The Problem is We Lack a Leader(s)
Avedon got me thinking and commenting on something that's been in the back of my head for a while now, so I thought I'd turn it into a post. Put on your thinking caps, Corrente. This is the hardest problem we face.
We need a leader. Several of them, in fact. How do we get that? Grow them? Make them? However you want to phrase it, the need right now isn't "how do we fix these problems?" but instead is "who will be the face of the reforms we already know must happen, and who will inspire people to take us down that road?"
This isn't a silly question (at least to my mind). A friend of mine and I like to joke: "But he's blaaaaaaack!" /whining white liberal voter or progressive activist voice/, which is short hand for what I am saying. That is: most people who voted for Obama, a slight majority of the country, in other words, voted for him because they couldn't see past his color. Which by being brown, became in their minds a symbol/proof of his interest, passion and dedication to Cause X, cause X being whatever liberal or progressive reform said voter cared about the most. People like Booman are a perfect example of this, to this day (see Avedon) they will make the most ridiculous excuses for Obama's essentially Republican behaviors, because he can't see past what Obama stands for in his own mind. So the desire, the passion, the, um, belief is all there. Obama just isn't it. TPTB chose him for exactly this reason, as I think most of here know.
So, let's agree that despite being a nation of lazy, fat, drug-addled sheeple, most Americans really do hope for change, and are willing to at least go to the polls, if not the streets, to get it. And I'm still not convinced that they won't go to the streets, either. Although Joe B calls them fake media revolutions (see Cmike's comment on page 1), and I agree, it's not entirely clear to me that the American people are utterly worthless when it comes to "peaceable assembly to redress the government." And anyway, I'm not sure that's exactly what we need. The French may be superior to us and all that, but their legislature still passed a bill upping the retirement age, despite widespread strikes and shutdowns. This is the age of technology and nuclear weapons and surveillance that would make the Nazis cum with glee; we need to think outside the box of previous models of resistance and indeed we mostly do here in the blogosphere.
But getting back to my central point: the problem isn't that we "don't know how to fix this mess." Obviously, we do here at Corrente, as do the vast majority of people who are facing one or more problems. Homeowners know that if they sign an agreement with a bank, and keep to its terms, they should be able to stay in their homes. Job seekers know if they train in a skill and get internship type experience, they should be able to be employed in the field of their choice. Everyone knows that they should have the right to pay a fair price in exchange for real health care that keeps them alive and healthy. Everyone agrees that clean air, water and food are what we all want for ourselves and our children. I keep harping on it, but I really want progressives to stop calling the teabaggers "stupid." Yes, many of them are. And yes, a lot of them are flat-out racists, but not so many as the media wants you to believe. What they are not: wrong to be angry. I'm angry, you're angry, so rather than bragging about how much better and different we all are from them, let's ask the simple question: what do we have in common with them, and how can we use that anger to accomplish our common goals? Because believe it or not, we do have them. Go talk to a teabagger with an open mind, it may surprise you.
Again, the issue at hand is leadership, not a lack of understanding about what will solve our problems. I'm way too young to know much about FDR, but I suspect a similar person is probably the only type who can fill the role that we need right now. Only a very rich person would be protected from TPTB well enough to survive the inevitable CIA/Blackwater assassination attempt as said person rose up the ranks into the position of power that is required for real change. I despair when I think of Dean, because there is no better modern model for how the SCLM destroys progressive leaders (Clark is right up there, too, and pre-Rachel Edwards). This is where I want you to apply your brain- how can that be overcome? It is probably the first step before even trying to coalesce around an individual or several of them; counter-media strategy is sadly lacking in progressive circles right now. I think it's a simple matter of telling the truth, like Grayson is doing. 20% of Republican money attacking House Dems is directed at him. Nuff said.
I hate posting like this, because I'm vain and I like to pontificate and demonstrate I have answers. I don't. Julia Williams is doing what people like me can't, and just jumping in, warts and all. I sincerely hope she and others like her succeed, for all I understand why there is great pessimism for such efforts. As I told her, "you're not running to win, you're planting the seeds for a win next time around, when you will be able to go back to the doors of voters and say, 'So, is your life better since the last time I knocked?' and the answer will be even more painfully obvious to them." Some people believe working within the Dem party is the answer; I'm not cold to that idea but I confess a great deal of skepticism, given how much that organization is controlled by monied interests. Some people think revolution is the answer, but I tend to think that's a romantic dream that will more likely molder into a neofascist nightmare if that is the path this country must go down. And indeed, my Doomiest friends think that's where we're headed at this point no matter what. Still, there's a sliver of optimism in me, call it "the fighting spirit," that I can't seem to kill no matter how much political information I consume, and as an historian, I don't forget that surprises do happen, and the unexpected is not only possible but occasionally changes the course of human events in a big way. No one could've predicted the Spanish Inquisition, goes the joke, but then again, no one could've predicted Abe Lincoln, or Alexander, or even MLK.
So: what are we talking about here? Progressive Leadership School? Begging the most liberal rich person we can find to stand up for us, because it's romantic and historic and will make them immortal? Backing Grayson and Feingold with every last dollar we have? Cloning Nader with a few ego-reducing modifications? Looking outside the country for an ex-pat ready to come home and be a shining knight? If you don't agree with this thesis, please say why; I could be totally wrong and maybe we don't really want or need a single (or few) people around which a movement could coalesce. But I really think we do, I think America is a nation of followers and they want to be led. After all, that's what got Mr. Hopey Changey elected; most folks really did believe he was something very, very different than he was. He's not, obviously. So who can we elevate to replace him?
Let me be clear: while I'm very enthusiastic for a primary challenge in '12, I don't think it will happen, and even if it does I don't think it would be successful, and even if it was almost by definition that person would be utterly hamstrung and incapable of getting much done, given the Senate and Supreme Court as currently constituted. Mostly, I'm thinking more in the long term, for several reasons. Joe B is right, and this is still, despite the crisis, a really rich, fat nation. I believe a lot of wealth has to be shipped off to China and elsewhere before enough people wake the fuck up and are willing to be more like we are: angry, informed, and motivated. I also believe a lot of white middle class people have to go through what people like me have gone through before they can break with the addictions of comfort and false security; nothing opens your eyes to the unfair and predatory nature of modern capitalism like bankruptcy and unemployment, yo. But that seems to be happening to a lot of folks right now, so I think now is a good time for us high-brow types to start strategizing about how to find someone/some people who will be ready to point to the cool, clean forest pool in when the frogs start jumping out of the boiling pot.
Because that's the critical flaw in TPTB right now: they're Stupid! No, really! Look at all the signs; these aren't people to fear except in the sense that they have the power to call down Blackwater on us. OK, well, they've always had that power, and I take comfort in Gandhi's "They may jail me, torture me and even kill me. Then they will have my dead body; not my cooperation." You may not be willing to go that far, but you sure would support someone who was. Anyway, the point here is that it's nowhere near as hard as the propaganda stream is telling you it is, to get involved in projects that actually change things. Think about it: billions and billions of dollars are being spent in the media stream on the effort to keep the banksters out of jail, and it isn't really working. Plenty of people aren't convinced that TPTB should be allowed to operate without the Rule of Law. Hell, even the FL AG is being forced right now via public outcry to stand up (a little) to the banksters. Sure, we're not going to see justice for their crimes any time soon, but the groundswell has started. As I keep saying, TPTB are stupid and foolish and don't understand what they've unleashed by giving angry white guys a faux movement. It's going to coalesce into a real one, and soon. Smart progressives will step in and co-opt that, and I mean really soon.
Blech, that's probably enough. Your thoughts?