Today brings sad news, reports of a deal to raise the national debt ceiling reached between elite Republicans and elite Democrats that goes against the interests of ordinary Americans. Many liberals and leftists are blaming Obama for giving in to the demands of the radical right.
This is more than about one person, one president. Our political-economic system is structurally undemocratic. It is based more on principles of plutocracy than democracy.
Yet blaming Obama is fully justified, just as blaming elite Democrats and Republicans is justified, or blaming the disappointing passivity and lack of mobilization among middle-class, working-class, and poor citizens is justified. Obama happens to be the most powerful individual in this game, and so he has a higher personal level of responsibility. The more power, the more responsibility.
Americans feel let down by Obama because he is not doing as President what he (mostly vaguely, generally, and irrationally) campaigned on, which is to make Washington work for ordinary people. Most Obama supporters bought into the marketing, into the feel-good symbolism. However, an individual candidate of a major party today represents the system that nominates him; Obama's biggest financial supporters were Wall Street investors, so what should we rationally expect? Political change needs to come from the masses if democracy is to function properly.
Should we blame Obama, or continue to support him through to the next election? Though it may make us feel better, it only hurts our society if we play the role of apologist for an enabler of the status quo, which in the rosiest (rational) analysis is what Obama represents. I tend to think his presidency represents something far worse however, which is a sharp rightward shift by our corporate state in both domestic and foreign policy.
Nothing convinces me that Obama fundamentally disagrees with these policies he compromises on over and over again, or else he would use options like the 14th Amendment to block obvious injustices.
Today's Democratic Party essentially supports policies that the Republican Party of the 20th century did, with modern-day Republicans having since become radicalized in ruthless support of the top 1% of Americans over all competing interests. The left in America is comatose. It does not currently exist in any functional way.
In order to move forward, we need to support independent/left media as much as we support dominant media (How much do you spend on corporate media every month? Spend the same on Democracy Now!, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Real News Network, GRITtv, the Media Education Foundation, the Center for Media and Democracy, etc.). We also need private money out of elections, maybe even a non-corporate/Left party. Most importantly, we need ordinary Americans involved and engaged in politics and economics in a active, sustained way. We need organized mass resistance and a resurgent, grassroots left movement, not Obama apologists.
With elites in control of our key decisions and with ordinary people marginalized from the process, we continue to speed towards the edge of the cliff, towards deeper socioeconomic struggles at home and abroad, towards the next global financial crisis, and towards environmental catastrophe of the highest order. What will it take for people to wake up and express sustained outrage?