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Paul Street writes about "Age of Obama as a Potentially Teach-able Moment for The Left"

This essay opens with a long list of disappointing actions taken and promises broken by the Obama administration in its first very few months. Of course there were indications of this and warnings given, but few of these received any broad coverage and most people believed they were voting for real change and had real hope. It is difficult to accept there will be little change and admit to loss of that hope.

CorrenteWire has covered many of these disappointing actions and broken promises, but it is handy to have them in one list in this essay. Correntians have asked what we can do and have made suggestions, some of which are in the following recommendations as to how to make this a "teachable moment" for, not only lefties as labeled in the essay, but for the general voting public. It's not just important every 4th presidential election year folks. And when new Democratic voters learn that "'everything still pretty much suck[s]' when Democrats hold the top job(s)", they're either going to give in to apathy or be royally PO'd and look for other political choices, either left or right.


Under this lesson title, Street has three subsections which Correntians will not find surprising: The Left Hand vs. the Right Hand of the State, What Government "Can" and "Can't" Pay For , "The Government Has Plenty of Money to Spend When the Right People Want It."

This is a good summary: The current power structure, he says, wishes to defund what...

...the late French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called "the left hand of the state": programs and services won by past popular struggles and social movements for social justice, equality, and inclusion. They do not wish to take the budgetary or policy axe to the "right hand of the state": the parts that provide service and subsidy (corporate welfare) to concentrated wealth and dole out punishment (including rampant mass incarceration and felony-marking) for the poor. They do not wish to dismantle America's military-industrial and imperial complex, a form of giant public transfer to the private sector.


Street notes few seem able to define what socialism is, but in common usage it is whether and how much a government gets involved in business. Of course, as has been evident lately, lemon socialism is just fine for Big Banksters and others benefitting from the "right hand of government." Profits, private; losses, socialized so they're borne by the taxpayers.


Among the different reasons to be glad the Democrats won the elections last year, one merits special ironic consideration. It is that the Democratic Party (once aptly described by former Richard Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips as "history's second-most enthusiastic capitalist party") is best exposed as a leading institutional agent of empire, inequality, and "corporate-managed democracy" (the late Alex Carey's useful term) when it holds top offices. Democrats find it easier to deceptively and co-optively pose as the "party of the people" [20] and a progressive alternative to corporate-imperial rule (and the Republicans) when they are out of power. They are more clearly revealed as disingenuous and inadequate tribunes of the ordinary working people they so passionately (during campaign seasons) claim to represent when they hold the balance of elected office and then (quite naturally given the corporate and military's domination of the political and policy processes in the U.S.) fail to deliver on popular hopes and dreams they've ridden and/or raised on the road to office. They are less able to hide their essential identity as the other business and empire party when they sit atop the political system. That's when the hot rubber of their populist- and peaceful- sounding campaign rhetoric hits the cold pavement of corporate-imperial governance. As the clever Marxist writer Doug Henwood noted in the spring of 2008: "There's no doubt that Obamalust does embody some phantasmic longing for a better world - more peaceful, egalitarian, and humane. He'll deliver little of that - but there's evidence of some admirable popular desires behind the crush. And they will inevitably be disappointed." Further:

"There's great political potential in popular disillusionment with Democrats. The phenomenon was first diagnosed by Garry Wills in Nixon Agonistes. As Wills explained it, throughout the 1950s, left-liberals intellectuals thought that the national malaise was the fault of Eisenhower, and a Democrat would cure it. Well, they got JFK and everything still pretty much sucked, which is what gave rise to the rebellions of the 1960s (and all that excess that Obama wants to junk any remnant of). You could argue that the movements of the 1990s that culminated in Seattle were a minor rerun of this. The sense of malaise and alienation is probably stronger now than it was 50 years ago, and includes a lot more of the working class, [who are] ...really pissed off about the cost of living and the way the rich .are lording it over the rest of us."

"Never did the possibility of disappointment offer so much hope. That's not what the candidate means by that word, but history can be a great ironist." [21]

Confession time: It still deeply hurts to realize that the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party is so small and powerless. That the FKD Party is --and often was-- paramount. Very painful to accept.

Gotta "make them do it."


...The main problem with the conventional white wisdom holding that racism is over as a meaningful barrier to racial equality is its failure to distinguish adequately between (a) "state-of-mind" racism (prejudice) and (b) institutional, societal, and "state-of-being" racism. The first variety of racism has undergone significant if qualified defeats in the U.S. over the last half-century. It is true (and important to note) that Obama lost the overall white vote quite decisively, but the fact that tens of million of whites were ready to vote a black family into the White House is indicative of the real extent to which pure race prejudice of the worst sort has been significantly overcome.

But the second variety of racism - "Level 2 racism" if you will - is deeper and more intractable. It involves the more impersonal operation of social, economic and institutional forces and processes that both reflect and shape the related processes of capitalism in ways that "just happen" but nonetheless serve to reproduce black disadvantage in numerous interrelated sectors of American life. ....


The depressing but predictable - and predicted [23] - corporate, imperial, and race-neutralist record of the Obama administration is also a graphic object lesson in the limits of the what the noted left social critic Charles Derber calls [24] "the election trap": the belief that serious progressive change is mainly about voting for the least objectionable candidate in the nation's corporate-run big money narrow-spectrum candidate-centered election spectacles. Wrong. Such change is more fundamentally about the difficult work of building and expanding grassroots social movements and capacities beneath and beyond the fake egalitarianism of U.S. "dollar democracy" and its carefully staggered, highly staged ballot rituals.

How, how, how? That maddening question of how to do what we realize must be done....

Good comments on the whole.

Via b real at Moon of Alabama.

Wiki bio

Video of "Empire and Inequality" lecture, 2005

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Submitted by DCblogger on

I was planning to post it, thanks!