Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama: Change We Can Almost Believe In

Every newspaper, every TV station, every blogger, hell almost every person on the planet, was eyeballing the inaugural proceedings in "Rome" today. Obama is in and Bush is out. To have replaced that reactionary, cretinous hypocritical bastard Bush with a black man who grew up without the privileges of wealth that Dubya enjoyed - well, that was a pretty sweet sight.
And, as a black man in a nation built upon black slavery and vicious racism, Obama has an unassailable authority (at present) to be the bearer of his slogan calling for "Change we can believe in". He is intelligent and articulate and has an uncanny ability to engage with the concerns that Americans face.
Okay, all that said: let's face it, he's not that radical. In fact, he's a centre right Democrat. He wants to increase troops to Afghanistan by tens of thousands, an act that would surely destabilize Pakistan further, possibly facilitating its collapse.
Obama wants to bail out the rapidly sinking economy - but let's be clear: he's talking about throwing cash at the market in order to refloat it. Sure, there'll be some new regulations to try and keep it on the rails - but for all the tax dollars that have already been thrown at the banks and the corporations and the hundreds of billions more to come, don't expect to see the government taking any serious control in order to ensure any kind of democratic accountability. 
The state intervention that Obama is supporting - that almost all of the economic elites are supporting, many much more radically so than Obama's team - is still really just neo-liberalism by another name. Look for bailouts to include significant wage concessions from important groups of workers, like those in the auto industry. For the heads of the banks, there will be reduced bonuses this year - for auto workers, there will be cuts to health benefits, pensions, working conditions and living expenses.
And back to foreign policy, no one should forget his silence as Israel pounded the hell out of Gaza. It may be a step up from the usual "go get 'em, Israel" chorus but not by much. And his ultra-zionist chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, (whose father was a terrorist with the far right Irgun) will, I'm sure, make certain that silence will be as good as it gets in this department.
Obama has stacked his cabinet with dinosaurs and right wingers, including Republicans. He even chose a kooky, powerful, homophobic evangelist, Rick Warren, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
There is no doubt that Obama rode to the White House on a wave of unbridled enthusiasm and hope. You could see it in the eyes of some of the million plus that turned out for his inauguration today in Washington. People literally wept with joy, unable to believe that a black man was in the White House,  just over 45 years after the Voting Rights Act. That excitement, newfound confidence and enthusiasm could be the basis for a mighty social movement that pushes Obama beyond where his ossified cabinet would have him go. It could translate into local victories for union, anti-racist, gay rights and pro-choice struggles. It could turn the tide against the Right, who have been ascendent for too long. But to do so, that energy must not be tied to the agenda of Obama's White House. 
It wasn't Obama who created the mood in America against the war in Iraq - he responded to it. It wasn't Obama who was behind the growing sentiment that corporations and banks were screwing ordinary people. He spoke to a feeling that already existed. Obama has taken those sentiments up an incredible step to the highest post in the land. The movement that put him there must seize the opportunity that he has created to push for even more, to demand that the whole dream be fulfilled.
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