The budget battle could be a defining moment for Barack Obama

If he speaks the plain truth about the GOP's real ideological agenda, he can win the contest for America’s future

Robert Shrum

To revise and extend the epithet so often hurled at Barack Obama from the fantasy corners of the paranoid right, the Republicans have now proven the truth of a central Marxist insight. In the midterms, they cultivated their own variant of false consciousness, inducing voters to "imagine false or apparent motives" – which is how the concept was explicitly articulated not by Marx himself, but by his co-author Friedrich Engels.

Thus GOP candidates postured as tribunes of main street railing against the very bailout so many Republicans in Congress had voted for. But all along, their campaigns were powered by Wall Street money. In office, it's payback time – for the party’s patrons, not their voters – as House Speaker John Boehner’s brigade seeks wholesale repeal of the tougher regulations enacted in last year’s financial reform bill. Supposedly elected to serve main street, the Republicans have become servitors of Wall Street, enablers if they have their way of the reckless speculation that could again devastate middle America and decimate millions of jobs.

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Robert Shrum has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shrum's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. The author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (Simon and Schuster), he is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.