George W. Obama?

David Bromwich of TomDispatch has a long, thoughtful piece about the many disturbing places where the Obama administration has either directly continued or expanded upon policies with regard to war, surveillance, and government fealty to private corporations that were once considered unspeakably bad unto evil or unAmerican. While they policies have not improved with age under a Democratic President, it’s important that people pay attention to these things. What was outrageous eight or even three years ago is now unremarkable and accepted. This is a terrifying development and one which speaks to how truly damaging the Obama presidency has been.

The Bromwich piece is very long and worth a read, but I’ll highlight a passage that Glenn Greenwald has also highlighted:

The usual turn from unsatisfying wars abroad to happier domestic conditions, however, no longer seems tenable. In these August days, Americans are rubbing their eyes, still wondering what has befallen us with the president’s “debt deal” — a shifting of tectonic plates beneath the economy of a sort Dick Cheney might have dreamed of, but which Barack Obama and the House Republicans together brought to fruition. A redistribution of wealth and power more than three decades in the making has now been carved into the system and given the stamp of permanence. Only a Democratic president, and only one associated in the public mind (however wrongly) with the fortunes of the poor, could have accomplished such a reversal with such sickening completeness.

Greenwald responds:

Economic suffering and anxiety — and anger over it and the flamboyant prosperity of the elites who caused it — is only going to worsen. So, too, will the refusal of the Western citizenry to meekly accept their predicament. As that happens, who it is who controls the Internet and the flow of information and communications takes on greater importance. Those who are devoted to preserving the current system of prerogatives certainly know that, and that is what explains this obsession with expanding the Surveillance State and secrecy powers, maintaining control over the dissemination of information, and harshly punishing those who threaten it. That’s also why there are few conflicts, if there are any, of greater import than this one.

I think this is spot-on. There is a confluence of activism happening – from historically oppressed people or communities joining with young people and workers, all joining with and being aided by highly informed and capable technological activists like Anonymous and WikiLeaks. The continuity of policies from Bush to Obama has meant that things which could have gotten better are either staying the same or being made drastically worse. There’s no way to say that all of this is happening in a vacuum, with a sanguine and approving public. Instead, people are informed and they’re angry. What that means will be seen, but I certainly wouldn’t presume that the US will escape the sort of public protests that we’ve seen throughout Europe, especially if the administration, Congress, and the elites they serve continue to preserve or enhance Bush-era policies.

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