In the election of 2008 Barack Obama became a commodity sold to voters as an agent of change, regardless of his status quo platform, that spoke volumes about the mediation of human desire into instruments of control.
It can not be denied that on the election night of 2008 there literally was dancing in the streets. This phenomenon illuminated the fact that the past eight years was in many ways a time of immense darkness. In possibly no other time in the history of the United States was the country so close to an actual dictatorship as it was during the George W. Bush administration. There were concrete cases of a centralization of power within the executive branch, and especially within the office of the president and vice president. The Patriot Act, sanctioning of torture, increased internal surveillance, and the detaining of suspects without filing of charges all eroded the protections found in the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights. These decisions all did lasting damage to the idea of the United States as a representative democracy. Unfortunately, this centralization of power was the culmination of other actions taken by previous presidents during times of war. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War, Wilson enacted the Alien and Sedition Act with the Palmer Raids during WWI, Roosevelt interned Japanese-Americans during WWII, and Nixon used COINTELPRO and an enemies list during the war in Vietnam. All of these men were gravely wrong, but what distinguished the Bush administration was the creation of an artificial state of emergency after Sept. 11th, 2001 that lead to a fabricated war for hegemony in the Middle East. Therefore, there were reasons to celebrate the election of a new president, one who was considered a real agent of change.
The main theme of the Barack Obama presidential campaign was hope for change. Many people from very early on responded to this idea. Obama as a candidate was able to present an image of a complete reversal of the previous time of darkness under a proto-dictatorship. In fact, within this theme, there was a potential to change the trend of the past 30 years in terms of the economy and society. However, there was an inherent contradiction within the campaign. If one were to examine the Obama platform, one would find fairly moderate issues that would traditionally be positioned slightly left of center. The platform itself would not do anything to enact a tremendous paradigm shift for the nation. For example, there were promises to fight the war in Afghanistan in a more efficient way, and there was no mention of repealing the Patriot Act. The majority of supporters who voted for him either chose to ignore his platform or were unaware of the gap between the image and the substance of the campaign. Once he was elected and sworn in, that hope for change was sustained by the fact that history had been made with Obama as the first black president of the United States. Things looked like they could truly get better. As the Obama administration progressed, there was a return to the moderate platform beginning with the stimulus package that bailed out large corporations and banks rather than dismantling the corporate form and creating a system of investment in locally-owned businesses within communities.
The difference between the image of hope and change on one hand and the actual practices of the new administration was used to sell Obama as a commodity. It was a very tempting and alluring commodity. This commodity in turn was used as a prolonged method of control by dissipating real resistance and progressive action. The redirection of resistance is made possible by structural alienation, which is also the cause of other types of alienation such as social, existential, political, and economic alienation. Structural alienation begins with the gap between the subjective unconscious and the objective reality that surrounds it. Each human can only have a particular perspective and understanding of reality and its structures. These structures mediate reality and give it shape for humans, but these structures preexist each human and their interaction with reality. A human can feel isolated from this reality that they are thrown into, and will want to reunite with it. In order to exist within reality, each human must internalize these structures but that also means that humans will also internalize the gap between the subjective unconscious and the objective reality. Once internalized, this gap becomes an artificial lack within each human. Human desire, which is natural and unique for each person, is transformed into a generic drive that seeks to fulfill the sense of something lacking. Humans will then look for external things for this satisfaction, and these things are known as the small partial objects of desire. The small partial objects of desire have the appearance of being a direct link to reality, and people driven to fulfill their artificial lack are drawn to these things in the hope of bridging that original gap between the subjective and the objective. In capitalism, the small partial objects of desire are the commodities that promise to make humans complete. This change, from a creative desire to a yearning drive, makes it easier for humans to be contained by an overarching system of power. What people think they want is actually premanufactured in order to pacify them, and what people think they want comes from an outside source that can control its supply. Because voters sought to fulfill their need for change with the external image of Obama as an agent of change, they were dissuaded or convinced by the two-party system to not create their own political or economic structures as solutions to the problems of the day.
The hope for change that was amplified by the rhetoric of the Obama campaign was in some aspects transmuted once he was sworn in as president. Many who were leftists who also advocated a repeal of the Federal Reserve were disappointed by the bailout of many large banks in the Spring of 2009. They would in turn attend many of the “tea parties” that occurred across the country. Even though most of the organizers of these protests were powerful conservatives and conservative organizations, some who attended wanted real change that was implied by the Obama campaign but never carried out. They wanted change especially in regards to the abstract way finance is conducted in the United States, much more than just merely protesting high taxes which became one of the main messages of the tea parties during April 15th of 2009. Unfortunately, progressives and leftist populists were ignored and marginalized by those who carried signs that proclaimed conservative messages and a return to the type of society that existed under the Bush regime.
It would have been a very interesting phenomenon if those who considered themselves progressives had attended these protests more, adorned with signs that demanded a repeal of the Federal Reserve along with the Patriot Act and an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The inherent emotional need for change, that was altered toward a conservative direction at the tea parties, was authentic and was a continuation of the dissatisfaction with the status quo that stimulated the election of Barack Obama. In fact, it can be said that the desire for change was transformed from a constructive and creative process to a drive for an external satisfaction. This drive was directed in a liberal and conservative way, one channel being the support of the Obama campaign while the other channel was the tea party movement. Both the liberal and conservative channels obscured the desire for change that would actually begin with communities creating new political and economic tools that would be solutions to these inherent problems while empowering the people at the same time.
In the month of August in 2009, there occurred other types of protests at various town halls across the nation. These town halls were the site of angry groups confronting members of Congress supposedly over the healthcare proposal supported by the Obama administration. The difference was that the conservative appropriation of valid concerns during the tea party movement had consolidated into a call for a stop to supposedly “socialized medicine” and a fear of change of any kind. These confrontations obscured the reality of the Obama healthcare plan being a tremendous compromise with the health insurance companies. A real plan for universal single-payer healthcare was ignored by both Obama and the angry protesters, who were ignited by various rumours of forced euthanasia and a suspicion that the president was a dictator. This artificial fear was based on the experience of a real proto-dictatorship during the Bush regime that was covered over by a rampant nationalism. The imaginary dictatorship of the Obama administration is in fact a projection of latent fears and the trauma of being dominated by the Bush administration that avoids the question of what to do with those who have committed war crimes and other abuses of power in the past eight years. Those in power will use this trauma to portray Obama as a dangerous element in order to extinguish the hope for change that never went away. In other words, those who use the term fascism now were those who supported the potential of fascism in the past.
However, all this time, the hope for change never went away. It was rechanneled into a dead end with the Obama campaign, transmuted during the tea parties, and denied outright during the town hall protests. The desire for change, in order to be authentic, must be productive and use the right tools to express itself. The Green Party, an alternative that exists outside of the two-party system, can be that instrument. The two-party system is a constant recycling of power in a limited spectrum of ideology. It distorts the understanding of one’s own desire, and only offers candidates and ideas that will perpetuate the status quo. In contrast, the Green Party is the difference that makes a difference. The platform of the Cynthia McKinney campaign was the real expression of the hope for change in 2008, and as the years unfold there will be a concerted effort to show how change can never be a commodity but a transformation upon the world caused by human desire. This desire will be the source of solutions to the national crises that Americans face, despite how the political terms and conditions are predefined by those in power.