[Marxism] Thoughts on Obama from Doug's list
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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