[Marxism] Thoughts on Obama from Doug's list

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 29 12:49:26 MDT 2011

(posted by John Glastonbury)

This is an interesting discussion, even if it goes round and round 
without changing people's minds.

I turned 22 a few weeks ago. I was only 19 at the time of the 2008 
elections. At the time, I worked at a personal injury law firm 
(yuck) working on interrogatories. In my free time, I did follow 
the election and the political news quite closely.

My main source of news, then, was mostly mainstream blogs. Ezra 
Klein, the NYT, and also the stable of Atlantic bloggers, Andrew 
Sullivan, Ta-Nehisi, Fallows, etc. In that time, Andrew Sullivan 
was at his leftmost, and bitterly critical of Bush; and he spent a 
good deal of time apologizing profusely for his support of the 
Iraq War. The pro-obama consensus was really quite strong at that 

Let me say a few things on the 'obamamania' madness that had taken 
hold in late 2008, especially among young people. I can't speak 
for young people as a whole, but I do feel like what I saw and 
felt and heard may be of use to all of you on this list.

People who were 18-22 at the time of the '08 elections came of age 
during the Bush years. Now, I've read alot of the reminiscing from 
some of these posters, Chuck Grimes about UCB in the 60's, or 
Proyect about Bard, and it seems worlds away from the world that 
youth face today. If they don't fall into the right-wing maw, 
coming to believe in the resent/supremacist/free market cocktail, 
then they fall into being a 'progressive democrat,' or they fall 
into a late-Soviet-Union type of deep political apathy and 
disillusion, an active aversion to anything political, because it 
is so 'pointless.' The phrase "it's all so pointless," is 
something I heard over and over from many different college 
students, high school students, men, women, etc.

This fact, coupled with the progressive posturing of the 
Democratic Congress, made it seem like Bush and the Republicans 
were the issue. Democrats and their stenographers and their 
apologists shrilly cried foul over Bush's civil-liberties 
violations, over his unilateral foreign policy, over his blatantly 
corporatist domestic policy. Now, it may seem foolish to some of 
you that young people took these statements as statements of 
principle, and not just vote-getting promises/lies. It fooled me, 
and I consider myself both fairly well-informed and clever enough 
to know when I'm being fed bullshit.

I have a large amount of personal bitterness/anger/resentment 
towards Obama, personally, and towards the Democratic Party more 
generally, for having played this trick on me. I don't believe I'm 
alone in that, at least not among my age cohort. Not a thing has 
been done about civil liberties. Not a thing has been done about 
the cost of college. Not a thing has been done about the 
unemployment situation. Frankly, there was a 'feeling' in the air 
that I remember quite clearly. It felt like if our generation 
could get a black man in office, after the legacy of racism and 
slavery, then we'd sure as hell be able to get universal 
healthcare, serious reforms on a scale of FDR, etc. The 
anticipation of his election, and the relief at his defeat of 
McCain felt frankly like a socialist revolution. Of course, this 
was wrong, and far from the truth, but so many people believed 
that Obama, and yes, the Democrats, could finally undo the 
Reagan-era counter-revolution. And, given the economic crisis at 
the time, and the example of the New Deal, many people thought it 
was necessary and possible.

One girl I knew, a rather rich one, did alot of campaign work for 
Obama. She would say, back then, that her parents needed to pay a 
higher tax rate. Nowadays she lives in Chicago and works for the 
Oprah Winfrey Network. She's going to work for the 2012 campaign. 
Her economic class, liberal, well off, is the one that has done 
exceedingly well these past few years.

I know a guy, a good friend of mine. Never been to college. He's a 
guitarist in a metal band. He voted for Obama, doesn't follow news 
that much at all. But, he knows enough to be attracted to 
Communism. He knows nothing of Marx, or economics, or political 
economy. He knows that the social inequality of american 
democratic capitalism is enough to make the example of communism 
an attractive one. Regardless of the Soviet Union.

I have another friend, who voted for Obama. He's in college, and 
well-informed. He jokes frequently about how Obama signs his 
'welfare' checks. By welfare checks, he means financial aid. He 
jokes about praying to Obama, 'save me Obama, I need some money to 
buy some smokes.' He's leftwing, but scorns Obama. He has in fact 
been going to Tea Party meetings, and 9/12 meetings to try and get 
a better handle on the type of people who gravitate towards that 
type of political grouping. He frankly pities them, but he knows 
that he'd be really really really really hard-pressed trying to 
explain to them where their true interest lies. He met one guy who 
owns a gun shop, and this gunshop owner rants about 'liberals' 
trying to run him out of business, totally ignoring the 
land-developers trying to build a condo complex that are gunning 
for him. My friend thinks that these people can only be 'reached' 
through Huey Long style 'talk right, walk left,' appeals. I agree 
with him, though I'm not sure how best to do this.

I'm certain that if Obama had prosecuted the bankers, pushed for 
single-payer, and actually did what the young expected of him, he 
would have had huge amounts of grassroots support, and, what's 
more, could have kept the republicans on the defensive, and 
controlled the discourse. But,as soon as he was elected, he tried 
to put a brake on progressive energies and activism, and that 
'feeling,' too quickly trickled down into the conscious or 
subconscious understandings of the young people who worked hard, 
campaigned, contributed, or argued with their neighbors and family 
(many young people argued for Obama against their 
reactionary/racist relatives, a hard task; and now one that leaves 
them embarassed and impotent against these same relatives who can 
rightfully say, 'i told you so').

Nowadays, I am aware that closer scrutiny of Obama's record would 
have revealed him to be a Blue-Dog Democrat (at best). I am also 
aware that he is nothing if not an 'agent of capital,' not of the 
people. However, even so, it was plausible, at least once, that he 
was going to act in the enlightened long term self interest of 
capital and American imperialism (back when I was a progressive 
democrat, my reading of the situation largely rested on this same 
line of thought; how counter-productive Bush's policies, wars, 
etc., were for the American hegemony, how a little bit of 
enlightened "Marshall Plan" imperialism would go much further than 
"war on terror" imperialism...).

Looking forward, I don't think Obama will win. The youth will sit 
out the election, as they no longer see any meaningful differences 
between Obama and the GOP.

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