Obama's second term: Midterm elections, agendas and enemiesBy Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Mar 3, 2014 - 11:54:34 AM
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - Still more or less "going it alone," President Barack Obama walks through the fifth year of his second term in office with accomplishments and absolutely no personal, moral scandals to shame him or members of his inner circle, yet despite his achievements, despite his clean record, his image is still being shaped by his enemies. Not his foreign enemies, his enemies right at home, Republicans in the U.S. Congress, who have sworn since day one to make his presidency a failure.
“There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws,” Speaker of the House John Boehner complained about the president who is sworn like he is to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Mr. Boehner was declaring that prospects for immigration overhaul are all but dead in this session of Congress. “It’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that (GOP distrust of the president) changes,” he said.
That’s because at the heart of the modern GOP agenda—aside from overtly racist hate aimed directly at Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle—is the dismantling of what they call the “welfare state,” the federal “safety net” which was created in the 1930s to bring this country out of the Great Depression; as well as repeal of the 1960s “Great Society” which extended civil rights protections to discriminated against minority groups.
If the administration does nothing, the right-wing Republican agenda advances. So, in order to get anything done, the president must agree to drastic cuts in social programs, claiming victory because Democrats were able to limit the size and scope of even more draconian proposed Republican cuts to those programs. The GOP wins again.
Commonly referred to in Republican talking points as “a Bolshevik Nazi Black Panther Kenyan Illuminati Muslim Socialist,” there is no limit to the depth of insults they routinely hurl at the president. “Sometimes I wonder if Obama…(has) even ever seen a copy of the United States Constitution,” Arizona state Rep. Andy Tobin said in an e-mail to reporters the night of State of the Union address Jan. 29. Mr. Obama was a former professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago.
The right-wing slander campaign has been effective. Despite his achievements in office Mr. Obama’s approval rating is low; technical computer glitches which fouled the launch of Mr. Obama’s signature success—the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed “Obamacare”—soured public opinion about the legislation, even though most Americans applaud the legislation’s provisions, while verbally denouncing “Obamacare” itself.
The president even counseled Democratic office seekers that he would understand if they chose to “distance themselves from him” in their election bids.
The president launched a tour immediately after his State of the Union address advocating an increase in the federal minimum wage to more than $10 per hour, and decrying growing income inequality which has seen worker wages remain stagnant over the last 40 years even as worker productivity doubled. At the same time CEO income has increased hundredfold in relation to worker wages, and the stock market has soared since Mr. Obama came into office in the midst of the Great Recession which began in 2008.
Mr. Obama’s liberal supporters—especially in the Congressional Black Caucus—are fully supportive of the new go-it-alone 2014 strategy. “In my view, that is precisely what we need: the state of our union is fragile for many and must be strong for all,” former CBC Chair Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement following the annual presidential report to Congress and the nation.
Some of the president’s progressive critics on the Left remain unconvinced. Dr. Wilmer Leon, a political scientist and talk show host on Sirius-XM radio told The Final Call, the State of the Union and other speeches are “well delivered, but in terms of substantive content, I didn’t hear anything new. In many regards I think it was not what he said, it was not so much what he said, but what he didn’t say.
“For example, he only used the word ‘poverty’ once. He never spoke about the poor, and when he did mention it, he talked about ‘work ethic, work ethic, work ethic,’ and one of the founding elements of this country is the Protestant work ethic. But by talking about work, to me it was a back-handed slap if not an omission, about so many people in this country who are poor and are unable to work because they cannot find jobs. So, he was playing into this whole politics of blaming the poor for their plight,” he said.
Rep. Cynthia McKinney served six terms in Congress from Georgia, and was the 2008 Green Party candidate for president. Had she been elected then and re-elected as Mr. Obama was, this would have been her fifth State of the Union address. Had she been speaking to that joint session of Congress her focus would have been different from Mr. Obama’s, she told The Final Call.
“Instead of health insurance reform, we would be celebrating healthcare being made available to all people in the United States. The twist of the language that allows you to celebrate health insurance reform—just as an example—that somehow obscures the real need, which is for healthcare,” Ms. McKinney said.
“For me unfortunately, it was sort of the same old marketing that I feel is a bit disingenuous, so it is very difficult for me to get excited about something that I feel somehow, deep inside is just another obfuscation.”
The president’s lament that no one should work full time and rear a family in poverty was dismissed by former Rep. McKinney and Dr. Leon as political rhetoric intended to “rally his (political) base” of supporters ahead of this year’s congressional mid-term elections. Traditionally the party of the incumbent president loses congressional seats in such elections when there is no presidential contest to increase the turnout of grassroots voters.
Despite what many complain of as his “lackluster” performance on bedrock progressive issues, political observer Tom Porter, former senior campaign advisor to the Jackson-for-President campaign in 1984, warned liberals and progressives “will miss President Obama when he’s gone.”
“There has been opposition,” Ms. McKinney conceded, “but there hasn’t been effective utilization of the majority that the Democrats have inside the Senate. There are parliamentary and legislative maneuverings that can take place and should take place really, to dethrone the intense partisanship that has overtaken Washington, D.C.
“You’re right to point out that the Republicans have been the ‘Party of No,’ and that does create gridlock. At the same time though, there has to be more substantive leadership than I have felt coming from the majority party in the Congress.
“The president scores no points with me on foreign or domestic policy,” former Rep. McKinney said in response to Mr. Obama’s promises that this country would continue its “war on terrorism.”
“But when you start talking about terrorism, it’s the United States that’s killing people in attendance at birthday parties and bridal parties, with drones, terrorizing African states to join forces with AFRICOM or just establish a source of rendition or torture points on African soil, so it’s all the mastery of the language that encourages people to forget the truth,” Ms. McKinney said.
“First of all, with regard to Afghanistan,” Dr. Gerald Horne, professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston told The Final Call, “I’m sure you realize the United States position right now is quite dicey. President Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan is not going along with the Washington option of negotiating this bi-lateral agreement.
“We know that Ambassador Chris Stevens of the United States was killed in Libya and that caused quite a storm of controversy, but we also know that Libya can be designated by Washington as a possible source for so-called terrorism, precisely because of the U.S. and NATO intervention a couple of years ago that overthrew the Gadhafi regime and then presided over the execution of Mr. Gadhafi,” Dr. Horne continued.
When it gets back to immigration reform, what Mr. Obama may be wagering on in his struggle with the GOP is the rapidly changing demographic makeup of the U.S. electorate. Every four years millions more Latino and non-White immigrants become eligible to vote, while there are fewer and fewer older, White voters who are dying off.
The GOP plan in 2014 on congressional and state levels, and in continuing lock-step opposition to Mr. Obama’s judicial appointments, may be to install GOP majorities which can through gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics, engineer a pro-White, pro-wealthy, pro-right-wing society which will take decades to reverse legislatively and in the courts.