With the First Black President having put social security cuts on the bargaining table before even being sworn in, ignoring record black unemployment and mass incarceration, and doubling down on every abhorrent Bush policy from imperial wars in Asia and Africa to letting corporate polluters and criminal banksters go unmolested, what is the 2012 election really about for black America? Bragging rights?
A full three years since our First Black President assumed power in January 2009 with thumping majorities in both the House and Senate, and with a full year of campaigning ahead of us, it’s time for black America to ask the obvious question.
Once black America gets beyond bragging rights, what difference have presidential and congressional politics made lately? What, if anything is likely to change when Democrats or Republicans win or lose Congress and/or the White House in 2012? Can we really say that who wins or loses this election will really change how and how well we live? The honest answer is probably not.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans will do anything to stop the nationwide wave of foreclosures that have cut the average net worth of black families in half the last four years? Neither Democrats nor Republicans want to prosecute the Wall Street criminals who crashed the housing market and walked away with a fifth or more of all the nation’s $401K savings in the last few years. Democrats and Republicans agree that US citizens, and citizens of anyplace else can pretty much be kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned for life or killed without being convicted, or even charged with anything in particular.
Neither of the two parties will wind down the oil and resource wars the US is waging from Afghanistan and Yemen to Somalia and the Congo, bring the troops home from 140 foreign countries and spend that money on schools, libraries, transit, job creation and neighborhoods near you. Both parties agree on the runaway privatizations of roads, schools, the post office, public utilities and broadcast frequencies. Neither cares about urban gentrification, the loss of black-owned farmland, or mass incarceration. Both agree on laying off public school teachers an d letting corporate criminals who poison our rivers, our air, our people and environment, and neither intends to protect and expand social security.
Expecting or demanding these things isn’t naïve. It’s expecting and demanding democracy. It’s not “asking the president to wave a magic wand.” It’s expecting and demanding reasonable, achievable things a president with or without Congress in his pocket could have done, but didn’t. Why didn’t Obama even try to do any of these things? Better still, why has the First Black President doubled down on just about every Bush policy from bankster bailouts to wars abroad to ravaging social security, preventive detention, privatizing public education and exempting telecoms, mortgage fraudsters and torturers from prosecution? Why doesn’t the First Black President do anything for his base voting constituencies?
Economist Michael Hudson has a clue. Hudson explains that the job description of modern day politicians is to deliver their voting constituencies to their campaign contributors. The job of Republicans is to deliver the mandate of their mainly white, often upscale rural, exurban and suburban voters to Big Oil, to energy companies, military contractors, telecoms, Big Pharma, real estate lobbies and Wall Street. And the job of Democrats like our First Black President is to deliver the mandate of younger and poorer voters, blacks and Latinos and women to the same players. Thus while Republicans and Democrats sound a bit different on the campaign trail, they govern pretty much alike, with a few important differences.
The biggest difference, in the case of the First Black President, is that the political bargain black America struck with itself over his career has been to be a sort of black wall around this president and this administration, a wall that protects him from his constituents but not from his campaign contributors. It’s the guarantee of solid zip-your-lip-or-the-racists-win black support for President Obama, no matter what he says or does, that makes him, and the system he sits at the head of people-proof and democracy-proof. As long as our support is guaranteed, he is free to follow the wishes of his contributors and ignore the plight of his constituents.
It’s an advantage a Republican president could never hope to have. By simply placing a black man in the White House, even one who unswervingly follows the Republican agenda, giving the banksters five or more times what Bush did, enacting preventive detention and telecom immunity laws Bush could never hope to get through Congress — especially a Democratic Congress — th e interests who finance the campaigns of both parties have shut down nearly all organized black opposition to their policies. It’s a neat trick, and it’s worked well for the duration of Obama’s 2008 campaign and his first three years in office.
The question is how long will black America muzzle itself for the dubious benefit of prolonging the career of Barack Hussein Obama. Nobody can say for sure. Though strong black support for the president has softened somewhat, the “it’s-us-or-the-racist-Republicans” line is still a potent one. It’s about all that Barack Obama has left. For the black guy to win this time, the crowd of Republican challengers have to be a gaggle of incompetent racist and greedheads. And they are. Which leaves black America with the big question.
Beyond the bragging rights and the pretty pictures, what’s in it for us? Does a choice between this season’s Democrats and Republicans really make a difference to our folks on the ground? Has electing the First Black President improved the living conditions, the health, wealth of our black communities? And if it hasn’t, what is the 2012 election about?
Bruce A. Dixon is a state committee member of the Georig Green Party