By Joshua Frank
Four years ago, as the sentiment against George W. Bush’s administration mounted, the entire left-wing spectrum hung on tight to the coattails of John Kerry, grasping for dear life. Critics called it the "Anybody but Bush" syndrome, but it should have been more aptly coined "Nobody but Kerry.”
Virtually every progressive cause, from labor to the environment, had been co-opted by a mindset that would have ensured more of the same. There was no pressure put on Kerry to change, and he didn’t. As a result, the antiwar movement collapsed, with no demonstrations and a strict allegiance to the Democrat’s pro-war campaign. Fortunately, the movement to end the war was resurrected by Cindy Sheehan’s as she erected her tent outside the Bush compound in Texas months later.
Today we find our political climate in a similar state of shock. Call it the "Nobody but Obama" epidemic. Senator Barack Obama has now sealed up the Democratic nomination, and the usual suspects, from MoveOn.org to Progressive Democrats for America, are falling in line. Sadly, what seems to be reigning in this year’s election is even worse than the storm that flooded our issues in 2004.
After eight dreadfully long years of Bush, it is to be expected that a lot of voters would support any Democrat if it meant kicking the wretched Republicans out of the White House. Obama’s message of "change" has certainly resonated well. But underlying his rhetoric is a brilliant public relations campaign, orchestrated by DC insiders, that is void of any real substance.
In 2006, the Democrats were ushered in to Congress with the expectation that they would end the war in Iraq. Democratic campaigns across the nation exploited the popular anti-Bush sentiment, promising that real "change" was on the horizon.
It’s a familiar refrain indeed.
Two years later, we have nothing to show for it. The Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress, yet have rubber stamped virtually every Iraq war spending bill that has come down the pipeline — ensuring the bloodbath for years to come. All major Democrats have echoed the Bush line on Iran, promising a military confrontation if the country does not cease its nuclear experimentation. By and large, Bush’s backward Middle East foreign policy has not been met any real opposition from the Hill.
Like the majority of his colleagues, Obama has done very little to change the face of American politics. He has voted for war spending, appeased the pro-Israel lobby, and helped build the erroneous case against Iran, saying nothing about Israel’s plentiful arsenal of nuclear warheads. In short, Barack Obama is not an ally to those of us who oppose the ambiguous War on Terror.
"I want you to know that today I’ll be speaking from my heart, and as a true friend of Israel," Obama announced a day after he locked up his party’s nomination to a crowd of pro-Israel zealots. "[W]hen I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends, Good friends. Friends who share my strong commitment to make sure that the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever."
Yet here we are again, like 2004, with "progressives" and other lefties ogling a hope-filled candidacy. But it’s not just Obama’s war support that should raise our hackles.
Obama supports the death penalty, opposes single-payer health care, supports nuclear energy, opposes a carbon pollution tax, supports the Cuba embargo, and will not end the vast array of federal subsidies to corporations, including those to the oil and gas cartel.
And as the United States economy slides into a deep recession, Barack Obama is promising more of the same, despite his criticism of John McCain’s economic plan. But behind the curtains of Obama’s strategy team is the same set of economic troglodytes intellectuals that led us in to our current financial disaster.
Obama’s advisory team includes Harvard economist Jeffrey Liebman, a former Clinton adviser, who believes we ought to privatize social security. Then we have the renowned David Cutler, another Harvardite, who believes our economy can be boosted through an increase in privatized health care costs. Writing for New England Journal of Medicine in 2006, Cutler explained, "The rising cost … of health care has been the source of a lot of saber rattling in the media and the public square, without anyone seriously analyzing the benefits gained."
And that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg.
Perhaps all of these issues are aiding the independent candidacy of Ralph Nader, who is consistently polling above 5% nationwide. This, despite a virtual media blackout and very little support among progressives.
Nader still faces many hurdles, from ballot access to fundraising, yet his support is higher at this point than it was at a similar stage during his 2000 Green Party bid. I still believe that if Nader wanted to put real pressure on Obama and the Democrats this year he would focus his finite resources and energy on the states that matter most: Ohio and Florida.
All in all, progressives and others working to bring about real change in this country, ought to escape from under the dark "Nobody but Obama" cloud that hover above. For his campaign, when it comes to the most pressing issues of the day, does not represent "change" and "hope" anymore than Senator McCain’s.
-Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out! (Common Courage Press) and the co-editor, with Jeffrey St. Clair, of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland (AK Press). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit the new Red State Rebels website at www.RedStateRebels.org.