I first coined the phrase ‘Barack-the-Magnificent,’ in Autumn ’08, out of a sense that combined respect and trepidation. In regard to the former feeling, his magnificent campaign juggernaut inspired awe. Perhaps not as favored-by-fortune as Bill Clinton, comparisons to Kennedy nevertheless seemed apt. Clearly better-schooled than that tragic child of liquor barons, Obama gave very little away to Kennedy in terms of his capacity for cleverly conceived traps and joyous, baiting political brawls. My wife and I scripted and executed a lively and lovely music video in support of Obama-for-President, not that too many people noticed.
The second feeling, on the other hand, concerned the Obama administration, which I wagered would follow the election, and about which I harbored profound skepticism. I wrote somewhat extensively then about my concerns. As prognostication goes, my worries now seem about as close to ‘batting a thousand’ as is possible:
- He has backed nukes to the hilt
- He has expanded, rather than contracted, the imperial mandate, even as he’s leaving Iraq a butchered mess
- The war-on-drugs continues, practically unabated, in some ways amped-up
The list continues, so that, with only a few exceptions, Barack Obama might easily be a ‘centrist’ member of the disastrous Bush coterie, maybe similar to General Colin Powell, more or less.
In the event, 2008 was the first time since 1976 that I voted for a Democrat. That choice stemmed from a vow that I made, never again to cast my ballot for a Democratic Presidential candidate. Jimmy Carter, when he threw his arm around the foot-taller Anastasio Somoza and declared him ‘one of our finest friends in Central America,’ so alienated me from the ‘liberal’ line that I swore never again to soil my soul with these cretins at the pinnacle of the national level.
I broke that promise once, three years ago. Obama has been even worse than I feared. Thus, I’m now having a ‘coming-back-to-Jesus moment;’ I’m renewing my vows. Never again will I vote, for any national office, for Demopublicans or Republocrats(two more terms that I claim some credit for creating). This rejuvenated commitment is worthy of note because yesterday I received an e-mail from Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry. She implored that I donate to Barack-the-Magnificent’s reelection. In fact, every link in the e-mail took me to the ‘bucks page.’
The e-mail itself contained assertions that ranged from the paltry to the prevaricating. They centered around the idea that Barack-the-Magnificent shares
“our vision of America as a land of opportunity for everyone. We need a leader willing to fight for the needs of the 99 percent, and stand with hard working families to say that the world’s wealthiest corporations must pay their fair share.”
As persuasive speech this is weak enough. Analytically, with immigrants under attack everywhere, 99 out of 100 Federal ‘Bailout’ dollars going to the wealthy and the entitled, while people like my wife and me lose our homes to the banking establishments that cashed in on crisis, the words are insulting in their lopsided deviation from reality.
The rest of the text is little better, alleging baselessly that Obama’s jobs act would be much more than a sop to construction companies and large corporate outfits—teachers and a handful of others excepted, of course, though those provisions would likely end ‘on the cutting room floor,’ as the saying goes. Equally ludicrous contentions appear about the beneficence of the U.S. Government under Obama toward immigrants, who still fear La Migra far more than the idiocy of Alabama or the open fascism of Arizona.
And of course, even after Barack-the-magnificent acceded to cutting the guts out of any possibility of a ‘single-payer’ system that at least had a credible chance, however miniscule, of really serving ‘the 99 per cent,’ the obeisance toward ‘health care reform’ still appears. In reality, this largest-ever giveaway to the most monopolistic insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms is unparalleled, so touting this legislation would also be sickening were it not so formulaically boring.
And, as suggested above, of course not a word shows up about the murderous barbarity of American empire, the hypocritical breast-beating about nuclear annihilation’s pendency, the disastrous whore-fest with the nuclear power industry, or the continuing monstrosity of the war on drugs. Instead, the e-mail celebrates continued decline of common dreams in the so-called ‘administration-of-hope,’ and asks for money four or five times.
I’ve written volumes about most of this. What I say is, at least arguably, credibly supported, and indisputably joins an argument about what is necessary now to salvage anything even vaguely resembling “the American dream.” I can and will compose further volumes. For now, as a faithful union member for most of the past thirty years—sometimes, I couldn’t beg, borrow, or steal the dues, I will convey my continued trenchant critique of what passes for working class leadership.
The merest sip of what a reasonable analysis would be of the Barack-the-Magnificent, imperialist avatar, follows. Yesterday, he spoke before the Australian Parliament. In this self-congratulatory outpouring, he managed simultaneously several swell rhetorical tricks.
- He both nodded to and dismissed indigenous peoples and national minorities.
- He celebrated working peoples’ wartime sacrifices and promised an expansion of America’s Pacific empire.
- He bragged that Australia and the U.S. have ‘won the present round of wars,’ while promoting the need to continue the same fight that we haven’t even understood correctly in these actions.
- He at once spoke of cooperation with China and threatened that increasingly powerful nation, full of smart and hard-working people, with destruction if it failed to meet American hegemonistic mandates.
Folks who say that Barack-the-Magnificent ought to be President again are therefore saying ‘yes’ to empire, ‘yes’ to endless war, ‘yes’ to brutal oppression and economic marginality, and ‘yes’ to the untrammeled rule of the rich plutocratic thugs who are presently in command. I for one am clear: ‘No, thank you.’
At this point in the game, I sure as heck don’t expect much validation. On the other hand, history, should anyone survive the coming carnage, will judge the texts that remain behind. In that court, I am confident of recognition as a voice for the reasoned effort that has to be a part of people-power. Any other form of democracy is, at absolute best bullshit.
Princeton’s philosophy professor, Harry Frankfurt, has also spoken to this overall tendency toward falsity in service of deflection or hidden agendas. In 2005, he wrote a delightfully brief and artful capsulization of the intellectual swamp that continues to predominate contemporary dialog.
“One of the salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern or attracted much sustained inquiry.”
Once more, I will close with a plea for engagement and a different path. Miraculously, we still might achieve a decent world in which people can show their potency instead of spending their time whining about the bullies.