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Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama

Chris Hedges

 by Truthdig

We owe Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney
an apology. They were right about Barack Obama. They were right about
the corporate state. They had the courage of their convictions and they
stood fast despite wholesale defections and ridicule by liberals and
progressives. 

Obama lies as cravenly, if not as crudely,
as George W. Bush. He promised us that the transfer of $12.8 trillion
in taxpayer money to Wall Street would open up credit and lending to
the average consumer. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC),
however, admitted last week that banks have reduced lending at the
sharpest pace since 1942. As a senator, Obama promised he would
filibuster amendments to the FISA Reform Act that retroactively made
legal the wiretapping and monitoring of millions of American citizens
without warrant; instead he supported passage of the loathsome
legislation. He told us he would withdraw American troops from Iraq,
close the detention facility at Guantánamo, end torture, restore civil
liberties such as habeas corpus and create new jobs. None of this has
happened.

He is shoving a health care bill down our
throats that would give hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to the
private health insurance industry in the form of subsidies, and force
millions of uninsured Americans to buy insurers' defective products.
These policies would come with ever-rising co-pays, deductibles and
premiums and see most of the seriously ill left bankrupt and unable to
afford medical care. Obama did nothing to halt the collapse of the
Copenhagen climate conference, after promising meaningful environmental
reform, and has left us at the mercy of corporations such as
ExxonMobil. He empowers Israel's brutal apartheid state. He has
expanded the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where hundreds of
civilians, including entire families, have been slaughtered by
sophisticated weapons systems such as the Hellfire missile, which sucks
the air out of victims' lungs. And he is delivering war and death to
Yemen, Somalia and perhaps Iran.

The illegal wars and occupations, the
largest transference of wealth upward in American history and the
egregious assault on civil liberties, all begun under George W. Bush,
raise only a flicker of tepid protest from liberals when propagated by
the Democrats. Liberals, unlike the right wing, are emotionally
disabled. They appear not to feel. The tea party protesters, the myopic
supporters of Sarah Palin, the veterans signing up for Oath Keepers
and the myriad of armed patriot groups have swept into their ranks
legions of disenfranchised workers, angry libertarians, John Birchers
and many who, until now, were never politically active. They articulate
a legitimate rage. Yet liberals continue to speak in the bloodless
language of issues and policies, and leave emotion and anger to the
protofascists. Take a look at the 3,000-word suicide note left by Joe
Stack, who flew his Piper Cherokee last month into an IRS office in
Austin, Texas, murdering an IRS worker and injuring dozens. He was not
alone in his rage.

"Why is it that a handful of thugs and
plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM
executives, for scores of years) and when it's time for their gravy
train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming
stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty
coming to their aid within days if not hours?" Stack wrote. "Yet at the
same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the
drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people
a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this
country's leaders don't see this as important as bailing out a few of
their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political ‘representatives'
(thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have
endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of
the ‘terrible health care problem'. It's clear they see no crisis as
long as the dead people don't get in the way of their corporate profits
rolling in."

The timidity of the left exposes its cowardice, lack of a moral compass
and mounting political impotence. The left stands for nothing. The
damage Obama and the Democrats have done is immense. But the damage
liberals do the longer they beg Obama and the Democrats for a few
scraps is worse. It is time to walk out on the Democrats. It is time to
back alternative third-party candidates and grass-roots movements, no
matter how marginal such support may be. If we do not take a stand soon
we must prepare for the rise of a frightening protofascist movement,
one that is already gaining huge ground among the permanently
unemployed, a frightened middle class and frustrated low-wage workers.
We are, even more than Glenn Beck or tea party protesters, responsible
for the gusts fanning the flames of right-wing revolt because we have
failed to articulate a credible alternative.

A shift to the Green Party, McKinney and
Nader, along with genuine grass-roots movements, will not be a quick
fix. It will require years in the wilderness. We will again be told by
the Democrats that the least-worse candidate they select for office is
better than the Republican troll trotted out as an alternative. We will
be bombarded with slick commercials about hope and change and spoken to
in a cloying feel-your-pain language. We will be made afraid. But if we
again acquiesce we will be reduced to sad and pathetic footnotes in our
accelerating transformation from a democracy to a totalitarian
corporate state. Isolation and ridicule-ask Nader or McKinney-is the
cost of defying power, speaking truth and building movements. Anger at
injustice, as Martin Luther King wrote, is the political expression of
love. And it is vital that this anger become our own. We have
historical precedents to fall back upon. 

"Here in the United States, at the
beginning of the twentieth century, before there was a Soviet Union to
spoil it, you see, socialism had a good name," the late historian and
activist Howard Zinn said
in a lecture a year ago at Binghamton University. "Millions of people
in the United States read socialist newspapers. They elected socialist
members of Congress and socialist members of state legislatures. You
know, there were like fourteen socialist chapters in Oklahoma. Really.
I mean, you know, socialism-who stood for socialism? Eugene Debs, Helen
Keller, Emma Goldman, Clarence Darrow, Jack London, Upton Sinclair.
Yeah, socialism had a good name. It needs to be restored."

Social change does not come through
voting. It is delivered through activism, organizing and mobilization
that empower groups to confront the hegemony of the corporate state and
the power elite. The longer socialism is identified with the
corporatist policies of the Democratic Party, the longer we allow the
right wing to tag Obama as a socialist, the more absurd and ineffectual
we become. The right-wing mantra of "Obama the socialist," repeated a
few days ago to a room full of Georgia Republicans, by Newt Gingrich,
the former U.S. speaker of the House, is discrediting socialism itself.
Gingrich, who looks set to run for president, called Obama the "most
radical president" the country had seen in decades. "By any standard of
government control of the economy, he is a socialist," Gingrich said.
If only the critique was true.

The hypocrisy and ineptitude of the
Democrats become, in the eyes of the wider public, the hypocrisy and
ineptitude of the liberal class. We can continue to tie our own hands
and bind our own feet or we can break free, endure the inevitable
opprobrium, and fight back. This means refusing to support the
Democrats. It means undertaking the laborious work of building a viable
socialist movement. It is the only alternative left to save our
embattled open society. We can begin by sending a message to the Green
Party, McKinney and Nader. Let them know they are no longer alone.


© 2020 TruthDig
Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. His most recent book is "America: The Farewell Tour" (2019).

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