Liza Featherstone Torches the Dismal Post-Presidency of Barack Obama

Liza Featherstone recently wrote an article for Jacobin entitled “Barack Obama Has Been One of the Worst Ex-Presidents Ever.” In it, she argues that Obama’s post-presidency has been “strikingly bereft of public-spiritedness,” the most recent example of which was his opulent 60th birthday bash at his Martha’s Vineyard mansion amidst surging Covid numbers.

She also points out that Obama, in the early days of the Trump presidency, was largely absent from public life. He was photographed on Richard Branson’s private island shortly after Trump’s inauguration – a time when his liberal base was wrought with fear about the days, weeks, months, and years to come. Rather than stay engaged and reassure his supporters that he would join them in their “resistance efforts,” he took off to the British Virgin Islands, where, according to Branson’s autobiography published months later, Michelle Obama actually exclaimed “We’re free!” Ironic that the former First Lady would feel this way just when a supposed fascist dictator just became her husband’s successor as the most powerful person on the planet.

Featherstone also cites that Obama’s two most notable interventions in politics, both of which took place over the phone, have been to protect the status quo.

First he intervened in the 2020 Democratic Primary in the days leading up to Super Tuesday, when Bernie Sanders was poised to effectively clinch the nomination. Obama convinced Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to suspend their campaigns and endorse Joe Biden, which they did, and this last-minute Hail Mary to stop Sanders proved successful.

Then, later that year, as protests erupted nationwide in response to the murder of George Floyd, NBA players, in a show of solidarity, walked off the court and went on strike. Obama convinced them to get back to work and continue the season.

Liza compares Obama’s vacuous ex-presidency to those of his predecessors, who, awful as they were, at least made attempts at public acknowledgment of their continued responsibilities as public citizens. Obama, on the other hand, has rarely flexed his moral authority as an ex-president, and when he has, it has been against the interests of ordinary people. She concludes, “Obama has not only largely opted out of using his high profile to serve the public interest, but he’s also chosen insultingly to flout it. It’s long past time to end the cult of hero worship around this narcissistic plutocrat.”

Liza Featherstone joined us to discuss Obama’s post-presidency and other topics on episode 121 of the Due Dissidence podcast. Listen to our full conversation by clicking the player below, and subscribe to the Due Dissidence podcast on Apple, StitcherSpotifyCastbox, Google Podcasts, or any major podcast player.

Photo: Systemman

No One is Coming to Save You: Why Gen Z is Giving Up on Democracy

by Russell Dobular

“You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy.”

Arthur Jensen, Network

For years, leftists have been digging through the internet archives to prove that when Democrats are in power, they never actually deliver on their promises to the voters, even when it’s fully within their power to do so.  It’s been a tough case to make, especially to Blue Magaworld, for whom Barack Obama is something akin to a secular saint. Try to talk about how he abandoned the public option before negotiations on Obamacare even began, or about how he put pressure on Senators who refused to vote for the bill without it instead of on the ones who dug their heels in on having it included, and the most common response from Democrats will be, “But the Republicans!” Never mind the fact that Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote, which means the Democrats could have done anything in theory, right up to and including Universal Health Care. The idea that the party, or God forbid, Obama himself, might have anything to do with the band-aid-on-a-gunshot-wound nature of the policy is anathema to most Democrats. Any attempt to persuade them otherwise is quickly vaporized by their repeated exposure to brain-melting doses of Morning Joe.

But now we’re seeing it all play out in real time in ways that are difficult for even the most mimosa-addled brunch liberal to ignore. No one can now deny that when Democrats were given a once in a generation shot to raise the minimum wage, not even to the $24 it would be if it had risen with inflation and productivity growth over the past 50 years, but to just roughly 60% of that wage, they hid behind the Senate Parliamentarian, an excuse so laughable that they might have been better off just telling the truth: the donors don’t want you to have a living wage, so we ain’t doing it. The refreshing honesty may have scored them more points than the transparent bullshit they ultimately went with. And as if to drive the point home, when Bernie introduced a $15 per hour amendment to the latest Corona relief package, 8 Democrats voted against it, apparently without fear of consequence from the White House, or from the voters. 

