I've been trying to figure out Senator Obama now for almost a year. What do we know about him. What are we lead to believe? What can we expect? These are the questions I've been asking myself.
The reason I'm concerned is that he's running for President, yes, and he's running as something of an outsider. So, he's asking us to vote for him on the basis of what he says and promises us he would do as President.
I've thought we should be concerned about whether we can trust him. Can we trust Obama? One reason it seems we should pause....and look again at what he says about himself is that he's right out of the box, so to speak. Compared to Senator McCain he's real new at this national business.
The problem with being new right out of the box is that we have to still rely on the advertising to assess whether we like the product. Is it really an "amazing" and "improved" gismo? Well, we haven't seen the thing work long enough to tell. He's right out of the box.
We also have to wonder about his loyalties. It seems Obama doesn't protect his luggage. Like all of us, he collects baggage. I think you have reasons for collecting this baggage. The problem with Obama, he disowns his luggage if he thinks it will slow him up. His Rev. Wright was the Pastor of his church for twenty years. There was a long history of having the guy do his marriage, baptize the babies, and counsel him on Sunday mornings. But, when it seemed the Rev. expressed views that seemed hard to explain or justify to a national crowd, Obama disowned the man and threw that piece of his life's luggage out the window.
This willingness to disown your friends for political gain troubles me. I figure that any of the rest of us may be the next constituency exposed to media scrutiny. If it's too hard for the Senator to explain why he's associated with us in any way, then like his other acquaintances, we're disowned luggage.
There's also the business of "calculation." The guy is always thinking about how what he is doing will effect his agenda. I'm not sure this is a bad thing always. But, here, this is what I'm thinking of. Democracy Now had an interview with Ryan Lizza, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, who wrote about how working in Chicago shaped Obama. Juan Gonzalez asks Mr. Lizza about the rally where Obama came out and opposed the war in Iraq. Lizza says,
he made a—if you read it today, it still stands up very well. He made a very powerful case against the Iraq war at a time when a lot of Democrats weren’t doing that. But there were certainly some politics in mind. And if you talk to some of the people who were in that audience that day, one of the common things you hear is, “Wow, this guy is not just talking to us, he’s talking to either some statewide or national crowd. This speech seems pointed for the—seems more like for the history books than just for us here at this antiwar rally.” And this comes up throughout Obama’s political history. He often had his eye on the next rung of the ladder, if you know what I mean.
Democracy Now, July 28, 2008.
So, my initial take on Obama is he's right out of the box, willing to disown his friends to get ahead, and he has an agenda.
But, these things don't make him a bad politician necessarily. He might just be enthusiastic about helping the poor and people of color in America.
I think we have to consider the following charge about Obama. The charge is based on a metaphor involving plantation life and the distinction between "house slaves" and "field slaves." The field slaves do all the hard work picking the cotton. Their lives are brutal and often short. The house slaves tend to the masters and the needs of their master's families. The lives of house slaves are more pleasant. Oftentimes the house slaves speak to the masters for the needs of the field slaves because the masters mostly don't pay much attention to what goes on with the running of things.
It seems possible, and likely, that Obama his running for house slave.
He sees himself as wanting to be in a position to help the field slaves get some shoes, to have a better diet, maybe to get some patches for the roofs of their little shacks. He figures if the lives of the field hands are better, they will work better, and then the plantation prospers, and everyone is then better off. This is his argument to be house slave.
It would be unfortunate and a waste if all Obama wanted was to be house slave for us, the field slaves. The whole point of the abolitionist and civil rights movement, the Civil War and the sacrifices of the lives and fortunes of those people who fought those battles was to do away with the plantation system and slavery.
That Obama is running for house slave reflects the fact that he doesn't have an abolitionist bone in his body. What would it take to be an abolitionist? We can look at some of the issues facing our country.
Take the problem of health care. When Hillary Clinton was in charge of health care reform during her husband's Presidency, she was urged to support a single payer system of health care provision in order to deal with the lack of any health care by millions of Americans. After long closed door meetings, she came out with 'managed health care,' the system we now have. The reason she did not develop or support universal health care with a single payer system to back it up was, as she said, the insurance companies would not support it. Barack Obama has said nothing about going up against the health insurance companies in order to develop any universal health coverage program.
