America’s first “victim” President, Barack Obama, appears set to use race as a critical criterion in setting his new leadership team. This is consistent entirely, of course, with his close ties to figures like Bill Ayers, Linda Darling-Hammond and Valerie Jarrett.
Ayers, of course, together with his wife Bernardine Dohrn, was a founder of the “white supremacy” politics in the anti-war movement of the 1970s as made clear in their Prarie Fire manifesto recently re-issued by Ayers and Dohrn and their comrade Jeff Jones. That pamphlet celebrated notorious criminals like Bobby Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan as “political prisoners.” Ayers and Dohrn have a new book coming out on race, too, that also is an attempt to articulate a new foreign policy for the US based on race.
Ayers was responsible for helping bring Linda Darling-Hammond on board the Obama bus. Darling-Hammond shares with Ayers his agenda for anti-union “small schools” and other community control experiments that link back to the alliance between the New Left and Black Power movements against the teachers’ union in New York City’s Ocean Hill-Brownsville conflict in 1968. These ideas find a new home in variants on “social justice teaching,” which places a “race-based” approach to education at its heart.
Jarrett, of course, is daughter in law of the late journalist Vernon Jarrett who for many years, together with Obama mentor Frank Marshall Davis, wrote for the black Chicago Defender newspaper, which, according to University of Michigan professor Alan Wald: “frequently presented the race-and-class based radicalism of the Communist Party.” Wald noted “foremost [among “key institutions” of the black Chicago Renaissance and the Negro People’s Front] is the Chicago Defender, which after 1940 not only covered the pro-Communist left sympathetically but hired editors and writers from that milieu.”
Of course, the American Communist Party was often one of the most conservative organizations in US political life, willing to suppress burgeoning racial and class movements for equality and civil rights if it was in the interests of the Soviet Union. But what emerged out of the South Side of Chicago black community over many decades, in part under the influence of the CP which had a base in unionized workers in the steel and meatpacking industries there, was the race-based victimology that now finds a warm home in the Obama Administration to be, as indicated in this Washington Post article. That explains in part the success of a Jeremiah Wright in that community.
And so it is not a shock that Valerie Jarrett views the filling of the Obama Cabinet as a “zero sum” game, apparently with seats ticked off one by one: race, gender and whatever other way she can think of dividing Americans up.
Of course, race continues to be a critical issue in American life, but what has been lost is the goal of color-blindness that used to drive the alliance between labor and civil rights. That has been torn asunder by identity politics fed by people like Ayers, Dohrn, Jarrett and, sadly, even the NAACP, whose new head, Ben Jealous, argues, without any basis that I am aware of, that Obama himself has “been the victim of multiple forms of discrimination.”
When one puts this approach together with the re-appearance of Samantha Power on the Obama foreign policy team, an interesting picture emerges. Power is one of the leading advocates of so-called “humanitarian intervention” as a cornerstone of American foreign policy. Coincidentally, of course, Power advocates intervention in the very regions – like central Africa and the former Yugoslavia – where the US is engaged in a contest with Russia and China.
A combination of race and humanitarianism is a much more attractive way to deal with declining American power than the neo-conservatism of the Bush era and the real-politik that used to dominate American foreign policy thinking. At home, race will be used to further undermine workers’ power as the balkanization of workers is encouraged by “victimology” politics. Abroad, we will use the fig leaf of human rights to justify a more aggressive defense of our global interests. This buys the waning American superpower more time yet at the cost of potentially greater domestic division and intractable foreign wars.
Welcome to the Obama era…..