By Bryer C. Sousa*
It’s almost like clockwork. Since 1979 – the birth of neoliberalism (not the conception of neoliberalism, for its ideological roots may be traced back to the 1938 Walter Lippmann Colloquium as well as the 1947 Mont Pèlerin Society gathering) – the working class has been inundated with our elite’s overbearing adherence to a set of principles centered upon the belief that markets know best and therefore should virtually be free to govern us. Alongside the religious frenzy concerning the Chicago School of economic thought, the citizenry of the United States was and remains forced to witness the hollowing out of any sense of class mobility and the development of a political class minted from two sides of the same coin, the coin being that of strictly business interests.
Hence, the clockwork; a clockwork composed of worker-community despair and reactionary electoralism, where just about every two presidential terms, we are forced to witness the Republicans or Democrats exploiting the economic anguish that the previous party in power implemented during the last eight or so years to win the election. Whether the politician is tied to a conservative or liberal base, the overarching motivation for obtaining the presidency is solely concerned with the profit-maximizing motives of the business class (not the woes of an electoral base). But this continuous transfer of power from Democrat to Republican is not alone. Instead, an equally distracting process emerges as well. That process being the idolization and faux love for the previous leader. And there is no better illustration of said motion than the current liberal mourning over the legacy of Mr. Barack Obama in the wake of Trump.
Yet such sentiment is dangerous and misplaced. It pacifies us, enabling us to turn towards a false narrative of the past while overlooking the atrocities committed by the prior leader and the systemic corruption of our political system. Consequently, I hope to counter the contemporary yearning to romanticize the “legacy” of Obama such that those interested in building an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist alternative may do so without falling victim to unsubstantiated illusions now being embedded into our collective memory of the Obama years.
Concerning executive war powers, Alex Emmons of The Intercept pointed out that in “Anticipating that Donald Trump might try to fulfill his promises to “bomb the shit” out of terror groups and do a “hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” President Obama released a report on Monday summarizing his administration’s views of the legal barriers and policies limiting the president’s military power.” To those who have been tirelessly dedicated to the recording of Obama’s expansion of military might, the notion that a little over 60-page report can whiteout his “bombing campaigns in seven countries, a legally unaccountable drone program, and an open prison at Guantanamo Bay” would be entertaining if it were not for the fact that innumerable persons have died as a result.
On the other hand, Cornell West reminisced about Obama’s “sad legacy” by way of writing the following: “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”.” Needless to say, West’s indictment of Obama on matters of race and financial support and backing of the Israeli Government hardly goes far enough. What about Obama’s militarization of America’s police forces? Or the fact that we do not only financially support the Israeli army, but train factions of their police and military?
Of monumental importance, one must also consider the investigative work of John Pilger in understanding the genuine nature of Obama’s administration and stances. In a piece published this past May, Pilger writes: “In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama since the end of the Cold War. He is “modernizing” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.”
While the list could grow ever more swollen, a keen observer may note that there exists a tacit, almost unspoken assumption underpinning any motivations for why Obama’s legacy is actually plagued with behaviors such as the aforementioned. That is to say, Obama – much in the same way that we like to accuse Trump of attempting to exploit the White House for financial gain – ought to be considered a softer, cooler, and more approachable surrogate with the same customer in mind. The customer being the business class, which profits of the needless death of American soldiers, military buildup in the South China Sea, and the bombing of whomever in the Middle East.
*Bryer C. Sousa is the current Corresponding Secretary of the Worker’s Solidarity Alliance (WSA-IWA).