Weeks ago, I wondered if the spirit that had transported Egypt would catch on in America, where, for many reasons, it is equally urgently needed. And we are so blessed that that looks to be happening. I’ll admit that earlier, at the time, I would have thought that given the crisis our country’s youth faces (from unemployment, climate change, health insecurity, deportation, incarceration, debt), and the energy with which we delivered Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008, the spark would be lit by my generation again. But if the fire that’s spreading across the world has any single lesson it’s that you won’t be able to guess where it catches on next. So thank God for Wisconsin, for Madison, for Egyptian pizza-benefactors, and for the public employees unions out there. You find yourselves in excellent company.
Category Archives: Radical Critique
“The Movement for ‘Hope and Change’ has a Rare, Second Chance… All Who Love This Country Need to Do Everything Possible to Spread the ‘Spirit of Madison’ to All 50 States”
So I kind of expected it when my more radical standbys were saying it (here and here). And I’ve been kinda thinking for a while that Obama is either a really godawful progressive or a somewhat mediocre, at first difficult to read, but basically, conservative Democrat.
But I’m a little surprised to see Krugman say it in such blunt terms. He’s normally well to the left of most, but still somewhat to the right (or more moderate, whatever) of my more incendiary folks. I kind of expect this more from a Dean Baker type. But here he goes:
Some readers may recall that back during the Democratic primary Barack Obama shocked many progressives by praising Ronald Reagan as someone who brought America a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.” I was among those who found this deeply troubling — because the idea that Reagan brought a transfomation in American dynamism is a right-wing myth, not borne out by the facts. (There was a surge in productivity and innovation — but it happened in the 90s, under Clinton, not under Reagan).
All the usual suspects pooh-poohed these concerns; it was ridiculous, they said, to think of Obama as a captive of right-wing mythology.
But are you so sure about that now?
And here’s this, from Thomas Ferguson: Obama saying
“We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”
As Ferguson explains, this is a right-wing smear. What actually happened was that during the interregnum between the 1932 election and the1933 inauguration — which was much longer then, because the inauguration didn’t take place until March — Herbert Hoover tried to rope FDR into maintaining his policies, including rigid adherence to the gold standard and fiscal austerity. FDR declined to be part of this.
But Obama buys the right-wing smear.
More and more, it’s becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts.
And confronted with a situation utterly at odds with that storyline … he stayed with the myth. [Emphasis added]
It’s why he’s still seeking bipartisanship, why there’s so much continuity between Bush and Obama on civil liberties abuses, why Health Care Reform looks like the Republican proposal form the 90s (or Massachussetts), why he pursues individual progressive policies and totally cedes any kind of progressive narrative, why he lack-lusterly defends folks like Shirley Sherrod and Van Jones, why he seems pretty much satisfied with the overwhelmingly corporatist and status-quo defending legislation that gets put out, why they sometimes just look like Republicans. Because it’s where he’s at.
Now I’m not a ‘dump/primary Obama’ type. We’re wedded to him until 2016 (I freaking hope) whether it’s ideal or not. But as I’ve been saying for a while now, it is essential to how we develop our movement’s relationship to the Dem establishment. It is not, as some of my heroes would argue, a side-issue or a distraction. Nor has the White House been immaterial to ‘the shutdown of the hope machine’. It may not all be about DC, but an avoidance of DC failures is not going to make them less significant or influential on our local-level conditions. Anyway, enough ranting, you know where I’m going with this.
Just got done seeing Obama (and Kucinich, Sutton, Brown, Fisher, Strickland, and Biden) at CSU. It was the closest I’ve ever been to the Big Guy himself, and I am still trying to figure out how I feel about it. Given that this blog (and my post-collegiate life) was started, in many ways, because of the overflow of energy and enthusiasm from the campaign and election, I thought I’d at least remark on it.
