What can we expect from a Democratic President?
If you believe in social justice and peace, the record is not encouraging it. I'll review the highlights before analysing the potential of an Barack Obama presidency.
The first Democratic Party President of the United States was named Andrew Jackson. He was, in short, a murderer and genocidal maniac. He thought nothing of killing white gentlemen who disagreed with him over minor points. He had a 16 year old boy volunteering in stead of his older brother in the War of 1812 executed for not kowtowing to him. He traded in slaves, breaking up families. He provoked Native Americans to defend their land so he and his friends could exterminate them and steal the land. I can't think of a more brutal, unjust person in American History.
But the monstrous nature of Andrew Jackson's "frontier" personality is not the key take-away from his administration. The ruling class, which Jackson belonged to, needed two parties in order to rule effectively. These parties have to be competitive, and they have to control sections of the population that are sometimes at odds with one another. Andrew Jackson was used as a nucleus of a party, the same Democratic Party that we have today, that kept newly enfrachised, relatively poor, white male voters in line with ruling class interests by poising them against even more oppressed workers: women, Native American Indians, and African American slaves.
After losing the Civil War the Democratic Party established a strong base in the former states of the Confederacy and allied itself with corrupt, mostly Catholic, urban machines in the Union states. The Republican Party became the preferred party of industrialists and Wall Street by 1872. Still, there were times when the true leaders of the ruling class preferred a Democratic Party President. In particular, when a big grab was planned involving a war.
In 1912 Woodrow Wilson was made President. He was portrayed at the time, and is portrayed in most "standard" (approved by the powers that be) history books as a liberal peacemaker. He maneuvered the U.S. into World War I, which resulted in major economic gains for the Morgan family and the like. He talked about peace and international borders based on national self-determination. But he kept the Philippines enslaved by the U.S. and was an overt racist and segregationist. I would go on about what a jerk he was but moving on ...
When the possibility of real social reform came to the United States in the Great Depression, in stead we got President-for-Life Franklin D. Roosevelt. After the Democrats in Congress blocked Herbert Hoovers' attempts to provide relief for distressed Americans, the measures Hoover had advocated were passed under Rooosevelt. But something far more ominous was done as well: the power of the Federal Government was vastly strengthened. And the real agenda was war, which Roosevelt prepared for with more vigor than he committed to his welfare programs. Roosevelt demanded that the Japanese give up their colonies while the French and British were to be allowed to keep their Asian colonies. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise, because the astonishingly large fleet of battleships in the harbor were being readied for an attack on Japan to follow up on a war ultimatum Roosevelt had already issued to the Japanese.
Harry Truman is the only executive of any nation to order the use of atomic weapons in war, and against civilians.
John F. Kennedy is the former Democratic Party politician who is most often compared to Barack Obama. They both went to Harvard Law School. Kennedy was young when elected President. Kennedy was a racist who refused to follow up on progress made towards recognizing the civil rights of African-Americans during the Eisenhower administration. But he gave racism a liberal gloss by upholding the Warren Court decisions in rhetoric, if not in reality.
Kennedy was favored by the ruling class because they needed some dirty jobs done. Communist insurgencies were at work in virtually every country in the world when Kennedy took office. Kennedy began a 16 year global reign of terror against people who dared to rebel against Wall Street. He invaded Cuba. The invasion of Cuba failed because the Cuban people did not rise up against Castro as Kennedy had deluded himself into believing. He upped the ante in Vietnam. He supported the ongoing colonial policies of the French and British. But most important, he lowered tax rates for rich Americans. The war against the poor in the rest of the world was to be financed by taxes on the backs of American workers.
Why was Bill Clinton made President? The ruling class loved Bill. He pushed through trade globalization treaties that would have been resisted by grass-roots Democrats if a Republican president had been pushing them. He feinted left on medical care and then used the leftover "reform" energy to set up the rapacious HMO system. He did nothing about global warming in 8 years in office. He had U.S. war planes attack Iraq on a daily basis for 8 years, enforcing a cruel embargo and the "no-fly zone."
So why does the ruling class need a Barack Obama in the President's office so badly now? It is not just that people are tired of George W. Bush. Something bigger is up.
I am just speculating here. I don't think it is the "war on terror." Islamic fundamentalist warriors could be controlled with an extra billion dollars or so a year to the CIA, not the hundreds of billions of dollars per year the wars on the people of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan have cost. If it is just a matter of money you could let the Taliban take over Afghanistan again and then finance a guerilla insurgency against them that would keep them too bogged down to do much on an international scale.
At the top of the capitalist food chain analysts and decision makers may pay attention to detail, but promoting Barack Obama to the Presidency is part of a big picture. It could have to do with the global food shortages that have emerged in the past few years and appear to be accelerating. Maybe we are about to do major military intervention in Africa and need to put a black face on that. Most likely, though, working class Americans are about to have the economic screws put to them in a way we have not seen since the Rockefellers turned their machine guns on us over a century ago. On the other hand there is something happening that even I don't know about. An unknown unknown.
But Barack Obama knows. You don't get the kind of free-ride from major corporate media that the Obama campaign has gotten without there already being a tacit understanding in place.
Barack Obama simply does not have the spine to stand up to a bunch of powerful men in the situation room of the White House. The guy has never made waves in any political office he has held, and he won't as President.
Bad things are going to happen. Obama's job will be to tell his progressive and middle class and rich-liberal supporters to get in line and follow orders.
I hope I am wrong, but things really don't look good from where I'm sitting, peering out at the world and back into history.