US elections: The Barack Obama mirage
IT SEEMS on the cusp of being real. For the first time in the US, an African American - Barack Obama of the Democratic Party - has a serious chance of being the next occupant of the White House.
Teddy Shibabaw, Socialist Alternative (CWI, USA)
The centrepiece of Obama's campaign has been the claim that he is the candidate of "hope" and "change" as opposed to the establishment figure, Hillary Clinton. He has crowned himself the king of post-racial and post-partisan politics. With the assistance of the corporate media, he has captured the imagination and hope of millions of voters, particularly new layers of politicised young people.
A corporate candidate
The truth behind the Obama phenomenon, however, is much less attractive than the image. If you look at his concrete policies, voting record and source of campaign funds, Obama is a trusted servant of the big business elite. He represents the US ruling class's desperate attempt to put a new face on its domestic and global domination.
Obama's list of top campaign contributors reads like a Wall Street Who's Who list, with Goldman Sachs at the top. How does he deny taking money from lobbyists and PACs [Political Action Committees, which can receive up to $5,000 a year from any one individual - Eds.] and still raise over $100 million? The answer is the magic of 'bundling' - elite individuals with a lot of influence get many senior and junior level executives to donate the maximum amounts.
As of 29 October 2007, Obama had received 46% of his campaign money from mega-rich donors who had given $2,300 or more (OpenSecrets.org).
It's very convenient for "anti-war" Obama that he wasn't in the Senate to vote for the Iraq war resolution in 2002. Based on a tepid speech he made in 2003, in which he attacked the Iraq war as the "wrong war at the wrong time," Obama claims he has opposed the war from the start.
His record in the Senate should speak much louder. He has consistently voted to approve hundreds of billions of dollars to continue funding the war and refuses to commit to pulling all the troops out by the end of his first term, in 2013!
Further, Obama supports a troop increase in Afghanistan and is fully committed to the "War on Terrorism." Obama supports an expansion of the military by 92,000 troops and increasing the bloated Pentagon budget.
Obama's claim to be the candidate of universal healthcare is no better. His plan, like Clinton's and Edwards', is only a re-organisation of the current private for-profit healthcare system. This is less a guarantee for universal healthcare and more a huge scam to line the pockets of the healthcare industry by forcing working people to buy insurance from them.
As long as private profit isn't taken out of all aspects of healthcare through a single-payer system, talk of affordable and universal healthcare is no more than a mirage.
Obama's success as a mainstream candidate reflects his unspoken promise not to have a 'race agenda'. Instead, he makes patently false statements about how "Blacks have already come '90% of the way to equality,' inferring that his election would provide the final ten percent." (Glen Ford, blackagendareport.com)
In reality, people of colour face huge inequities that belie Obama's anaesthetised proposition of a post-racial paradigm.
2005 Census data shows the median income for black households was $30,939, compared to $50,622 for white households (Washington Post, 14/11/06).
Although only about 12% of the US population, blacks comprise 900,000 of the nation's 2.2 million prison population (The Sentencing Project, July 2007). Equally grotesque structural racism can be found in the criminal neglect of infrastructure, education, and housing in the black community.
Nevertheless, Obama's rhetoric about change doesn't come out of thin air. Most Americans want to ditch the extreme right-wing, militaristic presidency of George W Bush - along with the Democratic Party accomplices.
Millions of working-class people and youth are frustrated by falling incomes, lack of healthcare, and the unending military occupation of Iraq. Obama's campaign strategists have skilfully tapped into this very real sentiment for change.
Workers, young people, and people of colour should reject Obama and the Democratic Party. We have no need for a party of big business that pretends to fight for regular people. We don't need any corporate politicians whose purpose is to confuse and derail our path to independent politics.
What we need are principled, independent, anti-war and pro-worker candidates to challenge the two parties of big business at all levels of office.
In The Socialist 30 January 2008:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Debt and Housing Feature
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news