The last refuge of Obamaphiles is that no matter how many times the First Black President double-crosses us by cutting Medicare and Medicaid, no matter how completely be betrays his voters by ignoring black unemployment, by deporting one million Latinos, by protecting the banksters responsible for the foreclosure crisis and by invading, bombing, occupying and subverting even more countries than the Cheney-Bush regime, his white supremacist tea party opponents are far worse. But what if Democrat Barack and the Republican tea partyers are just playing different positions on the same team?
The corporate moguls who run the US empire and its political processes are not fools. So when the Republican party deliberately pushes forward certifiable clowns like Michelle Bachman, Richard Perry, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum as its presidential contenders, we can be certain that matters are not quite what they seem. These pandering lunatics are only inmates of the asylum, which is run by the corporate entities that fund the careers of Democratic and Republic politicians alike --- the energy and insurance industries, corporate media and real estate, military contractors, and of course, Wall Street.
In the words of economist and financial historian Michael Hudson, the job of corporate American politicians is not to enact the policies their voters want. The corporate politician's job is to deliver those voters, those constituencies to their campaign contributors, so they can enact the policies their financiers desire. The fact therefore, that Democrats compared to Republicans, and sometimes even Democrats compared to other Democrats appeal to varied groups of voters accounts for why they sound different from each other. But the fact that they all depend on the same class of wealthy corporations and individuals to finance their political careers means that no matter what they tell their voters, the policies they enact once in office are pretty much the same.
This accounts for the fact that although the Democratic presidential candidate won his nomination by telling voters he opposed the war in Iraq, by the time he sewed up that nomination, he was appearing on the Bill O'Reilly show to praise the war in Iraq and endorse the Cheney-Bush “surge”. It explains why candidate Obama, after promising (but mostly only before labor audiences) to renegotiate NAFTA, walk a picket line and pass legislation that would make more unionization possible, president Obama pushed to extend “free trade” agreements everywhere, cracked down on federal workers, demonized teacher unions and more. It explains why Obama literally claims to walk in Martin Luther King's footsteps when it suits him --- on the campaign trail he declared himself “Joshua” to Dr. King's “Moses” --- but manages to ignore black unemployment and mass incarceration, the wave of foreclosures which are inordinately concentrated among nonwhite households, and maintains the US position as in King's words “...the number one purveyor of violence in the world today.”
The 2012 Republican presidential candidates are indeed different from most (but not all) Democrats. They are intolerant religious zealots and Dominionists. They are anti-Muslim and anti-gay bigots, and open white supremacists. Their debate audiences raucously cheer the prospect of more executions and the undeserving poor dying for lack of medical care. But these are all about cultural, not policy differences. What Republicans call “Obamacare” is the same insurance company boondoggle governor Mitt Romney imposed on Massachusetts in the 1990s, and the poor are indeed still dying for lack of care in Massachusetts. The rhetoric Republican candidates use to round up and corral their base voters should not be confused with Republican policy objectives.
Since the forces financing Republicans are the same as those financing Democrats the directors of US political theater have the power to play games with us. For them, Obama is the preferable alternative. Only the First Black President could have disbanded the peace movement and rolled into town promising to “cut entitlements” without provoking a firestorm of protest. Only the First Black President could have accepted a Nobel Peace Prize with a war speech, and invaded an African country without millions of protesters in the street worldwide. Only the First Black President with a strong Democratic majority in Congress could have resumed offshore drilling after the Gulf BP disaster, and blocked any new regulation on the oil industry. Only the First Black President could have given GM back to its managers after sticking the unions with its underfunded health care and pension load. Only candidate Obama could have come in off the campaign trail in September 2008 to whip Democratic votes in the Democrat-dominated congress for the $3 trillion Bush bailout, and only the First black President could have quintupled down on that bailout, giving the banksters $15 trillion more once in office.
From their standpoint, Obama needed, and continues to need two things. First, Obama needs running room to his right. In order for Obama to enact the neoliberal policies of his militarist and bankster sponsors, the policy demands of Republicans had to move further and still further rightward. In other words, he needs Republicans to play crazy and crazier, so that wherever he lands can credibly be claimed to be a little better than what might have been under a Republican regime, even when Obama's position is actually to the right of Bush or Reagan. Secondly, the bankster favorite Obama needs to distract the attention of his voter base with a loud and persistent clamor over cultural issues and sustained furor over instances of personal (but not institutional) racism among Republican candidates and supporters. Like in any production, every actor has a job to do, and everybody does their job.
With these elements in place, our Black Misleadership Class and others responsible for marshalling support for the president's re-election effort can, and are already claiming that no matter how bad Obama's policies have been for black people, that we still owe him our unquestioned support because he's running against a pack of fanatical white supremacists. Obama may not be much good, but opposing the right, they will tell us, is fighting the far greater evil. Americans, and especially black Americans, are long accustomed to choosing between greater and lesser political evils.
But does that choice apply in 2012? Probably not. Having the same class of shot-calling big money contributors means that Republicans and Democrats alike tend to enact the same policies, justifying them with different sorts of rhetoric. While we're looking for lesser and greater evils, the real choice is between the less effective and the more effective evil.
When Republicans invade new countries, global public opinion can put millions worldwide in protest demonstrations in the street. When Democrats invade, there are no demonstrations. When Republicans propose social security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts, and try to regulate unions out of existence, public outcries and near general-strike situations loom. When Democrats do the same, all is quiet. Republicans could not even pass their own bailout bills with a Republican in the White House. So between bigoted, bumbling tea party Republicans, and level-headed, competent corporate Democrats, which is the greater evil? And which is the more effective evil?
Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and based in Marietta GA, were he is one of the principals in an internet technology partnership and a state committee member in the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.