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13 March 2008

Disabuse Your Illusion: Weighing Obama in the Balance of Reality, Chris Floyd

More excellent analysis; check out the link therein to Robert Parry's Consortiumnews piece as well. Key quote:

Hope, said Emily Dickinson, is the thing with feathers, a tough little bird that sounds sweetest in the midst of a storm. It's a commonplace by now, but no less true, that Barack Obama's winged words of hope have borne him up to the high place where he stands now, on the threshold of the White House. And these words shine all the more brightly against the torrent of filth that the Bush Regime has rained down upon the American people for years. Thus it's no surprise that millions of people have been inspired by Obama -- including a million who have put their money where their hope is, in the most remarkable grass-roots funding campaign in U.S. political history.

It can't be denied that an Obama presidency would be better in many respects than the Bush regime -- if only for the replacement of the thousands of fanatics, cranks and witless apparatchiks with whom Bush has packed the federal bureaucracy. The ouster of these cadres will make an appreciable difference, on the ground, in the lives of many people. To cite just one instance, it is likely that an Obama administration (or a Clinton administration, for that matter) would restore the funding to family planning services and health clinics in the poorest regions of the world that Bush has maliciously -- and murderously -- cut off to please the religious extremists in his political base. That alone would save thousands of lives each year.

But to make this observation is not an endorsement of Obama's candidacy, nor a call for "lesser evilism." It's simply a statement of fact. As we've said here before, echoing Noam Chomsky, even small mitigations in the operation of vast power structures can translate into benefits -- or alleviations of suffering -- for substantial numbers of people. Again, this is an observable fact, not a value judgment. Whether these mitigations of injustice and suffering in certain instances outweigh the cost of participating in -- and thereby to some extent legitimizing and perpetuating -- a system that inevitably produces injustice and suffering on a massive scale is a question that each person must decide for themselves, in their own individual conscience.

And this question is certainly pertinent in the case of Barack Obama. For by the choices he has made in picking advisers to help him shape his policies, he has given every indication that while his presidency might represent a better management and presentation of the current system, it will in no way overturn or even seriously challenge it on any essential point. In other words -- and bearing in mind the type of not-insubstantial mitigations noted above -- he will keep doing what Bush has been doing, only more competently, less radically, with a greater care for the long-term viability of the power structure. And what is that structure that Obama seeks to refine and extend? It is an imperial system based on militarism and the exaltation of elitist profit and privilege above all other concerns.
For what it's worth, when asked on Znet how he's approaching this election, Chomsky wrote:
My feeling is that it's worth keeping McCain out. He could turn out to be very dangerous. So if I were in a swing state, I'd vote against Bush [sic; he obviously means McCain], hence for whatever Democrat runs. Without enthusiasm. Since I'm in a safe state, the question is unlikely to arise, and there are other choices: abstention, an effort to contribute to some independent party, maybe other choices.
The whole matter is of secondary importance, in my opinion. The real issues lie elsewhere: in creating popular movements that will influence what elected officials do whoever they are, and work for more long-term changes in the sociopolitical/economic system.

NC

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