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Through Obama's eyes

By Linda Prussen-Razzano
web posted July 11, 2011

Dr. William Manning MarableOn April 1, 2011, Dr. William Manning Marable passed away.  The New York Times, in their column covering his death, described him as "a prolific writer and impassioned polemicist… [whose works] established him as one of the most forceful and outspoken scholars of African-American history and race relations in the United States." [1]  In the same article, civil rights leader and high-profile member of the Democrat Socialists of America, Cornel West, stated Dr. Marable was "our grand radical democratic intellectual" and "[h]e kept alive the democratic socialist tradition in the black freedom movement." [2]

During his expansive career, Dr. Marable wrote numerous books, essays, and articles.  Perhaps the most important one he wrote to describe our enigmatic President appeared on the website, Socialist Review, in December, 2008, entitled "The four legged stool that won the US presidential election." [3] In it, he examines the political roots that formed President Obama's world outlook, the constituencies that propelled him to the White House, ruminated on Obama's governing style, and outlined Obama's priorities.  Now, in the third year of Obama's term, a careful review of Dr. Marable's article reveals that his predictions were, in a word, prophetic.

Dr. Marable begins with an overarching summary of race relations in America.  Although the injustices black Americans suffered under slavery are not to be minimized, and a critical and impartial review of history clearly shows a pattern of systemic abuses against black Americans afterwards, what's more important is how American history is portrayed by Socialist activists.  Dr. Marable handily asserts that the founding of America "rested on slavery and the exploitation of black labor."  While even a cursory reading of the critically acclaimed The Problem of Slavery in the age of Revolution 1770-1823 [4] would point of the glaring flaws in this statement, sadly, this theme has been propagated out by various progressive outlets with the intent to continually undermine the works of the founding fathers and to question the legitimacy of America as a country. 

There is ample breeding ground for misinformation to spread.  As noted above, the history of black Americans is, without question, rife with examples of prejudice and injustice.  What is not usually examined, however, is how these injustices had a profound economic impact on the black community.  In Worlds of Pain, Life in the Working Class Family [5] Lillian Breslow Rubin carefully examines how the decline in economic power, and the resulting sense of inability to control one's destiny, undermines the traditional mores and norms that would help solidify the family: the building block of a strong society.  When hopelessness prevails, when individuals are unable to envision a future, their patterns of behavior turn towards the more "immediate" outlook and the norms change.  Rubin shows how the distortion in the mores and norms of the poor (regardless of color) do, in a shocking number of cases, perpetuate the cycles of poverty. 

So while the original injustices may have started the problem, the lingering impact perpetuates it; therefore, those trapped in it, and reared in it, do not see the progress being made between the races.  Entire generations of young Americans have been raised in this soul-crushing environment.  This would explain why Michele Obama, at a campaign stop in February, 2008, stated, "[F]or the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." [6] It should come as no surprise that President Obama chose "Hope and Change" as the keywords of his campaign, offering both to several generations who had little chance to believe in either.

Politicians have historically addressed the problem by throwing money at it.  Unfortunately, this approach once again deals in the "immediate" and does not address the underlying problems of distorted mores and norms that undermine progress in our poorest communities.

Socialists, meanwhile, have adopted a hands-on approach through vehicles such as community organizing and radical activism.  Through their direct involvement in the communities, they have been able to control the message and shape the dialogue, creating a wholly distinct subculture within America.  They repeatedly highlight the root cause (prejudice and injustice), but often fail to address the lingering effects.  This is why they often move against initiatives that would address the lingering effects, such as Charter schools, vouchers, faith-based programs, etc., and demonize those, even within their race, who dare to offer a different approach (including famous comedian Bill Cosby and radio personality Reverend Jesse Lee Petersen).  

This subculture, and the need to perpetuate it, is quite evident.  The website, www.blackcommentary.com, where Dr. Marable's article "Along the color line," is available, allows for reprints "by any Black-owned or Black-oriented publications (print or electronic) without charge" but does not extend the same courtesy to other races, despite its mission statement of being "a public educational and information service dedicated to fostering political dialogue and discussion."

Dr. Marable saw Obama's election as a "bi-racial bridge across the racial divide."  In examining the various constituencies that helped Obama win, he first credits black Americans, who voted for him at a rate of 96%.  The President continues to receive strong support among black Americans, and will, in all likelihood, benefit by it in the upcoming election. 

