THE FALL OF BARACK OBAMA:
RACISM vs. POLITICS vs. STRUCTURE
By Harvard Hollenberg
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes (1902-1967), “Harlem.”
The framers of our Constitution did
not seek irremediable legislative gridlock.
When conservatives, from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) to
Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia assert that the structure of the
federal legislative process was designed to produce a process that is “slow,” I
am reminded of the original “shaggy dog” story punch line: Not that
shaggy, i.e., not that slowly. Because the federalists who founded this
nation did not believe in political parties, two truths are inescapable. They never considered the possibility that
the Presidency and the Legislature might be dominated by opposing factions of
the strength of national political parties.
By not foreseeing the development of the two-party system, they also
omitted from their calculations the provision of checks and the striking of
balances between (or among) political parties.
Further complicating the later reality was the adoption of the Seventeenth
Amendment (1913), which replaces the original Article One, Section Three. Senators used to be chosen by STATE
Legislatures. During an era of reform,
which led to the adoption of a federal income tax, the Sherman and Clayton Anti-Trust
Laws, and federal maximum hours for labor, the idea was that the intra-state
political dynamics that led to selection of compromise and compromised Senators
should be replaced by a more open statewide electoral process. The direct election of Senators did not,
however, solve the conundrum unanticipated by the original framers, that is,
the establishment of vast States with relatively small populations that could,
in the persons of two-by-two-by-two votes stymie the Commonweal of the Nation. Nor did they foresee how the mass media would
transform senatorial elections into contests whereby gross moneyed interests
would have a far more pernicious effect upon senatorial elections than all of
the local internecine struggles used to produce. Where every Member of Congress is bought and
paid for by special interests, the result is neither a braver nor a wiser
lawmaker. In short, the direction is not
up, from Daniel Webster (Liberty and Union; One and Inseparable, Now and Forever)
to Harry Reid (fifty-four or fifty-eight votes is no majority in MY Senate).
The racial subplot that hampers
President Barack Obama (Bl.-Ill.) is also now on the brink of reification. It seems to me that the test is now being
laid as to whether 30 to 40 Republican Senate Members and 40 to 50 House
Representatives are blocking nationally needed legislative progress because the
President is Black Unless Mr. Obama further (and unwisely) inserts
himself into the process, the test will produce very much colored results in
the laboratory of immigration reform. As
I see it, some of the most vehement, voluble, and largely incoherent opposition
to immigration reform is coming from Republicans (I fervently hope I am wrong;
time will tell) whose resentment has nothing whatever to do with the contents
of the proposed legislation, but everything
to do with the fact that the managing editor of the initiatives happens to be,
himself, Hispanic. If reasonably
progressive immigration reform succeeds (which every mentally healthy
Republican knows is in his own Party’s interest), Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) will be
the candidate to beat for the G.O.P. presidential nomination in 2016,
regardless of the whimsical attractiveness of such parvenus as [Ayn] Rand Paul
(R.-Ky.) and Canadian transplant Ted (“Joe McCarthy”) Cruz (R.-Tex.). Were defeat of immigration reform to become
ascribable to Marco Rubio’s ethnicity, that eventuation would cast a long
shadow back upon the reasons for at least some of Obama’s setbacks in Congress.
Consider how the country used to
adapt to the reality of a Congress heavily influenced or controlled by a Party
opposed to that of the incumbent President.
During the terms (1953-1961) of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower,
Democrats controlled Congress for six years.
During all of President Eisenhower’s two terms, the cooperation of
Democrats in both Chambers, led by two Texans, Lyndon Johnson in the Senate and
Sam Rayburn in the House of Representatives, was essential to the enactment of Ike’s
legislative agenda. Just ask yourself
this. If time was to be warped
anachronistically, and Barack Obama, rather than Dwight Eisenhower were to be
proposing: statehood for Alaska and Hawaii; the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the
National Highway System; if Barack Obama had sent troops to Arkansas to execute
the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown
v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, and if Obama had first denied then
been forced to admit that an American U-2 spy plane, piloted by Gary Francis
Powers, and shot down by the Russians had intentionally invaded the air space
of the U.S.S.R., what would a Republican Congress have done with respect to
Obama then, in light of today’s politics?
Think race might have played a role?
Of course, today’s world is
different. Many Republican ideologues
believe the United States is in decline and is never likely to recover. So the process of robbing the country blind,
begun with the passive larceny perpetrated by Congress handing over $750 billion
to the banks in 2008-2009 (with no strings attached) now continues with the
G.O.P. plan to loot Medicare, Social Security, Education, and programs for children
and families and the elderly in need, and turn over the proceeds, by way of superfluous
increased tax benefits to their
Plutocratic Puppet Masters. However, the
Republican scheme has an even more insidious purpose. Having failed to achieve any headway
whatsoever in gaining minority votes in 2012, more than any other objective,
the Republicans are now trying to prove to those same minority voters that
neither Obama nor any other Democrat can possibly protect them. What Republicans are really seeking to
accomplish is to undermine popular confidence in this President’s capacity to safeguard
the very people he was elected to represent and succor, and whose tears he said
he desired to become President to dry.
In this latter effort, Republicans
have gained a feckless ally in the selfsame Barack H. Obama, who signed off on
sequestration and who stupidly offered Republicans cuts in Medicare and Social
Security while he was neither promised nor received anything in return. The sad truth is that we have a President of
high flown phrases and impoverished leadership skills, who was educated so far
beyond his intelligence, that he cannot even guess when he is being played for
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appellate attorney in New York State.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2013. All rights reserved.