Thus far, the Obama presidency has moved along lines similar to what one might expect. The significance some would assign to his mulatto ancestry notwithstanding, Mr. Obama is very much an Establishment Man. The actions of the Obama administration in its earliest days indicate that the policies of this administration will largely be a continuation of those of the Bush administration. On economic policy, Obama has surrounded himself with neoliberals and called for deficit spending on additional bank and corporate welfare in the form of the “stimulus package.” The so-called “stimulus” is really just Phase Two of the extravagant “bailout” program enacted under President Bush. This should not be surprising, given that Obama’s primary financial backers during his campaign were Goldman-Sachs and other principal beneficiaries of the bailout, which Obama supported as a Senator. Of course, the “stimulus” program includes some additional social spending for the sake of appeasing various Democratic Party constituencies. This is the reason, along with sheer partisanship, that the Republicans are opposing the stimulus, which they are correct to do, even if they are doing so for all the wrong reasons.
On foreign policy, it appears that the Obama administration, whose foreign policy team is comprised mostly of recycled Clintonites, will continue to pursue the same set of foreign policy goals as the Bush administration. Obama has called for increased military spending, expanding the war in Afghanistan, perhaps to Pakistan, and it appears renditions will also continue. Obama does seem to be scaling back operations at Guantanamo, yet only as a public relations maneuver so far as world opinion is concerned. It’s not like the prisoners at Guantanamo are going to be released. Indeed, it would appear that the only real difference between Bush and Obama on foreign policy is that the Obama government will be less bellicose in its formal rhetoric. As a protege’ of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama represents the liberal internationalist wing of the foreign policy elite, who are just as committed to the preservation of the Empire as the neoconservatives, but who are more cautious about openly giving the finger to allies, client states, and world opinion. Liberal internationalists realize that this is not conducive to the efficient administration of the Empire or its maintenance over the long haul, particularly given the current dependence of the U.S. economy on Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Arab lenders.
Obama also kowtows to the Israel Lobby, as illustrated by his appearance before AIPAC prior to his election to the presidency and his appointment of Rahm Emmanuel. James Petras has observed that the Obama administration contains as many arch-Zionists as any previous administration. There is also some indication that Israel will go to war with Iran under Obama’s watch, which could likely lead to actual U.S. participation in such a war. In fact, the overall amount of U.S. military intervention may escalate under Obama, as it did under Bill Clinton.
On “culture war” issues, Obama predictably leans somewhat to the left of the Bush government. So far, he has lifted the abortion-related “gag rule” and eased restrictions on stem cell research, and Obama has also signed an “equal pay for equal work” law as a reward for his middle-class feminist constituency. Yet Obama is far from being an ACLU civil libertarian. For instance, he voted as a Senator to authorize warrantless wiretaps and provide legal immunity to telecommunications companies engaged in such actions.
I’ve written before that the election of Obama signifies a demographic, cultural and generational shift among the American electorate. The left side of the “culture war” now has the upper hand, if it did not already. The Democrats will likely be the dominant political party for the forseeable future due to the fact that those groups who vote Democratic are growing in number and those who vote Republican are shrinking. The Obama coalition includes the left-wing of the “old elite” (demonstrated by the Kennedys support for Obama), the New Class center-left welfare state professionals, the “bourgeois bohemians” that David Brooks has written about, upwardly mobile members of the traditional outgroups now in ascension (blacks, immigrants, Jews, feminists, gays), newer ideological movements like environmentalism, younger people and a wide variety of public sector dependents. This coalition will probably prove to be stable enough to sustain itself over the next few decades even if matters like economic downturn occasionally produce a victory for the Republicans.
Because the liberal side of the culture wars is gaining does not mean that the culture wars are over. While there is not enough of a constituency for the kind of cultural conservatism represented by the religious right or the right-wing Republicans for these to achieve a majority in a national election, proponents of such an outlook are a large and vocal enough group to continue to be a force for political and cultural polarization for some time, even if their prospects for long-term victory are dim.
Indeed, the evidence indicates that the U.S. Congress of 2008 was the most polarized of any Congress in 120 years! The degree to which Americans are polarized has increased even in the last five years. Further, as Bill Bishop has shown, Americans are becoming more and more geographically segregated along cultural, ideological, religious, economic, ethnic, racial and generational lines.
As an old-fashioned anarchist who wishes to see an end to the U.S. empire internationally and the end of the Big Brother state domestically, I see this polarization as a welcome phenomenon. It is difficult for a state to survive when there is no consensus on primary values. If the cultural Left is going to be in the ascendency, then let’s hope that the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et.al. turn up the volume even louder and keep the polarization coming. Those guys really aren’t my cup of tea, but I’m all for increased divisiveness.
Divisiveness will likely escalate for a variety of reasons. One of these will be the widening gap between socio-economic classes, which Obama shows no signs of doing anything about. Another will be the social conflict associated with increased statism as politics becomes a spoils system for different groups looking to plunder one another. Increased diversity will likely result in increased disharmony in many ways, and the massive American police state will likely be used to squelch economic unrest and sharpening demographic conflict.
If secession by regions and communities is the most viable method of dissolving the Empire, as I believe it is, then it would seem that we revolutionaries should devote ourselves to the following tasks:
1) Continue to popularize the idea of secession. A Zogby poll taken last year showed that twenty-two percent of Americans support the right of secession, with eighteen percent saying they would support a secession movement in their area. Additionally, forty-four percent say the U.S. political system is broken and cannot be fixed. We need to get these numbers up.
2) Continue to develop actual secession movements and build constituencies for these movements. For instance, the dominance of the cultural Left is likely to increase support for separatist ideas on the Right. There is a prototype for this in the rise of the militia movement during the Clinton era. Likewise, Obama is likely to prove to be a disappointment to many on the Left, both blacks and whites, and this combined with increased economic misfortune may generated secession movements from the Left. The nationwide, continent-wide proliferation of secessionist tendencies from the Right and Left against the ruling class Center would be a highly welcome event.
3) Encourage greater polarization. In some ways, we should think of Limbaugh, Hannity, Newt Gingrich, Ann Coulter, Michael Moore, Al Franken, Barney Frank and Arianna Huffington as the public relations arm for a future pan-secessionist movement as it is figures such as these who serve to create the polarization likely to result in eventual political splintering.
4) Build cross-cultural, cross-ideological alliances against the ruling class common enemy whenever feasible. If Afro-centrics, Black Muslims, militiamen and Ku Klux Klansmen can engage in common action, then what the hell is wrong with the rest of us?