Barack Obama will make history as the first African-American to challenge for the White House. But will the Democratic Party’s nominee for US president have an equally historic impact on the military and corporate power structures that are viewed by many as the country’s shadow government? Indeed, would he want to? All the indications say not.
Obama is riding a wave of attacks on the Bush presidency, for its invasion of Iraq, for its indifference to the fate of ordinary people (as shown in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina), for creating deeper and deeper inequalities and for taking America to the brink of presidential dictatorship by riding roughshod over constitutional rights.
But the Bush gang have always fronted for powerful corporate, financial and military interests and these are not leaving the scene anytime soon. Moreover, these elites are in some disarray as their world of free-market globalised capitalism falls apart around their feet. They will want an Obama presidency to come to their aid. On that score, they are likely to be disappointed simply because the White House doesn’t have that sort of power over the economy.
Danny Schecter, whose News Dissector website has played a major role in exposing the deceptions behind the selling of mortgages to people who could never really afford them (as well as the lies behind the invasion of Iraq), is not joining in the Obama-rides-to-the-rescue hullabaloo that is gripping the media on both sides of the Atlantic. Schechter cites the credit crisis as a reason for caution. At least one million families have lost their homes. Another two and half million are threatened. But the US political system has no plan for the crisis. In Schechter’s view not only do they have no “fix” – there may not be one because what’s involved is a structural crisis of American capitalism in an era of waning empire. “Many of the proposals being debated are tinkering with deeply flawed policies. They aim to bail the water out of the Titanic while it is sinking,” he adds.
Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, who has just written a book about America’s Christian right, whose adherents will no doubt will be burning fiery crosses at the very thought of a black man becoming president, says bluntly: “The corporate state is our shadow government.” Candidates who promote corporate interests get corporate money. He writes: “Barack Obama's campaign message, filled with lofty promises of change and hope, is also filled with repeated reassurances to the corporate elite. Pick up a copy of Obama's book ‘The Audacity of Hope’. The subtext is clear. It is a steady reminder to corporate America, a reminder bolstered by Obama's voting record, that corporations would have nothing to fear from an Obama presidency.”
As a result, the same corporate donors, lobbyists, weapons manufacturers, nuclear power companies and Wall Street interests that give Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain money, give Obama money. “They happen, in fact, to give Obama more. And the corporate state, which is carrying out a coup d'état in slow motion, believes it will prosper in Obama's hands. If not, he would not be a viable candidate.”
So both in Britain and America, the economic and financial elites are in a bind. Having captured the state, they find the state doesn’t command the power it once had as a consequence of the same corporate-driven globalisation process that produced a hands-off, deregulation approach. On the other side, the democratic credentials of the state are approaching vanishing point. The result is an increasingly dangerous power vacuum, into which Obama in America (and Cameron in Britain) is preparing to step. Beneath them, however, is a powder keg of discontent, disillusionment and hardship which they will be beyond their control. Then it won't be a case of "Yes we can", as the Obama slogan goes, but "No we can't".
Paul Feldman AWTW