Goodness knows President Obama has been disappointing. I was sufficiently appalled by his violent foreign policy, in which he was egged on by bloodthirsty neocons in his cabinet and in Congress, that I didn’t vote for him the second time around.
And yet, if part of the reason for the President’s lacklustre performance stems from his timidity, and his tendency to rely on peddlers of dangerously conventional wisdom for advice, there are other reasons for his failure to transform the country for the better in any meaningful way. He has been faced from the outset by a stunningly large number of people who loathe him. And much of that loathing centres on his race. In some cases the language of that hatred was coded, and in other instances it was very open.
Whether because they were themselves bigoted, or because they saw an opportunity to disrespect a President in a way which would normally be inconceivable, the Republican Party set out from day one to sabotage Obama, actively seeking to frustrate him at every term. But the fundamentalists in the GOP hierarchy are not the only ones tapping so cynically into the loathing of the President.
As Hillary Clinton ratchets up her fundraising efforts on behalf of allies in preparation for her own presidential bid in 2016, she is turning to avaricious bigots amongst the 1% who, in their efforts to free themselves from their sacred obligations to their communities, lashed out at President Obama with vitriol and hyperbole.
Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Clinton’s host at one of these fundraisers, argued in 2008 that “What [Obama] offers may be, in substance and in spirit, a radical departure from the principles of the American Dream that has defined our nation over the last two centuries”. This of a President whose ideology and political platform put him somewhere to the right of Richard Nixon, if to the left of Ronald Reagan. And this in a country that achieved its greatest gains for the working and middle classes under Presidents and Congresses far to the left of Obama.
De Rothschild attacked the “class war that Barack Obama would like to declare in this country”, a blindingly stupid characterisation of a President whose caution in dealing with the bankers and refusal to take on moneyed interests has made him the best friend people like De Rothschild have, whether they want to admit it or not. The billionaire, who lives on two continents and is married into the Rothschild family, whined sans irony that Obama and his party think “they are grander than the rest of us”.
Without pausing to consider the role that her own vicious and transparently inaccurate attacks might have played in Obama’s stumbling presidency, De Rothschild said of the President, “The man is a loser”, complaining that “the fact of his personal story of being half black and all that is a wonderful, inspiring story, but it doesn’t qualify him to be president”. While I’m pretty sure the President had a few other qualifications besides his race that led to his election, I’m not sure that being born into big bucks (her father owned General Aviation) qualifies Rothschild—who bleated that “it’s better to be lucky than to be smart”—to judge the President, who did not have success handed to him on a silver platter.
De Rothschild complains that the President is trying to divide people. But I think her billions, and her unwillingness to live up to her social obligations to the society in which she lives are what divide people. Calling capitalism a “fabulous force for good” demonstrates an ignorance of the true human costs of the economic and social system, the unrestrained practise of which has ground down the working class of this country while enriching the likes of De Rothschild.
De Rothschild’s think tank, which promotes this “fabulous force to good” which recently plunged our country into a recession, was a response to Occupy Wall Street. It was an effort to head off a more substantive conversation about the potential for the redistribution of wealth and resources in our country away from what economist Thomas Piketty calls “patrimonial capitalism” (that is, a system in which increasing amounts of wealth are inherited rather than earned), and towards something more equitable and just.
Clinton’s own view of the Occupy movement and its call for equality are well-known. At a $200,000 speech, Clinton dismissed critics of Wall Street and talk of inequality as “unproductive an indeed foolish”.
So it makes sense that when Clinton is looking for cash and for allies she would turn to the likes of De Rothschild. What makes less sense is why Democrats, progressives, or any working- and middle-class Americans would even consider supporting the presidential candidacy of a politician who is so transparent in her embrace of a broken system and the desperately immoral people who use that system to suck the life-blood from the working people of our country.