[Cross Posted at dailykos.com ]
You can’t have a critical mass for change if you don’t have a mass of criticism about what needs to be changed.
In my recent daily post from Portside I received the recent essay at In These Times by Ken Brociner titled The American Left: What Progressives Can Learn from Obama
Brociner begins by saying,
One of the trademarks of Barack Obama's presidential campaign has been his commitment to a new style of politics. Last year, in answering a question about negative campaigning and ad hominem attacks on opponents, he said: "My preference going forward is that we have to be careful not to slip into playing the game as it is customarily played."
Here's my quick response as a reader's reply to Portside:
Re: The American Left: What Progressives Can Learn from Obama
As a radical progressive I got a good laugh from Ken Brociner's essay. Ken, you haven't presented anything that progressives can learn from Obama. Obama says "we have to be careful not to slip into playing the game as it is customarily played," and then he goes to AIPAC and plays the game completely customarily and his flip-flop cave-in on Telecom Imunity is completely customary politics, just to name two examples. Ken, in case you didn't notice, Petraeus did betray the USA, and Sirota is right that Obama is keeping hush on important issues. Ken, Obama is the best choice among what the two party machines have to offer, but after observing Obama's first two weeks as the nominee and his rush to the center, only uncritical admirers of Barack Obama can still believe he has a genuine desire to transcend old political habits.
As you can see I'm not at all enamored by Barack Obama's candidacy. His speech at AIPAC the day after achieving the nomination was an abomination and supreme display of pandering at its worst. Self-styled progressives like Ken Brociner leave me wondering if there is a political label that Democratic centrists won't try to usurp?
So looking at Brociner's essay a little deeper, afer the first paragraph presented above, he goes on to praise Obama for running "an unusually fair-minded and positive campaign."
Next Brociner says,
Obama's commitment to a different brand of politics represents more than a mere preference for taking the high road in the rough-and-tumble world of political combat. The Illinois senator has, in fact, developed what amounts to an alternative philosophical outlook toward politics. And it is a perspective that, I believe, too many progressives have been ignoring at their own peril.
Unfortunately, Brociner then laspes back into discussing issues of political campaigning style and does not provide any examples of the "alternative philosophical outlook" that Obama is supposed to have developed. So it appears that this alternative philosophical outlook only extends to trying to be a "nice guy" campaigner.
The problem that progressives have with Obama is not as Broiner alleges that we don't trust his motivations, it is that we don't trust his politics. So far he appears to be nothing more than a better window dressing on the Democratic Party. Brociner wants us to believe that every political "enemy" be they vanilla liberal Democrat or rabid neo-con really sincerely believes "they are working to
make the world a better place." So? Perhaps Brociner's view is the problem. What ar ewe to make of people who believe they are working to make the world a better place but who are doing so in a manner that makes it worse? Okay, assuming George Bush and Dick Cheney really wanted to make the world a better place by lying to the public and illegally invading and occupying Iraq, how does that "new philosophy" help us?
Assuming that Barack Obama really wants to make the world a better place when he goes to AIPAC and kisses their shoes regurgitating their false talking points right back to them, while Israel contiues its illegal and inhumane appartheid occupation and blocade of Palestine, how does that express a new "philosophical outlook" in political policy or principles?
It is not progressives who have a one-dimensional analysis, it is Brociner who is presenting a cartoonish version of reality by erasing the facts from the picture. What is happening and why? Brociner cites a September 2005 essay by Obama sent to the Daily Kos blogs titled "Tone, Truth and the Democratic Party."
Brociner includes the following excerpt from Obama's appeal:
"...I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate."
That looks good on paper or the computer screen, but why then does Obama dumb down his political debate at every opportunity to do otherwise? Whe did Obama go to AIPAC and not mention that Israel's blocade of the movement of goods in and out of Palestine is a crime against humanity? Why doesn't Obama, who was a Constitutional law professor, use his new status as the leader of the Democratic Party to educate the electorate about the 4th Amenedment and why Telecom Imunity violates it, but instead he dumbs down the issue and falsely pretends that this bill is a compromise. That's not a new "philosophy" that's the same old stick up the rear that the American people have come to expect from politicians that leads to "a cynical electorate" that is anything but "selfish."
Obama is the one who is creating the dishonest tone to the election when he supports an assault on the Constitution and calls it a good deal for the people. The fundamental dishonesty to the Democratic Party is that Obama is conceding that he has no argument against the Republicans on national security. And on top of that Obama's basis message is even though George Bush has the power now, don't worry when Obama is president he will exercise it responsibility. That is not a new philosophy of government; that is the oldest political scam in the world. What Obama needs to learn from progressives is to quit the political con game and keep it real.
P.S. I recommend Glenn Greenwald's blog Obama's support for the FISA "compromise"