Obama and the right’s “brave new world”

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Political pundits seem to agree that the past couple of weeks haven't been kind to the Obama administration. First, the controversy around the administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi resurfaced. Then the story broke that the IRS has allegedly been targeting tea party organizations applying for special tax exempt status. And finally an uproar greeted the Justice Department's sweeping subpoena of Associated Press journalists' phone records.

No matter what you think about the merits of these stories, they will evidently dominate the national conversation and business of Washington for a while.

And no one is happier than the right wing in Congress, in the media, and across the country.

Last fall, the right had hoped that a combination of a faltering economy, the tragic deaths of diplomatic personal in Libya at the hands of terrorists, and its bottomless pockets for funding negative attack ads would diminish Obama's standing enough to catapult Mitt Romney into the White House and secure Republican control of Congress. But that didn't happen, leaving the Republican Party leadership divided, its grassroots base dispirited, and its political posture much the same as it had been since 2008 - blocking Obama's initiatives for another four years.

But now, with the breaking stories over the past weeks, its leadership is speaking with a single voice; its grassroots base is energized and itching for a battle; and its political ambitions go well beyond just obstructing the president.

In the weeks to come, expect to hear ad nauseam that an administration that came into Washington touting transparency and good governance is out of control, guilty of overreach, disdainful of constitutional rights and freedoms, and disposed to manipulating and managing the news.

Count on tendentious comparisons of the Obama White House to the Nixon White House by the likes of Bob Woodward, Peggy Noonan, Bill Keller, and other big-name journalists.

Expect congressional subpoenas and calls for impeachment, special prosecutors, and mass resignations.

Expect stiffer opposition to the president's appointments to key Cabinet positions and the Supreme Court if a vacancy opens up.

Plan on hostile opposition to the president's use of executive power to address issues such as climate change.

Anticipate intensified efforts to de-legitimize and overturn Obamacare. The House will repeal it once again and more states will take steps to nullify its provisions.

Prepare for new pressures to roll back taxes on the rich and earned income benefit programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in the name of getting an intrusive and oversized government out of the economy and off people's backs.

Expect initiatives to control gun violence, mitigate global warming, and rebuild the national infrastructure to be ridiculed as more evidence of an overreaching White House.

The endgame of this unfolding demagogic campaign goes beyond fatally crippling the Obama presidency in its second term. Its overarching aim is to ride an election wave of popular discontent with the Obama administration to regain control of Congress in 2014, win the presidency in 2016, and extend the right-wing Republican grip on state governments and the U.S. Supreme Court.

This would constitute a formidable concentration of anti-democratic authoritarian power.

Keep in mind this power bloc has the support of a deeply reactionary and racist populist constituency that disciplines wavering Republicans and mobilizes mass support for political extremism. While millions welcomed the election of the first African American president, to this constituency it represented a threatening fundamental reordering of society and social relations, and thus recast subsequent political struggles as a life and death battle over "a way of life" that in reality is rooted in racial subordination.

What this concentration of right-wing extremist political power might do if it gains dominance over the institutions of government is no longer a matter of conjecture. Glimpses of this "brave new world" are offered by the governing record of states where Republicans are in control. It isn't pretty if you believe in democracy, equality, fairness, transparency, and broadly shared prosperity.

Union rights have been gutted. Progressive income taxes have been eliminated, while taxes on low-income people have increased. Roe v. Wade has been effectively hollowed out. Emergency managers with dictatorial powers have been appointed to impose a regime of stark austerity on crisis-ridden cities, many of which have an African American majority. Public services have been drastically de-funded and privatized. Voter rights have been restricted. Punitive laws on immigrants have been enacted. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has been resisted, even though the costs will be borne by the federal government. A "regulation-free" environment for corporations has been created. Opposition to marriage equality has been fanned. And on and on!

Thus it is fair to say that right-wing extremism would employ its control over the main levers of power at the national level to recast the structures and role of government, economy, culture, and society in an anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, anti-working-class, authoritarian direction.

Now I'm not implying that the Obama administration should be given a pass on issues that are currently roiling Washington. (Although, from what I can see - except for the subpoenaing of journalist phone calls, which is not only a problem in itself, but also part of a broader pattern of the executive branch assuming wide-ranging and unprecedented powers in the name of national security - much of the culpability of the Obama administration in these controversies is a right-wing invention.)  Nor should it be given a pass on issues, like jobs, immigration, inequality, gun violence, climate change, military spending and foreign policy, constitutional, and democratic liberties, climate change, etc., that are agitating millions of Americans.

But what I am saying is that the broader movement, in its zeal to address the administration's missteps, mistaken positions, and tendency to compromise before the battle is joined, can't lose sight of the larger danger to democracy and democratic institutions presented by a resurgent right at this moment.

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  • The easter egg roll commment by IRS Shulman didn't help the Democrats.

    Posted by rick shaw, 06/01/2013 8:16pm (1 year ago)

  • The flurry of accusations have been, to make an understatement, bizarre.

