The Obama Phenom or revolving door democracy By William Bowles

9 January 2008 —

Let me open with a quote from my friend and comrade Patricia Murphy Robinson

“Obama will self-destruct because he is a historical moment – and a commodity – delusional and orgasmically enveloped by the personifications of capital. Immigrants eat that shit up, longing for the relief of not eating and eternally poor, worse, looked down on – compensational delusions of grandeur and great manipulations of capital. Unlike Bush, instrument of another time (ENRON), he [class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Obama] is just the right putty for the magical thinkers who control capital.”

There are dark forces at work here, namely the pr and media sectors of the ruling elites who have realised that the only way to (hopefully) save their bacon is to have an economically and politically ‘safe’ Black prez who captures the imagination of those who have never voted (about 30% of the eligible population), mostly the young and along the way it’s hoped he’ll capture a significant percentage of Black vote and of course most of the Democratic voters. He’s right of Hillary Clinton but with loads more appeal, so he even might grab a few Republicans and he’s an African (of Kenyan descent, now there’s synchronicity in action). Damn, he comes over like an ad for Benetton or Guess, no wonder the powers that be are backing him.

Have you seen the gushing stuff about class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Obama on the BBC? Auntie Beeb is positively wetting her knickers over the guy! What a ready-made media image he is, and he’s already well packaged and ready to fly. Of course, it’s anybody’s guess if he’ll make it through the endless gauntlets he’s going to have to run and crash land instead.

“Though many of the foot soldiers on Obama’s campaign are little more than 20 years old, they have had unprecedented influence on campaign methodology.

“They stumbled upon the idea of mobilising first-time 17- and 18-year-old voters, and making them a vote-seeking priority, a tactic which many believe helped win Iowa for Mr Obama.

“Their superior knowledge of the internet also offers some answers to the question of how Obama is using young volunteers to reach voters.”Obama vision stirs student vote’ By Katherine Smyth, BBC News Website, 6 January 2008.

What’s important is that he fulfills a function as a symbol for change in big, Black letters (change and we apparently are memes the functionaries have decided to use), and let’s face it, next to class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Obama, Hillary just doesn’t cut the change thing, she’s definitely old school all the way. The BBC picked up on this and played it up, not that they needed any prompting, but no doubt lengthy ‘discussions’ in the editorial offices of BBC News hammered out the approach to be used (after ‘consultations’ with the relevant authorities as to the correct ‘line’).

The thing is, the state is in crisis, and not just the US state but all the so-called advanced nations are to a lesser or greater degree going through the same thing, Capitalism has lost its legitimacy. We may not be able to change it but that doesn’t mean we have to like it or even accept its diktats, hence the clampdown on our liberties for when the shit really does hit the fan. Nothing like being prepared for der tag, something the apparatchik are all too well aware of as the following quote quite clearly demonstrates (we should be so lucky that the scenario envisioned below should come to pass).

“The Middle Class Proletariat – The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx. The globalization of labour markets and reducing levels of national welfare provision and employment could reduce peoples’ attachment to particular states. The growing gap between themselves and a small number of highly visible super-rich individuals might fuel disillusion with meritocracy, while the growing urban under-classes are likely to pose an increasing threat to social order and stability, as the burden of acquired debt and the failure of pension provision begins to bite. Faced by these twin challenges, the world’s middle-classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest.” —  UK Ministry of Defence report, The DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme 2007-2036 (Third Edition) p.81, March 2007

So the ruling elites (or some of them anyway) are putting their money on class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Obama in the hope that he’ll restore ‘legitimacy’ to the ‘democratic process’, should he win through to the actual nomination and then win the election. It’s a tall order but not undoable, but will it solve the problems the advanced (some say decrepid) capitalist states have finally run into?

I’ve long thought about how the ‘democratic’ process is utilised to maintain the status quo. It’s a wonderful tool for holding onto power when used correctly and under the ‘right‘ circumstances. It has legitimacy, it’s an outlet for those who think that the franchise might actually change things fundamentally, all by itself, thus the vote becomes a ‘container’ in which the citizen invests everything of a political nature. Once filled, the container can be used any which way, or not as the case may be.†But it only works under very special circumstances and we are no longer inside that ‘comfort’ zone. It existed for less than a century, for some of the ‘advanced’ countries less than than that and few have been without their, let’s call them breaks.

Think about it, the watershed in contemporary politics was the Watergate scandal (and obviously the Vietnam war of which it was, anyway, a part). For the first time in the 20th century, not merely a president but The President was publicly humiliated before billions. The actions of the state at war no less, were being openly challenged, and aside from the odd mutiny here and there in and around WWI and those that occurred in Vietnam, it was unprecedented. The state wasn’t used to being challenged like that.

Of course that was before our ruling elites got the hang of the new medium of television (they’re not a very bright bunch taken as a whole, and definitely not capable of really creative thought, they leave that to their trusted employees).

