Millions of people have been energized by Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency. After eight disastrous years of George W. Bush, they are excited to see an inspiring, young politician with a multicultural background have a real shot at the White House. The contest between Obama and John McCain seems like a generational struggle between progress and politics-as-usual, peace and war and optimism and despair.
While Obama’s bid for president looks nice on the surface, there isn’t much to get excited about when one gets down to brass tacks. The truth is that his candidacy represents the re-packaging of corporate rule and American empire with a happy face.
Obama has repeatedly emphasized that he’s free from corporate lobbyists and special interests. But this year, the securities and investment industry has funded Obama roughly $8 million, or about 50 percent more than the industry has contributed to McCain.
Obama’s pro-corporate bent is most evident in his position on the North American Free Trade Agreement. During the Democratic primaries, Obama actively opposed the trade deal, criticizing it as a devastating policy that enriched multinationals at the expense of workers. However, in a interview with Fortune magazine, Obama recanted: “Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified. Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself.”
The company Obama keeps in his campaign is also indicative of the senator’s willingness to abandon earlier populist views in order to placate the ruling class. For his economic advisor, he chose Jason Furman, a prominent defender of Wal-Mart (a company notorious for union-busting and discrimination) who is associated with the conservative Chicago School of economics. Obama had plenty of progressive, social justice-oriented economists to choose from, but he went with a neoliberal hack instead.
Furman must also be pleased with Obama’s opposition to single-payer healthcare – which is favored by more than 60 percent of Americans and 59 percent of doctors. It is, after all, so much easier not to challenge the central role of Big Pharma and Big Insurance in directing our healthcare system.
Throughout the election, Obama has also touted himself as a principled opponent of the Iraq War. Obama’s plan calls for the “phased redeployment” (not withdrawal) of all combat brigades within 16 months. Combat brigades account for about half of U.S. forces in the country, and Obama would leave at least 60,000 troops there for an indefinite period of time to act as a “security force.” He would also leave tens of thousands of private mercenaries in the country and use the redeployed combat brigades to bolster the occupation of Afghanistan. Obama also wants increase the size of the military by 92,000 troops.
For Obama, the Iraq War is not wrong because of its enormous human casualties or because it is a massive violation of the Iraqi people’s sovereignty. Rather, it is a strategically wrong war that is a drag on the United States’ ability to politically dominate the rest of the world.
Obama admits this in a 2007 Foreign Affairs article, where he suggests that “to renew American leadership in the world, we must first bring the Iraq war to a responsible end and refocus our attention on the broader Middle East.” Of course, Obama doesn’t care whether or not the other 192 countries of the world want the United States to “lead” them. In his view, America has an inherent right to lord over the rest of the globe and shape it in its own image. Bush has just “led” these countries in the wrong way.
The Democratic nominee likes to use words like “hope” and “change,” but there is no evidence that an Obama presidency would offer any real hope for change on the important issues. Scratch beneath all the pretty rhetoric, and you will find a painfully average politician.
Information from: www.opensecrets.org, www.fortune.com, www.alternet.org, www.abcnews.go.com, www.reuters.com, www.americanprogress.org, www.barackobama.com, www.foreignaffairs.org.