By Mike Whitney/ Counterpunch/ January 27, 2017
In 2008, the American people overwhelmingly voted for “change” in Washington. They never got it. Hence, Trump. To pretend that there’s not a straight line connecting the failed policies of Barack Obama and the subsequent rise of Donald John Trump, is to ignore the obvious and to shrug off responsibility for the situation the country is in today.
Obama created Trump, the man didn’t simply appear from the ether. Had Obama acted in good faith and kept his promises to shake up the status quo, end the foreign wars, restore civil liberties, hold Wall Street accountable or relieve the economic insecurity that working families across the country now feel, Hillary Clinton would have been a shoe-in on November 8th. As it happens, Obama made no effort to achieve any of these goals, which is why Hillary was defeated in the biggest political upset of the last century.
The point we need to underscore here, is that the Democratic leadership is responsible for Trump, not the working class people in the red states who merely did what they had to do to effect change. These people can’t be blamed for voting their own best interests. That’s what people do. Had Obama done anything to genuinely improve the economy, things might have turned out differently. But he didn’t, in fact– as popular as Obama was– a full two thirds of the American people thought the country was headed in the wrong direction. In other words, the election was a referendum on Obama’s performance as the primary steward of the US economy. Obama lost that referendum.
Even so, the DNC could have reloaded and taken a different approach to the economy under Hillary. They didn’t. They thought the “recovery” meme was effective enough to put them over the finish line. But it wasn’t effective enough, because too many people saw that the recovery was a fraud, that there was no recovery, it was all a slick Madison Avenue public relations campaign aimed at concealing the fact that Obama had restructured the US economy in a way that deliberately kept growth at-or-below 2 percent so the Fed could continue pumping cheap money to its constituents on Wall Street while everyone else saw their personal debtload grow, their retirement savings vanish, and their standards of living slip. Isn’t that what really happened? Obama’s grand restructuring project has resulted in perennial economic stagnation and widespread pessimism about the future. The former president oversaw the greatest transfer of wealth from working class people to parasitic plutocrats in the history of the nation. It wasn’t an accident. Obama was following a blueprint that was given to him by his handlers at the DNC.
So now the country is to be led by a brash billionaire reality TV celebrity who has no previous political experience and who seems unusually sensitive to any kind of personal criticism. Not surprisingly, there’s no sign that the Democratic leadership feels any responsibility for this extraordinary development.
Why is that? Why hasn’t anyone in the DNC admitted their failure, admitted that they didn’t accurately gage the mood of the country or the hunger for change? Why haven’t they acknowledged that putting the most untrustworthy candidate of all time –a thoroughly dislikable, warmongering harridan– on the ticket was a mistake? Why?
It’s because this vile collection of corporate Dems who run the party are incapable of self reflection, right? It’s because the Podesta throng — who still hold the party in their deathgrip –truly believe that bamboozling their base with Potemkin executives like Barack Obama, is a terrific model for running the government. They think Obama’s tenure as president was a success story, mainly because his grandiloquent bloviating and larking around on stage with sleeves rolled up like an overpaid athlete– diverted attention from the trillions of dollars that were being sluiced to the banking whores on Wall Street. Isn’t that why the Dems haven’t changed?
They actually think they’ve stumbled on the secret formula for winning elections and that the election of Trump in 2016 is just a “one off”, a temporary setback.
But it’s not a one off. The rise of Trump has been accompanied by the rise of rightwing parties and ideology across the planet. What we are seeing is a fundamental change in the zeitgeist, which is “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.” In this view, Obama represents the culmination of the values and ideas that emerged during the 1960s and persisted until just recently when they collapsed. The utter corruption of the progressive vision (due, in large part, to the cynical and reactionary policies of parties like the Democrats) has paved the way for a new era, the Trump era, in which state repression is bound to increase even while personal liberty and economic security are steadily eviscerated.
And what is the Dems response to this new phenom?
Why, nothing at all. The whole matter seems to be over their heads. They don’t seem to grasp the shifting public mood, the changing epoch or how it will impact their future plans. Instead, they are doing everything in their power to make themselves more irrelevant. It’s pathetic.