They know their suburban base could give a flying fuck about what the person who hands them their order at the drive-through earns, and if the White House really wanted it, they would have rained down hellfire on any Dem who threatened to hold up relief to stop it. So now we know there will be no living wage for American workers for at minimum a generation, at least not without a mass uprising, or general strike. And if the Democrats won’t provide that most basic of necessities, what hope is there for free college or universal health care? Zero, to none.

Enter, Gen Z.  Even the most open-minded, and thoughtful person, is inevitably bound to understand the world through the lens of the past. This is intrinsic to how the brain works: we create conceptual frames as a shortcut to having to evaluate each new experience and piece of information on its own terms. That’s why you don’t have to figure out what money is when you’re in a foreign country, with a currency you’ve never seen before, but it’s also why we tend not to fully understand the world we live in as we get older. Our frameworks grow increasingly disconnected from the cumulative changes of our lifetimes, until eventually you’re a boomer watching Joe Biden, but seeing FDR. Or a millennial or Gen Xer, still believing in political solutions to our problems. As the non-fight over the minimum wage demonstrates, there are no political solutions under our current system. We’re simply the neighborhood people forced to pick between two rival gangs, both of which are going to extort us, and either one of which might destroy us if we defy them. No help is coming. We’re on our own.

The next generation, unburdened by the distorting lens of the past, have already figured this out.  Far from being the left-wing, big-government, identitarians that we’ve been led to expect, Gen Z is shaping up to be a cohort of politically incorrect, bootstrap-pulling, libertarians.  According to a recent study, 77% of those 14-21 report that they earn their own money working, and 21% had a savings account before they were 10. And while as the most diverse generation in history, they have liberal views on cultural diversity, with 78% describing themselves as liberal to moderate on social issues, they are also deeply skeptical of the woke project, with 79% calling “political correctness” a problem.

This jog towards the right is an inevitable consequence of having grown up in a world where banks and large corporations are able to get away with murder, literally in some cases, while our elected officials do little to nothing to improve the lives of average citizens.  It’s also a natural response to the endless and seemingly unresolvable culture wars to conclude that the best way to address such irreconcilable differences would be to fall back on the libertarian solution of letting everyone go their own way. What else is a young person to make of how our society functions, other than: cover your ass and don’t expect any help from anybody, least of all the government.

The modern left, unlike our 60’s forbears, has been nursing a dream not of an impractical Marxist utopia, but simply of the U.S. joining the rest of the Western world in providing basic necessities like education and healthcare. We really haven’t contemplated the idea that the U.S. will continue to go its own hyper-capitalist way, cementing its status as the gun-toting, feudal, corporate-governed freakshow of the West. In the end, we’re still Americans, and as Americans we’re predisposed to believe that the good guys will come out on top in the final reel. But the kids ain’t buying it. Which means our related assumption that the cavalry is coming eventually in the form of generational change is probably misplaced.

The only thing that may shift the trajectory is the total and inevitable economic collapse that will result if Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) turns out to be a lot of horseshit.  Our national debt is now greater than our annual GDP. MMT holds that a country with control of its own currency can’t go bankrupt, because it can issue more currency to pay its debts, along with new debt to cover the old debts.  But MMT doesn’t consider a scenario in which no one wants to buy the newly issued debt, and it ignores the fact that every country that has ever tried to money-print its way out of debt, went into a death spiral of hyper-inflation.  It’s hard to be a libertarian in a world where you need a wheelbarrow full of cash to go to the grocery store, so such a scenario could cause Gen Z to rethink the wisdom of bootstrap economics.  But then again, they could see it as an opportunity to just go full Mad Max. I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t see the appeal of roaming the plains of an ungoverned America in search of opportunity and adventure. Maybe join up with a thief, a strongman, and Karen Allen, for some kind of black market smuggling gig, while occasionally rescuing enslaved Amazon workers from the mines.

