Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Impeach Obama

Virtually all of my progressive friends have looked puzzled when I showed them how I’d cut the word “Bush” off an “Impeach Bush” bumper sticker, and stuck “Impeach” over the red-white-and blue sunrise logo on the “Obama ‘08” sticker, still on the tailgate of my pickup, so that it reads “Impeach Obama.”

I didn’t actually vote for Barack Obama. Being a traitor to both my race and my gender, I voted for Cynthia McKinney, the African American Green Party candidate, who was also most closely aligned with my own political principles—the only truly satisfying way for me to spend time in the voting booth in recent years. But being a realist, I also wanted Obama to win, lesser-of-two-evils-wise; and so I helped my local Democratic friends campaign for him, and even wrote columns on my blog giving him qualified support, for his “transformative” potential—although always leavened with suspicion of his corporate ties and his fealty to the “war on terror” (I called him “the Lion of Afghanistan”).

I wrote Obama off after three months of his presidency. Even at that point, he had already proven himself worse than my lowest expectations of him, and had stolen whatever glimmers of hope he had raised in me with his stirring campaign rhetoric. But I kept the bumper sticker on the truck anyway, just to annoy the local racists, and resigned myself to the one-corporate-party status quo. I quit writing the blog not long after I lost any hope in Obama—not seeing much hope in the blogosphere either—and began seeking other avenues to effect change.

It didn’t occur to me that Obama was worth spending any more attention on (I avoid listening to him now, feeling the same kind of disgust when I hear him that I used to experience with Bush) until the Gulf oil massacre. I use that term because, if there were ever a crime of “ecocide,” this would be it. And from my observation, it seems Obama has done everything in his power to make it worse. That is to say, it has become more apparent each day this crisis passes (and as I wrote over a year ago in my last blog post), that the 21st-century American presidency has no true power, beyond that allotted by the corporate/military dictatorship that actually rules America. Obama, the living embodiment of the new multinational order, is the perfect spokesmodel-in-chief, bowing obsequiously to every corporate command. Like all modern presidents, he has a job that gives him plenty of time to play golf.

Depending on how the lessons sink in, the Deepwater Horizon explosion can almost be viewed as a blessing, in the way that it has exposed the rot at the center of American government, and the nest of serpents feeding on democracy’s corpse. This episode, in all its apocalyptic horror, starkly reveals how government and corporate interests have become so intertwined that you can no longer see the line that is supposed to separate them. Two months into this tragedy, and the question of “Who’s in charge—BP or the government?” still lacks a clear answer. Corporate secrets have become a national security issue; and the American people, no matter how total the destruction of their livelihoods and way of life by a corporation seemingly immune to public accountability, are “out of the loop.”

The rudiments of totalitarianism are evident throughout this most recent application of the Shock Doctrine: the (and let’s call a spade a spade) conspiracy between government and industry to keep the American people in the dark; the use of state power and law enforcement agencies at every level of government to give primacy to corporate interests; the unembarrassed restriction of freedom of the press and freedom of movement; the police state mentality pervasive around the Gulf coast; the silent, defeated submission of the proles.

I suppose it is the immensity of this disaster that finally moved me to get out my scissors and slap the “Impeach” sticker in front of Obama’s name on my tailgate. But even as I laughed at myself for the utter frivolity of my gesture, I had to think: why not impeach Obama? Didn’t I want Bush impeached, for his multiple violations of the Constitution and the rule of law, and to restore accountability to the American government? And has Obama pursued justice on a single one of the issues that I thought Bush and his henchmen should be held responsible for?

Obama’s failure in that regard alone should technically justify his impeachment, for his violation of his presidential oath to uphold the Constitution. But to make matters worse, the Obama administration is regularly, even in his own bureaucracy, referred to as “Bush’s third term.” In other words, especially in matters of foreign policy and national security, Obama continues to commit many of the same crimes of state that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should have been—were this an actual constitutional republic—impeached for. And, at least in the case of his approval of execution of American citizens without due process, Obama’s own constitutional violations exceed Bush’s.

Wouldn’t it be hypocritical to demand Bush’s impeachment, and excuse Obama’s own constitutional crimes? If I think Cindy Sheehan is correct in identifying Obama as a “war criminal”—which I do, from his torture policy in Afghanistan, to the doubtless ongoing electronic surveillance of the American public’s private business (I couldn’t care less about the legal fig leaf they slapped on that)—then shouldn’t I be demanding that Obama, too, be held accountable for his flaunting of the constitution, his betrayal of his oath, his ongoing deception of the public?

