[Marxism] where Obamaism seems to be going

Dbachmozart at aol.com Dbachmozart at aol.com
Thu Jul 17 12:02:15 MDT 2008

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"Since when has it been unorthodox or unsafe politically to malign  black 
poor people in public?"  
This is what passes for a left now in this country. It is a left that can  
insist, apparently, that Obama's FISA vote, going out of his way (after all, he  
could simply have followed the model of Eisenhower on the Brown decision and  
said that the Court has ruled; therefore it's the law, and his job as 
president  would be to enforce the law) to align himself - twice, or three times -- 
with  the Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Alito wing of the Supreme Court, his declaring 
that  social problems, unlike foreign policy adventurism, are "too big for 
government"  and pledging to turn over more of HHS and HUD's budgets to the Holy 
Rollers are  both tactically necessary and consistent with his convictions. 
So, if those are  his convictions, or for that matter what he feels he must do 
opportunistically  to get elected, why the fuck should we vote for him?  
I'd been thinking about doing a "See, I told you so" column about Obama;  
then, especially given the torrent of vituperation and self-righteous contumely  
I got after arguing that he's not what far too many nominal leftists were 
trying  to make him out to be, I was tempted instead to do a "To hell with you, 
you  deserve what you get" column. But the smug yuppies to whom I'd address that 
 message -- the fan club we encounter in foundation offices, faculty 
meetings,  soccer games and dinner parties and on MSNBC and in the Nation -- are  
neither the only people who've listened to Obama's siren song nor the ones  who'll 
pay the price for their self-indulgent idiocy. (And Liza Featherstone  
deserves acknowledgement for having predicted early that the modal lament of the  
disillusioned would compare him unfavorably to Feingold.) Among other things, as 
 I saw ever more clearly while watching Rachel Maddow talk with another of 
that  Dem ilk about Obama and his family -- how adorable and "well-raised" or 
some  such his kids are, etc, etc -- a few nights ago on Keith Olberman's show, 
an  Obama presidency (maybe even just his candidacy) will likely sever the 
last  threads of any connection between notions of racial disparity and 
structurally  reproduced inequality rooted in political economy, and, since even "left" 
 discourse in this country seems capable of conceptualizing the latter as a  
politically significant matter only in terms of the former (or its gender or  
similar categorical equivalent), that could just about complete purging 
entirely  out of legitimate political discourse the notion that economic inequality 
is  rooted fundamentally in capitalism's political and economic dynamics.  
Underclass ideology -- where left and right come together to embed a common  
sense around victim-blaming and punitive moralism, racialized of course but at 
a  respectable remove from the familiar phenotypically based racial taxonomy 
--  will most likely be the vehicle for effecting the purge. Obama's success 
will  embody how far we have come in realizing racial democracy, and the 
inequality  that remains is most immediately a function of cultural -- i.e., 
attitudinal,  and behavioral -- and moral deficits that undercut acquisition of 
"human (and/or  "social," these interchangeable mystifications shift according to 
rhetorical  need) capital," a message his incessant castigation of black 
behavior  legitimizes. In this context, the "activism" appropriate for attacking  
inequality: 1) rationalizes privatization and demonization of the public sector  
through accepting the premise that government is inefficient and stifles  
"creativity;" 2) values individual voluntarism and "entrepreneurship" over  
collective action (e.g., four of the five winners of the Nation's  "Brave Young 
Activist" award started their own designer NGOs and/or websites;  the fifth 
carries a bullhorn around and organizes solidarity demos); 3) provides  enrichment 
experiences, useful extracurrics, and/or career paths  for  precocious 
Swarthmore and Brown students and grads (the Wendy Kopp/Samantha  Power model 
trajectory), and 4) reduces the scope of direct action politics to  the "all tactics, 
no strategy," fundamentally Alinskyite, ACORN-style politics  that Doug 
Henwood and Liza Featherstone have described as "_activistism_ 
(http://www.blackagendareport.com/WHY%20YOU%20WANNA%20BE%20LIKE%20WHITE%20PEOPLE???  Pride --- We 
can swim just like white people Glory Road --- We can play basketball just 
like white people Remember the Titians --- We can play football just like white 
people Fresh --- We can play chess just like white people Take the Lead --- We 
can ballroom dance just like white people.  But why you wanna be like white 
people?  The Great Debaters --- We can argue just like white people Akilah and 
the Bee --- We can spell just like white people Freedom Writers --- We can 
write just like white people  How High --- We can smoke weed just like white 
people Set It Off --- We can rob banks just like white people Guess Who) "  and 
whose potential for reactionary opportunism Andy Stern of SEIU has amply  
demonstrated.  Obama goes a step further in deviating from Alinskyism to  the right, 
by rejecting its "confrontationalism," which severs its rhetoric of  
"empowerment" from political action and contestation entirely and merges the  notion 
into the pop-psychological, big box Protestant, Oprah Winfrey, Reaganite  
discourse of self-improvement/personal responsibility. 
full --


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