Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

End the One-Party State: Obama Needs a Challenger from the Left

Finally, a mainstream media source – albeit a non-American one – has addressed the glaring need for a genuine leftist challenger in the upcoming presidential election.  Medhi Hasan in the Guardian:

The tragedy is that Obama needs to be held to account – but from a leftwing, not rightwing, direction. He has embraced and affirmed a centre-right world view utterly at odds with his 2008 presidential campaign, with its promises of “change”, “reform” and a decisive break from the Bush-Cheney era.

Consider his record: he failed to close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay; approved the use of military tribunals for detainees; “surged” 40,000 troops into Afghanistan; doubled the size of the detention facility at Bagram airbase; doubled the number of drone strikes inside Pakistan; gave CIA torturers immunity from prosecution; continued extraordinary rendition; said he didn’t “begrudge” bankers paying themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses’ ruled out a government-run “public option” on healthcare; froze pay for public sector workers; signed off on tax cuts for billionaires; vetoed a UN resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlement-building; and joined China in sabotaging the climate summit in Copenhagen.

That last paragraph summarizes pretty effectively just how atrocious Obama’s presidency has been thus far, in many respects dwarfing the horrific actions undertaken by the Bush administration.  Indeed, if anything the American political spectrum has shifted even further to the right since the election of Obama; in addition to all of the Bush-esque monstrosities cited above, we are now engaged in additional wars in Yemen and Libya, and have exercised an extra-judicial assassination of a political and religious figure, while simultaneously violating the sovereignty of yet another Muslim nation.

But I do take issue with one aspect of Hasan’s otherwise superb analysis:  Obama’s actions thus far are in no way at odds with 2008 presidential campaign.  Indeed, if one had actually listened to the vacuous platitudes streaming from the charismatic candidate’s mouth, one would have immediately recognized that he stood for absolutely nothing.  When pressed, during one of the later Democratic primary debates, whether he would commit to withdrawing troops from Iraq by 2013, the alleged anti-war candidate refused to do so.  When the warmongers started beating the drums for an invasion of Iran, the peaceful Obama remarked that “all options were on the table.”  When asked about health care reform, the so-called “socialist” suggested nothing more than a massive insurance scheme that would deliver some 45 million new customers into the hands of already unfathomably profitable corporations.

Looking back, one wonders at all where this notion of Obama as a leftist, populist president ever came from.  Because surely, he never actually said – or did – anything that should have led us to that conclusion.  He was from the very beginning nothing more than a corporate puppet, bent on ensuring that those at the top remained at the top, and continued to accumulate wealth at the record-setting levels they had been doing so since the days of Reaganomics.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, things were undeniably bad.  Ordinary Americans were actually beginning to awake from their long and listless slumber, and there were glimmerings of genuine rage among segments of the masses.  The corporate elite were rightfully terrified, as an awakened populace is the last thing they want.  If the plebes actually realized just how stacked the system is in favor of the elite, there would be rioting in the streets.

Enter Obama.  The Bush regime was simply too brazen in its attempts to enrich the rich and conquer the world for American corporate interests.  When the effects of their disastrous domestic and foreign policies became apparent even to the most apathetic Americans, it became clear that a smoother, more subtle brand of politician would be necessary.  Obama fit the part perfectly.  A highly skilled orator with a calm, cool demeanor, the relatively young Obama immediately played into Americans’ desire for a more intelligent and compassionate president.

But while the image was there, the substance was not.  Obama is now, and always has been, little more than a corporate stooge, the leader of the lone Corporate Party in our one-party state.  The challengers that exist to the right of Obama -and it should be mind-boggling that any such candidates exist at all, let alone have a national audience – are irrelevant, as Obam himself is so far to the right as to make George W. Bush seem like a moderate.

We need, desperately, a genuine challenger from the Left, someone who fervently shares and supports the interests of the masses, rather than the relatively tiny but unimaginably powerful corporate elite.  If such a challenger fails to materialize, we are guaranteed another four years of our long, painful slide into the depths of the dreary, radical Right.

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7 responses to “End the One-Party State: Obama Needs a Challenger from the Left

  1. willbt May 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Dear Andrew:

    Writing from a Canadian perspective, I can empathize TOTALLY with your Obama-Let-Down, voted in by an unquestioning, non-thinking electorate asleep at the wheel.