We can look at Obama's plan. It offers modifications of the private insurance system we have now. But, it offers no challenge to the drain on the health care system made by insurance companies skimming the profits off the top.
The following analysis of Obama's health care proposals concludes, in part,
Democrats, like Obama, tend to make an Americanized attempt at health care solidarity by crafting a structure that ensures everyone will be covered, not by a single government-run plan but by guaranteeing access to a mix of government and private plans. Obama understands that the vast majority of Americans are not ready to give up their private health insurance plans and that creates a political imperative to continue making private health insurance a part of any “unique American solution.”
I'm not alone in criticizing Obama's health care proposals. And, it's not just McCain's people who oppose it. So, here is what Krugman thinks is wrong about what Obama proposes,
The whole point of a universal health insurance system is that everyone pays in, even if they’re currently healthy, and in return everyone has insurance coverage if and when they need it.
And it’s not just a matter of principle. As a practical matter, letting people opt out if they don’t feel like buying insurance would make insurance substantially more expensive for everyone else.
Here’s why: under the Obama plan, as it now stands, healthy people could choose not to buy insurance — then sign up for it if they developed health problems later. Insurance companies couldn’t turn them away, because Mr. Obama’s plan, like those of his rivals, requires that insurers offer the same policy to everyone.
As a result, people who did the right thing and bought insurance when they were healthy would end up subsidizing those who didn’t sign up for insurance until or unless they needed medical care.
The issue about health care, for me, is that the health insurance companies do their job for a price, a price which adds to the cost and increases the complexity of administering health care. This is the main reason why health care costs so much in this country and offers so little when compared to other countries which do not allow insurance companies to skim off profits.
There are studies which back up my beliefs. See:
Others which raise questions about what we have,
And others which compare Obama with his rivals,
The story about health care is that Insurance companies take advantage of people, making them unable to provide for themselves and therefore forced to participate in the current health plantation system.
Another major issue facing us is the military-industrial complex. Yes, the issue that Ike warned us about. The United States spends so much of its budget on wars and the preparation for wars that it cannot research or develop toasters and automobiles anymore. At least, that one of the downsides. Another is that by putting all our eggs in that basket, we are unable to develop other more socially fruitful endeavors.
It's the question of whether you spend for guns or for butter. Some might think you'd put your money into butter. That would mean encouraging spending for economic development involving R and D for toasters directly, perhaps. It would involve general support for education. Perhaps there would be some work to support cultural or artistic agendas.
See places like here, for info:
The question we have here is whether we control the war making machine, or whether it controls us. I do not see Obama speaking up on this issue, pushing back against the established militant powers that be. In fact, I see things like this said about him,
Even as he pledges to end the war in Iraq, Obama promises to increase Pentagon spending, boost the size of the Army and Marines, bolster the Special Forces, expand intelligence agencies and maintain the hundreds of US military bases that dot the globe. He supports a muscular multilateralism that includes NATO expansion, and according to the Times of London, his advisers are pushing him to ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on in an Obama administration. Though he is against the idea of the United States imposing democracy abroad, Obama does propose a sweeping nation-building and democracy-promotion program, including strengthening the controversial National Endowment for Democracy and constructing a civil-military apparatus that would deploy to rescue and rebuild failed and failing states in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
There's a lot of talk about changing the vision we have of what we need to be doing, but the vision still includes the biggest military in the world by far. Others question whether Obama's vision is a well thought out and appropriate direction for us,
It's not as if anyone could get elected president in 2008 arguing that we need a smaller military. I just wish that the visionary Senator had followed his own instincts and asked whether our "technological edge" and "armor" and equipment -- the military we now have and the one he says we need -- points us in the right or needed direction.
What are his instincts? What is it that he wants to do about the military, just let it have the unwarranted and disastrous influence that it has obtained over these last 50 years?
My last issue is just how much our country tolerates slavery. It is not something which disappeared in the 19th century with the Emancipation declaration. Nor is it something that's been cleaned away because of the Civil Rights Movement of the twentieth century.
That is, when it became too difficult to run plantations out of our own place, the masters transferred the operations off-shore. We now have the country's corporations operating out of China, India, and other places where workers get paid pennies a day and can get shot for trying to organize unions.
