The better the demagog , the more dangerous the demagog—Aristophanes
But though there is no difference in this respect between the best demagogue and the worst, both of them having to present their cases equally in terms of melodrama, there is all the difference in the world between the statesman who is humbugging the people into allowing him to do the will of God, in whatever disguise it may come to him, and one who is humbugging them into furthering his personal ambition and the commercial interests of the plutocrats who own the newspapers and support him on reciprocal terms.—George Bernard Shaw
“A demagog is one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”— H.L. Mencken
By Tesha Miller [print_link] Wednesday, January 26, 2011
We all remember candidate Obama and his moving speeches which were so uplifting that even during the economic wreckage of the Bush era, hope for meaningful reform actually seemed possible. We were elated because a seemingly intelligent and ethical person would once again reclaim our Presidency. Liberals who had been in political exile, reemerged and grassroots organizations crept up like weeds across the red map and we witnessed purples and blues in unlikely districts. Finally, someone in politics seemed up to the task of steering the US back towards the calmer waters of community, justice and international diplomacy. We imagined an entirely new reality for our country inside his motivational words. We were positive that this time, with real effort, we were going to live up to all those US ideals. All we needed to do was just roll up our sleeves a bit and actively participate…
Can I get a witness?
Can I get an Amen?
Candidate Obama, a former constitutional lawyer, promised the American people a return to our core ideas on justice as soon as he took office. To demonstrate such actions he assured us that once elected, he would immediately close Guantanamo Bay detention center which human rights organizations around the globe considered to be a symbol of injustice and abuse. In fact, the human rights infringements were so egregious in Gitmo that on January 18, 2008 Amnesty International headed a simultaneous protest in thirty countries which called for its immediate closure. Those Americans alarmed by the sudden overreach of our Defense Department and its increasingly brutal brand of militarism agreed, what better way to restore our internationally tarnished image then to finally end this chapter of horrific US policy which illegally tortured detainees.
With candidate Obama, finally the downtrodden would get the Presidential support needed to champion a reversal of overt corporate policy. The last several decades of banking deregulation resulted in millions of foreclosed upon homes and untold losses in retirement funds and an eventual bailout to those largest banking failures. Meanwhile, corporate opportunistic trade agreements, such as NAFTA, had disemboweled the US manufacturing jobs sector and slashed benefits to better match their counterparts in developing nations. Despite these hardships, production was increasing even as median wage earners had suffered for decades with stagnant wages and the rising costs of health care. Obscene amounts of money were being made by the corporate and banking jackals while the middle class quietly bled out.
But this time, finally, Main Street would be central to policy making instead of Wall Street insiders and corporate multinationals. The decimated middle class was assured that it would get a much needed break from the mounting debt, due to President Bush’s unfunded wars and TARP bailouts. Corporate tax loopholes were to be closed and offshore accounts were to be discovered and the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy would be allowed to expire… thereby generating new income, projected to be in the billions. Budgets would be examined line by line and with surgical precision useless programs were to be cut away and discarded. The message was clearly spelled out…trickle down economics had been nothing, if not a complete wrecking ball to the US economy and it was going to be dropped like a bad habit. The top 1% of our country be damned, it was time for the other 99% of the population to enjoy the fruits of increased production.
It appeared as if the stars had properly aligned in the heavens and this relatively unknown candidate was suddenly embraced by larger and larger swaths of the population who were eager to see the actualization of his campaign promises. Even the world was enamored by the diplomatic rhetoric and the prospect of a less imperialistic US. And so was the making of President Obama.
It is not uncommon for a new President to miss a few beats, as it is well understood that he must hit the DC ground running. There are a zillion things which need immediate attention and everyone that helped get a President to his current position wants a little face time. Voters realize this and give a newly elected President a bit of latitude during their first several months in office. Running the US is certainly not a middle management job.
President Obama appeared to be off to a fantastic start as he quickly signed EO’s to close Gitmo by 2010 and a banning of harsh interrogation techniques. However, other matters, such as investigations into possible war crimes committed by the Bush administration were rebuffed by him, as the American people were informed, “We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. … My orientation is going to be moving forward”.
This slippage in moral courage, especially when it is needed most, would not be an isolated incident to President Obama, but would come to characterize the first half of his presidency. Gitmo, perhaps best exemplifies this sad truth. When confronted with signing the defense authorization act for fiscal 2011 President Obama effectively signed away the ability to pursue criminal trials for the detainees in Gitmo until the provisions expire in September. In a statement he said, “Despite my strong objection to these provisions, which my administration has consistently opposed, I have signed this act because of the importance of authorizing appropriations for, among other things, our military activities in 2011.”
Time and again the lack of moral courage gets glossed over by those who want to cling on to Obama’s now meaningless rhetoric. Such people claim that he is merely negotiating in a bi-partisan manner and that liberals have some unrealistic world view. They claim that such is the way of politics and that the constant churning out of conservative policy is not a testament to his actual political philosophy but, more accurately, a reflection in his shrewd ability to get policy enacted. They don’t seem to mind that the rich are keeping their Bush tax cuts, further crippling our fragile economy which boasts monstrous debt in the process or, that political prisoners are held without due process or, that the war in Iraq is still ongoing in a subtler manner. They care not that the policy being procured is little better then the corporate and Wall Street bile which has been slowly eroding the democratic process we have left and further paving the way for complete fascist control.
They continue to turn a blind eye to his latest surround of Wall Street bankers as Chief of Staff and personal economic advisers and the recent praises sung of his foreign policy, AKA war practices, by former VP Cheney. Obama tells us that he has objections to such things and by saying that, he magically gets a pass on policy enactment which would otherwise outrage. Those liberals who dare question his policy decisions are quickly mocked and ridiculed by him for suggesting that he actually stand up for those exact positions which he claims to support. When blatantly confronted with the grim reality that President Obama is not at all the brand that they went to the booth to elect, they opt out of the mess by tuning in to some fictitious left or right paradigm news show because ultimately… Obama hasn’t cornered the market on a lack of moral courage, at all.
TESHA MILLER writes often on political questions. Like many Americans rising to the occasion, the systemic crisis has forced her to split her attention into various venues: “civil liberties advocate, political nut job, mother and adviser, and artist.”
This article originally appeared on Seismologik (http://www.seismologik.com/), a fraternal site.