Supporting Barack Obama on the basis that he was anything but a slightly lesser evil -- itself very much arguable -- was highly stupid. If you hated John McCain or Mitt Romney more, fine. Understandable, even. But claiming Obama was a great progressive leader in the making was always stupid. But a lot of smart (and stupid) people thought such things.
It's worth revisiting, as a lot of bad things have happened because of it.
Quite by accident, this afternoon I came across a draft email from 2008 that I never sent containing excerpts from two different articles that I undoubtedly thought at the time were stupid, stupid, stupid, but which I apparently had neither the energy nor heart to dissect. Let's look at them now, though, because it's worth looking at and mocking what liberals, in this case the former head of Air America, Beau Friedlander, were saying before Barack Obama took office. It's really embarrassing and it should give you pause when these very same people cast themselves as sophisticated and pragmatic realists.
In a piece published by the Huffington Post on November 23, 2008, Friedlander wrote this about the president-elect's plans to fix the economy:
[W]hile many of us have expressed a range of positions from caution to strident criticism regarding the way Obama's White House started shaping up this past week, there are some indications now that--contrary to the vague fear of a more centrist tendency that some, including myself, decried--Obama may well assume a fairly radical solution to the economic problems facing the nation, one that eclipses the craziest notions dreamt up by the progressive fringe. This will happen because he is a great leader, and the hallmark of great leaders is their ability to listen to the needs of his or her people and then translate what s/he hears into programs and workable deeds.That didn't happen. Whoops. I don't feel like writing anything else about the above excerpt, except: look at that part in bold again. Ha ha.
In another piece published December 21, 2008, Friedlander wrote this about our great leader:
At first glance, sure, the president-elect might seem to be the ultimate confidence man. His manner is unflappable as he looks you right in the eye, calms you with that winning smile, and robs you blind. He's from Illinois, after all. To many on the progressive side, the campaign for change seems like a good old fashioned bait and switch, with the final indication being Team Obama's announcement last week that Rick Warren would deliver the invocation at the inauguration on January 20.Oh, gosh. So close in that first paragraph! But Friedlander, being a liberal Democrat, doesn't know how to turn his ideal programs into "workable deeds," so he falls back on the tried-and-true partisan platform of trust, but don't verify (that only helps the Republicans).
Here's what's missing from the grouch and brainstorm so rife among the dyspeptic tide of liberal resentment: a coherent thought. Obama is precisely who we wanted. He's going to deliver the promised change, and we just can't see it. And that's how it should be, folks, because if we could see what Obama sees, we wouldn't need a transformative leader. Remember, we elected him because he had the vision thing.
We all know liberals think they're the smartest ones in the room, especially if there's some hipster anarchist in it pointing out how full of shit their blood-soaked heroes are. But when they adopt the cynic's stylings to piss on anyone who hopes for anything better -- "This is the best we can do. The only hope worth having is the hope that things don't get worse." -- it's worth remembering what they and their idols once promised. And how stupid it all sounds.
2008: The year I became a full on anarchistReplyDelete
That's liberals for you, always with the cult talk.ReplyDelete
“We all know liberals think they're the smartest ones in the room”ReplyDelete
Yeah and all anarchists are feral bombthrowers. Come on Charles, you surely know some liberals and some democrats who defy this caricature? I still call myself a liberal but haven’t voted in the last two cycles and revoked my D-party membership last year. And there are many more remaining dems who think their party has been taken over by a bunch of evil men. The liberalism of LBJ or FDR’s time may be on life-support but it sure as shit has nothing to do with the term you’re using here—Barack Obama has never self-identified as liberal.
I was recently annoyed when Freddie Deboer painted with a wide, anecdotal and offensive brush all anarchists in a way amenable to his fevered imagination. But I daresay you and yours don’t do much better when you say liberal dems are all servile authoritarians. A bit more precision from the professional writer would be appreciated. Eventually we’ll be sharing a cell or a foxhole—it’d be nice if we could have even the slightest sense of common cause.
I'd say it's beyond "sad." It's like a Thomas Hardy novel--there's simply no end to the despair. I've gone to war showing such "liberals" the contempt they merit, which is why I get a bit peeved when thrown in with them. And god help you if your only contact with liberalism comes through the prism of Netroots Nation/the liberal commentariat. But I admit that Obama's approval numbers among dems have varied between the 70s and 90s throughout his presidency. Albeit depressing, that does leave a lot of us out here in the wilderness, deeply disenchanted. And we should be targets for radicals like you--we have grave misgivings about electoral politics and see little hope of their redemption. While my own tendencies run socialist, I'm open to respectful persuasion.Delete
In Charles defense, those who DO NOT think they're servile authoritarians in the 'liberal' or 'democratic' camp are often wrong and unaware of their own ascension to the state, or moreover the party leader of the day. That I believe was Charles' point in the article.ReplyDelete
To further that point, the fact that jcapan holds out 'hope' for the right combination of dipshits and assholes who ACTUALLY care about the body politic shows a lack of knowledge about the inherent problems within any formal institution of governance.ReplyDelete
Except that's not at all what I wrote. But thanks anyway.Delete
Well by mentioning the glory day liberalism of LBJ/FDR it seems that you too are just looking for the next dynamic speaker or orator to captivate your mind. But maybe I misread your intent? I think anyone who mentions those guys would be susceptible to an Obama-type....and the reality is that most are.ReplyDelete
Critically admiring, with misgivings, FDR or LBJ, is hardly the equivalent of blow-towing to Obama/his party or awaiting, starry-eyed the next prophet. Again, there's authentic liberalism (which hasn't wielded any significant power for decades) and there's the corporatist/proto-fascist variation Obama & co. are pushing with great success. In American history, the New Deal and Great Society are as good as it's gotten. Was American life still fundamentally flawed, yes. Were both men unapologetic warmongers, yes. I admit that electoral politics is unlikely to return us to those relatively utopian days, but I'm afraid I don't see the anarchist's path FWD either. Care to articulate it?Delete
BTW, having glanced through your blog I'm a DC native and did my grad work at SDSU, a town I wish I'd never left (can't say the same for Versailles).
So the New Deal was authentic liberalism and not corporatist/proto-fascist?Delete
Good stuff. Ya thanks for reading. SDSU ain't exactly a bastion of intellectualism but still a fun place to study.ReplyDelete
I don't see a pathway forward for anarchism. It's a pipe dream, but a dream worth having. I think your stated problems with 'as good as it gets' liberalism speak for themselves and don't need my critiquing. That said, I think it's important to NOT fall into the lesser of two evils camp where so many well-intentioned liberals meander.