justice.

 

  • jemcgloin

    West left out the legalization of assassinating, indefinitely detaining, and aiming propaganda at US citizens, and the creation odd a new agency that b will suck news originations the government deems “fake.” He also expanded the NSA.
    Now he will be turning over all this new executive power against citizens to the Don. I’m sure he will show awesome restraint against his political enemies. Trump loves the Bill of Rights, that Obama just decimated.

  • rgaura

    Amen, brother. And it wasn´t just a few who opposed the wall street bailout. Over 90% of letters and calls to Congress were against it. Democracy? Where?

  • ignasi

    Too many years full of lies,tortures and wars for a Nobel Peace Prize

  • DHFabian

    Funny thing about “hope and change”: People seemed to hear Obama promise rainbows and unicorns. What he promised was to work hard to build an administration that pushed back against the powerful hard right wing while rebuilding the economy (necessary to rebuild the country). Obama came into office at a point when even Republicans admitted that
    the US was on the very brink of economic collapse. Obama pulled the
    country back from the brink. Years of massive job losses were reversed,
    and we saw steady job gains. But the damage to the economy had already
    been done by so many years of appalling policies that are still generally supported by the public.

    As a candidate, Obama had stressed that hope and change isn’t granted by a magic genie. People must work hard for it, especially when faced with such powerful opposition from the right. We cheered and vowed to roll up our shirtsleeves and get to work — and then most promptly sat down and waited for Obama to do his magic.

    Instead of building a movement that is large and united enough to push back, much work was done over the past eight years to more deeply divide us by class and race. The problem wasn’t Obama, but the “masses.” The Clinton right wing continued to dominate Democrats and liberals, essentially turning the past eight years into an ongoing pep rally for middle class elitism BLM! rose up, and quickly added, “…and yours don’t, whitey!” What did anyone think would come of it?

  • DHFabian

    I don’t understand “high finances.” What I do know is that many well-educated people agreed that the bailout was necessary to keep the economy itself from collapsing. The debate over whether the bailout was right or wrong will be ongoing.

    On democracy, we technically have one in that we have a system where people can vote. What we lack since is a legitimately representative for of government.

  • DHFabian

    What part of the Bill of Rights did Obama decimate? Either way, even liberals aren’t that into rights. Consider that since the 1980s, the US stripped our poor of a list of fundamental civil and human rights, and even liberals just shrug.

    “propaganda: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” Yes, and propaganda comes from throughout the political spectrum. It virtually defines political discussion. This is often carried out not by lies, but by simply omitting critical points and aspects of the issues. This is why open discussion and debate is essential, and is so often repressed.

  • DHFabian

    Note to Mr. West: For what it’s worth, we are not as close to the edge of the cliff as we were at the end of Bush. It would take a legitimate People’s movement to save our collective butts, and frankly, I don’t see how that can happen today. We’re more split apart by class and race than we were eight years ago — and that isn’t Obama’s fault.

  • jemcgloin

    It is one thing to acknowledge that propaganda happens, it is another thing to overturn a 60 year old law that makes it illegal for intelligence agencies to aim it at American Citizens. Under previous law, government officials that wanted to lie to the public had to consider being punished under that statute. Now they consider that congress and the president have them permission. It’s not all or nothing, but it’s a lot versus a little. I’m not sure if
    Legalizing indefinite detentions of American Citizens is a weakening of the right to trial by your peers.
    The creation of an agency to judge and attack sources of information are a blatant attack on the first amendment. The Obama administration is basically setting up a “Ministry of Truth” for Trump, whose definition of Truth is quite flexible.
    Before Obama, first the drug war, then the war on “terror” have been used to poke the right against search and siezure full of holes. Obama has expanded surveillance, while they use propaganda to discredit Snowden, while ignoring that he proved this.
    The constitution is slowly being shredded, and as you point out, many liberals don’t seem to care.
    With friends like centrist Democrats, who needs Putin?

  • jemcgloin

    The real problem is that they bailed out the banks not the People. If the $750 billion that was handed over to the bankers that wrecked the economy was divided equally among 300 million citizens, it comes to about $2,500, or $10,000 for a family of four. Many people could have caught up on their mortgage payments, car loans, student debt, credit cards, etc, saving homes, etc, and the money still would have flowed to the banks as payments.
    People that didn’t pay off debt could have started small businesses or just gone shopping, increasing demand and growing the economy. For the poor people you advocate for even $2,500 is a lot of money.
    If you include the the approximately $2.5 trillion net profit to global banks under the Fed’s Quantitative Easing programs, it averages to about $40,000 per family, almost the median pay for a year. How many homes would that save? Instead of buying worthless mortgage backed securities from global banks we could have added value to those securities, by saving the underlying mortgages.
    If you hear economists talking about dropping money from helicopters, this is what they are talking about, giving everyone a share instead of a few politically connected corporations.
    Even the growth in the money supply should be given to citizens each year. It the days of the internet, there is no reason to distributor ur through global banks.

  • jemcgloin

    Obama dismantled the organization that got him elected. He did not continue to fire up his base by communicating to us directly as Trump is doing with his base. He did not use the crisis to make major changes in how things are done. He cozied up to the global bankers, put Goldman Sachs in charge of Treasury (just like Clinton, Bush, and Trump), bailed out the banks but not homeowners (See my comment below), made excuses for bankers keeping their bonuses, passed Gingrich Care, I mean Romney Care, then proceeded to start every negotiation for six years with his compromise position, instead of using the power of the People to force the other side to compromise.
    With friends like centrist Democrats, who needs Republicans?

  • rgaura

    Read Michael Hudson and Ellen Brown, for a clear, concise education on how we are being screwed by the `financial system´.

  • Kapricorn4

    The majority of Americans are now worse off after eight years of Obama, than they were under the Bush neocon regime, that Obama continued.

  • Kapricorn4

    Obama continued to re-authorize the Patriot Act, pursue whistle blowers with a vengeance. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour remained the same despite significant increases in the cost of living while the 0.1% took all the benefits of increased efficiency.

  • Kapricorn4

    Obama caved in to moneyed interests and the US military from day one of his inauguration. He was a Trojan Horse that duped the masses into voting for him with his message of change.