The second identified constituency group was Hispanic.  In this area, the President may face challenges, as polls have showed a steady erosion of support, some as high as 20%.  His administration's recent moves to ease enforcement of immigration law, and two recently leaked memos, reveal how efforts are being made to implement the DREAM Act (which had already been defeated in the legislative process) in the hopes of bolstering support among the Hispanic community.  "Last August 2010, the Houston Chronicle, through a Freedom of Information Act request, caught the Houston ICE office doing the same type of 'backdoor amnesty,' as the Chronicle put it…higher-ups at first denied any such prosecutorial discretion memo had been issued, then denied (when the memo was made public) that anyone up the chain of command had seen or approved the memo, then withdrew the memo and said they would never do it again. Well, they've done it again.  This time, congressional investigators have a draft memo from Homeland Security that describes the goal as to 'reduce the threat of removal' for illegals and calls it 'a nonlegislative version of amnesty.'" [7]

The next constituency is young Americans, followed by women voters.   Dr. Marable also acknowledges the strong support of Jewish voters.  Recent articles suggest that the President may be facing challenges in two of these groups: the young [8] and Jewish voters [9].  Young voters, disenchanted with a soft job market, will be the easiest to recoup through strong campus-based voter drives.  The Jewish vote, a statistically small portion of the total electorate, is nonetheless an important fundraising base, and their perception of the President's handling of Israel is not favorable.  The White House just recently began an initiative to woo Jewish voters back to their side, but the donations have been slow in forthcoming.

Dr. Marable described several key policy initiatives that the President needed to address in his first term.  He correctly predicted that the President would use a Keynesian approach to address them, and that the President would align his core constituencies to implement them. They included, in priority order ascribed by Dr. Marable, himself:

  • Ending the war with Iraq.
  • Addressing the economic crisis and implementing investment in infrastructure. 
  • National healthcare.
  • Green energy.
  • Immigration and a path to citizenship.
  • Addressing the foreclosure crisis.

Concerning the war with Iraq, the rhetoric of the campaign was quickly replaced by the reality of serving as Commander In Chief, causing the President to reverse his earlier course.  Troop withdrawal will happen as it should happen, not on a timeline specified by disgruntled civilians and stateside activists, but by the commanders in the field.

National healthcare, which was paramount to the President's core constituency, cost him dearly in the mid-term elections of 2010.  It is the subject of several ongoing court battles that will ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court.

Green energy, again an important part of his core constituency, is experiencing a push-back as energy prices continue to rise and Americans are feeling the pinch at the pump.  That, combined with Spain's strong investment in "green jobs" which later proved an economic failure [10], has helped dissuade American politicians from expanding an investment in green energy.  Finally, the BP Deep Water platform collapse and resulting oil spill in the gulf could have been a seminal moment for Green Energy proponents.  Instead, it turned into a dicey court battle, with the Interior Department being found in contempt [11], and the administration taking a hypocritical approach by allowing Petrobras [12], a foreign-owned company, to drill while delaying permits from American companies.

The foreclosure crisis, which emerged in the Bush Presidency, has its roots in multiple places depending upon what information is considered.  The mortgage modification program, designed to help people who were on the verge of defaulting, was moderately successful; with 60% of participants remaining in their homes. [13] Following this example, the Obama Administration created the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP.  While one financial firm warned that the re-default rate could reach as high as 65% to 75%, the prior version of this program ended with much more favorable results and this prediction is regarded as extreme given historical performance.

President Obama touched on the final piece, infrastructure, during his State of the Union address and unveiled an Infrastructure Plan in a Labor Day Rally in 2010.  Originally estimated at a modest $50 billion, Senate Democrats are now asking for $500 billion, a figure that will undoubtedly cause push-back among Republicans, members of the Tea Party Caucus, and Democrats who have expressed concern over the ballooning federal debt. [14] The Republicans can point to the nearly $4.4 trillion added to the debt that, as the President recently admitted, failed to alleviate the 9.2% unemployment figure as just cause to reject additional spending.

Did the President, as Dr. Marable suggested, govern from a centrist-left position?  No.  With substantial majorities in both the House and Senate for the first two years, the President was able to push his coalition's agenda even if it went against the will of the majority of Americans.  But why?  Why didn't President Obama take a page out of Bill Clinton's playbook and find common ground?

The answer can be found in the same article, where Dr. Marable writes: "What makes Obama different is that he has also been a community organizer. He has read left literature, including my works, and he understands what socialism is. A lot of the people working with him are, indeed, socialists with backgrounds in the Communist Party or as independent Marxists. There are a lot of people like that in Chicago who have worked with him for years. But to differentiate, this new generation of elected black officials are unlike the older group who emerged in the 1970s and 1980s whose constituencies were entirely black."

Ironically, when Conservative pundits made similar allegations, they were vilified for doing so.  There is ample evidence that, indeed, Dr. Marable was correct in his assertion, as he was intimately connected with the Progressive-Socialist-Marxist movement in Chicago and well acquainted with the key players. 