    We in Canada have just weeks ago stumbled along the same path: we’ve just _re-elected_ to a solid majority a secretive, corrupt federal Conservative government that absolutely does not represent traditional Canadian values, headed by sly Prime Minister Stephen Harper (think: Northern-Tea-Party-For Christ, but with 5 bully years’ experience in power already!). Prime Minister Harper – aka/”Harpo” – in our election showed a benign, fatherly face to the electorate, while planning all the while to continue sabotaging democracy and progressivism, like your Obama.

    Worse for us Canadians, the Harpo administration set the awful precedent of having been declared “In Contempt of Parliament “- for the first time in our history!

    Ironically, while Obama talked “liberal” and “reform” (“Change – Yes We Can!”) on the hustings, then delivered more of the same conservative Bush legacy crap once elected, the Canadian prime minister from the start on the election trail talked a soporific “keep the same course” and “nothing new” code – i.e. Bush-like {muted, sly, just below the horizon Evangelical social arch-conservatism}, Get Tough on Crime [build more prisons]; tax breaks for the rich, and ramped-up military spending – THEN delivered exactly THAT! – all entirely out of sync with the traditional Canadian values of social liberalism and economic social democracy [universal public healthcare, generous social benefits, assistance to the needy, heavily regulated banks].

    HERE IS AN EXTREME IRONY:

    America NEEDS a Leftist party, but can’t get one; Canada HAS a Leftist party, but can’t get any use from it!

    Here’s why:

    In Canada we have had for many decades a _vital Leftist party,_ the “New Democratic Party” (NDP), which party made history in this election by getting itself elected _for the first time_ as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in parliament. BUT… sitting across from a large Conservative majority in parliament, the NDP will be effectively powerless : a Majority is a Majority is a Majority!

    (Historically the NDP, while small in numbers, would buddy-up with our 3rd and/or 4th parties (Liberals, Bloc Quebecois) to defeat an opposing majority in the House. In this election, however, our 3rd and 4th parties were wiped out.) So, our saving grace Leftist party, the NDP is virtually powerless in The House.

    Canada now finds herself effectively in the American situation of having a two-party system, wherein a Majority is a Majority is a Majority and Never The Twain Shall Meet!

    So…America’s, prospect for a “genuine challenger on the Left” seems virtually unimaginable – so Lost-In-Space are the DEMs! While…Canada’s long-time Leftist party finds itself JUST as Lost-In-Space!

    Let’s face it, these days progressive politics is a lost cause! What are we gonna DO?

    And both nations have done it to themselves – at the ballot box (or not, for about 40% of Canadians!).

    • Andrew B. May 15, 2011 at 3:48 am

      All valid points, willbt, though I still think the Canadian political scene is much more preferable than the American corporatocracy. My only point of contention with your above analysis is your lone reference to “the American situation of having a two-party system.” We don’t. The differences between the Republicans and Democrats are so minute as to consider the parties identical for all practical purposes. Consider that the worst of Obama’s actions were undertaken while having a Democrat majority in both the House and Senate.

      • willbt May 15, 2011 at 11:37 am

        Andrew W.:
        Thanks for that interesting response. I didn’t realize that the two parties in Congress had become practically indistinguishable in the eyes of the American electorate. But when I come to think of it, yes, the Canadian news media never seem to highlight policy distinctions between the DEMS and the GOP: we only hear about the never-ending grudge-match between them.

        Sad to say, even though Canadian political parties have traditionally stood for very distinct political philosophies – conservative, liberal, social democrat, “separatiste” [Quebec] – in this most recent election we saw an implosion of those distinctions: it was a rush to the centre for everyone! Even the Leftist NDP who broke through for the first time to Official Opposition status in parliament, achieved that by carefully toeing the small “c” conservative line.

        I wonder how we two great Western Democracies – the U.S.A & Canada – have gotten to this bleak point? Will there be a return from the Hard Right in our lifetimes? I sure as hell HOPE so!

      • Andrew B. May 17, 2011 at 12:44 am

        I don’t think the majority of Americans see the Republicans and Democrats as being the same. Most people seem to buy into the fictional dichotomy that is endlessly portrayed in the mainstream media. But if we look at the actual actions and policies of the parties, we notice that Obama’s presidency has been a virtual extension of the Bush regime. And I think this has only gotten worse with time; while being a fairly conservative president, Clinton was still a far cry from the militaristic, neoconservative Obama administration.

        I would suspect that the same forces which have been so successful at subverting the political process in America may be at work in Canada. The U.S. has shifted far enough to the right that perhaps now it’s Canada’s time — after all, greedy corporations have despised what they see as “the socialist paradise” of Canada for decades.

        I’ll certainly take a look at Adbusters. Thanks again for your comments.

