A discussion about Barack Obama’s political persona

Corey Robin, a professor at Brooklyn College, posted an interesting and much needed discussion which focused on the questions:

Is Obama politically inept or does he want these massive cuts? And if he wants them, is it because of political calculation? Is he a true believer in neoliberal economics? A hostage of Wall Street?

The occasion: The Debt Ceiling Debate and Glenn Greenwald’s debunking of a few persistent myths about Barack Obama’s political behavior, namely, that Obama is “weak” and “inept.”

The discussants are:

Joshua Cohen

Jodi Dean

Jay Driskell

Lisa Garcia Bedolla

Alex Gourevitch

Doug Henwood

Joe Lowndes

Rick Perlstein

Katha Pollit

Adolph Reed

Thaddeus Russell

Thomas Sugrue

Shane Taylor

The consensus opinion broadly construed: Obama is not ‘weak,’ is not ‘inept’ and is effectively a neoconservative, albeit a neoconservative who wants to be considered a well-meaning tailor who mends the tears found in America’s political fabric. Obama is, as I have long claimed, a system politician, which is to say, that he is an agent of finance capital and the security-surveillance state as well as a proponent of elite governance and weak form of democratic accountability. And I would say that Obama’s Presidency has validated this political judgment. Had the Democratic Party in 2008 wanted to run a reform candidate with national, popular and democratic bona fides, it would have selected Ralph Nader as its candidate. It did not, and the United States now seemingly confronts a situation in which its better impulses have already suffered a major political defeat.

The discussion is well worth reading.

3 Responses to A discussion about Barack Obama’s political persona

  1. cantueso says:

    A neoconservative! But do you think he would also see himself that way? I am Swiss and I do not know much about US party colours. Would he be a wolf in a sheepskin to Democrats?
    Anyway, thanks a lot for the recommendation of that discussion.


    • The neoconservative label may seem extreme, but I believe it fits. Obama is an economic reactionary and a militarist or imperialist. He has now attacked and further undermined America’s already weakly social democratic state. He has augmented the police powers of the Federal Government, protected War Criminals, has authorized War Crimes, has weakened the already weak powers of political accountability, has opposed transparency measures, etc. This is the nature of the Democratic Party in the USA. Like the British Labor Party and Social Democratic Parties in some European states, it has abandoned its historical legacy and embraced austerity and elite governance. This change became obvious if not final when the so-called Democratic Leadership Council marginalized the Jesse Jackson wing of the Democratic Party. Reactionary economics and militarism were the new guiding ideas of this party. The right in general opposes the DLCers for the same reasons the right opposed moderate Republicans in the 40s-70s: They are fundamentalists. But we should not let their fundamentalism obscure the fact that the Democratic Party today occupies a place on the right.

      Obama does not hide his true face from his party and his backers. He only hides it from the electorate.

      Thanks for writing!


  2. cantueso says:

    I have downloaded but not yet read your text and Corey Robin’s and Glenn Greenwald’s, because I am a slow reader and would be slow even if I knew more about the subject. So I have to read things off-line. I am in Spain and my internet connection seems to depend on the weather.

    The whole thing is shocking. Yesterday I saw a cartoon on the Guardian where Obama in a red prisoner’s outfit was accompanied by two big US soldiers to the gates of Guantánamo with a line of soldiers solemnly standing at attention.


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