Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 17, 2011

A government of national unity?

Filed under: Obama — louisproyect @ 11:45 pm

If you read between the lines, you will have no trouble figuring out that the Obama administration is trying to exploit the shootings in Arizona to bolster its political power. Unlike the leftwing of his party, however, the president is not accusing the Republicans of indirect responsibility. The World Socialist website interprets this failure as “providing amnesty for the right wing”:

Obama went on to repudiate those among his liberal supporters who have pointed to the role of right-wing ideology in inspiring the Tucson massacre, calling for “a good dose of humility, rather than pointing fingers and assigning blame.”

The conclusion of his remarks was an attempt to cover up the deepening social tensions in America and present a saccharine picture of US political life that is entirely divorced from reality.

The Democrats are cowardly and evasive, forswearing or quickly abandoning any suggestion that the right wing should be held responsible for the direction of Jared Lee Loughner’s attack.

I am not exactly sure whom they are speaking to with this analysis. Most people with even the most superficial understanding of class society understand at this point that Obama is keen on creating a “government of national unity” that would include DLC type Democrats like him and the old guard of the Republican Party. The biggest obstacles to this maneuver are the Tea Party elements of the Republican Party and the malcontents in the Democratic Party who, for example, complained about the tax breaks for millionaires that the bourgeois press dubbed as a major victory for the “comeback kid”.

In the twisted Orwellian world of American politics, such a capitulation gets turned into its opposite. Of course, looking at the deal on a deeper level, one would have no trouble understanding that this measure was something that Obama not only could live with, but that was consistent with his pro-corporate orientation.

One of the signs of a rapprochement between the White House and key leaders of the Republican Party was Senator McCain’s opinion piece that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post. He wrote:

I disagree with many of the president’s policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country’s cause. I reject accusations that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or opposed to its founding ideals. And I reject accusations that Americans who vigorously oppose his policies are less intelligent, compassionate or just than those who support them.

Our political discourse should be more civil than it currently is, and we all, myself included, bear some responsibility for it not being so. It probably asks too much of human nature to expect any of us to be restrained at all times by persistent modesty and empathy from committing rhetorical excesses that exaggerate our differences and ignore our similarities. But I do not think it is beyond our ability and virtue to refrain from substituting character assassination for spirited and respectful debate.

This olive branch is not just about creating a new kind of civility that would preempt future tragedies like the Tucson shootings. It is a kind of de facto recognition that the ruling class politicians have to get together to push through major legislation that will continue the assault on the last remaining institutions of the welfare state. Just as Bill Clinton’s bromance with the Republicans resulted in the abolition of aid to dependent children, so we can expect the love-fest between Obama and the more “responsible” members of the Republican Party to produce mortal blows to Social Security and Medicare.

Obama’s radio address last weekend alluded to these urgent political tasks:

While we can’t escape our grief for those we’ve lost, we carry on now, mindful of those truths.

We carry on because we have to.  After all, this is still a time of great challenges for us to solve.  We’ve got to grow jobs faster, and forge a stronger, more competitive economy.  We’ve got to shore up our budget, and bring down our deficits.  We’ve got to keep our people safe, and see to it that the American Dream remains vibrant and alive for our children and grandchildren.

When you cut through all the bullshit from Obama and McCain, you are really left with the obvious intention on both sides to implement a stepped up attack on working people and the poor. When Obama talks about shoring up the budget and bringing down deficits, he can mean only one thing after the spectacle of tax breaks for millionaires. He intends to pick the pockets of working stiffs and put the money into the bank accounts of the Lloyd Blankfeins of the world.

The coming together of the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the Democratic Party, symbolized by Obama himself and his new chief of staff Bill Daley, and the old guard of the Republican Party, including McCain, Oren Hatch and other such reasonable reactionaries, is calculated to produce an irresistible political force that can drive through legislation urgently needed in American capitalism’s current accumulation cycle.

Keep in mind that the big banks are sitting on mountains of cash as Huffington Post reported:

JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s second-biggest bank by assets, beat estimates in reporting $4.8 billion in income last quarter, a 47 percent jump, as the bank largely benefitted from choosing to not set aside cash to cover future losses.

The firm said profits for 2010 reached $17.4 billion, a record for the lender.

The firm’s revenues were up 13 percent last quarter, reflecting increased loan demand from businesses and households, and two percent for the year. Consumer loans were up eight percent. Mortgage applications rose 33 percent versus the same period last year.

JPMorgan Chase is largely seen as a barometer for the health of the economy, particularly when it comes to households. It’s the third-biggest home mortgage lender, according to data compiled by Mortgagestats.com, and it has the third-most domestic deposits of any bank in the U.S., according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The firm is also a leader in credit cards and personal loans.

While Obama talks about the need to “grow jobs” (buzzwords associated with the country’s better business schools), this is not the sort of thing to keep Chase Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon awake at night. The profits of Fortune 500 corporations are sacrosanct and have little to do with the unemployment rate. Indeed, it would matter little if the unemployment rate went up to 20 percent as long as the quarterly earnings reports of these companies looked good to investors. The only thing that stands in the way, of course, is the determination of working people and the unemployed to raise hell in such circumstances.

Over the next two years social tensions will remain high but the Obama administration stands a good chance of pushing forward with its agenda as long as the Republican Party old guard puts the class interests of the bourgeoisie over its own narrow interests. That is the nature of electoral politics in the USA. It is much more of a business than a public service. Politicians seek office in the same way that real estate developers seek tenants. It helps to pay for that vacation home in Vail or the Hamptons. So, if Obama is hyped as a capable leader two years from now, the Democrats stand a good chance of holding on to the Presidency and increasing their numbers in the House and Senate.

In some ways, ruling class politicians would be better off combining the two parties into the Democrat-Republican Party and avoiding all the nasty in-fighting that the average person interprets as “politics”. With such a unified electoral framework, the ambitious young Ivy graduate or corporate lawyer like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama or George W. Bush could run for office in the same way that somebody competes for a partnership at Goldman-Sachs.

After all, there is not much difference.


  1. Sure there are differences. They are just in the realm of bourgeois politics. It’s not only to pull the wool over our eyes that there are two parties. The ruling class irons out its strategies for ruling through these sorts of battles. It’s a good way to ensure that the policies of the class take precedence over the policies of just one section.

    I’m not sure why you spend so much time on this sort of thing though, especially here. Do you expect some supporters of the Dems to find their way here and realize the error in their way after reading this? Or are you just preaching to the choir?

    Seems there are more burning strategic and tactical questions that could be addressed. Either that or movies to review.

    Comment by The Idiot — January 18, 2011 @ 10:32 am

  2. Sometimes I lie wide awake at the end of a long, hard day, and think about who might be the first left-wing Democrat — politician, pundit or purveyer — to break towards the cause of the working-class. This usually gets me nowhere closer to a good night’s sleep and leaves me prone to the most farcicle dreams imaginable.

    Then I think of Farrell Dobbs. I’m out like a light and sleep like a baby.

    Comment by Dave R — January 18, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

  3. Speaking of profits, the NTY reports today (1/19) that 475 partners of Goldman Sachs have recently cashed out $20 billion of options to buy shares at half their current price, and still hold $10 billion more. I think that’s an average of $42 million each so far, on top of their normal salaries.

    Comment by senecal — January 19, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

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