Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

“Change has come to America,” according to the new hypocrite-in-chief.  But as Obama picks his cabinet and talks about what he wants to do in his new job, it is difficult to see any signs that substantive change is likely.   Sure, there will be a different set of faces around the table during white house meetings, but they will be drawn from the same pool other presidents have always picked their advisors and assistants from: Washington insiders, members of think tanks, ambitious politicians.  His cabinet and other advisory groups is being packed with hacks, and looks more and more like a rehash of the Clinton administration by the day.

During the campaign, Obama was surrounded by similarly disreputable people, perhaps the worst of whom was Zbigniew Brzezinski.  As national security adviser under Jimmy Carter, this zealous cold warrior oversaw a foreign policy which led to the overthrow of the shah of iran, the soviet invasion of afghanistan, and the creation of what was to become the taliban.  These events led ultimately to the two most deadly wars the united states is now waging.  Late in his campaign, Obama even went so far as to welcome the endorsement of Colin Powell, who directly oversaw the invasion of panama as well as the first gulf war.

Besides climbing into bed with creeps and killers from every presidential rogues’ gallery since the Carter and Reagan years, Obama gladly accepted millions of dollars in contributions from the likes of Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, JP Morgan, Citigroup, and Time Warner.  In fact, one is hard-pressed to find anything that Obama has ever done to distinguish himself from other politicians.  He is a millionaire lawyer who graduated from Harvard.  He has hung around with crooks, allied himself with machine politicians, and flirted with leftists or rightists whenever it suited his needs.  He voted to continue warrantless wiretaps, opposes gay marriage, supported doing “whatever it takes” to keep iran from having nukes, and backs the transfer of billions of dollars extorted from taxpayers into the pockets of banking and auto industry execs.  He believes the public schools are good enough for the great unwashed, but will not subject his own children to the benefits government education in Washington has to provide.  He turned on his preacher friend Jeremiah Wright when the going got tough, and then invited christian righty Rick Warren to do the incantations at his inauguration.

But none of this matters to his supporters.  Part of this willingness to overlook Obama’s shortcomings was completely predictable.  As happens in any election there is a large group of people who see the flaws in all those running for office, but believe it is still important to choose the lesser of the evils on offer.  But there was something else going on in the case of Obama this year.  From the way some people talked about him one would have thought that he was the latest messiah, the answer to americans’ prayers after eight years in the Bush wilderness.

Throughout the campaign, there were statements from Obama supporters about how inspiring he was, but no clear explanation of why this was the case.  There was talk of hope and change, with, again, no specifics given.  It quickly became clear, however, despite all the doubletalk, the vague appeals to nebulous concepts, and the unwillingness of many to acknowledge their real motivation, that what led a large number of people to vote for Obama is his skin color.  That made it cool for many non-black people to vote for him and practically a duty for lots of black people.  While voting against someone because of their skin color would still be labeled as racist, apparently voting for someone for that reason (at least if the person isn’t white) has become virtuous.

Despite the repeated invocation of Martin Luther King during and after the campaign, there is no reason to believe that the outcome of this election fulfilled King’s “dream.”  He called for judging a person by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.  Given Obama’s completely unremarkable character, it would appear that in all too many cases, it was, in fact, his color that prompted people to vote for him.  There appeared to be an underlying assumption that having a black president would communicate something important about americans: that voters here were now post-racial, tolerant, more open to working cooperatively with the rest of the world.  Voters who supported him for this reason could then feel good about themselves.  After all, that is what voting is really about, since it cannot produce fundamental change.

People who voted, whatever their reasons and whomever their candidate, simply demonstrated their willingness to be led, deceived, and disappointed.  But that is part of the game.  Voters time after time troop to the polls, elect frauds, later complain about how their candidate betrayed their hopes, and then go out and repeat the charade the very next chance they get.  It makes people imagine they are actually doing something, instead of just talking about it.  And I guess they are, in a sense.  By voluntarily authorizing someone else to rule them and others, they assume at least a portion of responsibility for the murder, theft, and other mayhem that “their” president will oversee.  It would be safer for the rest of us, however, if they all just stayed home and talked about solving the world’s problems instead of inflicting their choices on the rest of the us.

During his campaign he spoke of changing the world, and in his very first speech after his election Obama took the opportunity to threaten other countries.  He is obviously happy to assume his position as the world’s top cop.  His will be just one more imperial presidency.  He will continue the occupation of iraq, plans to escalate the war in afghanistan, and intends to keep up the bullying campaign against the government of iran.  As popular as he may be with a lot of people around the world right now, there is no indication he will be less belligerent than any of his predecessors.

The next four years promise nothing but politics as usual for residents of this country and the victims of the american government around the world.  One would like to think that another round of shattered illusions, brought to them in this case by an “historic” president, will dissuade people from voting in the future and maybe even put to rest the american obsession with skin color, “cultural” differences, and the other nonsense promoted by advocates of identity politics.  But I am too cynical and realistic (perhaps these are the same thing) to have any expectation that people, especially voters, will learn anything from this latest chapter in the tale of government.  If people were that smart, they would never have voted in the first place.

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