Obama screwed the Left in 2008. They’re eager for Hillary to do it in 2016.

Summary: Today we have an excerpt from a brilliant essay by Paul Street He explains how the Left has dug itself into a hole (the GOP clown car primaries show the similar problem on the Right), betting on hope rather than organization and work. And will repeat this mistake in 2016. {1st of 2 posts.}

The Political Machine

 

Today’s recommended reading: “Dancing to His Masters’ Tunes: The Liberal Apologies for Obama’s Ugly Reign” by Paul Street (his bio) at CounterPunch. This excerpt gives the bones of his reasoning, but omits his powerful horrific evidence. It deserves to be read in full.

——————— Excerpt  ———————

“Fact and Scrutiny”

So this is how Barack Obama is moving into the final 20 months of his dismal neoliberal presidency, which he once (proudly) described as ideologically akin to the Eisenhower White House. He is nauseating much of his own Wall Street-captive party’s electoral base by trying to push through the absurdly regressive, secretive, eco-cidal, and global-corporatist Trans Pacific Partnership treaty – a massive investor rights measure that promises to reduce wages, deepen inequality, undermine popular sovereignty, and assault already endangered livable ecology in the name of (what else?) “free trade” and “growth.” …

“Every Four Years”

There are a number of understandable and respectable responses (horror and disgust come to mind) to these latest corporatist White House policies, but surprise is not one of them. This is precisely the capitalist Obama that a good cadre of Left activists and writers tried (none more voluminously than this writer) to warn liberals and progressives about from the beginning of the Obama phenomenon and then presidency.

Like the Bill Clinton presidency but with considerable less success to a far less favorable economic and global context and to Obama’s comparative political ineptitude, the Obama administration has been (as predicted) a monument to faux-progressive corporate and Wall Street rule and to the wisdom of left historian Lawrence Shoup’s judgement in early 2008:

 

“Every four years many Americans put their hopes in an electoral process, hopes that a savior can be elected — someone who will make their daily lives more livable, someone who will raise wages, create well-paying jobs, enforce union rights, provide adequate health care, rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, and end war and militarism. In actuality, the leading ‘electable’ presidential candidates have all been well vetted by the hidden primary of the ruling class and are tied to corporate power in multiple ways. They will stay safely within the bounds set by those who rule America behind the scenes, making sure that members of the plutocracy continue to be the main beneficiaries of the system…

“It is clear that, at best, U.S. ‘democracy’ is a guided one; at its worst it is a corrupt farce, amounting to manipulation, with the larger population objects of propaganda in a controlled and trivialized electoral process.”  {in Z Magazine}

… It has all unfolded pretty much as I predicted (easily and with no particular claim to originality or clairvoyance) in my spring 2008 book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics. It’s gone ways that are consistent with my account of Obama’s first year in the White House in my follow-up volume The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power. …

{Ed note: I wrote something similar in Feb 2008.}

Hillary Rodham Clinton
December 2007. AP Photo/Jim Cole.

Hillary Picks Up the Hitchensian Ball

It was nothing new. The “essence of American politics,” a still left Christopher Hitchens noted in his 1999 book on the Clintons (No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton) “is the manipulation of populism by elitism.” The swindle continues.

As I demonstrated in a recent essay, Mrs. Clinton is providing an almost picture-perfect illustration of Hitchens’ thesis in her belatedly announced bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. If she’s elected … we can expect bamboozled liberals and progressives to blame the Republicans for her militantly corporatist, imperialist, and eco-cidal policies.

… few things could be more preposterous than to dream that a White House ruled by the militantly pro-Big Business and hawkish Hillary Clinton … could be pushed to the progressive and populist left by U.S. citizens and social movements. …

Learn

Learn Something

… U.S. liberals and progressives might want to read up on recent American political history. They might learn something about how they’ve been manipulated by Democratic politicians and presidents again and again and decide to invest their hopes and energies in a different kind of more genuinely progressive and democratic politics beneath and beyond the big money-big media-major party-mass-marketed-candidate-centered presidential “electoral extravaganzas” that are staged as “yet another method for marginalizing the population” (Noam Chomsky, 27 October 2004) once every four years.

——————— End excerpt. Read it in full———————

For More Information

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13 thoughts on “Obama screwed the Left in 2008. They’re eager for Hillary to do it in 2016.

  1. Good article, I had already read it. He urges the left:

    “to invest their hopes and energies in a different kind of more genuinely progressive and democratic politics beneath and beyond the big money-big media-major party-mass-marketed-candidate-centered presidential “electoral extravaganzas”

    That’s fine, but a eventually group of politicians does have to pass those progressive reforms into law, and you have to have a Supreme Court that will not nullify them. So there’s no way around the fact it really does matter who gets elected in these “extravaganzas”.

    1. Gloucon,

      I had a different interpretation (i.e., I read him as saying something similar to what I believe): we need to build a new political structure from the bottom up, not hope for the existing machine to produce candidates that meet our needs. After all, that’s the lesson of American history: the Republican Party, the progressives, the civil rights movement, etc.

      We need to move beyond the search for fast easy solutions. Our Fairy Godmother will not arrive. Or, from a different perspective — we need to stop seeing ourselves as customers searching for a restaurant with good cheap food.

  2. You’re right, he did say that, and I agree with both of you. Pressure must come from the bottom up, and in 2008 there wasn’t enough of it, and of course, Obama was never at any time in his career a politician of the grassroots. People need to know that blind hopes are always ridiculous, and that a politics of real reform is a long slog. To your credit, you’ve made those points on numerous occasions.

    “We need to build a new political structure from the bottom up, not hope for the existing machine to produce candidates that meet our needs.”

