Events of the last few weeks, coupled with the Obama administration’s first 15 months in office, lead me to believe that it could make deeper attacks on the social safety net and civil liberties than W.’s administration was ever able to do, and will do it with little protest from mainstream left groups. Some interesting recent developments:
- Obama criticizes the “activist” Warren and Burger courts
Glenn Greenwald writes in Salon that
In a seeming rejection of liberal orthodoxy, President Obama has spoken disparagingly about liberal victories before the Supreme Court in the 1960s and 1970s — suggesting that justices made the “error” of overstepping their bounds and trampling on the role of elected officials. . . .
Mr. Obama’s comments, which came as he prepares to make a Supreme Court nomination, amounted to the most sympathetic statement by a sitting Democratic president about the conservative view that the Warren and Burger courts — which expanded criminal defendant rights, required busing to desegregate schools and declared a right to abortion — were dominated by “liberal judicial activists” whose rulings were dubious. . . .
Obama is making a very vocal turn towards the right here, essentially agreeing with decades of Republican attacks on the decisions made in the 1960s and 70s by the Supreme Court (often on the heels of social movements demanding change) were overreaching the court’s boundaries. While we may agree that in a directly democratic society the power of unelected judges should be limited and show deference to grassroots decisions, I don’t see this as Obama’s point. Instead he is probably insinuating who he will choose as a successor to John Paul Stevens – perhaps the torture-defending Elena Kagan – and nodding to Republican attacks on Stevens’ typical robust support for individual civil rights and liberties.
- Obama’s Complete Capitulation to Wall Street
Yves Smith has exposed Rahm Emanuel’s connections to Magnetar Capital, who were behind a good majority of the worst subprime trading. Now comes news that the Obama administration is opposing an amendment proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders to the banking regulation bill current on the floor of the Senate. The amendment would force a full audit of the Fed, and currently has broad support from both sides of the aisle:
Obama administration officials have declined to weigh in on any specific amendments, with one exception: a move by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) to give the government more power to audit certain operations at the Federal Reserve. Fed and administration officials have signaled they would fight to stop it at all costs. Mr. Sanders has more than a dozen co-sponsors.“I can’t predict, but I think we’ve got a good chance to pass it,” Mr. Sanders said.
While this isn’t the most important potential part of a bill that could be far stronger, it is interesting that Mr. Obama does not want us to shine any light on the Federal Reserve even after the collapse of the last few years.
- Hollow Language On Campaign Finance Reform
After raising and spending more than any presidential candidate in history, Obama has only weak demands for full disclosure of where campaign monies come from and exactly who is funding ads. He is not calling for a full federal public financing of elections or a constitutional amendment to limit special interest money donations, but rather disclosure regulations. This would likely do nothing to limit the influx of campaign donations from corporations and special interest groups.
The larger point I am trying to make with these examples is that the Obama administration is as much a capitalist tool as the Bush administration, is entrenching and expanding the problems created during the Bush administration, and is doing so under the guise of being a lesser evil or somehow “progressive.” He is able to do this because there is still an illusion (and resignation) that Obama and the Democrats are friendlier to the working class, civil liberties and rights, minorities, etc. than Republicans. What this has lead to is a full demobilization of whatever minuscule left there is in the United States and very little opposition to these policies. In that respect, I’d rather have the mobilized left of the Bush, Jr. years.