2008/11/05

The tasks at hand

I'm just back from Grant Park, where the energy and enthusiasm were remarkable. Biking back thru the South Side, the celebration is still going. I've been skeptical of Obama from the beginning, but the Obama campaign - partly thru its own determination to campaign on a mass basis but mostly because of events beyond its control - has mobilized a degree of popular participation unprecedented for at least a generation.

The extent of this phenomenon, combined with the neoliberal economy's self-inflicted wounds, give progressives their best opening in forty years. But our obstacles are huge: we confront a reluctance among many progressives to make a clear analysis of where our problems come from, as well as Obama's own centrism and the widespread naive faith in Obama which may convince many that their continued participation is unnecessary. Consider the kind of names that Obama has floated for important positions in his administration - Paul Volcker, pioneer of neoliberalism; Bob Rubin and Larry Summers, Clinton's unrepentant champions of free capital flows; Robert Gates, who recently argued that any decrease in the military budget (now over half of world military spending) would be a historic mistake; and the Dark Prince himself, Rahm Emanuel.

And those are just the problems on "our" side. American racism, xenophobia, and fundamentalism have not been vanquished, and now that a figure like McCain is no longer restraining them, the Republicans will soon enough return to demagoguery.

The two most important priorities are now 1) channeling the remarkable energy invested in the Obama campaign into true grassroots activism, and 2) getting serious about turning the economic crisis to our advantage. Translating campaign participation into everyday participation in a progressive transformation of society from the ground up is the best way to build our power, and the only way to create the kind of society we want. And we absolutely have to start hammering away at neoliberal ideology, which has discredited itself even as the left largely remains silent. We need to fill that ideological void and offer alternatives more progressive than what we'll get from the likes of Volcker and Rubin. We can enjoy this partial victory for a moment, but complacency would be disastrous.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, what do you think of Nader now after his (highly racist) comment?

Jake said...

Nader's comment was to wonder if Barack Obama would an Uncle Tom for corporations during his presidency. I'm not really sure that's racist. And unfortunately, I think it's almost impossible to get thru the wall of media silence on single-payer health care, the massive military budget (now over half of world military spending), and corporate welfare without using inflammatory language. I'm not a real big fan of Nader, but the reasons are other than his single-minded commitment to raising those issues.

Jon said...

Why is Rahm Emanuel the dark prince?

Jake said...

Not only is Rahm Emanuel a grade-A asshole, he's also a consummate nihilist. Read this article. Here's a representative quote: "Emanuel [who in 2006 ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which oversees and funds House Democrats' election campaigns] and his staff judged a candidate almost entirely by how much money he or she brought in. If the candidate proved a good fundraiser, the DCCC would provide support, advertising and strategic advice. If not, the committee would shut him or her out."

Jon said...

I read that article way back when...it seems like he embraces an abhorrent management style (and fights fire with fire to the continuing disintegration of political discourse) but they needed the win in '06. What will he be like in a position of real power, I wonder.

Regardless, I'm glad I had at least the one day of feeling positive before getting back to worrying about what else will go wrong.

Anonymous said...

The phrase "Uncle Tom" is a racial slur, Jake. Unless you have an uncle named Tom or are speaking about Uncle Tom's Cabin, the phrase is unacceptable. Replace the phrase with the n-word and then decide if you're "really not sure that's racist". (By the by, it is still unacceptable to speak or type out the latter racial slur, so don't). You claim to be progressive, yet you not only question whether a racial slur is racist you also include said slur in your explanation. Nader could have used another word; you could have used another word. Neither of you did. Not one of your friends called you out on it, either. Complacency and inaction are the same as agreement. You should know better. You once did.

Jake said...

I guess I just don't see it as a racial slur. It has racial content, and it's negative, but it seems more along the lines of "twinkie" or something like that. It doesn't refer to all black people, just those who are thought to have sold out the race. Usually a racial slur covers all members of the race and has no content beyond that except that everyone agrees it's racist.

Regardless, I think everyone can agree it's not appropriate. I think Nader's problem is that he's so frustrated that the media won't address these incredibly important issues, and has already given Obama a free pass on them, that he's willing to say inappropriate things just to call attention to the issues. It's another example of Nader's ill-advised flailing about for a way to break thru the media blackout, but the real villain here remains the media.