    With Obama as the target, how could anyone be stupid enough to equate him with Hitler (is it worth asking?); considering that Obama doesn't exactly support Aryan supremacy myths and I highly doubt he has a plan for a holocaust against Jews.

    More accurately, look to the right-wing side of the political spectrum for Nazism.

    The right-wing's general take on Obama uses labels only for their bad connotations, without accuracy and content, among other things. The handiwork of the politically disabled.

    BUT Obama has been rather disappointing: caving in, actually working with the GOP for the cutting of social programs and with foreign policy and war, a similar angle as Bush Jr., which reflects like a mirror.

    Posted by , 05/30/2013 6:30pm (1 year ago)

  • I assume it is difficult to admit the Democrat Elites like the Republican Elites are all Millionaires and could care less about the average American Joe Six Pak. Dropping a few crumbs from the Corporitists table doesn't constitute economic change benefitting the working class.

    Posted by RiverRat2U, 05/30/2013 2:43pm (1 year ago)

  • It is certainly true that the Obama administration is better than the current alternative, much better. He is probably the best our nation's corporate capitalist ruling class has to offer. That is, to my thinking at least, just the point!

    If we paint every and all left, independent initiatives with the same sectarian brush, if we basically do not see an independent, leading role for our nation's organized labor movement (working class) and its allies, what we are left with is standing on the sidelines merely analysing the disputes taking place within the exclusively millionaire (& richer) club of corporate supporters. That is NOT to say that we do not have a dog in this fight, we do! However, our dog, in this case, is securely leashed to its corporate owners!

    Without any independent role at all for the CPUSA, its allies, friends and, especially, the organized labor movement & allies, we can only watch, occassionally cheering or booing as the participates in high office spar. This absolutely is NOT to say that we should push for sectarian isolating approaches---we should not! However, never before in history has a principled and nuanced independent push been more badly needed. This is the ONLY way that our nation's embattled people can see a way out of our political/economic morass. It is this continued dependence on the Democratic Party that is helping create the frustration, anger, cynicsim of regular average working Americans. We need to learn from our history and apply what we've learned in the new period!

    Posted by bruce bostick, 05/30/2013 11:09am (1 year ago)

  • Esther:

    I get your points, but still do not know where the leadership comes from to answer the many contradictions that the working class see and face.

    What evidence is there that Obama will respond to demands of the masses in motion? The opposite has been true. I no longer buy the notion that we must let Obama off the hook by suggesting that the mass movements are not yet strong enough. Of course they should be stronger, but where they are strong (social security, for example) they are ignored.

    Mass activity without politics is like whistling in the wind. We need to make clear to all candidates that they will not get support if they continue to compromise at the expense of the working class. Wedge issues should be thenprvince of the right alone. Defending medicare, social security, public schools, affirmative action, and changing foreign policy should be our wedges.

    Where is our urgency in stopping the use of drones, with stopping the new encirclement of China and Russia, with our more direct interference in Africa than even either Bush.

    Posted by David Bell, 05/29/2013 5:38pm (1 year ago)

  • Knowing full well that it's already under attack by the right on the issues of Benghazi and the IRS, the Obama administration screwed the proverbial pooch from both a pragmatic political and a legal Constitutional perspective with regard to the subpoenas of AP reporters' phone records. Why is it the job of the left to run interference for their bad judgement after the fact?

    And it's a weak defense to claim that it's just the bourgeoisie spying on one another. First, it's the AP, then who? Enough. It's categorically unacceptable. Regardless which of the major parties did it. Regardless to whom they did it.

    Posted by Bryan Glovetsky, 05/29/2013 12:16am (1 year ago)

  • Thank you for a thought-provoking and intelligent article about the threats our nation faces.

    Posted by Pat Hudnall, 05/29/2013 12:11am (1 year ago)

  • In the last paragraph the term "broader movement" replaced with mainstream media would resolve the controversy over who is to blame for a resurgence of the right. If the CPUSA resists becoming politically acceptable to bourgeois interests, then leadership will rise to the top and people will recognize it.

    Posted by Richard Grassl, 05/27/2013 7:57am (1 year ago)

  • Sam is to be commended for addressing this concerted attack against the Obama administration. The attack is not launched with the aim of protecting democracy, championing transparency or thwarting overreach. It is the Republican ultra right's effort to confuse and frustrate the electorate to gain the political power it needs to advance its reactionary anti-people pro-corporate agenda. Its failure in the 2012 presidential election haunts them and they strike out wickedly. In the face of this we must deepen our involvement in the peoples struggles, helping to combat confusion and frustration as best we can. The peoples forces with the election of President Obama has shown a desire to determine its own destiny through economic justice and social equality.

    Posted by Shelby, 05/26/2013 8:44am (1 year ago)

  • Big media and its journalists are as much an institution of the ruling class as the FBI. The subpeonaing of the UPI journalist's notes is just a squabble within the bourgeoisie. The Press is not an institution that represents the interests of the 99%.

    Posted by Charles Brown, 05/24/2013 8:09pm (1 year ago)

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