A citizen movement committed to restoring Vermont to an independent republic, free to pursue life, liberty and happiness unimpeded by the demands of an imperial, corrupt and disintegrating United States.
Paul Street, whose book entitled Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics proved the most astute political critique of the Obama era (see our Vermont Commons review below), is back with an insightful look at what might best be called “The Legend Of Bernie Sanders.” In this new arcticle, penned for Black Agenda Report, Street reports on the real story behind Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential election bid, including:
– Alleged “socialist” Sanders’ inside dealings with the Democratic Party as far back as 1990.
– Sanders’ Harvard University Kennedy School “conversion” to a political centrist with the blessing of the Democratic Party.
– Sanders’ two decades’ of strategic blocking of a viable third party Progressive movement in Vermont.
– Sanders’ voting record in support of aggressive and militaristic U.S. imperialism overseas.
Don’t get fooled again, friends. Ole’ Bernardo is Business as Usual for the U.S. of Empire. And here’s a reprint review of Street’s Obama book from six years ago – might bring some clarity to the fawning over the Sanders campaign.
Free Vermont, and long live the UNtied States!
—- snip —-
Street Cred: Reconsidering Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics
by Rob Williams, 2VR Publisher
I serve as a blank screen onto which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.
Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope, 2006
Barack Obama is the ultimate modern media creature…his entire political persona is an ingeniously crafted human cipher, a man without race, ideology, geographic allegiances, or indeed, sharp edges of any kind.
Matt Taibi, Rolling Stone, February 2007
Sixty years ago, a brilliant young U.S. historian named Richard Hofstadter wrote a book called The American Political Tradition And The Men Who Made It. Long a staple of U.S. college classrooms, Hofstadter’s masterpiece surveyed a wide array of political leaders, from Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, through Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Hofstadter concluded, somewhat devastatingly, that “the range of vision embraced by the primary contestants in the major parties has always been bounded by the horizons of property and enterprise. They have accepted the economic virtues of capitalist culture as necessary qualities of man,” [and] the ‘intensely nationalistic’” nature of U.S. political culture.
In a stunning new book entitled Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics, author Paul Street takes critical aim at what might best be termed “the legend” of Barack Obama. Wisely, Street begins with Hofstadter, whose prescient writing is more relevant that ever in this new millennium, as the U.S. republic slips ever more deeply into Empire. Street is a sharp observer of the Obama phenomenon, having worked in both the Chicago and national political arenas as an independent journalist, policy adviser (Vice President of the Chicago Urban League), historian, and field worker for the John Edwards 2008 presidential campaign run in Iowa (where, he says, he discovered an unthinking devotion to Obama exhibited by his supporters which bordered on “cultlike.” Street’s study is the most important book on Obama I’ve yet read. And yes, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope are both on my bookshelf, my purchase of them helping to make Obama a millionaire and launch his successful bid for the presidency.
Street begins his study with some general observations about important elements of our deeply debased 21st century U.S. imperial political culture, ingredients that the Obama campaign took full advantage of: an obsession with celebrity, the 24/7 promotion of a “culture of therapy” (thanks, Oprah), the relentless push towards the tele-visual, the bankruptcy of our winner-take-all two-party (or is it 1 party with two heads?) corporately-funded political system, Democratic leaders’ – Clinton, Carter and the Johns (Kennedy and Kerry) – historic tendency to “give away the store” on issues critical to Democratic voters, and the disturbing fact that 6 transnational media conglomerates own most of what we read, see, and hear in what passes for “news” these days. He quotes Noam Chomsky, who astutely observed that, in a 21st century political culture built on spectacle, “spectators are not supposed to bother their heads with issues.” All vital points to understand, but somewhat standard fare from a left-leaning political observer.
Street’s book really takes off when he starts examining some deeply-cherished myths about Mr. O held by Obama’s supporters, as well as closely scrutinizing the Ba-Rock Star’s actual speeches and political record. Here are just a few of the questions Street explores.
Was Barack Obama’s historic 2008 campaign really funded by millions of small donations and “not by folks writing big checks”?
In a chapter entitled “Obama’s Dollar Value,” Street shows how candidate Obama was vetted, blessed and sanctified by corporate and political elites as far back as October 2003, when he met with Beltway and Wall Street insiders, and began raking in campaign donations from the very same Bail-Us-Out Banksters now in “too big too fail” mode: among them – Goldman Sachs, UBS AG, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, and Citibank. “What’s the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?” asks one big donor who preferred to remain anonymous. And, not surprisingly, Obama’s voting record indicates he has rewarded his donors with policies and programs that best serve their interests, even as he exudes Clinton-esque “I feel your pain” sympathy for the collapsing U.S. economy’s poor ole’ middle and working class peasants on the Tee Vee week.
Is Barack Obama really an “economic progressive?”
One of Obama’s greatest rhetorical maneuvers, Street suggests, a trick clearly evident in a close reading of his second book The Audacity of Hope, as well as just about every political speech he delivers, is his ability to elevate issues of socioeconomic class over issues of race, and to rhetorically ratchet down expectations for most Americans at a time of tremendous economic disparity. At the same time, Obama hews to the same corporate-friendly “globalist” line on policy matters, sacrificing the interests of working and middle class breadwinners on the altar of political expediency. Obama’s supporters like to point to his rhetorical support for the common man, but you can’t eat a teleprompter screen. “He knew the words to our hymns,” one disillusioned black voter said of Jimmy Carter, “but not the number on our paychecks.” The same, Street suggests, can be said of Obama.
And what about race in the United States? How “black” is Barack Obama, anyway? Street is at his best explaining the historical and cultural differences between individual and institutional racism in the United States, arguing that Obama’s politically-motivated attempts to transcend divisive issues of race in the United States end up betraying voters of color because discriminatory race-based policy matters go ignored, even as the “post-racial” politics of Obama assuage white voters who don’t really see the Chicago-based Obama as “of color.” “I love Barack. He’s smart. He’s handsome. He’s charismatic,” explained one middle-aged white voter. “I don’t think of him as black.” Or, as African-American observer Debra Dickerson explained in a 2007 Washington Post article, “We’d probably like it better if Barack talked like Jesse Jackson, but ya’ll wouldn’t.”
And are Obama’s allegedly “anti-war” foreign policy positions to date really all that different from those of the Bush/Cheney regime? Aside from Obama’s occasional adoption of a “kinder, gentler” rhetorical tone – let’s close Guantanamo, be nicer to Arab Muslims, and work for world peace – Street argues that Obama’s continued adherence to “American exceptionalism,” his continuation of aggressive Pentagon and CIA policies in the greater Middle East (including his “Bushing” us into war in Afghanistan), and his “blame and hold” strategy in Iraq (blame the Iraqis for all the problems the U.S. helped created since the 2003 invasion, and hold onto whatever bases and other resources the U.S. military can salvage) indicate that it is business as usual for the U.S. Empire abroad.
This short review does little justice to Street’s thoughtful, sophisticated and trenchantly-written critique of Obama’s rise to power and his first year in office. Suffice to say that Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics will push an open-minded reader to a deeper consideration of the situation in which the United States now finds itself as we enter the new millennium. But, to do so, one must look beyond the media-manufactured rhetoric of “hope” and “change” to grapple with some deeper, darker truths about Barack Obama and the future of U.S. politics.