Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is This the Hope and Change that We Voted For?

Yesterday, I was very disappointed to hear that President Obama signed legislation extending the Bush tax cuts and reducing the estate tax.  I am concerned that Obama may be adopting Bill Clinton's tactics of neutralization and triangulation.

In his book All Too Human, George Stephanopoulos described Bill Clinton's strategy of neutralizing the Republicans and triangulating the Democrats:

"Neutralization required passing big chunks of the Republican agenda: a balanced budget, tax cuts, welfare reform, an end to affirmative action. This would "relieve the frustrations" that got them elected in 1994 and allow Clinton to "push them to the right" on "popular issues" like gun control and a woman's right to choose in 1996. Triangulation demanded that Clinton abandon "Democratic class-warfare dogma," rise above his partisan roots, and inhabit the political center "above and between" the two parties - a concept Dick [Morris] helpfully illustrated by joining his thumbs and forefingers into the shape of a triangle. That meant Clinton had to deliberately distance himself from his Democratic allies, use them as a foil, pick fights with them." (page 334)

By signing the tax bill into law, President Obama is apparently adopting Bill Clinton's strategy of neutralization and triangulation in preparation for the 2012 Presidential campaign. Despite all his 2008 campaign rhetoric, Obama passed the Bush tax cuts for the rich and reductions in estate taxes, important chunks of the Republican agenda. For all intents and purposes, he has abandoned the so-called Democratic class warfare dogma. Some news analysts hail this action and assert that Obama is reviving his 2008 post partisan image. When progressive criticized the compromise, the President was able to distance himself from them. 

During his 2012 campaign, President Obama will probably point to this compromise as an example of how he was able to work with Republicans. 

Although passage of this legislation may be good campaign strategy, it is not the change and hope that many of us voted for. We voted for the candidate who opposed tax cuts for the rich. We voted for the candidate who promised to change the way Washington works.  Instead, we got more of the same, politics as usual.  In that world of Machiavellian politics, winning elections is primary, and principles are secondary, unnecessary and negotiable. 

This compromise represents what is wrong with the American bourgeois democracy. Through massive campaign donations, rich people and corporations continue to dictate domestic and  foreign policy.  The tax cuts compromise is another example of how government policy is shaped to serve the interests of the rich.

Under this deal, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. The New York Times reports that:

"the tax benefits will flow most heavily to the highest earners, just as the original cuts did when they were passed in 2001 and 2003. At least a quarter of the tax savings will go to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population. In fact, the only groups likely to face a tax increase are those near the bottom of the income scale — individuals who make less than $20,000 and families with earnings below $40,000." 

Undoubtedly, this tax deal will have a disproportionate and adverse impact upon poor and working class African American families.  That is unfair and unjust. 

Some African American pundits and bloggers suggest that we should just be quiet and unconditionally support the Nation's first African American president, the "anointed" one.  It is disturbing to witness this blind, cult like devotion to Obama.  If Obama asked some of these people to sip the Kool Aid, they would obey.  If Obama asked them to jump off of a cliff with him, they would obey.  I refuse to be any one's zombie.

My commitment is to the people.  My commitment is to the struggle for freedom, justice and equality, not to any particular politician or political party. When the President is wrong, I will continue to voice my opposition.  When the President serves the interests of the people, I will praise his actions. 

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