It is not Obama’s fault that for 30 years America’s policy – under Reagan, both Bushes and Bill Clinton – has been to export jobs permanently to the Third World. The jobs that Americans now desperately seek are no longer here, in the homeland, and never will be. They’re in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Indonesia.
No stimulus program, giving money to cement contractors to fix potholes along the federal interstate highway system, is going to bring those jobs back. Highly trained tool and die workers, the aristocrats of the manufacturing sector, are flipping hamburgers – at best – for $7.50 an hour because U.S. corporations sent their jobs to Guangzhou, with the approval of politicians flush with the money of the “free trade” lobby.
It is not Obama’s fault that across 30 years more and more money has floated up to the apex of the social pyramid till America is heading back to where it was in the 1880s, a nation of tramps and millionaires. It’s not his fault that every tax break, every regulation, every judicial decision tilts toward business and the rich. That was the neoliberal America conjured into malign vitality back in the mid 1970s.
But it is Obama’s fault that he did not understand this, that always, from the getgo, he flattered Americans with paeans to their greatness, without adequate warning of the political and corporate corruption destroying America and the resistance he would face if he really fought against the prevailing arrangements that were destroying America. He offered them a free and easy pass to a better future, and now they see that the promise was empty.
It’s Obama’s fault, too, that, as a communicator, he cannot rally and inspire the nation from its fears. From his earliest years he has schooled himself not to be excitable, not to be an angry black man who would be alarming to his white friends at Harvard and his later corporate patrons. Self-control was his passport to the guardians of the system, who were desperate to find a symbolic leader to restore America’s credibility in the world after the disasters of the Bush era. He is too cool.
So, now Americans in increasing numbers have lost confidence in him. For the first time in the polls negative assessments outnumber the positive. He no longer commands trust. His support is drifting down to 40 per cent. The straddle that allowed him to flatter corporate chieftains at the same time as blue-collar workers now seems like the most vapid opportunism. The casual campaign pledge to wipe out al-Quaida in Afghanistan is now being cashed out in a disastrous campaign viewed with dismay by a majority of Americans.
The polls portend disaster. It now looks as though the Republicans may well recapture not only the House but, conceivably, the Senate as well. The public mood is so contrarian that, even though polls show that voters think the Democrats may well have better solutions on the economy than Republicans, they will vote against incumbent Democrats in the midterm elections next fall. They just want to throw the bums out.
Obama has sought out Bill Clinton to advise him in this desperate hour. If Clinton is frank, he will remind Obama that his own hopes for a progressive first term were destroyed by the failure of his health reform in the spring of 1993. By August of that year, he was importing a Republican, David Gergen, to run the White House.
Obama had his window of opportunity last year, when he could have made jobs and financial reform his prime objectives. That’s what Americans hoped for. Mesmerized by economic advisers who were creatures of the banks, he instead plunged into the Sargasso Sea of “health reform,” wasted the better part of a year, and ended up with something that pleases no one.
More from the weekend edition:
John Ross, In the Basement of Mexican Justice, No One is Innocent
Chase Madar, Keep Cops Out of Schools: New York's Failed Experiment
Andrew Cockburn, Worth It? the Human Price of Sanctions
Ralph Nader, Delta Blues: Can the Iranian Model Save Mississippi?
Dave Lindorff, Cap and Blow?
Missy Beattie, Marketing Peace and War
Michael Barker, Foundations and Social Change: an Interview with Diana Johnstone
Stewart J. Lawrence, Is Obama Backing Away From a Sweeping Immigration Legalization
Sherwood Ross, What Tea Partiers Owe Progressives