Forum Post: The reluctance of white liberals and progressives to engage in serious criticism of Barack Obama
Posted 11 months ago on April 5, 2014, 8:29 a.m. EST by flip
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here is street's take on the power behind the throne - "......the Caucasian corporate, financial, and imperial establishment elements that seized on Obama as a perfect vehicle for carrying out their selfish and authoritarian agenda under the guise of progressive change and democratic hope in the wake of the long national Cheney-Bush nightmare. Ruling class members and operatives provided the money, connections, celebrity, and media attention and approval without which Obama’s rise was unimaginable. They did so only after subjecting Obama to a thorough vetting in which they found him highly amenable to the task of serving their narrow, undemocratic interests.  Assured of his deeply conservative, privilege-friendly, and “market”- (really corporate-) friendly essence, they found Obama’s technical Blackness, his brief stint as a “community organizer,” and his technically Muslim ethnic nomenclature nicely suited to the project of giving the American System a fake-democratic “brand makeover” at home and abroad. The re-branding was urgently required following George Dubya Bush’s all too transparently plutocratic, racist, and imperialist performance, scarred by the club-footed invasion of Iraq and the Katrina atrocity among other clumsy blunders.
Along the way, the U.S. power elite has derived no small degree of “divide-and-rule” satisfaction as a first technically Black presidency has fed identity-based fissures in majority working class America and fueled racial and related partisan deadlock. The “deep state” financial and corporate elite continues to pillage society and the commons behind the scenes of the big business-financed and highly racial identity-politicized major party “marionette theater” that passes for democratic politics in Washington and across the nation’s fifty state capitols............................ now a piece from the article -
No Favor to Black America
By Paul Street
April 5, 2014
The reluctance of many white liberals and progressives to engage in serious criticism of U.S. President Barack Obama no matter how coldly corporate-neoliberal  and imperial  he shows himself to be, has been quite pronounced. Among the factors that explain that reluctance, one that deserves mention is certainly the fact that many of those whites think they are doing Black Americans some kind of benevolent favor by supporting the nation’s first technically Black (or first half-white) president.
White progressives and liberals should drop that presumption. The business-friendly and militaristic record of the Obama administration stands well to the right of progressive policy views that have long held strong majority support from Black Americans, the leftmost ethno-cultural segment of the U.S. electorate. At the same time, the president’s center-right policy record has inflicted disproportionate pain on the Black community, which has seen its wealth and income levels decline both absolutely and relative to white America across the Age of Obama. Along the way, finally, the Obama administration has proven to be a disaster for Black politics and consciousness and for the cause of racial equality.
Off the Table
For useful reflections on this last point, a good place to start is the Black Columbia University political scientist Frederick C. Harris’s important and engaging book The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Decline of Black Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014 ), recently re-issued in paperback. Harris’ academic turf is modern U.S. Black politics. He covers key parts of that terrain with keen historical understanding, situating the Obama phenomenon and presidency in the context of the longstanding intra-Black debate about “whether Black voters should organize into a cohesive, independent bloc to promote both targeted and universal policies, or pursue a more race-neutral approach, working together with other racial minorities as well as like-minded whites.”
As Harris shows, Obama’s ascendancy represents the triumph of the “race-neutral” argument in the post-Civil Rights era. Obama has been careful to distance himself from the considerably more race-conscious Black activists and politicians whose past struggles paved the way for his success. In doing so, he has embraced a “de-racialized” white-pleasing political and policy rhetoric that “surrenders to the false notion of a color-blind society where race no longer matters” and to the related “idea that policies that help everyone – what is described by policymakers as universalism – will trickle down to meet the systematic needs of Black communities and that targeted policies toward minorities – which lack the political will of the majority – should be taken off the table” (Harris, Price of the Ticket, p. x).
Ironically yet fittingly enough given these surrenders, the nation’s first technically Black president has “spoke[n] less on issues of race than any other Democratic president since 1961” (Harris, xii). By Harris’s account, “Obama’s ascendancy to the White House actually signals a decline of a politics aimed at challenging racial equality head-on”(Harris, xviii) – this even as Obama has taken risks to support minority constituencies on issues like LGBT and immigrant rights.
Obama’s race-neutral presidency has been consistent with his first and historic presidential campaign. As Jesse Jackson, Sr., observed at the height of the 2007-08 primary season, none of the Democratic Party contenders other than John Edwards raised issues of importance to minorities and the poor – a criticism that brought Jackson a public rebuke from his son, a post-Civil Rights Congressman in the race-neutral mode (Harris, 33). As Harris notes, “The housing foreclosure crisis that disproportionately hit communities of color, growing levels of Black unemployment, the persistence of the HIV-AIDS epidemic in the Black population, and the War on Drugs that sends large numbers of Blacks to prison for nonviolent offenses. These issues would not be substantially engaged by Obama or any of the other Democratic candidates, except John Edwards, whose campaign focused on economic inequality and racial justice” (Harris, 140).
“Personal Failure, Not Societal Barriers”
Along the way, Obama has shown himself more than willing to reinforce the notion that poor Blacks are the victims less of societal oppression than of their own supposed bad values, behavior and culture. He has shamed many Blacks for their failure to take advantage of the great opportunities supposedly afforded them in “this magical place called America,” where Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s racial anger is supposedly now inappropriate and ungrateful. Harris gives an example (one of many that could be cited) from a speech Obama gave before a predominantly Black audience in Beaumont, Texas in February of 2008 – a speech in which the future president from Hawaii and Harvard Law went into mock southern-Black dialect to blame parents for making their children fat and lethargic with poor nutrition choices (“Popeye’s [fried chicken] for breakfast”). As Harris notes:
“During Obama’s jousting with the audience, the candidate neglected to mention social and economic barriers that may account for parents’ allegedly poor decisions – limited food choices in Black poor and working-class neighborhoods and the high price of fresh food compared with the cheap cost of fast food. Nor [did] Obama mention the difficulties of single parents working full time and short on time to prepare meals or the oversaturation and marketing of fast foods in minority neighborhoods. To Obama, bad eating habits….are a reflection of personal failings, not societal barriers” (Harris, 100-101)
“The Real Audience is White”
Harris could have mentioned numerous other moments before and since the future president’s Popeye’s Speech when Obama felt compelled to scold Black people on their own supposed personal responsibility for their own poverty. “It’s obvious by now,” Ishmael Reed noted in 2008, “that Barack Obama is treating Black Americans like one treats a demented uncle, brought out from his room to be ridiculed and scolded before company from time to time.” 
Last Spring, Obama spoke to the graduates of historically Black Morehouse College, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As the left Black writer Margaret Kimberly noted at the indispensable Black radical zine Black Agenda Report: “The poor graduates were not only forced to sit in a driving rain but were also insulted by …president [who] felt compelled to point out that there are Black people who make excuses, and don’t take care of their kids, and make bad choices…As in 2008, the Black people in the audience were part of the stage setting for the real audience, which was totally white.”
When Obama talks down to Black people , Kimberly notes, “the audience in his presence [may be]…Black,” but “the real audience [is] white. The political slang is ‘dog whistling.’ Just as there are sounds which can be heard only by the canine ear, there are messages tailor made for specific constituencies, though they appear to be made for others.”