The end of politics-6: Obama on social issues

For the previous posts in this series, see here.

(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here. You can also listen to the podcast of the interview on WCPN 90.3 about the book.)

The stylized and ritualized politics of the one party state that I have been describing has gone on for a long time but the façade is once again slipping, as it does periodically in times of real hardship. The rank and file of both parties is becoming more restive as they realize that elections come and go but their interests keep getting ignored.

On the Republican side, the rise of ‘tea-bagger’ activism as symbolized by Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh is one symptom. This is a truly crazy, religious, nativist, and paranoid movement that is obsessed that Obama represents some dangerous socialist/fascist/Muslim threat. Apart from the lack of any semblance of reason, the fact that they cannot see that Obama is firmly wedded to the capitalist framework and is a faithful servant of Wall Street shows how ignorant these people are of the realities of politics. But their rise is a symbol of popular frustration with the current state of politics.

The problem the Republican party leaders face is how to keep these crazies within the party fold while not letting them take over the actual leadership because that would be a disaster for the party. What the business and financial oligarchy that actually runs this country want are dependable, steady, reasonable-sounding, puppet leaders who can mask pro-war/pro-business/anti-people polices with silken words. Someone just like Obama, in fact. The oligarchy does not like populist bomb-throwers of any kind, right or left, because such people are unreliable and unpredictable and cannot be depended upon to faithfully follow Wall Street’s agenda down the line.

Of course, this collusion by the two parties’ leaderships to favor the war and business interests of the country can only succeed if this reality is hidden and for that they need an important ally. The mainstream media has to perpetuate the myth that we have two ideological parties that fiercely oppose each other and the rise of the tea-baggers gives them an excuse to perpetuate that myth even though the things that the tea-baggers care about do not even come close to addressing the pro-war/pro-business consensus on which the two parties operate. But their vocal presence perpetuates the illusion that we have two parties that are diametrically opposed on policies, when in reality the policies on which they differ are almost entirely social ones.

This is not to say that the social issues are not important. They can affect individuals and selected groups significantly. Obama has done some positive things, such as reversing the restrictions on overseas aid that allows for family planning and abortion. His Justice Department has stopped prosecuting those who use marijuana for medical purposes as long as they conform to state laws, thus reversing a harshly punitive Bush policy. And he has lifted the restrictions on federal funding on embryonic stem cell research. While these are not trivial steps, and have significant impact on some groups, it should be obvious that these are things that do not touch the privileges of the oligarchy.

One can also expect Obama to take a more positive attitude towards gays, though even here he seems to be moving much more cautiously there than the situation warrants. His decision to reverse the Bush policy of not backing a United Nations declaration to decriminalize homosexuality is to be welcomed, but he seems to be hesitant to repeal either the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in the military or the infamous Defense of Marriage Act (signed into law by Bill Clinton), and he also has not come out in support the rights of gays to marry.

Obama’s caution on the gay issue is a bit strange because I really think that the gay community has won its battle to achieve justice. Not that they have actually achieved equality (far from it) but we are now on an irreversible course in which it is only a matter of time (I give it ten years) until gays have the same rights as heterosexuals. Gays have become mainstreamed into our popular culture and civilization as we know it has not collapsed. The recent decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that overruled that state’s ban on same-sex marriages is just the latest sign of this progress. So you would think that even the ultra-cautious Obama might want to get a little ahead of the obvious curve at least on this issue and gain some points, but yet he is hesitant.

As I have said repeatedly, Democrats and Republicans differ mainly on a few social policies, and it is the strong emotional reactions that those policies generate that hides the fact that on the core issues of war and business, the Democrats and Obama walk pretty much in lockstep with the Republicans in serving the pro-war, pro-business interests.

The reason I titled this series as ‘the end of politics’ is that public politics has come down to merely wanting to tick the other side off on some hot button issues. Right-wingers want to stop whatever the left wants and progressives support a lousy health care bill because they want to tick the Republican base off. Meanwhile, the real business of siphoning off the country’s wealth to private interests goes on smoothly in the back rooms, adversely affecting all of us who are not part of the oligarchy, wherever we might lie on the left-right political spectrum.

This is no way for a mature country to be governed.

POST SCRIPT: Elizabeth Warren for President

The chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to investigate the U.S. banking bailout is one of the few high level government figures who tells it like it is.

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Elizabeth Warren
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

In April of 2009, I posted clips of a two-part interview with Elizabeth Warren that is worth viewing again.

Part 1:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor

Part 2:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor


  1. kuraL says


    Howard Zinn, the people’s historian, passed away yesterday. It is in times like these when the truth is elusive and fiction is all around us that the clarity of Zinn’s vision shines.

  2. says

    I am not sure if this got posted for there were technical problems. In any event you might like to take a look at “Untangling Barack Obama’s audacious mumbo jumbo” at scribd and elsewhere on he Nte.

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