On the one hand, I am reminded forcibly of why I, occasionally, love identifying myself as a Democrat. The audience was raucously diverse and a little ridiculous for it. White environmentalist students. Moms and Dads. Older Union activists and Kucinich-enthusiasts (love for Kucinich and Sutton was VERY much in effect. Those two definitely affirm the cliche that most people hate congress… except for their own representatives- though Marcia Fudge wasn’t technically there, she did get a mention). More East Asians, South Asians, and Middle Eastern -origin folks than I EVER expect to see in Ohio. UAW, SEIU, IAFF. Someone, I think it was Lee Fisher, was taking the historical view and identifying the Democrats as the party of the five-day work week, medicare, social security. And it’s true that I see the party as the vehicle that movements have historically used (at least in this century, and excepting environmental advances, which have a much more fractured history) for those advancements, and identify it as the community that I inhabit, uncomfortably, and want to work to improve. I find myself frustrated, incredibly so at times, but ultimately I know it’s where I’m based. As a sidenote, Obama’s like, way funny.
On the other hand, I find it difficult to continue to swallow my frustrations over DOMA, DADT, the wars, torture, unabashed civil liberties abuses, the forgotten EFCA, the utter tanking of climate legislation, ramp-up of deportations, what feel like hollow (or at least, glass two-third empty) victories on health care, financial reform, economic recovery and stimulus. And difficult also to participate whole-heartedly in the love-fest and implicit expectation of gratitude from the speakers on stage about us doing our part. I know change is hard, I know not everything was going to get done before 2011. This isn’t about being so discouraged that I don’t vote, but I wish I felt some assurance that the party I’m going to see on November 3rd is going to live up to its talk of not being the party aligned with Wall Street, the insurance companies, the oil companies, and the lunatics who think the war on drugs is accomplishing anything other than the empowerment of drug cartels that successfully challenge the Mexican government for legitimacy, while bringing us the distinction of being the number one country for incarceration and wasted lives. I wish I felt like the Party, and Obama, weren’t missing totally easy opportunities to be on our side, and were working towards cleaning house as is needed.
I know that now is not the time to allow that to keep me from voting, and even from encouraging others to do so. I heartily encourage that everyone do so (especially in Ohio, because I’m mildly horrified by the prospect of Kasich). But I am also made uncomfortable by the feel-good ‘we love you’s', ‘we believe in you’, the chants, the momentary suppression of the last two years and all the rest that belies a community that I fundamentally feel at odds with, because in many ways, I feel at odds with the prevailing direction of the party whenever it isn’t of the utmost urgency that we keep the arsonists out of the firehouse (to borrow what is becoming an over-used image). I remember 2001-2008, but I also happen to remember 1994, 1996, 1999, and a whole host of other dates that implicate us as having been a deeply conflicted party that seems to remember itself right quick when faced with the existential threat represented by the right.
So I’m going to keep on, and I’ll probably keep going to these rallies, because I do like remembering the wider community of which I am a part. And I absolutely encourage you to vote, because, well, I think the alternative is kinda serious (also here). And because I think the arc of history is long and it arcs towards justice, but that’s still a pain in the ass, is complicated, and is not always totally clear. But I hope the folks in that room don’t forget that it is our constant duty to push the party to behave better (while struggling to figure out how on earth we do that), that politicians are politicians and not necessarily friends or leaders, and that communities are in a constant state of being perfected, and ought to proffer something to earn allegiance and dedication. We shouldn’t have to be compelled by “look at what a nightmare those other guys are”. But we need to take an active role in understanding that exchange and figuring out how to subvert and re-direct it. We can not for a second relinquish our recognition that while the Party is the best current vehicle for the actualization of our political goals, it is not by a long shot the best possible vehicle for that actualization. They haven’t even begun to deliver as much as they need to, and can. And frankly, a lot of us are working really damn hard on the ground besides, so let’s cut the baloney about each of us doing our part, as thous someone’s shirking.
There are times I want to avoid demonizing the Tea Party, agreeing with Glenn Greenwald that, while odious, many of their views basically represent natural extensions, or otherwise simple honesty about mainer-stream Republican tendencie, and are primarily ridiculed as a way of keeping ‘uppity’ Republicans down.
But there are also times that I have to agree with Rachel, this is worse, not so much in orientation as in degree and momentum, times that I am reminded of one of my favorite American plays where Zillah warns us not to underestimate the dangers and the true evils we’re facing, times that, despite myself, I am truly afraid for the future. I’m not proud of them, but they do appear.
Yall should vote.
The above video has absolutely nothing to do with this post, it’s just stuck in my head, and I thought I’d share it with you.
Okay, neither does that one either, but I love the song and it makes me feel really amped about figuring stuff out and moving forward.
