United States vs. Red States

Carl Davidson

Carl Davidson Author and Writer, Beaver County Blue

United States vs. Red States

President Barack Obama's 8th and final State of the Union message accomplished two tasks. First, he revisited and reaffirmed the original political vision that got him elected and re-elected. Second, he painted in broad strokes the outline of a political platform that would attempt to block the rise of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or anyone expressing that form of virulent rightwing populism and warmongering.

On the first task, Obama updated the scope and content of his original political niche, a variant of neoKeynesian economics with a green, high tech twist, while, internationally, representing a globalist multipolarism within the bounds of Empire. Obama's legacy, of course, is that he was unable to accomplish much of what he believed in or wanted. He was blocked by two factors.

One was his own flawed assumption that his opposition was rational and open to compromise, a view that he has yet to completely discard. The other was the hijacking of the House of Representatives by the so-called 'Freedom Caucus,' a cabal of far right Republicans dead set on opposing anything, positive or negative, simply because Obama favored it, and combined this with a racist view of Obama as an alien Marxist-Muslim usurper.

Obama took some credit for rescuing and economy on the brink of collapse and bringing it back to the point that at least the top half of the country could feel some relief, even if the lower half still suffered from flat wages, attacks on their remaining unions, and debt bondage and job insecurity for young workers, especially those with college loans to pay off. He voiced a vision for all the changes that would yet have to made to deal with these things-community college free for two years, investment in new technologies and manufacturing incubator hubs, benefit packages transportable from one job to another, equal pay for equal work--even if he had to speak over the heads of a Congress unlikely to do anything substantial about them.

His stronger points were on international affairs. He explained that a realistic approach could not be isolationism nor simply invading countries, taking them over via 'regime change' and 'nation-building.' The first was impossible and the second only produced 'quagmires' like Vietnam and Iraq. He ridiculed the notion that the U.S. military was weak, but reminded everyone that the country's adversaries today were not rival superpower states, but failed states. And while not naming Donald Trump, he ripped apart the notions that U.S. expressions of racism or anti-Muslim rants made us stronger in any way. Just the opposite, they served as recruitment tools for theocratic fascists and terrorists.

Obama spoke directly to the people of the country to overcome these types of division, to set aside partisan or racial hostilities. His approach was the same as when he first started with a memorable speech at a Democratic Convention, asserting we were not a Red State or a Blue State America, but the United States of America.

But this appeal to a national identity and its creed to defeat the right serves more as a problem than a solution. For the notion of 'American' itself has always, throughout our history, divided into two. On one hand is the America of Empire, of Manifest Destiny and white supremacy. One the other hand is the America of Popular Democracy, of mutual respect and class solidarity and popular unity amidst diversity. To make a more substantial future for the working class in a more peaceful world, the first has to be put behind us while the latter is explored more deeply. Obama didn't go quite that far.

Carl Davidson, a retired computer technician, is a USW Associate Member now living in Aliquippa, Pa., his hometown, and the location of the former J&L Steel Mill, where many in his family worked and where his grandfather and a cousin died on the job. In Chicago, he served as a computer consultant for SEIU and several other unions, and was the editor of FIRR News for the Federation for Industrial Retention and Renewal during the campaigns against plant closings. In the 1960s, he was active in the civil rights movement, a national leader of student new left and the anti-Vietnam war movement. He worked on President Barack Obama’s first political campaign in Illinois, on his campaign for the U.S. Senate and for the presidency. Together with Jerry Harris, a former Chicago steelworker, he is author of CyberRadicalism: A New Left for a Global Age and editor of Solidarity Economy: Building Alternatives for People and Planet. He is the author and co-author of several other books and lectures on the topic of the Mondragon Cooperatives, a network of 120 worker-owned factories centered in Spain, and writes for the Beaver County Blue website.

Follow Carl on Twitter.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Stronger Together

Stronger Together