The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama's Record … Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him
Continued from previous page
Right-wing populism and irrationalism have received nationwide reach anchored in institutions such as the Fox network, but also right-wing religious institutions. Along with right-wing talk radio and websites, a virtual community of millions of voters has been founded whose views refuse critique from within. Worse, well-financed and well-endowed walls are established to ensure that the views are not challenged from without. In the 2008 campaign and its immediate aftermath, we witnessed segments of this community in the rise of the ‘birther’ movement and its backing by the likes of Donald Trump. Like many other cults there were no facts that adherents of the ‘birthers’ would accept except those ‘facts’ which they, themselves, had established. Information contrary to their assertions was swept away. It didn’t matter that we could prove Obama was born in the US, because their real point, the he was a Black man, was true.
The 2012 Republican primaries demonstrated the extent to which irrationalism and right-wing populism, in various incarnations, have captured the Republican Party. That approximately 60% of self-identified Republicans would continue to believe that President Obama is not a legitimate citizen of the USA points to the magnitude of self-delusion.
The Obama campaign of 2008 at the grassroots was nothing short of a mass revolt
The energy for the Obama campaign was aimed against eight years of Bush, long wars, neoliberal austerity and collapse, and Republican domination of the US government. It took the form of a movement-like embrace of the candidacy of Barack Obama. The nature of this embrace, however, set the stage for a series of both strategic and tactical problems that have befallen progressive forces since Election Day 2008.
The mis-analysis of Obama in 2007 and 2008 by so many people led to an overwhelming tendency to misread his candidacy. In that period, we—the authors of this essay—offered critical support and urged independent organization for the Obama candidacy in 2008 through the independent ‘Progressives for Obama’ project. We were frequently chastised by some allies at the time for being too critical, too idealistic, too ‘left’, and not willing to give Obama a chance to succeed. Yet our measured skepticism, and call for independence and initiative in a broader front, was not based on some naïve impatience. Instead, it was based on an assessment of who Obama was and the nature of his campaign for the Presidency.
Obama was and is a corporate liberal
Obama is an eloquent speaker who rose to the heights of US politics after a very difficult upbringing and some success in Chicago politics. But as a national figure, he always positioned himself not so much as a fighter for the disenfranchised but more as a mediator of conflict, as someone pained by the growth of irrationalism in the USA and the grotesque image of the USA that much of the world had come to see. To say that he was a reformer does not adequately describe either his character or his objectives. He was cast as the representative, wittingly or not, of the ill-conceived ‘post-Black politics era’ at a moment when much of white America wanted to believe that we had become ‘post-racial.’ He was a political leader and candidate trying to speak to the center, in search of a safe harbor. He was the person to save US capitalism at a point where everything appeared to be imploding.
For millions, who Obama actually was, came to be secondary to what he represented for them. This was the result of a combination of wishful thinking, on the one hand, and strongly held progressive aspirations, on the other. In other words, masses of people wanted change that they could believe in. They saw in Obama the representative of that change and rallied to him. While it is quite likely that Hillary Clinton, had she received the nomination, would also have defeated McCain/Palin, it was the Obama ticket and campaign that actually inspired so many to believe that not only could there be an historical breakthrough at the level of racial symbolism—a Black person in the White House—but that other progressive changes could also unfold. With these aspirations, masses of people, including countless numbers of left and progressive activists, were prepared to ignore uncomfortable realities about candidate Obama and later President Obama.