The documentary “2016: Obama’s America” is drawing big crowds in the South, reports my hometown newspaper the Washington Examiner . And “liberal and conservative voters” watching it are cursing President Obama.
“I have to get some more friends” to see the documentary, says 18-year-old Tammy Birdwell who watched it in Greenville, N.C. “We have to get Obama out.”
The production is based on Dinesh D’Souza’s controversial book The Roots of Obama’s Rage. D’Souza is a right-wing, indian-born activist and writer who used to be an adviser to the Reagan White House. His book’s underlying theme is that Obama is inspired by the liberal “anti-colonial ideology of his African father.” That ideology, adds D’Souza, has shaped the policies of the Obama administration. A right-wing documentary luring liberals? It reminds me of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11”, which was praised by many conservatives. Many Americans are apparently disillusioned by both conservatism and liberalism.
D’Souza’s portrait of Obama is based mostly on the president’s writings and rhetoric. The author selectively stitched together bits and pieces of them to draw up a profile of the first black American president that repels many Americans.
As evidence of Obama’s liberalism and anti-colonialism, the author cites his call as a U.S. senator to withdraw American troops from Iraq, opposition to Gen. David Petraeus’ “surge” strategy in Iraq, association with “Marxist professors and structural feminists” at Occidental College, unidentified plan to “spread the wealth” in America, and so forth.
This image starkly contradicts Obama’s policies or actions as president. President Obama is known the world over for his embrace and expansion of the Bush administration’s drone war in several Muslim countries, killing hundreds of innocent men, women and children. He continues President Bush’s policies of profiling and surveillance of American Muslims, of denying Guantanamo Bay prisoners the due process of civil law, and of refusing to identify with African American issues and priorities. Early in his administration, Obama alienated many of his liberal and leftist supporters by caving in to Republicans to focus on deficit cuts over jobs and growth.
I knew the president was about to sidestep the causes of the poor and the left when he hired such died-in-the-wool conservative economists as Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Peter Orszag to frame and run his economic policies. But I did not anticipate his adoption of the Bush administration’s militarist agenda. Washington Post writer Ezra Klein’s characterization of Obama as a “moderate Republican” may apply to many of his domestic policies. In the Middle East and South Asia, his first presidential term looks more like Bush’s third. So the question, again, is why is the right-wing documentary “2016” riveting liberals? Why do Moore’s liberal documentaries attract many conservatives?
My take on it all is that while vested interests and ideologues remain loyal to ideologies, most everyday Americans are fed up with them. They know in their bones that their political ideologies and economic and financial institutions aren’t answering their real-life problems. They have been voting Democrats and Republicans to Congress and the Presidency, but their economy remains in a shambles. Too many of them are unemployed or have jobs that don’t relieve them of hardships and despair. America lurches from one bloody and costly war to another, yet Americans have never felt so insecure: airports, government offices, corporations and many other swaths of public space have turned into veritable fortresses, under disturbing and annoying security cordons.
Americans’ allegiance to their political and economic institutions is eroding fast. Yet they continue to shuttle between them because they see no alternative paradigm, or avenues of meaningful living. Well, not yet. New ideological or existential paradigms often come unannounced. We should keep an ear out for them.
- Mustafa Malik is an international affairs columnist in Washington. He hosts the blog Beyond Freedom.