  2. willbt May 16, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Andrew:

    If you can get it, buy a copy of Adbusters Magazine North American edition – the latest one, with Coke on the cover – adbusters.org – You Say You Want A Revolution…well… you know..
    …breeding insurrection!

  3. nothing you can see May 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Hi again Andrew:

    RE: your reply: “I would suspect that the same forces which have been so successful at subverting the political process in America may be at work in Canada. The U.S. has shifted far enough to the right that perhaps now it’s Canada’s time — after all, greedy corporations have despised what they see as “the socialist paradise” of Canada for decades.”

    I remember first hearing the news about your Supreme Court’s ruling that made corporations equivalent to “citizens” for purposes of contributing money to political parties.I couldn’t BELIEVE it! That’s just insane.

    You had me worried overnight, until I could check out our Canada Elections Act contribution law, which is, I believed ( i was right) VERY DIFFERENT from the American equivalent. [I feel slightly stupid that I actually had to check on this - I have a Ba in political science, but brain cells do die faster with age, they say.

    Anyway, yes Canada _OUTLAWED corporate donations_ to political parties in 2007. Here is the press release on Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, which received royal assent on December 12, 2006:

    "As of January 1, 2007, only citizens and permanent residents of Canada can make political donations to registered parties, registered electoral district associations, candidates, nomination contestants and leadership contestants. Corporations, trade unions and unincorporated associations may no longer make political donations to candidates, registered electoral district associations or nomination contestants of registered parties.....etc" Here is the url: http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=vot&dir=bkg&document=ec90557&lang=e
    [further to the above: even citizens are limited to $1,000 contributions.]

    I THOUGHT so, but your reply really had me perturbed about the topic overnight!

    So…in the case of Canada’s weird swing to the Right, I don’t think we can assign the problem of corporatocracy as a cause. There must be something else happening up here in the True North…..

    …It could be the effect of the difference between our two countries’ governmental power structures. In our parliamentary system, we have what the propeller-heads call “fusion of powers.” Which simply means that the governing party and the prime minister (who is always Leader of the majority party) are “fused” together – if one falls, they all fall together. Whereas in the American congressional system – please correct me if I’m wrong here – it is possible for a president to be unseated – say, by impeachment – while the two houses of Congress could continue to carry on the business of government as per usual. Or – in a more ordinary circumstance – in a federal election a sitting president may fail to be re-elected, but that doesn’t mean his/her party can’t go on to win majority power in Congress.
    Am I right on that? If I am….then…..

    >The effect I see coming out of this difference is that if, in Canada, an arch-ideologue on the Hard Right such as our present p.m. – the evangelical wing-nut Stephen Harper – comes along to win power, his party comes along to complete the package by way of “party confidence” (i.e. the p.m. is the FUKKING BOSS! His party toes the fukkin’ line all the time, or the government falls.) This Harper jackass has been a political tit-bird for 20 years up here – always around dipping his tongue in every flower – working his evil way slowly to the top. Now that he’s there, he rules his party with an iron fist.

    In Canada, as well, the p.m. _appoints_ judges and senators at his _own pleasure_ [no hearings to get in his way, either!]. At least in the U.S., you _elect _ judges and senators! Be thankful for that (sort of, I guess!).

    Canadian prime ministers RULE, baby!

    American presidents can’t run the Houses and the judiciary in the same manner, can they?

    If my little theory is right, then our two countries have apparently been hideously hijacked by the Facisti Right, but in two distinctly different ways! Which is ironic. And it sucks.
    What about Democracy?

    • Andrew B. May 21, 2011 at 5:52 am

      I think your analysis here is pretty accurate, though I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit my knowledge of the Canadian political process is not quite as thorough as it should be. It would seem that Canada’s party system is quite a bit more structured than the American one. In the States, a politician is no obligated to adhere to the official party platform, as Obama has amply demonstrated. My impression is that in Canada this is quite different.

      Regarding corporate contributions, there are (or at least were) restrictions on how much money could be donated to individual candidates – something like $2,500, if I remember correctly. However, there are few – if any – restrictions on the amount that can be donated to a political party, which means in effect that corporations can buy parties at will. I would imagine that there are probably loopholes in place in Canada to allow corporations to bypass that $1,000 donation limit. In the States, one such strategy was the obligatory Republican and Democrat conventions, which were essentially just massive corporate giveaways.

      It’s clear you have quite a lot to say about the issue; if you’d like to be an occasional contributor to the blog, please send me a line at failedempire AT gmail DOT com. It’d be great to have some other writers contributing to the site, as I don’t have quite as much time as I’d like.

      Andrew

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