The Empty Suit(s)
Recently, Teodrose Fikre wrote a very interesting and insightful article about former President Barack Obama, titled, The First Bank President. Even without seeing Obama's picture at the top of the article, I knew that it was about Barack Obama. The funny thing is in that my first glance at the article, I had misread the title to be "The First President." In retrospect, either title would be appropriate to describe Obama and his Presidency.
As I read through Fikre's excellent article, I remembered reading a scathing article by Paul Street at Counterpunch a while back and so I searched for it as a companion piece to that by Fikre. The title of Street's article was Obama: A Hollow Man Filled With Ruling Class Ideas. Street's article was both a review of David J. Garrow's massive biography of Obama and Street's own analysis of Obama as a President and as a person. Street writes how Obama is portrayed in Garrow's book.
The subject of Garrow’s meticulous history is a single-minded climber ready to toss others (including family members, lovers, and close friends) aside in service to an all-consuming quest for political power fueled by a belief in his own special “destiny.”
But the issue of Obama's failed Presidency goes far deeper as Street notes later in his article in which he takes note of Adolph Reed Jr.'s prescient take on Obama very early on.
Reed’s prescient verdict more than 12 years before Obama became president brings more insight to the Obama tragedy than Jager’s reflection five years into Obama’s presidency. Obama’s nauseating taste for supposedly (and deceptively) non-ideological “get things done” “pragmatism,” “compromise,” and “playing it safe” – for “accepting the world as it is instead of trying to change it” (Jager) – was not simply or merely a personality quirk or psychological flaw. It was also and far more significantly a longstanding way for “liberal” Democratic presidents and other politicos to appear “tough-minded” and stoutly determined to “getting things done” while they subordinate the fake-populist and progressive-sounding values they mouth to get elected to the harsh “deep state” facts of U.S. ruling class, imperial, and “national security” power.
Among journalists, Fikre has emerged as one of Obama's greatest critics even though, at one time, Fikre was one of Obama's biggest supporters.
I know this article will induce agita upon the legions of Obama’s loyalists and some will try to discount what I write as some “right wing hit piece”; which overlooks the fact that I ran to be Obama’s delegate and was once one of his biggest supporters. The truth is that none of us really knew Obama when he launched his campaign; to this day, very few know his past and even fewer know what he stands for.
Obama ensured that the bankers would be made whole and more through his policies that rewarded the casino tactics used by the banking industry while ignoring the needs of vast numbers of Americans whose lives, livelihoods, and futures were destroyed by the vultures of Wall Street.
To say that Obama was a Wall Street toady is a most extreme of understatements. Using pyramid schemes and monetary scams like Quantitative Easing, Zero Percent Interest Rates and a sea of bailouts, Obama shoveled tens of trillions of dollars to the moneyed gentry while giving the middle finger to the rest of us. He used the bottom 99% as sacrificial lambs in order to feed the wolves of Wall Street. Not only did Obama not end “too big to fail”, he actually augmented this “win win, lose win” paradigm by assuring the big banks that US tax payers would be on the hook and let the banking mafia gamble with free money.
Teodrose Fikre and other notable blacks, such as Dr. Cornel West, Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report, activist Niko House and Tim Black, been at the forefront of black writers, journalists, and commenters who were once Obama supporters and are now calling out, not only Obama, but the entire Democratic party for cynically using identity politics as a cudgel against black voters. Fikre writes:
Saddest of all is that Obama was able to accomplish this level of fraudulence by treading on the pains of African-Americans and his most loyal supporters. He pretended that he was “one of us” and down for the cause when all along he was a wolf in shepherd’s clothing. He calculatedly took pictures with African-American grandmothers and young “black” kids to present himself as a redemptive story of hope and restoration. He was and is a charlatan who would go on to stick a knife in the backs of the very people he pretended he was for by implementing economic policies that shackled tens of millions of Americans into poverty and sentenced countless many into a life of hopelessness.
As the Democratic party moves forward towards 2020 Presidential election, we still see identity politics in full view taking precedence over real substance. As early as 1996, Adolph Reed Jr. clearly understood what was going on with the Democratic party and the politicians they were cultivating when he wrote the following:
“In Chicago…we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, , has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and
Obama is now collecting $400,000 per speech to the very bankers he helped protect and hobnobbing with the wealthy, it is very obvious that, regardless of his flowery speeches to the public, he never really cared about the people. This was a man who offered up the social safety net on more than one occasion to attempt to get his "grand bargain." He was an empty suit who led the people to believe that he was for them while he was stabbing them in the back.
Obama is also the prototype politician for an empty suit political party devoid of any ideas or policies to help the citizens of this country. With the United States becoming less white, the Democratic party has put all its efforts into continuing to cultivate identity politics instead of strong policies with the newest crop of empty suits speaking platitudes of meaningless words. Look no further than empty suits Kamala Harris or Corey Booker.