I just got done reading an article that was very challenging. Not difficult to read, as much as a major complication of the construct I’ve been working with, oh, since Van Jones bit the political dust in early September 2009. I highly recommend reading it.
Parry’s main point (he was, apparently, one of the first journalists to break Iran/Contra) is basically that since the rise of Nixon, liberals/progressives/unabashed leftists and the Democratic Party leadership have essentially been engaged in a reliably adversarial relationship marked by roughly the same errors committed by both parties (not Parties- Repubs have just gotten crazier and crazier), which has consistently facilitated a conservative descent and total rightist/corporatist/authoritarian/neoconservative capture of the country’s political climate and atmosphere. He spares neither Democratic leadership, nor liberal insurgents who struggle for appreciation and to force the leaders of the Party to do better, implicating both of wholly misunderstanding the circumstances they find themselves in and thus failing to advance a progressive agenda by more than half-measures.
He argues that Democratic leaders make weak starts at getting important stuff done and acquiesce too easily to Republican dominance by avoiding bringing to light the truly despicable things their opponents do, while progressive activists take such weak starts and acquiescence as cue to start some shit, which makes the weak-tea Democrats lose, encouraging the Republicans to, well, continue to do truly despicable things. Republicans gain power, hilarity is offshored to China, where it occasionally ensues.
I think I responded so strongly to this article because it came from a writer who clearly appreciates my, I believe, sober view of the situation (that Democratic leadership has been insufficient and lackluster, and has failed to approach their few openings to make change with the courage and a political strategy that is also more progressive and just better policy-wise that would enlarge their advantage) but totally refutes my emotional urge (to make this clear to Democratic leadership by whomping them).
There’s another website I was going to post this on (I think most of you can probably guess where), but I think the Sister Souljah repercussions might be potentially devastating for myself and others, so I’ll just put this on my personal one where hopefully the damage can be contained to my friends’ and loved ones’ esteem of me.
In all seriousness, I enjoy the video, I appreciate MGK‘s (or maybe this MGK?) enthusiasm, it’s nice seeing Cleveland portrayed as fun (if a bit sophomoric- MGK’s highlights aren’t mine, but who am I to argue how Cleveland should be enjoyed?), and frankly, any rap video that has substantial footage of my favorite vacant property a couple minutes’ walk from my house (around 0:50 and then more later ), and views of downtown/industrial valley that are similarly nearby (0:47 and others) deserves wide distribution.
Anyway, just thought you all should know.
But Glenn Greenwald is a really essential read. OpenLeft, HuffPost, AlterNet, Grist, and RaceWire are my go-to’s for extra-lefty, general, radical, green, and ‘racial-justice-political’ news. But if I’ve only got time for one, I gotta check Greenwald. His dogged coverage of stories I would otherwise miss is absolutely crucial, and he is a one-man force of calling out media-political bullshit. Think Jon Stewart but more devastating because he makes it deadly clear that we’re not just dealing with buffoons, but with people who, by failing to speak louder, allow this to happen:
No due process is accorded. No charges or trials are necessary. No evidence is offered, nor any opportunity for him [My Note: Anwar al Awlaki, an American citizen, who has yet to be tried by a civilian court, or any court for that matter, but has been labeled a terrorist and is thus authorized to be killed by the CIA] to deny these accusations (which he has done vehemently through his family). None of that.
Instead, in Barack Obama’s America, the way guilt is determined for American citizens — and a death penalty imposed — is that the President, like the King he thinks he is, secretly decrees someone’s guilt as a Terrorist. He then dispatches his aides to run to America’s newspapers — cowardly hiding behind the shield of anonymity which they’re granted — to proclaim that the Guilty One shall be killed on sight because the Leader has decreed him to be a Terrorist. It is simply asserted that Awlaki has converted from a cleric who expresses anti-American views and advocates attacks on American military targets (advocacy which happens to be Constitutionally protected) to Actual Terrorist ”involved in plots.” These newspapers then print this Executive Verdict with no questioning, no opposition, no investigation, no refutation as to its truth. And the punishment is thus decreed: this American citizen will now be murdered by the CIA because Barack Obama has ordered that it be done. What kind of person could possibly justify this or think that this is a legitimate government power?
