Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Silly Goose Expectations: Reflections on Frustrated Left-Liberal Hopes and the Obama Administration"

Paul Street:

What matters is not who’s sitting in the White House. What matters is who’s sitting in.
- Howard Zinn

Who will save “the progressive movement,” such as it is [1], from the blathering of Robert Kuttner? According to a recent story on National “Public” Radio, leading “disappointed,” “frustrated” and “betrayed” American “progressives” are reflecting on the (not-so) “liberal” Obama administration’s ongoing imperial and corporatist torpor[2] –- a likely context for more right wing victories in the mid-term elections next November –- with an interesting question: “is it [the problem] Obama or is it us?” By NPR reporter Andrea Seabrook’s account, this was the main question discussed by “left wing activists” (Seabrook’s revealing term for liberal Democrats) at a recent conference on Barack Obama’s presidency called by the Washington-based group Campaign for America’s Future (CAF)[3].

“And We Would Just Go Home and Hit the Couch”

CAF conference participant Marquis Jones said "It's definitely us. I mean, we can't look at our elected officials and feel like it's their responsibility. We put them in office to be a representation of us, so it is our responsibility to make sure that they're fulfilling those obligations." According to the leading liberal blogger and pundit Arianna Huffington, another conference attendee, "It seems like yesterday...Barack Obama was going to take office, he was going to change the world and we would just go home and hit the couch.”[4]

Jones goes too far to absolve elected U.S. officials of their obligation to “establish justice” and “promote the general welfare” as required of them by the U.S. Constitution. He might want to consider that elected officials are largely put in office by what the Left writers Edward S. Herman and David Peterson call “the unelected dictatorship of money,” which (Herman and Peterson note) “vets the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties, reducing the options available to U.S. citizens to two candidates, neither of whom can change the foreign or domestic priorities of the imperial U.S. regime.”[5]

Still Marquis Jones and Ariana Huffington are right to call for activists to keep the pressure on elected officials beneath and beyond the quadrennial candidate-centered, mass marketed “electoral extravaganzas” (Noam Chomsky) that pass for the only politics (“that’s politics”) [6]) that matter in the U.S. As the left political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr. argued in The Progressive magazine in the fall of 2007, left activists should focus less on elections and more on building social and political movements for democratic change from the bottom up over longer periods of time.” MORE...
Howie P.S.: This morning Glenn Greenwald and Greg Sargent are using Twitter to call out our "Groundhog Day politics." Paul Street's commentary seems to indicate the same thing. H/t to Terri Lee for pointing me to Paul Street. More harsh and recent criticism of Obama from Street: "A Callous Nation: Reflections on the Obama-McChrystal-Rolling Stone Saga."

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