Does a Leopard Change Its Spots? by William Bowles

By William Bowles
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
7 November 2008

Well, miracles of miracles Obama has made it through thus far. And given just how reviled the Cheney/Bush pirates are by more than half the population, the deep sense of relief is palpable and not just in the US,

“Hello history (to use the word of the times). What a staggering and indescribable moment this is. Barack Obama’s graceful acceptance of what had seemed both inevitable and impossible is up there equalling any political event since the downing of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela.” — Channel 4 News Email, 5 November, 2008

And such adulation is not confined to the corporate media:

“The changes will spread through American life in ways we cannot yet fully imagine. Let us congratulate ourselves on being alive at such a promising moment.” — William Greider, the Nation, ‘President Obama: This Proud Moment’

“From this day forward, politics, politicians and the people they serve will never be the same.” — Ron Fournier, Yahoo News, ‘Obama’s transcendence is beyond race’

But before we get completely carried away with the euphoria of the moment let us not forget what we’re talking about here, hence the comparisons with Mandela frankly makes my blood boil, especially as in the fourteen years since the democratic election in South Africa took place (something I participated in directly working for the ANC), Black South Africans are actually materially worse off now than they were under Apartheid, thus the vote per se is no measure of real democracy nor of real change. Under the ANC’s neo-liberal programme aka ‘New Labour’ over one million people have been made unemployed and the promises of the ‘revolution’ have not materialized for the Black masses.

Understandably of course, the corporate/state media have picked up on the comparisons with Mandela, and herein lies the danger of getting carried away by the moment. But does a leopard change its spots?

I have been reading some very stimulating essays on Black Agenda Report as well as the responses to them, I recommend them to you as between them (and others) they deal with the complex and not the least emotional state that many Americans (both black and white) are in as a result of Obama’s success.[1]

Thus enjoy it while you can as very soon (if not already) the reality of Obama as president of a totally unreconstructed USA will become apparent. And the signs are all there, as his appointment of Rahm Israel Emanuel as his White House chief of staff (see ‘Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner’ for top post as White House chief of staff indicates. This is the man who is effectively Obama’s ‘gatekeeper’, and along with David Axelrod, they will control what Obama gets to read and who he gets to talk to.

As I have mentioned before, picking Obama was a stroke of genius on the part of the ruling elite, though obviously it was not without its detractors nor its dangers given the role of racism in shaping people’s perceptions. But with the assistance of the corporate media (and helped by the Republicans when they chose Palin) the deal has been done. The ‘break’ with the past has been made.

“We have learned that even in failure and collapse, the Lords of Capital are smart enough to know they desperately need a new face, and are willing to bankroll the Black man who can provide it. During this election cycle we learned that capital can switch its party allegiances in an instant, first vetting and then jump-starting the Black candidate who would become the biggest campaign spender in U.S. election history, by far. In 2008, the Democrats became the party of Big Capital, whose choice was Barack Obama. We have learned that capital is never blind to color, when it can be used to capital’s advantage.” — ‘Glen Ford: The Obama ‘08 Phenomenon: What Have We Learned?’

The question of course is, will it work? How long can the pretence be maintained before the tens of millions of voters realize that they have been royally duped? Or, just as with the Bush regime, will the corporate press continue to peddle its lies about the real causes of the crisis and the role of US capital in its cause?

All the indications are that the Obama presidency will differ only in presentation from that of Bush and crucially, electing Obama will not affect the deep economic crisis confronting the capitalist world. A crisis that has now caught up with all those futures and derivatives traders with losses now estimated in the billions if not eventually trillions of dollars:

“NEW YORK (Reuters) – While September was brutal for hedge funds, October was even worse. Hedge funds themselves do not announce their results, but three industry trackers — Barclay Hedge, Hedge Fund Research Inc and Hennessee Group LLC — will disclose over the next few days just how poorly the $1.9 trillion (1.2 trillion pound) industry performed last month.” — ‘Hedge fund results could go from bad to worse’, Reuters, 7 November, 2008

Goldman Sachs for example has lost around $1 billion out of $7 billion invested since January 2008 due to “bad bets on commodities, metals, energy and agriculture” (ibid)

And what holds for Goldman Sachs is true for virtually all the hedge fund and derivatives traders with some announcing even bigger losses.

So how should we respond to the election of Barack Obama? How do you convince the millions of Americans who have pinned their hopes on the election of Barack Obama that it represents a return to no more than (hopefully) business as usual?

The short answer is that we should respond to Obama in exactly the same way we should have responded to Bush, that is to say through mobilization and now even more so given that he was elected on a platform of “change” (without ever defining what this change consisted of).

But instead of mobilizing behind a programme of real change, we allowed the ruling elite to mobilize us on their behalf!

I think Glen Ford over at BAR put it best and thus the last word belongs to him:

“We have learned that this generation will have to learn from damn near scratch what a real social movement looks like – which will be doubly hard, since they have been misled to believe that this year’s frenzied electioneering was actually a ‘movement.’ Now it is over, and one Black man is moving – into the White House, having never promised his Black supporters a single thing of significance. But of course, hardly anyone Black made any demands of Obama.”


1. ‘Ishmael Reed: Morning in Obamerica: Change, Change, Change?’ and,

‘Bruce Dixon: Cashing the Obama Check: Will It Come Back Marked “Insufficient Funds”?’

See also,

‘The Wolf Report: An Event of Immense Significance’

Larry Pinkney: ‘An Obama Presidency: More of the Same – Only Worse (Part 1) Keeping it Real’

A Paradigm Shift in America’s Intellectual Community by Pablo Ouziel


Dear God, Please Give Me A Bailout So I Can Believe! By Gary Corseri

Ali Abunimah: Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post

Nader: Obama will be like Bush + Obama recruits “Rahmbo” Emanuel + Howard Zinn

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse


9 thoughts on “Does a Leopard Change Its Spots? by William Bowles

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  7. I certainly wish Obama thebest, as I’m sure that everyone does, though the writing is on the wall with the selection of the people he wants to surround himself with.

    Taking to the streets will do nothing.

    Everyone right now is currently politically involved, more so than any time in recent history. They need to stay the way and in two years put in place entirely new local, state and national legislatures. That is the only way real change is going to take place.

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