Saturday, November 8, 2008

Choosing a U.S. President in the Corporate Bailout era

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Obama is the president- elect. I voted for Barack Obama. This is a momentous, historic, powerfully symbolic, unprecedented election result.

When I went into my voting booth in my election district in Manhattan, I voted Obama, not on the Democrat line, but on the Working Families Party line. I rejected a chance to also vote for Charles Rangel, the longterm Harlem Democrat for whom I had voted several times before, who is Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, because Rangel failed to pay taxes. I also refused to cast a vote for my local NYS Assemblyman who is a donor to landlords, against the rights of tenants.

Now let me submit some qualifiers:

I refused to contribute one penny to either the Obama or McCain campaigns, instead holding out for long overdue campaign finance reform. Unfortunately, campaign financing reform will not be enacted by the majority Democrats anytime soon, because their product (Obama) sold well this election cycle. Large sections of the U.S. consuming electorate bought Obama, fewer U.S. consumers bought McCain.

In US-style advanced capitalism, most recently in its corporate bailout phase, all discourses, (from slavery onwards), are commodified. Brand Obama prevailed (for now) against Brand McCain, in a Coke vs. Pepsi contest. This does not imply that there are no differences between Barack Obama and John McCain. But, no matter who is elected, entrenched multinational corporatism and a multinational weapons industry will trump democracy and civil society in the U.S.

Barack Obama was elected because he can best satisfy the American electorate's need to continue to engage in the commodified discourse of U.S. exceptionalism "we are the best" "we are the greatest" "there's no one quite like us so we can do whatever we want, invade, occupy threaten, whatever..." etc. etc. ad nauseum.

The US public wants to consume at ever cheaper rates, without producing what they consume (the Walmart model); wants a "tough" President and Congress and Supreme Court (which means the US does not want to be a co-equal player in the world community of nations), but instead will continue to try to dominate, interfere and distort global politics and the globalized economy even though the U.S. has a failed foreign policy and a failed economy; violate human rights in Iraq and elsewhere which it invaded and continues to occupy; make threats to invade Iran; continue to support illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine; continue to operate in Afghanistan inflicting a high civilian toll; enter Pakistan allegedly to kill "insurgents"; send Cheney to threaten Putin; consume energy resources in a wasteful and harmful manner.

Barack Obama is a neoliberal rather than a radical progressive. He is no FDR.
He is not even a Carter.

He is a Clintocrat without a zipper problem.

He will maintain the status quo while appearing to be progressive. That's the neoliberal spin tactic.

Obama is certainly no Mandela, no Kenyatta, no Nkrumah, no Nyerere and most certainly he is no Gandhi in-the-making, even though Gandhiji's portrait supposedly hangs in his Senate office.
His life is not his message.

I voted for Obama because he (possibly) is likely to be able to do less harm than McCain, in the U.S. and in the world.

The U.S. is still a long, long way from Ethical Democracy as we embark upon an Obama Presidency.
Still, I am cautiously joyful for the remotest hint of ethical progress towards democracy in the U.S.

Chithra Karunakaran

Posted by: Chithra KarunaKaran | November 8, 2008 7:55 AM