Sako Sefiani is a commentator on the international affairs. He blogs at https://sakosefiani.com/
Now that everyone is focused on who will replace Obama in the White House, it’s also important for us to understand who we just had for the past two terms. Obama has been labeled liberal, center left, center and even conservative by some. All of which is true. The fact is: he’s been liberal on some issues, such as on the Iran deal, rapprochement with Cuba (without ending the embargo and continuing his propaganda attack on the nation) and the Affordable Care Act (which was a gift to insurance companies and did little to alleviate people’s need for real healthcare), and conservative on others, including his many wars, increasing aid to Israel, austerity measures and cut in social spending, neoliberal trade policies like the TPP, surveillance program, punishing whistle blowers and other rightwing policies.
What we must understand is that that’s exactly how the US ruling class, as a whole and as a class, is. They’re liberal on some issues and conservative on others, and even such issue based variation in policy isn’t static and changes with time and with changing circumstances and geopolitical facts. This tends to confuse some progressives and even some leftists, who find it hard to describe and categorize Obama’s presidency. The confusion, I think, comes from a lack of understanding of who the ruling class is and how they influence policies to benefit their class, which is a tiny minority of the society. This issue also relates to why the class doesn’t like a certain presidential candidate, such as Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, and why they love Obama, even though he’s a Democrat and at least on some issues even a liberal, whereas the popular impression is that the billionaire class prefers a Republican as the Commander in Chief.
This misunderstanding stems from the lack of understanding about what are the objectives or in the best interests of that class as a whole and what is or isn’t helpful for them in trying to achieve them. This requires a more nuanced and accurate understanding than that Democrats, even their most liberal variety, such as Bernie Sanders, is bad for the super wealthy and good for the poor and disenfranchised, whereas Republicans are good for the former and bad for the latter. The reason the ruling class isn’t, as a whole and on all issues, conservative is because what is in their best interest, as a whole, isn’t always the most conservative position. For example, as the representative of a certain segment of the society, which historically has grown out of the divide and conquer policy of the ruling class itself, most Republicans may push anti-abortion policies, in response to their socially reactionary base, but that’s not where the ruling class as a whole is. That’s not their burning issue and, on the contrary, it may be anathema to their economic interests that go way beyond the US borders.
I’ve been qualifying my statements about the interests or objectives of the ruling capitalist class with the adverb “as a whole” because there is division among them, too, and they don’t always agree on what’s in their best interest or on how to achieve it. That’s why they don’t all support the same candidate. Elections give them a chance to vet out the candidates and pick one who would best represent their interests, under current conditions, and that may be a Democrat or a Republican. Just the fact that Republicans are for less taxes for the rich or for more cuts in social spending isn’t enough reason for them to support a Republican. Other factors are also important, such as who will be better at calming and silencing the population and preventing uprisings.
Obama has been the best of both worlds for the billionaire class. He not only served them well both domestically and internationally, he also was key in preventing the rise of dissent, especially among the minorities and due in large part to the supper he enjoys among the minorities. Ted Cruz, as an example of a rightwing politician that many conservatives support, isn’t much liked by the majority of the ruling class, despite his support for big business and anti-working class policies. That’s because having pro big business politics isn’t enough. There are other considerations. Similarly, Donald Trump is too divisive and unpredictable and may not be good at taking advice from the capitalist class.
Speaking of taking advice or rather orders from the 1% (or more accurately, 0.1%), no one has proven as good as Obama. That’s because Obama is not really an ideological person. He doesn’t really have his own independent ideology or strong ideas that he could get in your face and passionate about. That’s why he comes across as cool, calm and affable. He’s the epitome of an unprincipled empty shell, ready and willing to be told what to do. By contrast, Ted Cruz on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left (relatively speaking, only), are ideological and could resist influence – or rather try to, before falling in line – which isn’t as desirable for the rulers. Unlike Obama, who is unprincipled and quickly and without resistance takes on the color of his environment, Ted Cruz is genuine about his beliefs. By genuine, I mean he, at least, has a set of beliefs, as medieval, reactionary and dangerous as they are. And those beliefs are his own and he’s fighting to move the society towards those dark and fascistic objectives of his. But, those are his own genuine beliefs, unlike Obama who looks to see what his contributors want of him and does it, without questioning.
Hillary Clinton, too, is ideological. Her ideological passion is for pushing and advancing the power of the US corporate empire through unwavering and relentless acts of war and military interventions, rolling over and flattening any nation that dares to stand in the way, in line with the Strategy For New American Century, advanced by neocons. In fact, she’s a rabid supporter of neocons. That’s why she gets the support of the likes of Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger. Donald Trump, too, like Obama, isn’t ideological, but two things make him unpopular with the ruling class: his unabashed racism, Xenophobia and misogyny can be a liability and may engender protests and possibly even a working class movement and he’s untested and unreliable, especially after making some comments against US wars and NATO.
Though not an empty shell like Obama, which could mean some resistance on her part to taking advice, Hillary Clinton has the right foreign policy for them. She may have to be talked out of bombing anything that moves, but that’s better for the class than resisting wars. Domestically, too, they won’t have much difference with her: despite her recent reversal on TransPacific Partnership (TPP), she can be trusted to switch back and push neoliberal trade policies, which she’s been advocating all her political life. Same goes with her energy policy, support for big Pharma, big oil, and Wall Street banks, which goes without saying. The point is: she’s conservative where it really matters to the ruling class, while also taking a relatively more liberal posture towards social issues like women’s and gay rights, social safety nets and minimum wage, which importantly can quell unrest among liberals and minorities. For these reason, I believe the class is willing to overlook her strong mindedness and zealotry and give her a chance.
It may be hard for the white supremacist capitalist ruling class that controls the military industrial complex to find and hire another loyal and obedient servant like Barrack Obama, who acts more like their kitchen bus boy than a president, but, aside from having to tell her to go easy on wars and hold off on her order for new wars, Hillary will be embraced as another supposedly invaluable agent of US imperialism, who will further push the world towards destruction and mass annihilation.