In 1941, the editor Edward Dowling wrote: "The
two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread
delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror
among the rich, lest we get it." What has changed? The terror of the rich
is greater than ever, and the poor have passed on their delusion to those who
believe that when George W Bush finally steps down next January, his numerous
threats to the rest of humanity will diminish.
The nomination of Barack Obama, which, according to one breathless commentator,
"marks a truly exciting and historic moment in US history", is a product
of the new delusion. Actually, it just seems new. Truly exciting and historic
moments have been fabricated around US presidential campaigns for as long as
I can recall, generating what can only be described as bullsh*t on a grand scale.
Race, gender, appearance, body language, rictal spouses and offspring, even
bursts of tragic grandeur, are all subsumed by marketing and "image-making",
now magnified by "virtual" technology. Thanks to an undemocratic electoral
college system (or, in Bush's case, tampered voting machines) only those who
both control and obey the system can win.
Understanding Obama as a likely president of the United States is not possible
without understanding the demands of an essentially unchanged system of power:
in effect a great media game. For example, since I compared Obama with Robert
Kennedy in these pages, he has made two important statements, the implications
of which have not been allowed to intrude on the celebrations. The first was
at the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the
Zionist lobby, which, as Ian Williams has pointed out, "will get you accused
of anti-Semitism if you quote its own website about its power". Obama had
already offered his genuflection, but on 4 June went further. He promised to
support an "undivided Jerusalem" as Israel's capital. Not a single
government on earth supports the Israeli annexation of all of Jerusalem, including
the Bush regime, which recognises the UN resolution designating Jerusalem an
His second statement, largely ignored, was made in Miami on 23 May. Speaking
to the expatriate Cuban community – which over the years has faithfully produced
terrorists, assassins and drug runners for US administrations – Obama promised
to continue a 47-year crippling embargo on Cuba that has been declared illegal
by the UN year after year.
Again, Obama went further than Bush. He said the United States had "lost
Latin America". He described the democratically elected governments in
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua as a "vacuum" to be filled. He raised
the nonsense of Iranian influence in Latin America, and he endorsed Colombia's
"right to strike terrorists who seek safe-havens across its borders".
Translated, this means the "right" of a regime, whose president and
leading politicians are linked to death squads, to invade its neighbours on
behalf of Washington. He also endorsed the so-called Merida Initiative, which
Amnesty International and others have condemned as the US bringing the "Colombian
solution" to Mexico. He did not stop there. "We must press further
south as well," he said. Not even Bush has said that.
It is time the wishful-thinkers grew up politically and debated the world of
great power as it is, not as they hope it will be. Like all serious presidential
candidates, past and present, Obama is a hawk and an expansionist. He comes
from an unbroken Democratic tradition, as the war-making of presidents Truman,
Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton demonstrates. Obama's difference may be
that he feels an even greater need to show how tough he is. However much the
colour of his skin draws out both racists and supporters, it is otherwise irrelevant
to the great power game. The "truly exciting and historic moment in US
history" will only occur when the game itself is challenged.