Barack Obama and the Persistence of the Old Regime

The Atlantic Monthly has dared to suggest what none have so far dared to say: that President Barack Obama should be impeached for the murder of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. There is, of course, zero possibility of this actually happening, but the idea is worth raising if only to show what a sham our democracy is. The Republicans are not going to make an issue out of this, no doubt because they don’t see anything wrong with what the President did. For all their huffing and puffing, the Republicans are not really an opposition party. (It would be more accurate to call them an obstruction party.) Certainly Romney would have done the same thing Obama did.

The historical trend has always been to give more and more power to the executive branch. There was a brief push back against this during the Watergate scandal, but that is ancient history now. The idea that the president is not above the law is now regarded as one of those quaint fads of the 1970’s, along with leisure suits and bell-bottom pants.

Consider, for example, how often the president is referred to as the “commander-in-chief”. This is misleading. The president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He is not the commander-in-chief of anything else. Reporters and pundits must surely be aware of this, but they use the term anyway, even though they must know that many people are not kwowledgeable about the Constitution. (And why aren’t they? That’s a question that will have to be addressed at another time.) One must seriously question their motives for doing this.

For the Left, there is nothing to recommend Obama. He has better positions on women’s reproductive rights than Romney does, but that is about it. Yet it can be argued that a defeat for Obama would be a triumph for the forces of reaction in this country. Every president gets criticized, but both the quality and the quantity of the criticism aimed at Obama are different from that aimed at previous presidents. Bill Clinton was the subject of paroxysms of paranoia on the right, but the attacks on him mostly had to do with real matters: Clinton’s marital infidelities, the accusations of sexual harassment (which were plausible), his involvement with the Whitewater scandal, and the slightly suspicious death of Vince Foster. Yet the accusations against Obama have nothing to do with reality. We’re told that Obama ia a Muslim, that he associates with terrorists, that he wants to create death panels and put people in re-education camps. There are accusations of a “missing” birth certificate that isn’t missing. This summer a movie was shown in theaters all across the country that argues that Obama is a “Kenyan nationalist” who wants to undermine the U.S. power in the world. (In fact, Obama has gone out of his way to try to shore up the U.S.’s empire.) It’s not hard to see that this is all tied to Obama’s race. Some people are incensed that a black man – the Other – now occupies the White House. Donald Trump, for angrily demands that Obama release his college transcripts. It is inconceivable to Trump that a black man could be more successful and better educated than he is. (I think it fair to say that most black people are better educated than Donald Trump.)

It has often been noted that the so-called blue state/red state divide bears a striking resemblance to the North/South divide of the Civil War. Race is at the center of both these divides, although people were more honest about this in 1861. The Republican Party has absorbed, and in turn been taken over by, the Old Democratic Party of Jim Crow. It is perhaps significant that in recent years, the idea of secession, once confined to a handful of crackpots, has crept its way into mainstream discourse. (The nitwits at CounterPunch bear some responsibility for this.) Romney is too smart to believe the Tea Party’s nonsense, but he pandered to them during the primaries, and a Romney victory will be seen as a win for them.

This raises a critical issue for the Left. Should the racism of Obama’s opponents be considered the most critical issue in this election? I haven’t made up my own mind about this, but I think it is a question that the Left should consider.

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