The Role of Wealth and Neoliberalism in Barack Obama's Selection, Election, and Presidency

Article excerpt

Introduction

From the Eisenhower Administration first term in 1953, to half a century or more later, a close examination of President Barack Obama, and his Administration's surge into office in 2008, seems like a break from the long tradition of the direct involvement of the wealthy in politics, but empirical information tells an interesting and remarkable story. The latter is a compelling one, given the fact candidate Barack Obama was the first individual of African descent to be elected President in American History. So many Americans pinned their hopes for a new deal on President Obama's claim that "a vote for me is Change You Can Believe in." As the campaign drama unfolded over a nearly two year period, in the back of mind, I wondered what is the source of this political campaign. Many believers cried the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign was financially supported primarily by grass root, small, mom and pop, nickel and dime donations. As a student of history, I wanted to believe the Obama Presidential Campaign was novel, new, fresh, different, and self-supporting financially; everywhere I traveled, people were talking about Obama; they wore hats, T-Shirts, and pins; on one occasion, I was on an airplane flying from Miami, Florida to New Orleans, LA, and I was seated beside a young African-American couple. Rather than keep my mouth closed and get some much needed rest, I mentioned to the couple that Obama's Presidential Campaign was probably being supported by wealthy individuals, who none of us knew anything about. For more than an hour, I was emphatically told by the young couple that I was wrong; that Obama is self-supported; and, most importantly, that he does not move to the drum of anyone; he is truly a Messiah Come To Deliver Daniel--African-Americans In Particular.

Before we proceed with our discussion of the influence the American Plutocracy had on Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign, and its subsequent involvement in the Obama Administration, it is necessary to show that the former has grown as a ruling class since 1860. Specifically, Samuel stated "Americans accounted for a disproportionate number of the richest people in the world in 2001, with eight of the top ten and twenty-three of the top forty wealthiest from the ... USA ... The collective net worth of the Four Hundred dropped from $1.2 trillion to $950 billion that year". (1) By President George W. Bush's third year in office, the American Plutocracy was benefiting from his federal tax cuts; and, by the first year of President George W. Bush's second term in 2005, Samuel added "... it was clear that the rich were back on track; the Forbes Four Hundred from that year picked up a tidy $125 billion in net worth. Of the Four Hundred, 374 were billionaires." (2)

In sum, by 2007, one year before Barack Obama was elected president, the American Plutocracy had grown from a few thousand millionaires before 1860 into a ruling class, consisting of several million. Samuel stated "... there were 9.9 million millionaire households in June 2007-and although the economy has headed south, the wealthy elite have never been more influential than now." (3) How its influence created the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign, and his administration, is outlined below.

Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign and the Financial Backers That Made It Possible

A. Candidate Selection

The first, and most important step in the political process, especially when politicians seek political office at the federal government level, is the securing of financial backers. In Who Rules America, Fifth Edition, G. William Domhoff stated "because the candidate-selection process is relatively individualistic, and therefore dependent upon name recognition and personal image, it has been in good part controlled by members of the power elite through large campaign contributions." (4) When candidate for President Barack Obama exploded on the 2008 Presidential Campaign Scene, his personal image was packaged by wealthy ruling class backers as the "first African-American who had a legitimate chance to be elected President of the United States in American History. …