And keep in mind, that ever since the election, the Dems have made no effort at course correction, no effort to reconnect with the millions of working people in the red states who used to vote Democrat but switched because they wanted change. No. Instead, party leaders have embarked on a counterproductive character assassination campaign aimed at discrediting the new president by alleging Russian “hacking” of the election. And while they have produced absolutely zero hard evidence to substantiate their loony claims, the Dems, the media and the thoroughly unreliable Intel agencies have continued this scapegoating onslaught thinking that they are shaping public opinion in a way that undermines President Trump.
It would all be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. But it is serious. The rise of Trump poses some significant challenges to democratic government, but, regrettably, the opposition party is in the middle of a major nervous breakdown. How are they going to stop this autocratic juggernaut in their present state of collapse?
They won’t be able to. They’re going to get beat to a pulp unless they get it together and stop running around with their hair on fire yelling, “The Russians are coming” instead of rebuilding the party on a commitment to basic progressive values; civil liberties, non intervention, and economic fairness. The Democratic Party has to be more than a membership register attached to a donor’s list. It needs to reconnect with its base and try to understand why working people are either leaving the party altogether or so disenchanted they won’t even vote.
How about a little self-examination, eh? How about clearing out the deadwood starting with crooked Hillary and her sleazy handler, Podesta? How about committing to a vision for change that’s more than a public relations scam aimed at hoodwinking your base? How about ending the buck passing bullshit and pushing legislation that offers some relief for rampant economic insecurity, student debt, dwindling retirements, universal health care, and environmental devastation.
The Democratic party doesn’t have to be a place where progressive ideas go to die. But they’d better get it together fast or it’s going to be Game over.
The thought of those crooks getting off, and the likelihood that other evil-doers will be bolder because nobody was held accountable for their actions, makes my skin crawl. But your points are well taken.
And letting off the hook all the war criminals and torturers from Bush’s administration.
That may look like a bad choice at the face value, but had he done that, he and his cabinet would probably get prosecuted and jailed for whatever bogus offense Trump could make up – or may even find a real one, like a drone attack on civilians. A tradition that an incoming president doesn’t punish predecessors is one of the things that helps ensure a peaceful transition of power, and doesn’t give the outgoing government a powerful incentive to hold on to power by any means necessary.
I understand your point. But the trouble is that these transgressions keep getting repeated by other administrations. If only Wall Street and the Military-Industrial-Complex were held accountable maybe we would get different outcomes.
I think that an administration should go after the abuses in the MIC and Wall Street. But any potential crimes involving the past government and spread throughout the highest levels of it – that would be probably what the Hague is supposed to do.
I would make an exception in the case when the outgoing Justice Department starts an investigation against the government and new government continues it.
In this partisan environment, however, any case where one party prosecutes the other would look like a witch hunt (and no matter if the perception is accurate) and will be returned with vengeance when the prosecuted party comes back into power.
And I would rather see GWB and Dick Cheney enjoy life than the country spiraling down into ever more intense cycles of mutual vengeance, that will very likely lead to a full totalitarian government that will never let go of its power.
(Assuming, of course, we still have any choice on the matter….)
You make some good points,”List.” But where do we draw the line? Would you have halted the Nuremberg Trials? Can we let these war criminals and banksters get away with their terrible crimes? And you know the U.S. would ignore anything coming from the Hague. It’s not an easy call, but I would err on the side of justice and put them on trial for their crimes against humanity and for nearly destroying the world economy. Of course, nobody will give me those powers….
I would like to see the banksters put on trial.
And I would think that any situation when the outgoing government attempts to hold on to power and fights against the peaceful transition of power (which would cover the extreme cases like the Nuremberg trials), then this government forfeits any courtesy of not being prosecuted for any crimes they may have committed. It’s not a perfect standard, and I assume that even after some peaceful transitions a prosecution may still be acceptable – but only in exceptional circumstances.
The Nuremberg Trials are such a clear-cut case by any standard, since the German state was utterly destroyed with the only possible future being a completely new path, the crimes committed were so extreme, and the trial was led by the outside parties which removed the perception of internal settling of the scores.
Arlen Grossman, would you let that issue slide if a democratic administration did any of the things allegedly sanctioned by the administration of George W. Bush? Or is that different?
Before blaming Obama for breaking his promises, it would help to remember the near-total Republican obstruction during both his terms.
However, he did make some unforced errors, such as choosing not to prosecute the Wall Street bankers who helped cause the 2008 recession.