Not 'Change We Can Believe In': Barack Obama as a Neoliberal

Article excerpt

Section Preface

After two-hundred and nineteen years, and forty-three previous presidents and commanders-in -chief who were all white males, in 2008 the United States elected it its highest public office a person of African-American descent. This was a world-historic, watershed event, but this stunning success hid a deeper, less savory significance. The crisis of capitalism triggered by the Great Recession, c. 2007-2009, would saddle the in-coming occupant of the White House with a herculean task. Much like the first wave of big city, Northern, Black mayors who confronted an urban landscape ravaged by deindustrialization, shrinking budgets, white flight, underfunded school systems, and tense police-community relations in the 1960s and 1970s, nearly fifty years later the first Black president would confront two on-going wars, a stagnant economy, rising levels of inequality, and a sinking standard of living for the majority of Americans.

The two essays in this section take up the question of Barack Obama's ascent to, and exercise of, the office of the U.S. president. In "The Role of Wealth and Neoliberalism in Barack Obama's Selection, Election, and Presidency," Dr. Lionel D. Lyles asserts that Obama was actually selected and auditioned by the American plutocracy before he could finance an expensive campaign for the nation's highest elective office. Central to this selection was the assurance of Obama's loyalty to the economic agenda of the American elite, neoliberalism. Prof. Lyles demonstrates that Obama has appointed representatives of the wealthy to his (first term) cabinet, adopted a "hands-off, non-interference" policy as concerns the American financial system after bailing it out with trillions of taxpayer dollars, stood by while a major American city (Detroit) dies, and adopted and continued many of George W. …