The ramifications of this are, simply put, catastrophic. But it goes beyond civil liberties, vital as that is. This encompasses a normalization of truly insidious political practice across the board. As I wrote in my health care post, we are seeing more and more that corporatism is the unambiguous norm for this ‘democratic’ administration. What is essentially a Republican health bill is codified as the new Democratic. Greenwald puts it better than I can though:
Here again, we see one of the principal and longest-lasting effects of the Obama presidency: to put a pretty, eloquent, progressive face on what (until quite recently) was ostensibly considered by a large segment of the citizenry to be tyrannical right-wing extremism (e.g., indefinite detention, military commissions, “state secrets” used to block judicial review, an endless and always-expanding ”War on Terror,” immunity for war criminals, rampant corporatism — and now unchecked presidential assassinations of American citizens), and thus to transform what were once bitter, partisan controversies into harmonious, bipartisan consensus
While I would not argue that Barack Obama is a Republican, or as ‘bad as Bush’, I think there is a case to be made that these coming years need to be viewed with real vigilance as a substantively new kind of threat. While I am not opposed to compromise, there are some things that simply cannot be normalized. Corporatism is a slippery slope. Unilateral power of assassination is an utter abomination.
This got a little off-topic, but like I said, read Greenwald. He is covering this (and identifies as a libertarian, not a progressive, so full-disclosure I disagree with him on a lot, particularly on the Citizens United decision- which he supported, albeit ambivalently) in a way that almost no one else is. He covers stories that often get lost in the fray, but are absolutely essential, I think, to understanding the complexity and the dangers of the times we’re living in.
ps. his coverage of the WikiLeaks scoop of a truly horriffic video of a massacre in Iraq- carried out by US troops- is equally essential. He also deals with the fact that this is not an anomalous event (as excused by other commentators), was completely bungled by the New York Times and Weekly Standard, and has a good round-up of the continuing controversy.
If you haven’t been following Markos Moulitsas’ twitter feed (and I’m considering dropping it, I get enough snark in my blogroll, other followed tweeters and tortured inner monologue without sifting through his prodigious volume of grade C quipping) or listening to this person, you could be forgiven for not being aware that a lot of people are dumping on Kucinich for declaring that he doesn’t intend to vote for a bill that doesn’t include a robust public option.
Now, I disagree with his decision to vote no; I think that, though it is a horridly compromised bill that turns my stomach when I think of how we got here, it needs to be passed, both to expand coverage in the short term and to preserve the hope that we’re going to get to fight again on the myriad of catastrophic problems and moral crises we need to address (but are failing to do so well). And also because I agree with Chris Bowers, that we got some decent expansions of public care out of this (and may succeed in actually moving towards narrative shift, which is frankly, the least talked about of one of the most important issues surrounding the success and integrity of Obama’s presidency).
But when I see articles like this, I’m really freaking glad there’s someone like Dennis Kucinich in Congress:
In an interview with the Associated Press, Kerry suggested that his pollution-cutting plans are only an afterthought. “It’s primarily a jobs bill, and an energy independence bill and a pollution reduction-health-clean air bill,” said Kerry. “Climate sort of follows. It’s on for the ride.”
To someone who has, quite simply, reoriented their entire life to fight climate change (and is trying to do so in a way that ensures economic inclusion and justice for those who stood outside the gates of the last economy), and finds profound spiritual meaning in it, this is a smack in the face (and that’s the polite version). It’s a disgrace to those from Massachussetts (and elsewhere) who believe in him and give a damn about their children’s future and know what an incidental appreciation and pseudo-awareness of the gravity of climate change means for that future.
Dennis Kucinich may not be the best progressive politician. But he is one of very few in Congress who has demonstrated to me that he doesn’t cavalierly dismiss things I am so young, naive, hopeful, and trusting as to continue to hold dear. He’s one of the only ones. And he gets treated like a lunatic because he doesn’t play their cynical game (and yeah, because he says extraordinarily weird shit about aliens, which does not help his case. I will never claim that he is super savvy). I can’t help but think that says more about them than about him. Our political system is, and has been for years, a complete bat-shit bananas crazy house. Forgive me for having some sympathy for somebody who recognizes that and has the audacity to refuse to play along, highlighting the absolute failure of that system to be what we need it to be.