In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Obama’s “left” cheerleaders and the right-wing transition

Posted by seumasach on November 23, 2008

Bill Van Auken


22nd November, 2008

The increasingly right-wing character of the transition being organized in preparation for President-Elect Barack Obama’s inauguration in January has elicited expressions of concern from the middle-class “left.” This milieu, whose views are reflected in publications like the Nation magazine, played a significant role during the election campaign in promoting Obama’s candidacy and the Democratic Party as vehicles for fundamental political and social change. 

The past ten days have served to expose the real content of Obama’s “change you can believe in.” First came the appointment of Rahm Emanuel, the right-wing Democratic congressman and millionaire investment banker, as chief of staff. No sooner was he tapped for the post than Emanuel pledged to the Wall Street Journal that the Obama White House would “stand up to” the strengthened Democratic majorities in Congress. 

Then came news that the transition teams at the Pentagon and CIA were headed, respectively, by supporters of the Iraq war and CIA veterans who were complicit in policies of torture and extraordinary rendition as well as in fabricating the phony intelligence used to promote the war against Iraq. 

On Friday, persistent reports that Obama has tapped Senator Hillary Clinton whom he pilloried on the campaign trail for her vote in favor of the Iraq invasion, for his secretary of state, and that he intends to retain Robert Gates, the champion of the “surge” in Iraq, as defense secretary, were joined by reports that he will shortly announce his choice of New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner for treasury secretary. The news that one of the key architects of the government bailout of the banks will head Obama’s Treasury Department sent stock prices on Wall Street soaring. 

These developments, combined with the coterie of bankers and Washington insiders that is heading Obama’s transition, and the army of ex-Clinton-officials-turned-corporate-lobbyists who are trooping back into official Washington, are providing a preview of the administration that will take office just two months from now. 

What is taking shape is a government that represents continuity with the last eight years far more than change. Its personnel and the policies with which they are identified spell a continuation of wars of aggression abroad and domestic policies that defend the interests of America’s financial elite at the expense of the broad mass of working people. 

The conditions are being created in which illusions fostered by Obama’s rhetoric about “hope” and “change” will be dashed and a period of tumultuous struggles, driven by the economic crisis, will inevitably arise. 

Of course, there are illusions and there are illusions. Millions of American working people went to the polls November 4 and voted for Obama with the aim of putting an end to two criminal wars and to express their anger over policies at home that have led to unprecedented social inequality and the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. 

Then there are those who make a political profession out of deluding themselves and fostering illusions among others in order to support the Democratic Party and the profit system which it defends. This is the political specialty of the Nation, which has long been a central organ of left liberalism in America. 

Its columnists are finding the job of peddling illusions in Obama more difficult in light of the appointments and statements surrounding the transition, and are expressing concern. At the heart of their worries is the fact that Obama is moving sharply and openly to the right even as the crisis gripping American capitalism is creating conditions for a sharp turn to the left among Americans… The struggle against war and deepening attacks on social conditions can be advanced only through a decisive break with the Democratic Party and the political illusions promoted by tendencies such as the Nation

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