Worse still, the state and ‘class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>democracy had lost its previously unassailable legitimator as the guarantor of the citizens much vaunted (and anyways, incomplete) rights to have a say, as they say, in governance, and not only a say but oversight and feedback from the state’s many minions, at least in theory.

It was a situation stuffed with nightmares for the ruling elites, they had to recover the lost ground somehow. How to regain that legitimacy, the right to rule?

Traditionally, either of the major political parties of the ‘left’ or the ‘right‘ in countries like the US and the UK, ‘take up the slack’ when one of the other the parties in power can’t hack it with the electorate anymore. It’s all nuances, semantics and/or propaganda whichever side it comes from.

Enter Jimmy Carter, the class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Obama of the 1970s (of course a Black contender was beyond the Pale, remember Jesse Jackson?). Carter’s purpose just like class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Obama‘s was to restore a belief and trust in the system. He lasted just as long as was necessary (he also presided over a massive arms build-up, business always comes first) before restoring the status quo with the ‘election’ of The Gipper and the inevitable assault on working people that was to follow (a process still in motion). It needed that ‘breathing space’, an interregnum that Carter provided in order to expunge the Nixon era from the publicâ’s memory. Trust had to be restored. Iran, once again, provided the raison d’etre and it was back to ‘business as usual’ and for the same old crew of gangsters to get back in the saddle, only this time with a vengeance.

Enter Barack class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Obama, the Jimmy Carter of the 21st century, whose policies are pretty well indistinguishable from that of his rivals, but he’s young, Black, got a cute wife and even cuter kids, and unlike Hillary, he can communicate. In a word, he’s ‘cool’.

“This is new. America has never seen anything like the Barack Obama phenomenon” wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert on Jan. 5. ‘Shake hands with tomorrow. It’s here.” “Yes, We Can” The Magic Behind Obama’s Message” By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet. January 8, 2008.

This is revolving door ‘class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>democracy‘ in action. We saw it here in the UK with the ‘election’ of Gordon Brown and in South Africa with the election of Jacob Zuma as the replacement for neoliberal Thabo Mbeki (the Tony Blair of South Africa whose ‘advisors’ I might add, also advised the ANC in the run-up to the 1994 election), and whose policies have left the Black majority materially worse off than they were under Apartheid, whilst creating a filthy rich Black elite (largely composed of former ‘comradesâ’). Elsewise, nothing else has changed. Big, white capital still controls the economy. BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) is a sick joke on all those who sacrificed their lives to overthrow Apartheid Capitalism (we overthrew Apartheid but left the Capitalism bit even more firmly entrenched than ever).

The real possibility of open revolt has scared the South African state witless, something drastic had to be done. Zuma, whose following in the townships is immense, is of course limited by whatever dirt the ruling political class have on him (and vice versa) and it’s difficult to see what substantive changes he can bring about under such circumstances. But these are desperate times for Capital and its servants, everything hinges on what happens over the next two-three years. It’s make or break time.

At this critical juncture in our history, comparable perhaps to the period that led up to WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution but one without a viable alternative to offer, it’s clear that the psycho-babblers who planned the class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Obama Phenom have correctly assayed the prevailing mood and tapped into it (the BBC incorrectly term it as “stumbl[ing] upon the idea of mobilising first-time 17- and 18-year-old voters”, after all it wouldn’t do to mention that the entire thing was planned by an army of skilled pollsters, admen, speechwriters and PR whizzes).

What these events quite clearly reveal is the role of ‘Western class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>democracy‘ in trying to maintain the status quo whilst projecting the illusion of change. But will it work this time around? And if it doesn’t, what are the alternatives? If history is any guide, the overt force of the state will be brought to bear on any ‘recalcitrants’, a convenient enemy has already been created, ‘al-Qu’eda’ and the ‘War on Terror’, local scapegoats, the Muslims (who in any case are also Black) and all the necessary ‘legalisms’are in place to preserve the (shaky) rule of Capital by force.

It’s worth quoting the concluding sentence of the MoD’s assessment again,

“Faced by these twin challenges, the world’s middle-classes might unite [with the dispossessed ‘underclass’], using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest.”

An interesting but not unsurprising observation by a Whitehall Mandarin who obviously has a better grasp of the class realities than the entire Left put together. The ‘middle class‘ that the report speaks of are absolutely critical to the creation and maintenance of the corporate, security state. Lose them and you risk losing the ‘Great Game’.

Whether the ‘middle class‘ in alliance with the dispossessed that the MoD author talked of really will bring about a revolution, is of course speculation, but thereâ’s no harm done preparing for one is there? It’s more than we’ve done but then there’s a lot more at stake for those who service and protect big Capital. But it does illustrate the fact that the ruling elites are under no illusions about the fundamental class nature of the struggle, which hasn’t changed one iota since Marx‘s time in spite of all the drivel talked about the ‘demise’ of the working class. The State isn’t fooled even if we have been.

Addendum: Check out the FAIR piece ‘Media to Voters: It’s Over – Pundits rushing to end primaries and preempt voter choices‘ 1/8/08