Saturday, May 3, 2008

Obama, the Rev. Wright and hesitation

From the World Socialist Party of the United States website

The latest scandal that surrounds Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama’s previous involvement with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and that highlights his difficulty fully disowning this association with the politically radical pastor until a statement unequivocally doing so publicly on April 29th is angrily upsetting his fans and supporters who fear that the time it has taken him to do this may seriously undermine his popularity among Democrats, and so impair his bid for president.

The mainstream press has not been able to provide any explanation for this hesitancy to detach himself from Rev. Wright either. It is certainly a major concern as Obama attempts to win the Democratic primary in Indiana on Tuesday, May 6th.

But a little bit of logic and materialist understanding may be able to come to our aid in explicating this curious phenomenon.

How would a young Chicago community organizer with strong ambitions to become a politician actually make his way into the political arena? His choice of church would have to be made carefully. There are hundreds of churches in Chicago, indeed more per capita than in any city in the United States. Young Obama could easily have joined any one of them if it were merely a matter of finding a place of worship in which to receive sermons about the miracle of God raising Lazarus from the dead. No, far more likely is that Barack, plotting to realize his political ambitions, would join a large, even controversial, church, such as the enormous Trinity United Church of Christ that has over 10,000 members, headed by Senior Pastor the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright’s church had been openly advocating Black liberation theological principles as those found in the writings of James Hal Cone (whose 1969 book Theology and Black Power was among the first to delineate the importance of such a theological stress among churches in the black community). Barack would be best placed to forge community alliances in a church of especially disgruntled but educated and upward mobile parishioners if he were to win support for his own political aims of making a big political difference in America.

After beginning to sew important social connections on Chicago’s South Side through the Trinity United Church of Christ, Barack Obama went on to Harvard Law School in which he became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, his first major breakthrough into the world of the wealthy, powerful and influential that is essential to establishing a critical footing upon any important political career. He returned to Chicago to head an influential voter registration drive, taught law at the University of Chicago Law School, and then ran as a candidate for the Illinois Senate, which he won in 1996. Mr. Obama was representing the 13th District of Chicago, which is the same South Side area of Hyde Park and surrounding neighborhoods in which he had first forged important connections through Reverend Wright’s church.

It is likely that Obama’s connections with Wright’s church could no longer be severed thereafter since to do so would be to alienate himself from his initial and ongoing power base in Chicago, even while it was being expanded into wider territory. It is not known to what degree, beyond this speculation, he had even assigned political positions as a senator to some of these members of the community who had supported him in his rise to political success the same way other African-American Chicagoans from the same community, such as Senator Emil Jones, Jr., (who is President of the Illinois Senate) had been instrumental in supporting Obama when he was a little known legislator (for more about this connection, see article dated March 31st, 2008, entitled “Political ‘godfather’ boosted Obama’s early career”). While it is clear that Obama is a very bright, likeable and socially aware presidential candidate, who is well meaning in his desire to reform the United States for the better, those who only see Obama’s lengthy hesitancy to detach from his prior association with Reverend Wright as a sign of his weakness as a politician, may be failing to understand the deeper psychological ambivalence that Obama may be experiencing about both Wright and his mega-church, given any other political associations that that church or its members either did, or continues to, provide for him as an aspiring politician.

Capitalism is a society defined by a class that owns and a class that works for it. This reality will continue unabated until we, members of the class that works for the owning class, decide to put an end to it. We must never forget that however well-meaning, personally attractive, or articulate politicians may be, they remain politicians, who are as much attempting to rise in the political arena to accelerate their own upward mobility for pure personal reasons as much as to realize political ambitions of a reformist nature. Such personal motivations are not necessarily entirely avaricious. It is simply a reality that as the present political system exists to run the affairs of the capitalist class, nobody can navigate that realm without forging important relationships with those with money and power, backstabbing them when the relationships seem more costly than beneficial, and sometimes, as did Obama recently, making unfortunately poor political decisions about maintaining relationships with them because of a fear of possibly losing important support associated with them.

Politics is crazy, yes. But we are the crazy ones in allowing the machinations of adult babies who are political careerists as a way of trying to meet our needs and to look after ourselves. The only way to establish sanity in our world is to stop supporting the politicians altogether and to create a world in which power resides permanently in the democratic hands of the community, in which the means of producing wealth are owned by that same community, and in which the production of wealth is produced to meet our needs freely. Now that is what we are talking about.