The objection from my progressive friends is easy to imagine: impeachment of Obama would be playing right into the hands of Tea Party fascists, and give them an opening to turn the federal government into the theocracy they so desire. And this objection can’t be dismissed lightly. As an official philosopher opined recently in the New York Times, the insensibility of the Tea Party is a form of “nihilism,” a blindly destructive element swirling in the current of our present political culture—the violently authoritarian mentality at the root of our ancestral colonialism, reborn again. Not to be trifled with. The wholesale abandonment of critical thinking, and the disruption of public meetings, are far too resonant of the early Nazis for comfort. Sinclair Lewis was right: there is no longer any doubt that fascism, American-style, carries a cross and waves the flag. Hitler’s base constituency was rural conservatives.

But I think we have to look at this strategically. In the first place, impeaching Obama is the right and principled thing to do. And we who advocated for Bush’s impeachment remain open to the charge of hypocrisy, as long as we’re still protecting our guy, if we think he’s committed the same crimes. We fall into the moral sewer with Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.

Secondly, if the Republicans recapture the House of Representatives this November—which must be regarded as at least an even possibility at this writing—how long will it be before some conservolibertarian hotshot introduces articles of impeachment against Obama, thus setting the impeachment narrative, and ignoring the true crimes of which Bush and Cheney were also guilty. In an economic climate as volatile as this, anything could happen then—including race war, because African Americans would quite correctly see an element of racism, on vivid display ever since the inauguration, in any Republican impeachment effort.

(To put this into personal context: a white leftist’s call for impeachment could just as easily be seen as racist. To argue my defense, I would point to the fact that, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, I was writing a regular column in West Virginia’s oldest newspaper, in which I called for Bill Clinton to do the honorable thing and resign, for lying so flagrantly to the American people. I soon reversed myself, when the Republicans impeached, because in my opinion his lie didn’t amount to “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The point being, I’ve also taken a public stand against a white Democratic president.)

One of the ways that a Republican impeachment effort could play out would be a repetition of the Clinton storyline, with a public backlash against the GOP for overreaching, and the triumphant re-election of Barack Obama in 2012. Is that what we really want or need?

The third strategic consideration is the one most germane to me. There is a growing consensus across the political spectrum, left to right, that the American government is broken, and needs fixing. The white men of property who constructed the elegant Newtonian machinery of government in the US Constitution, with its elaborate checks and balances, were extremely wary of the unwashed public, and kept that wariness in mind throughout their deliberations in that hot Philadelphia summer of 1787. They didn’t leave many avenues open for a direct public challenge to the government. The power to impeach, initiated as it is in the lower house, the people’s house, is one of those few avenues.

Over two centuries later, with the walls of corporatism closing around us and the republic imperiled, we would be fools not to avail ourselves of every opportunity left to “get our country back.” That’s something we all want, even if we have different ideas about what it means. In any event, we can never actually go back, because, in so many ways—socially, economically, culturally, ecologically, and certainly politically—the old America is over. It’s dead. We can only go forward.

Starting from where we are today, in any direction, to rebuild a government that is responsive to the people, will be a multi-step process that will need all our input to get there. For me, the idea of President Biden is just a first, hopefully sudden step.

Maybe then—especially if the impeachment process begins on the left—the power elite will start taking the peasants seriously. And the sooner that happens, the better.

1 comment:

wvng said...

I understand that you and many other liberals are unhappy with President Obama, but the "Impeach" post was just way overboard and ultimately harmful to every cause you believe in. A lot of good, progressive things have happened in the past 18 months because Obama is president, that would never have happened under a republican. Posts like this one serve only to depress the base against a crazy right wing base that is highly energized for the upcoming midterm election, increasing the likelihood that the republicans will retake the majority in one or both houses of Congress, which will result in nothing at all progressive happening. Nothing that you care about happening. Everything you care about stalled or rolled back.

It may feel good to rant, but it does no good at all to rant as you did here. It's good to push for more progressive policies and more progressive politicians - but this is simply destructive.

Rachel says: Obama getting a lot done

Rachel Maddow lists the exceptional number of significant accomplishments of the Obama administration, even through only half a term.