When it emerged that Barack Obama was to be the candidate for 2008 election I wrote extensively on why such a ‘radical’ solution was chosen, asserting that selecting a black man was a stroke of genius, if the ‘masters of the universe’ could pull it off. Amazing really, considering the people who did it, essentially the Democratic Leadership Council (see, ‘Not corrupted by DLC, says Obama’, Blackcommentator.com and where you can find a wealth of information on the DLC and Obama) and that the selection was made at least five years ago (see my ‘Barack Obama — a wolf in sheep’s clothing or just the shepherd?’). At the same time, I was also aware of the paradox(es) involved and the potential pitfalls that might mean either bumping him off or removing him by some other means, I kid you not.
At the time (prior to the election), I was admittedly doubtful that he would actually make it through considering the role of racism under US capitalism, even when the man was selected by the inner sanctum of the ruling political class. Well, as the events of the past week reveal, it didn’t take long to reveal the paradox of selecting a Black man as prez of a country so deeply imbued with the ideology of racism and one where saying something, even if you don’t mean it, (and those in power know you don’t mean it) runs you the risk of being, well effectively red-baited. Ah, what ironies are involved here!
Also at that time, I drew a comparison with the selection of Jimmy Carter back in the 1970s following the fall of ‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon, that a ‘breathing space’, an interregnum was needed before getting back to ‘business’ as usual. I think events have borne out my analysis but with a nasty twist: We’ve been sold Jesus Christ when it’s actually Judas in drag. My, what a complicated plots these servants of Empire weave.
The question of why, large swathes of the US ‘left’ supported Obama is not difficult figure out, after eight years of Bush Jnr., anybody was preferable well almost, and a Black man, well whaddya know. Furthermore (tho’ I am sure it would be denied) such is the poisonous effect of racism on public discourse, that many on the left no doubt said nothing for fear of being called racists.
Elected by a computer?
As with earlier ‘elections’, election ‘programs’ rely upon extensive and detailed polling of voters’ preferences, house-by-house, block-by-block, neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood, the resulting pitches to the punters based upon a detailed analysis of what turns every conceivable demographic variable into a potential vote. In other words, you tell the prospective voters exactly what they want to hear. Never mind that they never get what they want, it’s a fait accomplis by the time they wake up to the reality.
This approach is not new, it was pioneered with Reagan and the able assistance of a small group of opinion pollsters led by Richard Wirthlin and Patrick Caddell (see my ‘Barack Obama — a wolf in sheep’s clothing or just the shepherd?’). Vast databases of voter’s views were compiled over the years. Dry runs were performed, the results tabulated and the message ‘tweaked’ until the right pitch for the right punter was produced. It got Reagan elected- twice.
That it makes a mockery of democracy should not surprise us but of course your ‘average’ elector knows next to nothing about what goes on behind the scenes, the entire enterprise requires the dedicated cooperation of the corporate media who push the ‘line’ on behalf of the ruling class. And even if they do, it’s a common assumption that everything is ‘fixed’ anyway and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it even they wanted to.
For the Empire, things were looking really desperate, Bushco had failed to make the world safe for capitalism, worse still, the entire economy was falling apart and the natives were getting restless. Drastic steps were needed; yet another ‘break’ with the past was needed and with the average voter turnout at US elections being less than half the eligible voters, it was necessary to counter the discontent and apathy by targeting those who rarely vote in significant numbers, Blacks and the young, and clearly the demographics determined what the story should be, so ‘Change’ became the méme and Hope the beacon, any change, and what better way to do it than putting up a Black man for prez, well you can’t get more ‘changed’ than that now can you.
The problem however, is that the not-so-split personality of US society is rapidly eating away at the carefully laid plans of the DLC as the increasingly virulent and racist public attacks on Obama reveal. This presents the ruling elite with a real problem, how to reconcile the message of Hope and Change with the fundamentally racist nature of the power elite (it also reveals just how inept these ‘masters of the universe’ really are, when they can’t even get a racist fuck like Lou Dobbs to button it, lest he and his pals help bring the entire, carefully crafted enterprise crashing down).
Here we have the ‘leader’ of the most powerful country on the planet being treated as if he were a street junkie by rightwing media mavens and called a “racist” on prime-time TV for calling the cop who busted Gates “stupid”. And Lou Dobbs who made the remark, is not alone. No matter how much they push the ‘morality’ message, they can’t hide their hatred and arrogance for the first Black man to become president of a country built on slavery and genocide, revealing in the process that old habits die hard, even when the target is ‘their man’.
It’s pretty clear where this is all headed, Obama will carry the can just as so many Black Americans have in the past and still do, and being the prez does not protect him. Just compare Obama’s treatment with the way the same suspects have treated Bush, a war criminal bar none. It’s a racist re-run of the hatchet-job done on Jimmy Carter back during the days of ‘Iran-Contra’ and the Tehran hostages in order to get Reagan elected.
However, until now this was the ‘back story’ to the main theme, Obama as front man for the Empire, creating a real dilemma for the ruling elite, for how do they square the message of ‘Hope and Change’ with the reality of a deeply racist society even as Obama pushes their ‘morality’ message to the planet (inbetween bombing runs)?
The irony of the situation is not lost on the writer, for here we have a man, a Black man fronting for the Empire, yet he cannot escape his own Blackness nor, in the final analysis, can he ignore it. So what does he do? Caught between a rock and a hard place he grovels before his Master and apologizes! Puleeze!
Obama may well have been intended to be some kind of ‘Bush Lite’, but in the end he is treated as Dark(ie) and in more ways than one and given the centrality of racist ideology to US life it’s difficult to see how it can pan out except with Obama toeing the line, or else…
1. See the articles on BlackCommentator.com on the Henry Gates ‘affair’, who is himself also an arch-apologist for the Empire just like Obama, but when the shit hit the fan it didn’t do him much good either. There is surely a lesson to be drawn here: The Empire has no friends no matter what colour they are or how much they grovel.
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