Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Obama: Sit Down, Shut Up and We'll Take Care of It

Read Obama's remarks here. If you're on the Left, if you wanted to see things really change after 8 years of Bush, then his message is for you. How dare you place demands on your elected officials? How dare you demand something in return for voting for Democrats? Don't you understand that the Democrats don't have to earn your vote? They are owed it no matter what they do, evidently.

Let's be honest: this is patronizing garbage. It's a completely raw deal for his supporters, and he knows it. In what universe can elected officials get away with claiming that they get to make all of the demands and give nothing in return? That's the way the Democratic Party functions. In effect, every 2 years they say the following to progressives and left-leaning people: you'd better vote for us or else. We've got nothing to offer you except rhetoric, and we know damn well that there is no one to our Left that you could vote for instead, so cough up the money and uncritically support us.

In a way, we can't be entirely surprised that this happened, given the basically conservative role of the Democratic Party in our economic and political system. But that isn't obvious to lots of people for a variety of reasons, most of which aren't their fault. There is hardly a Left voice to be found in the consensus media. America is not a center-right nation, but it's political institutions and media are. The disconnect between people's needs and demands and the conservatism of the political system is remarkable. I don't think we should continue to put up with it and take it on the chin.

I happen to agree that we won't get more by settling for less. But that's exactly what those who are fastened into the two-party straight-jacket will try to convince you that you should do: believe that you'll get more by settling for less and less.

History is crucial here: we didn't get the Civil Rights Act by settling for less and hoping that the Democrats would do the right thing. Women didn't get the vote by sitting on the sidelines and placing all their hopes in the "benevolent will" of the so-called lesser evil. Free public education was not won in this country by mailing friendly letters to Senators and friending them on Facebook. Social Security and the progressive income tax wasn't won by uncritically turning out to punch the card for the second-most enthusiastic capitalist party in the US.

All of these gains were won against the wishes of the wealthy and powerful. And all of these gains were won by the efforts of organized social movements, independent of the two major parties and in opposition to them. That's what we need. Not more bullshit about how maybe it will be better this time if we just try to keep the Republicans from gaining ground. We need to build the movements and be part of forming new ones.

Just one closing thought. Think about the difference in tone and demeanor that Obama employs when speaking to his supporters on the one hand, and powerful elites on the other hand. When he speaks to the latter, the aim is reassurance: please continue to fund mine and other Democrats campaigns, please don't worry because I won't rock the boat or do anything remotely progressive, you'll get your way when the bill is written, etc. When he speaks to his supporters in an election year, however, it's nothing but contempt. What does that say about Obama? What does it say about our political system? What does it say about the configuration of power in this society? What can we do to change this state of affairs? Get involved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Black unemployment is like 20% and rising, Obama does NOTHING about it, and now we "weren't serious in the first place"? Unbelievable.