The growing progressive drumbeat about President Barack Obama’s failed presidency, coupled now with fantasies about opposing his re-nomination, or with anguished hand-wringing about his failure to communicate, to lead, etc. etc., dismays me. This hysteria is rooted in fear and anger over the intransigence of the corporate plutocracy we are up against. But the answer to corporate dictatorship and kleptocracy has to come from social movements—not the White House. History strongly suggests that grassroots disruption that threatens to unravel the social fabric is the fundamental impetus to real reform.Howie P.S.: "Richard Flacks, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the author of Cultural Politics and Social Movements (co-editor, 1995); Beyond the Barricades: The '60s Generation Grows Up (1989); Making History: The American Left and the American Mind (1988), and many articles on social movements, left culture and strategy."
Yet the loudest voices on the left keep wishing that Obama would lead such a movement. It’s a natural wish—since the work of movement-building is hard, risky and costly for those who take it on. But to wish for The Leader and to cry when he seems to abandon us is childish, and it bespeaks impotence.
What progressives have to try is to implement strategies that directly challenge corporate and financial domination. These have to include direct action that disrupts the institutional order. One essential theme: The costs and burdens of economic contraction and austerity must not be borne by the weakest and poorest.
The disgusting cycle, perpetuated by the Obama tax deal, that gives virtually all economic gain to the very top of the income pyramid has to be disrupted.
The wars, which hugely drain the public budget, have to be resisted.
Demands that might actually help people materially—and help the economy as well—need to be voiced and acted on—a massive mortgage write-down being one obvious example. Movement-based organizing on such issues needs to find targets that can be seen and addressed. For example, make locally accessible banks and their executives responsible for the mortgage crisis. MORE...