I remember hanging out with you and __ in late 2006 I think it was, between Christmas and New Year’s, and me hyping up the Obama candidacy. There are more than a few people around South Central who still refer to me as the “Obama guy”. I remember canvassing black and Latino neighborhoods, and the Latinos were all about Hillary, and the blacks didn’t think that the U.S. would ever elect a black President. I knew then that they were wrong, but they are also wrong now if they don’t hold him to the same standards that they would hold any other President.
Yes, I’m now disillusioned with Barack Obama, and by extension the Democratic Party, but I think that I have very good reason to be. I’ll list for you here my top 10 list/”bill of particulars” against Obama, in rough chronological order:
1. Reneging on his promise to conduct the general election campaign with public funds provided that his Republican opponent did the same. McCain took him up on that offer, and conducted his general campaign under the public financing regime; Obama did not, and spent for more than would’ve been allowed if he had kept his promise. For me, the issue of campaign financing is a fundamental issue that underlies everything else. The money in politics determines nearly everything. We all know this, and campaign finance reform was a fundamental part of Obama’s original platform and campaign.
2. Refusing to publicly release a copy of his original birth certificate when the issue was raised in the summer of 2008. The issue of the supremacy of the Constitution over the political process is even more fundamental actually than campaign finance reform. The Presidency is the most powerful office in our nation’s political system, and the idea that he would actively fight against efforts to make public the best available evidence of his eligibility for that office is more than a little bit worrisome. When asked to prove his eligibility for the office, John McCain actually presented copies of his original birth documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and got a Senate Resolution declaring him a “natural born citizen”. Is/was it too much to ask that Obama do the same?
3. Providing critical support for the TARP bailout, including not only voting for it as a Senator, but returning to Washington to campaign for it, and actually probably being the single person most responsible for its passage (besides President Bush). If you remember, the House originally voted down the TARP bill. There were strange bedfellows on both sides of the vote, but key to the no vote were members of the Progressive Caucus and members of the Black Caucus (especially to the extent that they overlapped), who voted with the majority of Republicans against it. Obama placed personal calls to members of the CBC who voted no, and threatened them with a lack of access to the White House. If you look at what swung the balance between the first and second TARP votes, you can see that the changed votes of a number of CBC members who originally voted no was critical. TARP ended up providing trillions to the very people who profited most from the bubble, while doing worse than nothing for the millions of people facing foreclosure. In my opinion, it has also greatly retarded the nation’s ability to come out of this recession by propping up “zombie” financial institutions who are only a hindrance to economic growth.
4. Allowing the stimulus bill to become the “porkulus” bill. There is a reason that a near one trillion dollar burst of government spending has done almost nothing to bring down unemployment, or generate growth and prosperity — the money was spent on “shovel-ready” projects that would’ve been built anyways, and on backfilling failing state and local government budgets. If that money had been deployed strategically in true progressive, forward-looking investments in education, public infrastructure, mass transit, high-speed rail, broadband deployment, etc., then it would have at least laid the groundwork for a true recovery. Instead it just gave the U.S. economy a sort of “sugar-high” that is leaving us even lower than we were before, as the high wears off.
5. Reneging on his campaign platform and rhetoric in opposition to forcing people to buy health insurance. Never before in our nation’s history has the government forced us to buy a product in the private market as a condition of nothing other than simply being alive and a citizen of the U.S. It’s even deeper than that in so far as health care is also a very personal matter, and being coerced to enter into a contractual relationship under a certain government-approved system is a basic intrusion into our fundamental freedoms as human beings. When corporate America and the federal government become fused together, with corporate America enjoying the profits derived based the use of the coercive power of the government, I see that as a substantial step in the direction of fascism, which is a totalitarian corporate state. Yes, there are good things in the health care bill, but they do not in my opinion come close to outweighing the negatives, and those good things could’ve been achieved without the negatives.
6. Failing to reach out across the political spectrum to find pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to the economic crisis. The 10% unemployment rate only begins to tell the story of the current crisis, with millions more having totally dropped out of the labor force, and others discouraged from entering it. Even more are working at dead-end jobs because there are no other opportunities. Obama should’ve done little else other than focus on this crisis until effective solutions were found; instead, since the stimulus, there’s been almost nothing even proposed by the Administration to address this crisis, much less passed into law. Obama ran as a pragmatist who would’ve sought non-ideological, bipartisan solutions to a problem of this magnitude; this he has not done.
7. Reneging on his campaign platform and rhetoric in support of having a government-run public option health insurance alternative. I’m sure you know the arguments here.
8. Authorizing targeted killings, including of a U.S. citizen (al-Awlaki). Even Bush never ordered the assassination of a U.S. citizen by our own military. On civil liberties in general, people like Glenn Greenwald have detailed the ways in which Obama has been worse than Bush.
9. Reneging on his campaign rhetoric and promise of a “post-racial presidency”. He appeared to be the first black politician in a long while to understand the need to connect the concerns of black folks with universal values, themes, principles. Instead, however, he’s been part and parcel of the racial polarization of American politics in the months since his election:
The last refuge of a liberal
Liberalism under siege is an ugly sight indeed. Just yesterday it was all hope and change and returning power to the people. But the people have proved so disappointing. Their recalcitrance has, in only 19 months, turned the predicted 40-year liberal ascendancy (James Carville) into a full retreat. Ah, the people, the little people, the small-town people, the “bitter” people, as Barack Obama in an unguarded moment once memorably called them, clinging “to guns or religion or” — this part is less remembered — “antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.”
That’s a polite way of saying: clinging to bigotry. And promiscuous charges of bigotry are precisely how our current rulers and their vast media auxiliary react to an obstreperous citizenry that insists on incorrect thinking.
— Resistance to the vast expansion of government power, intrusiveness and debt, as represented by the Tea Party movement? Why, racist resentment toward a black president.
— Disgust and alarm with the federal government’s unwillingness to curb illegal immigration, as crystallized in the Arizona law? Nativism.
— Opposition to the most radical redefinition of marriage in human history, as expressed in Proposition 8 in California? Homophobia.
— Opposition to a 15-story Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero? Islamophobia.
[removed — fair use]
10. Escalating the war in Afghanistan (and cowardly escalating the use of drones to kill people in Pakistan). Yes, I know he campaigned on this. He broke all of his other pledges as outlined above, why not this one?
Incidentally, the one area where I do think that Obama is doing well is education, which is the area that I know you know best.
Finally, I’ll say this. I truly believe that there is a good chance that the truth of my concerns about Obama will be laid bare for all to see, and there won’t be any debate about it anymore. Not guaranteed, but a good chance.
I’ll also say this: this experience with Obama has also demonstrated to me the fundamental flaws in the kind of thinking that he represents. That has indeed caused me to re-evaluate liberalism, progressivism, etc., in light of this new information, but I’ll save that discussion for another time . . .