But I digress.  The left is in what Allen Ginsberg called, “diamond hell.”  Hard edges and unyielding realities on every side: in front of us, a government that can’t be reformed through democratic means, and behind us, a generation that’s given up on trying. To one side we have the option of rainbow fascism, and on the other, the more traditional variety. This is normally the place in the article where you’re supposed to offer some kind of call to action, or way out of the problems you’ve laid out, but honestly, I got nothing.

A modern country whose system of government is so broken that it can’t raise the minimum wage, even with the “left” party in charge of all the House, the Senate, and the presidency, is a country that has already effectively become a failed state. The only question now is; when does the curtain fall, and how do we respond when it does? Regular order democracy under these circumstances is the little button they put on New York City lampposts that are supposed to change the red light to green. They don’t actually do anything. They’re only there to make people feel like they have a say.

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157. First Thoughts on "Climate" Bill, Greens Back on NC Ballot – w/ Matthew Hoh Due Dissidence

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Rainbow Bombs and Broken Promises: Things are Finally Getting Back to Normal

by Russell Dobular

I’ve been holding my fire, ’cause fair is fair; we had to give Biden a little time to either break his previous mold or prove to be the war mongering corporate stooge he’s always been. The latter was always more likely but there was a slim chance that a man of his advanced years would want to be remembered for something besides mass incarceration and making it harder for people to declare bankruptcy. I know exactly two voters who thought Biden should be the president on his own merits, and not just relative to Trump, but I know a lot of people who got caught up in the “Dear Leader,” state TV style coverage of the inauguration. Those folks are mostly silent now as Biden demonstrates the kind of bait and switch “leadership” that’s made the Democratic brand so toxic since the Clinton era. Let’s take a look:

Silence on the Amazon Union Vote, Then a Half Endorsement

The self-described “union man” remained entirely silent as Amazon workers voted to unionize in Alabama, until under pressure from even friendlies in the press, he finally issued a lukewarm statement supporting the vote.  Not the union necessarily, just the vote. This is inarguably an improvement over his old boss, who took $400 million from organized labor then screwed them over for 8 years like it was his job (which, along with a 22% spike in Obamacare premiums in several swing states right before the 2016 election, is a criminally under-examined element of Trump’s victory),  but it seems like a union man might want to be a little less ambiguous about his support for the most important union drive since the 30’s.  The fact that Jay Carney, Biden’s communications director in the Obama White House, is now doing the Lord’s work as Amazon’s chief PR flack, ain’t helping the optics among those who are paying attention. Like the workers taking the vote.

Hiding Behind the Senate Parliamentarian to Avoid Increasing the Minimum Wage.

This is a classic Democratic Party maneuver: pretending that you can’t do something that you actually can do because of procedural obstacles or Republican opposition. That’s how Barack got away with dropping the promised public option from Obamacare, after making a secret backroom deal with insurance and drug companies. In reality, Harris can overrule the Parliamentarian.  So why doesn’t Biden have her do it? It goes back to the General Unifying Theory of the Democratic Party: the donors wouldn’t like it.  Most of the time when Democrat politicians say one thing and do another, all you have to do is follow the money to figure out what they’re doing and why.  

Bombing Syria

‘Cause why not? Especially on a Friday. Just a little TGIF love to all the defense contractors.  And let’s face it, nothing says, “America’s Back Baby!” like bombing the fuck out of a Muslim country.  And when you pluck a Defense Secretary right from the board of Raytheon, you’re kind of telling people straight out that we’re going to be finding lots and lots of pretexts over the next four years for making lots and lots of bombs. At least we’ve got a black man bombing brown people now, which is surely a great comfort to them.

Going Small on Student Debt

Biden claimed at a town hall that he can waive $10,000 in student debt, but not $50,000, once again using the procedure excuse. There’s actually no legal basis for that claim. He just doesn’t really want to waive student debt. Which should come as no surprise, given that Biden is as personally responsible for the system of student debt peonage we have today as any living politician.

