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Andrew Levine

Andrew Levine

Posted: December 17, 2010 04:45 PM

Obama Winter and How to Combat It

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The rapidity with which the post-election Obama presidency has gone from awful to god-awful has been breathtaking. So is the ease with which he has brought briefly rebellious congressional Democrats along. So is mounting evidence of the totalitarian streak in the Obama administration: witness the machinations against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, the despicable treatment of Bradley Manning (along with countless others held in solitary confinement); the threats to freedom of the press implicit in the Justice Department's efforts to find crimes with which to retaliate against them and against others guilty only of embarrassing American diplomacy and exposing the haplessness of our military leadership. And then there is the increasing use of entrapment in "terror" cases and a host of other infringements of the rule of law, some of them surpassing Bush-Cheney levels of egregiousness.

The Obama winter gets worse with each passing day. Today it's the "light at the end of the tunnel" in Afghanistan report; as transparently meretricious as its Vietnam era counterparts. And, of course, there's last night's Congressional capitulation ("compromise") to the Obama-Republican Redistribute Wealth Upwards Act, aka the Bush era tax cuts. It's likely to get worse still next year, now that the spirit of capitulation has taken root. In a few months time, after yet more Clinton-style "triangulation," we may well find ourselves looking back longingly on the days when Obama was just a feckless "bipartisan" wannabe. After all, there are worse things to lose than an unprecedented opportunity for "change" -- social security and Medicare, for example.

To be sure, Democrats are still the lesser evil and Obama is still less awful than any likely Republican rival; there are even lower circles of hell. In the Republican netherworld, post-election developments have been equally breathtaking. The GOP has long been the home for the greediest and most myopic capitalists' useful idiots. Now the useful idiots' useful idiots, the Tea Partiers, are running the show, at least in the Senate where the corrupt old guard appears to have unconditionally surrendered. How odd that in the Home of the Brave, political skills vary inversely with moral and intellectual capacities! In the race to the bottom that Obama's weakness and cluelessness about governance has unleashed, the more idiotic one is, the more power one has.

Real winters are followed inevitably by spring. But Obama winter will not pass just with the passage of time. Remember when Obamamaniacs pushed the line that Obama is really "with us," and that all he needs to launch a new New Deal is a bit of pressure from his base. Does anybody still believe that? Even if it wasn't clear enough back when he assembled his "team of rivals" and welcomed Wall Street into his administration, it has been absolutely clear at least since he capitulated to "counterinsurgent" generals and their civilian enablers, and to health care profiteers, that, whatever he may think and feel "inside," Obama is not one of the "good guys." After the events of the past several weeks, only the most willfully blind could fail to agree.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is where the willfully blind congregate. Liberal Democrats might do some good by launching a primary challenge, but then they are sure to cave, Pelosi style, and come together, well before the 2012 convention, in a big kumbaya moment. For that reason, a Nader-style independent candidacy would be a better idea. But there is no one to lead it -- thanks to a decade of liberal calumny Nader no longer can -- and even if the unthinkable happened, it's now clear that the entire party duopoly system, not just its Republican wing, would conspire to make governance impossible. Yes, an independent candidacy -- or even a primary challenge -- might push Obama's rhetoric back into a more 'populist' frame. But can anybody still trust him to do more than talk the talk?

Ironically, the worst of the worst, the Tea Partiers, show the way. Just as Democrats could learn political skills from their Republican rivals, partisans of "change" can learn obstreperousness from those deluded "populists." Whatever they believe, Obama and Company act as if "the business of America is business" -- not even productive business, which is what Calvin Coolidge had in mind by those words, but unproductive, parasitic financial machination. What we need is a movement of the enraged, a left Tea Party, powerful enough to force them to act differently.

Tea Party "populists" organized around making the rich richer and assuring the heritability of dynastic wealth. How pathetic is that! How deluded! How incoherent! But not every Tea Partier is hopeless, notwithstanding the best efforts of their corporate backers and Fox News. Surely, some of them can be weaned off the idiocies they rally around. Our task is to coopt their rage, while we, the vast majority, cultivate our own. Then the Democrats will fear us, the way Republicans fear the monster they've created. For those who are still in the habit of cutting Obama slack and finding slivers of sunlight in the darkness of Obama winter, it's not a comforting prospect. But somebody has to do it; and there's no other way