The most notable connection made by Conservative pundits was that of former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers.  The Weather Underground was a 1960s activist movement that evolved out of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), turning to violence to achieve its ends.  In a declassified report by the FBI [15], Weather Underground members David Joseph Gilbert stated that the goal of the group was to bring about "world communism."  This is reiterated by now deceased Underground member Theodore Gold, who insisted they were creating "a Red army."  Ayers, himself, had several aliases, and his organization distributed literature that called for the destruction of America.  The Weather Underground is linked to several bombings and deaths, including that of Sgt. Brian McDonnell of the San Francisco Police Department.  The San Francisco Police Officers' Association issued a request to Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Ayers and his wife, fellow Weather Underground member Bernadine Dorhn, based on evidence provided by FBI Informer Larry Grathwohl and investigator Cliff Kincaid.  To date, no action has been taken.

Both Obamas have business and personal ties with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn.  While those on the Left attempt to downplay both the Weather Underground movement's history and the connection between the Obamas and these two individuals, Dr. Marable's association with both refute it.

Dr. Marable served as Chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Society, a branch off of the newly invigorated (SDS).  In the April 17, 2007 edition of The Nation, Christopher Phelps detailed the movement's rebirth in his article, "The New SDS."  The SDS is comprised of members who range from liberals to anarchists, with Marxists and Socialists in the mix.  Who was one of the featured speakers at the first SDS conference held in Rhode Island in 2006?  None other than Weather Underground provocateur, Bernadine Dorhn.

Others include Obama's pick for Labor Secretary Hilda L Solis, who has spoken to socialist groups and was whose choice was applauded by the Communist Party USA's publication. 

Vernon Jarrett, father of Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, was praised by Dee Myles, a Chicago activist and Chair of the Education Commission of the Communist Party USA, as someone who "talked the talk and walked the walk." [16] Valerie Jarrett is credited with recruiting Anthony Van Jones, who founded the communist activist group Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM) to serve as Obama's Green Jobs Czar.  In youtube.com videos, Obama appointee to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, was caught on tape at a Future of Labor Unions in America conference encouraging his folks to "forget about the law" and in a separate video boasts that he is in contact with the White House two to three times a week.  Trumka also admits to realigning the organization, despite a drop in membership, to support progressive causes. [17] Most recently, it was announced that the AFL-CIO will join forces with Van Jones' Progressive Tea Party, despite that fact that Jones resigned from his position due to his controversial and communist sentiments. [18]

Ultimately, Marable insisted that Obama was neither a Socialist nor a Marxist, but a Progressive Liberal.  One can be inclined to take Dr. Marable at his word; however, the President's clear adherence to the agenda put out and endorsed by the extreme left, and his willingness to entertain the ideas of Communists, makes understanding his words, positions, and actions a lot easier for the average American, and much more unpalatable. ESR

Linda Prussen-Razzano is contributor to Enter Stage Right and a number of other online magazines.


[1] William Grimes, "Marable Manning, Historian and Social Critic, Dies at 60," www.nytimes.com, April 2, 2011
[2] Ibid
[3] Dr. William Manning Marable, "The four legged stool that won the US presidential election," www.socialistreview.org, December, 2008
[4] David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution 1770-1823 (Cornell University Press, 1975).
[5] Lillian Breslow Rubin, Worlds of Pain, Life in the Working Class Family, (Basic Books, Inc., 1976)
[6] Jake Tapper, "Michelle Obama: 'For the First Time in My Adult Lifetime, I'm Really Proud of My Country'", www.blogs.abcnews.com, February 18, 2008 8:24 PM
[7] Roger Hedgecock, "Obama's Amnesty for Illegals Sidesteps the Law Again," www.humanevents.com, July 1, 2011
[8] Elspeth Reeve, "On College Campuses, Obama's Not Cool Anymore," www.theatlanticwire.com, June 6, 2011  
[9] Laura Meckler, "Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel", May 19, 2011, http://online.wsj.com  
[10] Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Study of the effects on employment of public aid to renewable energy sources, Gabriel Calzada Alvarez, PhD (Spain: Procesos de Mercado, Volumn VII, 2009).
[11] Laurel Brubaker Calkins, "U.S in Contempt Over Gulf Drill Ban, Judge Rules", www.bloomberg.com, February 3, 2011.
[12] United Press, "Petrobras gets permit for U.S. deep waters," www.upi.com, March 18, 2011
[13] Bill Rice, "Modified mortgage refinances continue to re-default," www.mortgageloan.com, December 26, 2008.
[14] Alexander Bolton, "Do more on jobs, Dems tell Obama," http://thehill.com, June 10, 2011
[15] Federal Bureau of Investigation, Weatherman Underground Summary Dated 8/20/76 Part II, www.fbi.gov
[16] Dee Myles, "Vernon Jarrett: a partisan journalistic giant," www.peoplesworld.org, June 4, 2004
[17] "AFL-CIO seeks more clout with new leadership," Associated Press, September 11, 2009. 
[18] Rachel Weiner, "Can liberals start their own tea party?" The Washington Post, June 22, 2011

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