Autocratic for the People

America has two great political parties but only one is legitimate.  That’s the subtext of a right-wing narrative that has held sway for at least a generation.  Accordingly, though you have the right to vote left, doing so is not right.  More precisely, it’s un-American.

The implications of such intolerance are stark.  It matters little whether a prominent Democratic politician is liberal or not.  He will be maligned regardless.  Recall that Bill Clinton, a quintessential pragmatist, was subject to withering attacks by the right during his presidential run, including from Jerry Falwell, who accused him of drug smuggling and murder.  Unable to defeat Clinton at the polls, conservatives ultimately hobbled his presidency with bogus investigations and, ultimately, impeachment proceedings—if you can’t beat ‘em clean, beat ‘em dirty.

Obama is now in the crosshairs.  The right is questioning his legitimacy, just as it questioned that of his Democratic predecessor.  Leading the charge is professional provocateur, Dinesh D’Souza.  In Forbes, D’Souza goes for the jugular.

D’Souza susses out “How Obama Thinks” (the cover story’s title) by delving into his lineage.  Neither the president’s white mother nor his maternal grandparents who helped raise Obama are of interest to him.  Rather, D’Souza hones in on Obama’s Kenyan father whom the future president met only twice.  Specifically, D’Souza ascribes to Obama a radical worldview embraced by his absentee father, a “philandering, inebriated African socialist.”

That worldview is anticolonialism, which holds developed countries responsible for the hardship and misery of developing ones.  It is irrelevant that formal colonialism has ceased; the exploitation continues.  Such perceived injustice gives license in poor countries for the national appropriation of assets, a way to repatriate wealth stolen by foreigners.

Barack Obama Sr., a Harvard-educated economist, championed anticolonialism.  So does his son, D’Souza asserts.  What else could explain the behavior of “the most antibusiness president in a generation,” perhaps ever?  And what evidence does D’Souza offer in support his grandiose claim?

Top of the list is the president’s backing of loans to Brazil to expand oil production for domestic, not foreign, consumption.  Only, Obama was not president when the loans were approved.  Instead, five Bush appointees gave the go-ahead.  Next, D’Souza cites a speech by Obama after the Gulf oil spill during which he focused on the US’ dependence on fossil fuels, ignoring the cleanup entirely.  However, Obama did speak about the spill (Forbes later issued a correction).

D’Souza also sees evidence of Obama’s malice in his stimulus bill and his support for a carbon tax.  Both are controversial.  But radically deviant?  Hardly.  He also cites the president’s push to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest earners, a reasonable position given that the richest one percent of US families now hold 20 percent of national income, a share that has doubled in recent decades.   Surely, then, Obama’s support of the release on medical grounds of a convicted terrorist proves his treasonous sympathy for the country’s enemies.  Actually, not: the Scottish government reached the same conclusion and freed the man.

D’Souza trades in bombast.  He has blamed liberals for 9/11 and for the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (though he supports waterboarding), lauded the treatment of blacks during slavery, and outed gays.  His hateful shtick is well worn and would not be newsworthy but for his allegation of Obama being hostile to business, which is aired frequently.

It is a curious allegation given that corporate profits are healthy and the stock market robust.  Companies are now holding $1.8 trillion in cash reserves, a record going back 48 years.  Bonuses are back.  And consider where we have been.  But for the intervention of the federal government on the heels of massive corporate malfeasance the entire free enterprise system that Obama supposedly abhors would be no more—socialism saved capitalism but it gets no credit, only scorn.

More curious still, Obama also stands accused of being too close to big business.  “No more bailouts” is the populist cry from the Tea Party, which, with some justification, decries the administration’s too cozy relationship with Wall Street.  So which is it?  Is Obama an “anticolonialist” bent on stealing from the rich and giving to the poor or a corporate shill?

For D’Souza and many on the right who will never accept the legitimacy of a Democratic president the answer is clear: Obama is channeling his ghastly (black!) father from the grave.  But more accurately, the president’s most shrill critics are doing some channeling of their own – channeling Joseph McCarthy.

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