See these for more:
Furthermore, when it became difficult to own slaves in this country, we took to just renting them. This is the complaint made by people about "wage slavery." It now should be our complaint when life is more expensive than we can afford on the jobs which the masters have provided for us.
My thought has been that Obama is running for house slave. This is what it means to him to run for President. The reason he's limiting himself, in our eyes, is because he has no abolitionist sympathies. He is not likely to challenge the masters and the system of slavery that they support.
I have suspected that though the Democrats support him because he is their nominee, their support in many cases is lukewarm or half-assed. You can see this lack of commitment when McCain makes some attack about how Obama doesn't support veterans, for example, where McCain has an abysmal record of support for veteran's legislative issues, and the democrats don't fall all over themselves to respond. The reason for this tepidness reflects the dems puzzlement about what Obama would do. Is he just wanting to be a house slave, and ask for modest improvements in the lives of the field hands so the plantation runs better? Or is he an abolitionist and likely to upset their applecart?
You can wonder why Obama changed his vote on the FISA bill. During the primaries he opposed the FISA bill as it provided for telecommunications company immunity. But, then when the bill came up for a vote, he was for it. On can suppose he was making the argument to those in charge that he would not be challenging the plantation system.
One can imagine that Senator McCain does not raise as many questions for the masters because he's been around. Unlike Obama, he's likely a member of the old boy's network. They know him. They know what he would do. I have been concerned that we have to trust Obama about who he is and what he would do because he's right out of the box. McCain is not a new product. I figure they know he would not lead some kind of uprising.
I can imagine that Senator Wellstone was eliminated mostly because they knew he was an abolitionist. He struck me as someone who could have been in Obama's shoes and was not controllable.
I have argued that our philosophical understanding of things is the crucial element in our lives. It is crucial because it lays the groundwork for how we think about and act in our lives. I think understanding who Barack Obama is has to be crucial in understanding our politics. I have here suggested that we have to ask ourselves whether Obama is running for President as though he were just wanting to be our house slave who would present for us our meager demands.
I have also suggested that this metaphor can be used to understand just about any of our leaders. Are they wanting to buck the system as any abolitionist would challenge the plantation system? Or does this or that politician want to just ask for meager things, some shoes, maybe some additional coal during the winters, and a few extra scraps to eat. If the lives of the field workers were better, the plantation would prosper more and then the masters would too benefit. That's his argument to the masters and to us.
I suspect all our leaders make these decisions whether they know it or not. They may not understand that there is this question to be answered. Do they have abolitionist bones. If you do, then the masters will get nervous or take steps.
There is the back story involving the mafias. The masters may not all work together. They may have their own disputes like different crime families. This part of the story is very seldom acknowledged or even mentioned. The reason would be that no one wants the public to get the idea that the real movers and shakers are just so many thugs who operate like the mafia.
The reason they have such a low opinion of democracy in private is because they think they own us. We live on their plantations. We are their slaves.
The business about the allegory, or the social contract as it is sometimes understood, is a way of making us think that our suffering is primarily a matter of the workings out of the Allegory or the contract we've all supposedly agreed to. The analogy Socrates claims is true, that our lives are like the lives of the cave dwellers is just a way of hiding the fact that we agree to the claim that life is about survival, it's a war zone, and the only way to meet that goal is thuggery.
Obama approaches the Presidency as though he were asking to be house slave not because he thinks its a great idea to be so limited. It would not be easy to limit one's goals. But, these are the realities which we all have to deal with. There are the masters and there are the slaves. We do not hear any discussion of this because people are being made to ignore and to forget that these are the facts of their existence. The best way to keep people from doing anything to improve their lives and to do something about suffering is to make them ignorant or confused about what's going on.
Socrates and his lieutenants argue that our lives are like the lives of the cave dwellers, or that we have all made some social contract, in order to obscure the deeper commitments they want us to make to the Socratic account of the ends and means of life.
There are reasons why it's good for life to be a matter of thuggery for survival. The one's who have power get to win things. The rest of us are bamboozled into thinking that if we go along with them, though we'll suffer briefly, we'll eventually win valuable prizes. Essentially, they convince us to be their many enablers.