    I couldn’t agree more with the idea of building a new political structure from the bottom up. I guess my point is that unfortunately someone is going to be elected while we slowly build that structure and as our grassroots reform groups percolate.

    1. Gloucon,

      “someone is going to be elected while we slowly build that structure”

      Yes, we have to accept that grim fact. This will be — at best — a long game (it’s a short game if we’re defeated quickly, which is possible). Hence my frequent mention of the long struggles in our past, taking decades to win.

  3. “A blunt lesson about power……”

    Terrific article, I’d have missed it I am afraid. One major reason I come here, so, many thx.
    But like WHO reads, COUNTERPUNCH? Ha. And that is a major problem in the old USA, as in who reads, maybe, too.
    Many highlights in this Article too numerous to mention and maybe because the last seven years with the real Faux Obama have been so…the Hits just Keep Coming from this gent and his gang of young and old.
    Power.

    The people on the so called progressive side, liberals or whatever they are called are simply immune to the reality of power, the way it is assembled and the oh-so subtle ways it exercises itself. Syriza in Greece seems to lack any nuanced view of real power. When It arrives you know it.

    And It will arrive again in the person of Ms. H Clinton. Long Road. Be not too hopeful or wishful.

    Breton

  4. FM asserts:

    I had a different interpretation (i.e., I read him as saying something similar to what I believe): we need to build a new political structure from the bottom up, not hope for the existing machine to produce candidates that meet our needs.

    This is a call for a third party, is it not?
    Has not FM been vociferous in his ridicule for those who call for a third party candidate to “fix everything”?
    One of the most popular presidents in history, Teddy Roosevelt, polled only 12% when he ran as a third-party candidate in 1912.
    Which current American politician commands five times more respect and five times better name-recognition than Teddy Roosevelt did in 1912?

    1. Thomas,

      “This is a call for a third party, is it not.”

      That’s reading into the text what he does not say, because he does not explain how do build from the bottom up. It’s consistent with a third party — not successful in the US since the Republican Party was created in 1854 (based on the ruins of the anti-Mason Party).

      It’s consistent with the many successful grass-roots campaigns that re-asserted people’s control over the major parties: the progressives, the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the Goldwater revolt, and the 1960s-1970s Left.

  5. Anyone who uses “capitalist” and “profits” as epithets is hardly to be taken seriously, much less someone who gets the vapors about “eco-cidal” policies and who thinks that Henry Kissinger, the man who negotiated the Paris peace accords, is a “blood-soaked arch-imperialist coup-manager.” Really? Who uses language like that in the 21st Century? Only a self-proclaimed “eco-Socialist,” I guess.

    He seems surprised (and takes it as betrayal) that Obama gave the banks a pass. Well, yes, Jaimie Dimon and Angelo Mozilo by any reasonable means ought to be in jail. But the U.S. government is broke and the currency is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Surely Obama wanted to be president of something, not of nothing. He may be in over his head but he’s not stupid.

    The collapse will be hard and sudden when it comes (as it has many times in history), but will certainly not be cheered on by those whose power depends on keeping the whole, rotten merry-go-round turning and the illusion intact.

    1. Arms Merchant,

      The “epithets” you cite are his values. Each to his own. But at least he states the facts correctly.

      “But the U.S. government is broke and the currency is not worth the paper it’s printed on.”

      Neither of those things is remotely correct. In fact, they’re delusional.

  6. IIRC, the presidential debates used to organized by some Women’s Auxiliary Group/ 3rd party outfit but after Ross Perot got his nose in, the D’s and R’s coalesced and agreed to take over the process effectively locking out any other contenders. How many people in America know this or even care? Piece by piece, democracy has been stripped away culminating in Citizens United (such an Orwellian name..). I think it’s over for USAopposition to oligarchy. Bernie will be the last gasp before things settle down for the long decline.

    1. hidflect,

      You state the overwhelming consensus in these comments, that we have not tried to reform America but it’s hopeless so we can just sit on our butts and whine.

      I don’t agree, but if the overwhelming fraction of Americans agree with you then it’s self-fulfilling: e are sheep, and will be ruled as sheep.

  7. Fabius Maximus,

    I have two questions that I hope you can address about any potential reform movement that could move/shake the current system.

    1) If a reform of the American political system is to be undertaken today, is it more worthwhile to pursue a reform that brings new people into the political process or seek to persuade those who are already involved in the political process? The previous elections were decided by 50-60% of the population eligible to vote. Would a would be reformer be better served in persuading amongst that pool of people or amongst the outsiders? Or do you think it’s preferable to try and do both?
    2) Assuming a reform movement is successful in building momentum and mass, it will obviously attract resistance from the establishment. But if will also attract all the hucksters, promoters and media consultants that come with a “story” and politics. How do you keep a reform movement from getting swallowed up by the media that throws so much money and prestige around but seriously limits the amount of work that can be done to change the system?

    I realize that I’m making some assumptions in these questions, but I don’t know that you’ve addressed them yet.

    PF Khans

    1. PF khan,

      These are good questions, but peripheral. They’re the sort of things discussed at length in faux movements. Libertarians in the living room, over wine. Leftist revolutionaries drinking coffee on the Left Bank. They’re tactical issues ignored by powerful political movements, unless they become tactically significant — then they’re decided in the context of then and there.

      A point defines itself. Two points define a line. Three define a plane. Twenty points are a mess, a distraction. A political movement is not designed by hashing out the thousand details like those you raise, but by agreement on the few necessary goals and methods — and the structure of leaders and followers (“One would be opted as chairman. We wouldn’t vote; choice would be obvious — or we aren’t the right {people to start the movement)” — from Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress).

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