Monday, June 10, 2013

Left Forum Panel “Black Politics at the Tail End of Obama–and Beyond”

Black Agenda Report also sponsored a Left Forum panel yesterday. Nellie Bailey moderated Glen Ford, Bruce Dixon, Paul Street, Anthony Monteiro, and yours truly as we talked about Obama’s exit and what it should mean.

January 21, 2017 should be celebrated as the day of jubilee for black Americans, a modern day Juneteenth. It will be the day that Barack Obama will no longer be president of the United States.

Before Obama was elected black people spent decades debating whether they would ever see such a thing. Could a black person be elected? Would he be assassinated? Would it be a he or a she? Would a republican or democrat be able to win? So you see Obama took up mental space in the black American brain before he was ever heard of, and that meant his ascension was a very bad thing.

The years of the Barack Obama administration have been the nadir of the political life of black Americans. Black politics had been on life support for some time, but Obama’s ascendance marked the day that the plug was finally pulled.

Black politics was killed by everything from COINTELPRO, to mass incarceration and to the power of money which destroyed the once progressive spirit of the congressional black caucus. But the supreme irony of the election of a black man meaning the end of black politics cannot be overstated.

The joy of black America in witnessing this sight cannot be overstated either. Their levels of voting participation reached record levels in 2008 and 2012, and it was all because the goal was to get Obama into office. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that the vast majority of black Americans are addicted to Barack Obama and the extraordinary sight of seeing a black president. It is a very sick relationship.

We all know from personal experience and anecdotes that nothing good can come from a relationship in which one party puts him or herself at a disadvantage to the other. Battered wives and sometimes husbands come to mind. The relationship with Obama is much the same.  Simply put, black people are addicted to Obama and will need to go into a period of recovery after he leaves office.

Will the end be like a happy ending of a reality show about a recovered addict home from rehab or will it be a sad story about the person who didn’t even finish the program because of fear of change? I am being partly humorous but recovery from addiction is the best model I can think of to describe this phenomenon.

The damage done to the cognitive abilities of black people is immense and can’t be undone by typical means. The love for Obama defies logic and his absence will be difficult to take. Obamaphiles are of 2 minds about their idol. When he has a political success they sing his praises and speak endlessly of how smart he is, and how high he will rank in the presidential pantheon. On the other hand, when even they can’t defend him, this “genius” suddenly becomes weak and hapless, unable to do what he really wants because of republican obstruction.

By the way, success for Obamaphiles means only that he gets his way. It doesn’t matter if his initiatives end up hurting them. Republican unhappiness is reason enough for their joy.

Our panel is titled the Tail End of Obama but there are a couple of points to keep in mind. One, that he has 3 years 7 months and 12 days left in office. He did a lot of damage in the first 4 years, and he has a lot of time left to do more.

In four years, Obama has turned the political world on its head. The so-called Obamacare program may be anathema to republicans now but it wasn’t always so. It is essentially the same program Richard Nixon proposed 40 years ago. It is now official. The democrats of today are the republicans of the past.

Obama has been praised as “born again neo-con” by the likes of William Kristol. Since the story of NSA spying on Americans came to light, it is republicans who have gone out of their way to praise him. Yet his absence will cause withdrawal symptoms for people who previously would never have had common cause with Kristol and the neo-cons.

Before he became president, social security was the third rail of politics, untouchable to anyone who wanted to survive a term in office. It was the lowest hanging fruit for the democrats. Now the republican dream of eviscerating the safety net has come true and during a democratic administration no less.

Now it is completely “touchable” and can be changed or turned over to wall street like any other public asset and instead of being outraged, democrats spend their time obsessing over the latest racist and/or asinine statement made by some republican congressman whose name they never heard previously.

That should not be true of anyone who attends an event called Left Forum. We should have been speaking out against this man all along. (We certainly have done so at the Black Agenda Report.) Our goal should be to re-create black politics from a black left perspective, which is not, I hasten to add, the same thing as having black politicians in office.

The joy of seeing a black commander in chief and first lady presiding over state dinners comes at a very high price for 30 million people. Senate candidate Barack Obama made his first appearance to the majority of Americans when he spoke at the 2004 democratic convention before a prime time audience. He famously said, “There is no black America, there is not white America…” The statement was obviously absurd and a lie. It was a lie meant to make him palatable to white voters. There in lies the danger of wanting to see a black president in the first place. Of course there is a black America and asserting that fact should be the essence of true black politics and an undisputed fact for people who call themselves leftists.

We will have a lot of work to do from now until January 21, 2017. We must continue our fight against the people who choose the presidents. They act against the interests of the masses of people on the planet and the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or 10 Downing Street or Elysee Palace must always be taken to task or humanity is in grave danger.

These facts which we here know and accept to be true are not known by people who love to see Barack Obama, even when he goes on television to tell them that he isn’t listening to their phone calls when he in fact is.

In January 2017 we will have to find a way to drag millions of people kicking and screaming from their delusions. Some of them may see the light on their own, but too many of them will be wistful as the replay in their memories the moments of seeing Obama sworn into office or meeting the queen of England or emerging from air force one or dancing with the first lay. They will not want anything to challenge the fulfillment of their fantasy.

We will be stuck with Obama for a very long time, but his specter, like his physical being shouldn’t shut us up, not if we claim to be on the left.

This is the left forum, not the democratic party forum. One of Obama’s means of escaping blame for the NSA public relations disaster is to say that congress knew all about it. We have a chance with his exit from office to point out that the democrats, before and during the Obama administration, have been happy to throw us all under a bus. Maybe the people who make good use of their stint in recovery will be able to see some of the light about the corrupt nature of our entire political system.

Obama’s exit provides an opportunity to move the masses away from the democratic party and towards a discussion of alternatives. Perhaps seeing the rotten nature of American politics will keep leftists from quaking in their boots when they are told they will be spoilers if they vote green or just dump the democrats once and for all. The system needs to be spoiled after all, and perhaps Obama’s exit will make that clear.

I want to add that some people are just drugged up Obamabots. They just don’t have the language to talk about what they have experienced. They have vague unease or speak of disappointment but that is where we come in when we continue to speak boldly about the nature of our system.

Thank you.