Going Big on Neera Tanden

While soft-pedaling it on every key policy promise, he’s still pushing corrupt political hack and professional asshole, Neera Tanden, for a job which she is completely unqualified for, while hiding behind claims of racism and sexism as the nomination blows up in his face. Someone told me after the election that the “smart money” was on Biden appointing some progressives to his cabinet in a spirit of reconciliation. Given that Biden wouldn’t even hire them for his campaign, the real “smart money” knew he wouldn’t put any in his cabinet. Instead, they’ve tried to rebrand people like Tanden, who in the past has advocated for cutting social security and Medicare, and invading Libya for their oil, as progressive. Not like the Blue MAGA’s are going to argue.

Turning $2,000 Checks into $1,400 Checks

When you stand up in the middle of Georgia and loudly declare that if the voters elect Democrats to the Senate, they’ll be getting $2,000 checks “immediately,” most of them think that means they’ll be getting $2,000 checks immediately. Not $1400 checks eventually. If you don’t understand why that might piss people off, you’ve probably never really, really needed money right away, or been in a position where $600 was all that stood between you and homelessness. That being the case, your political opinions here are about as useful as fishing tackle in the Mojave. For the sake of not making more Republican voters, you might wanna sit this one out.

That’s an incomplete list of some of the lowlights of the new administration. I ain’t gonna go so far as to say that the new boss is the same as the immediately preceding boss, but the new old boss is definitely shaping up to be the same as all the Democratic bosses we’ve had from Clinton on down. Which is disappointing, but shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who looked into Biden’s record before they voted for him, a group that presumably excludes most of the people who did so in the primaries.

The difference for Biden from the most recent Democratic presidents is that he has assumed power in a much poorer, sicker, and more desperate America, with an organized left that’s paying attention. Sure, the suburban base would watch Biden take a shit on the desk in the Oval Office and call it ice cream, but the number of people who are that mindless has dwindled in direct proportion to the share of national wealth that ends up in the hands of the citizenry. That’s the thing about crooks: they never know when to leave well enough alone. They always have to push it, until they break it. America has been driven to a breaking point by its oligarchs and a corrupt political system whose primary purpose is to serve their interests, and Biden is the last person to summon the imagination or political will to either understand what America finally snapping is going to look like or do what would need to be done to prevent that from happening.

‘Sides that, unlike Slick Willy, and Barack, Biden is a congenital moron, with the speaking skills of an angry drunk two steps into the program.  Imagine Uncle Joe trying to sell people on the idea that the meaning of “is” is up for debate, as Clinton did, or fake-drinking poisoned Flint water to convince people that its safe, as Obama did in a bit of black-on-black prop comedy violence. While the press has been applying the same kind of obscurantism that critics deploy to convince us that crappy modern art isn’t crappy to Biden’s God-awful speeches and town hall appearances, there’s only so much they can do to cover for a man so intrinsically dumb that he had to drop out of his first run for the Presidency after getting caught plagiarizing a speech, without even bothering to change its biographical details.   

Given that he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer in his prime, putting a sundowning Biden in charge of a crumbling America was always bound to look something like this. Cabinet appointments that often feel like they were produced in a process that involved shaking up two paper bags, with one labelled, “Donors We Have To Fellate” and another labelled, “Members of an Identity Group,” then affixing the results to a corkboard; identity politics deflections from all questions about or criticisms of said appointments (the real purpose of the aforementioned corkboard selection process); bullshitting about what he can and can’t do without Bill and Barack’s ability to really convince anybody; picking the kinds of pointless fights that angry drunks pick, like the one currently unfolding over Tanden.

And we haven’t even crossed the 100 day mark yet, after which things always get a lot harder, even for a President who didn’t Forrest Gump his way into the job.  We’re rushing quickly towards the day when the North Korea-style press coverage, can no longer credibly paper over Biden’s deep flaws and personal defects.  Which is why reports of the demise of the Republican Party should be regarded as greatly premature.

We discuss these topics and more on episode 108 of the Due Dissidence podcast. Listen to our full conversation by clicking the player below:

Subscribe to the Due Dissidence podcast on Apple, StitcherSpotifyCastbox, Google Podcasts, or any major podcast player!

Photo: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters