Well, here goes my shot at ever working again. I’ve not only proclaimed this week ‘I love Senator Bernie Sanders Week’, I’m going to quote the World Socialist Web Site and agree with socialist Barry Grey.
To be honest, the U.S. really doesn’t have an active Socialist movement or anything close to the socialist left in Europe let alone other places. WSWS is one voice of socialism. Glenn Beck and the Tea Party are regaling themselves as mainstream and the dude they’re reading these days thought President Dwight Eisenhower was a communist agent. If that’s the new normal, then, maybe I am a Marxist by that silly ruler. But, anyway, at the risk of being labeled a red, here we go.
Grey’s article talks about Progressive (TM) hand wringing over Obama’s supposed lurch to the right. There was no lurching involved imho. Obama is just one of those pols that says one thing and does another. I frankly have no idea what he actually thinks. So, the fun part of this blog post is reading Grey dissect what is “more repugnant”, the villager’s “stupidity or their cynicism”. Grey cites a bunch of whiny, disillusioned villagers in the process. He identifies their central theme as:
The general theme of these commentaries—amidst the pleading, scolding and whelps of despair—is that Obama must reclaim his “core values” and start fighting the Republican right. It is summed up by Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, who writes: “At this point, the strategy is to shame [Obama] into fighting.”
So, this is my first issue. I just was talking to BB earlier and I personally believe that Obama has no “core values’. He just says what’s expedient for the moment that gets him where he wants to be. He’s like the ultimate pragmatist; whatever works for the moment. I even wrote a post to that effect years ago here that accused Obama of always “doing the chameleon”. It’s his past MO that convinced me of this two years back. There are way too many ‘present’ votes in the Illinois legislature and tales of Obama hiding in the bathroom to avoid votes for there to be evidence that he’ll fight for anything other than a chance to get to higher office in a shorter period of time. He seems to have joined and ditched groups–ask Jeremiah Wright–more for the connections than for the higher purpose. As my post notes, he flip flopped all over the place during 2008. Why should we expect anything different?
The article cites lots of examples of villagers looking for Obama redemption.
Among the notable examples of such lamentations is Frank Rich’s column in the December 5 New York Times, which makes the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Obama has been taken hostage by the Republicans and his behavior is best explained by reference to the Stockholm Syndrome.
Rich writes: “The captors will win this battle [over extending Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2 percent of US households], if they haven’t already by the time you read this, because Obama has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think.”
Liberal economist Paul Krugman, in a December 2 New York Times column written in response to Obama’s announcement of a two-year freeze on federal workers’ pay, is harsher:
“After the Democratic ‘shellacking’ in the mid-term elections, everyone wondered how President Obama would respond. Would he show what he was made of? Would he stand firm for the values he believes in, even in the face of political adversity?…
“It’s hard to escape the impression that Republicans have taken Mr. Obama’s measure—that they’re calling his bluff in the belief that he can be counted on to fold. And it’s also hard to escape the impression that they’re right.”
David Corn, the Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones and a columnist for PoliticsDaily.com, writes, more in sorrow than in anger:
“President Obama, in the instance of this apparent tax cut compromise, seems to be settling without waging a principle-driven battle, and that is puzzling many of his progressive loyalists… His reasons for eschewing a showdown remain a mystery… A deal like this … will drive many progressives crazy, for they’re looking to Obama to lead a charge against the Republicans, not yield to their threats.”
Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun, suggests that the best way to “get Obama to become the candidate whom most Americans believed they elected in 2008” is to challenge him from the left for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2012. The idea is not to defeat the incumbent, but to “pressure Obama toward much more progressive positions and make him a more viable 2012 candidate.”
As Eleanor Clift notes in Newsweek, “MoveOn.org is running ads with the theme ‘Bring Obama Back,’ calling on the president to ‘be the president we fought to elect’ and to hold firm on his promise to end tax breaks for the richest Americans… It’s a chance to reclaim his convictions, and Obama should seize it.”
Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the Nation, bemoans “Obama’s Disastrous Path” in her December 7 column in the Washington Post. Defining herself as a “progressive supporter” of Obama, she lists the president’s right-wing moves since the mid-term election debacle, ranging from his abject apologizing to the Republicans to effectively abandoning his July 2011 date for beginning to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
Vanden Heuvel objects to Obama’s leaning toward the notion that “we should impose austerity now, instead of working to get the economy going.” The operative word here is “now,” as it implies her agreement with the official line of the administration that whether sooner or later, austerity must be imposed.
Absurdly inflating Obama’s stature, she declares: “This president has a historic mandate. Just as Abraham Lincoln had to lead the nation from slavery and Franklin Roosevelt from the Depression, this president must lead the nation from the calamitous failures of three decades of conservative dominance.”
This, she continues, “is the necessary function of a progressive president… If he shirks it, [Obama] risks a failed presidency.”
I still don’t know what some of these people have been smoking or drinking. I don’t see anything in Obama’s past history that would give me the impression he would wage a “principle-driven battle” on anything. He says he supports GLBT rights and then he shows up with some of the most notorious homophobic religious nuts in the country and expands their role in ‘faith driven’ government GOTV grants. He doesn’t appear to be using his bully pulpit or his pen to remove DADT. The most he appears to be doing is a few symbolic finger waggings. He says he supports a woman’s choice on reproductive health and then immediately sells every women’s uterus to the Stupakistan terrorist groups to drive through Romney/DoleCare; the healthcare reform that was less liberal than Richard Nixon’s plan. He says he doesn’t support War or torture, but then sends Holder on an endless mission to defend the Dubya policies and people at every turn.
What core values? What principled actions?
I even read an Ismael Reed Op-ed this morning that says that Obama can’t afford to get angry without being tagged a militant black man. Was any one ever intimidated or upset when Steven Urkel got really mad? Even the Steven Urkel character had scripted moments when he took principled stands. No one wrote any thing about intimidation into the script and TV scripts love stereotypes. We can’t get a little righteous anger from our Nerd-in Chief?
Better questions come from Grey:
They all proceed from the premise that Obama is a “progressive.” Why? On what basis? There is nothing in his political career either before or after his election that suggests anything other than a conventional—i.e., right-wing—American bourgeois politician.
In the end, they brand Obama a progressive on the grounds that he is Democrat and an African-American. Here on full display is the political bankruptcy of the rejection of social class as the basic criterion in politics and its replacement by race and other forms of personal identity.
Yes, yes, yes. That is it. (Well, except I wouldn’t call him an “American bourgeois politician” since I really am not a socialist by nature.) The richest among us slice and dice us into neat little angry groups of Tea Partiers and New Black Panthers so that we get more mad at the idea of Raj in Bangalore taking a job or the idea that civil rights can cause ‘reverse discrimination’ against white men or that we’re being invaded by Mexicans who are driving all of our wages down or all white people are natural born racists. It’s all the poison flowers of the same ugly little divide and keep them in corporate serfdom seeds.
Continue on with Grey. He’s so worth reading.
What are the “core principles” that Obama has supposedly abandoned and must now reclaim? The only principles he has evinced are the defense of the global interests of US imperialism and the wealth and power of the American financial aristocracy. Aside from occasional cheap demagogy, he has shown nothing but indifference and contempt when it comes to the American people.
The apotheosizing of Obama by this political milieu is ultimately a function of their own social being. They represent a very privileged, comfortable and complacent layer of the upper-middle class, and their pro-Obama, pro-Democratic Party politics reflects very real, material interests—interests that are sharply at odds with those of the working class.
One need only ask, in precisely what does their “progressiveness” consist? They do not advocate serious social or political reforms, let alone socialist policies. On the contrary, they tenaciously uphold a political system dominated by two utterly corrupt and reactionary parties of the American plutocracy.
They do not, for the most part, even call for an end to the US wars of aggression that are killing hundreds of thousands and destroying entire societies in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The people who are writing these words are–as Grey writes–writing from the comfort of their own social being. Dana Millbank and the other villagers are the constituents defending the Obama tax cave-in because they will be some of the few beneficiaries. Check out this FDL Diary from Blue Texan and check out the comments. You can check out more on this vapid Dana Millbank column at Economist’s View. Krugman, Thoma, and Dean Baker all take a punch at Millbank who just loves him some hippy punching. Krugman has a statement about the topic here too.
So look at how the Village constructs its mythology. The real story, of pretend moderates stalling action by pretending to be persuadable, has been rewritten as a story of how those DF hippies got in the way, until the centrists saved the day.
The worst of it is that I suspect Obama’s memory has gone down the same hole.
Grey states it eloquently.
What really upsets them about the crass manner in which Obama prostrates himself before the Republicans and Wall Street is how thoroughly it exposes their own role in promoting him and aiding the marketing campaign that was used to get him elected. They are terrified that their political dog and pony show built around Obama has so quickly and ignominiously collapsed.
So, this is what REAL socialists say about Obama. Actual socialist thought is not the Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh fantasy philosophy that scares working class whites into seeing brown people as the threat. It’s not found at all in progressivism (TM) that has warped like some magical Madison Avenue Marketing brand enshrouding Obama and the village into enabling the misguided notion that it’s only white men that can prevent liberty and justice for all. Ultimately, socialism asks people to look at how the very rich and the very powerful use divisive tactics to stop us little people from realizing who is taking the fruits of our labor from us. Even if you aren’t a socialist, this is an exercise worth entertaining. Now, comrades, have fun with those links!!!
When ever I hear folks rant and rave on the evils of European Social Democracies and how horrid they are, I always ask them to name the country that comes up consistently with the highest literacy rates in the world, lowest infant mortality, and much higher the the USA GDP per capita, and at the same time has what you would probably call the world’s most complete cradle-to-grave welfare state. Of course, no one knows the answer because so many folks here have been brainwashed into thinking productivity, budget surpluses, high standards of living, and great education and health care are not possible in socialist states. Well, they are really wrong.
Without a doubt, the best country to live in the world these days going strictly by the statistics (and not the weather) is Norway. Take a look at the CIA fact book for all the good stuff on Norway then take a look at the United States. Norway has bested the USA in standard of living for quite some time. The United States keeps dropping on all lists and just in GDP per capita is now sitting at number 10. Norway is ranked first on the Human Development index of 177 countries, so essentially they are number one country for living the good life. It is second, only to Luxembourg, for GDP per capita.
Today’s New York Times covers the little country that can and its stellar economic performance in today’s global economic crisis. A lot of credit is goes to Norway’s socialist finance minister Kristin Halvorsen. She’s in charge of Norway’s $300 billion sovereign wealth fund that has been steadily buying stocks since March and is used to build a decent standard of living for every one in that country. Norway likes its government and its government works well. The Times article contrasts the economics of the U.S. and Norway and the U.S. comes up way short.