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May 18, 2010


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Interesting post but I wonder why you leave out the most provocative part of the Zizek story - we shouldn't just dust their balls but castrate them. What would castrating the far right even look like? Armed insurrection? Assasination of the wealthiest Bankers and hedge fund managers? Perhaps this is where you are going - I don't know.

The Mathmos

The Obama campaign, election, administration and policies have at the very least allowed the left to distinguish between true progressives and those merely claiming to be so by virtue of their Dem loyalty and apologetics (“prog” having replaced “lib” for the Obama era).

Even right now, one can readily sort the “left” out by looking at the concerns animating a given blog, column, forum, etc.

Are the authors/columnists/commenters debating the depths of the Repugs’ perfidy, their oh-so-horrid threats to filibuster this or that – all the while the sitting Dem president services the same narrow interests he promised to confront, claims the same (and more) powers he was supposed to repudiate?

Or are these opinion-makers and online fora at least attempting to criticize this president, his administration and his party for their overt and maintained repudiation of anything close to progressive goals and values?

I’m sorry to say that not many of the supposedly vibrant “netroots” belong in this second group (I’m talking about luminaries such as Digby, Matt Yglesias, John Cole, and others).

That’s why blogs like yours are an invaluable resource to gather one’s thoughts, Jodi. Thanks for the links and insights


Do you have things that you are ethically able to punch at home? I sense this post may not be getting it all out!


Oh I almost forgot that I am indeed doing my part. Last week a burnt a five dollar bill in my Sunday School class as illustration. . . . I was told that was illegal. . . . I'm thinking of turning myself in.


Mathmos, may I suggest: Http://firedoglake.com. They seem to do a pretty good job of holding dems accountable. They have been part of the coalition that raised money for a progressive challenger to Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, and succeeded in at least forcing a runoff.


Great post. Obama's election is complicated, because certainly, Bush showed us just how horrific a difference a Right president makes. On the other hand, as you imply, his election seems to have diverted the genuine anti-imperial and anti-corporate energies that circulated around, respectively, the Iraq war and the WTO in the 90s (I realize, of course, that both continue to produce protest and critique; they're just not as visible as before.) I still suspect, too, that Obama fits directly into the identity politics malaise that Jodi identifies in her first paragraph, and that his race made him seem more progressive than he actually is (I haven't necessarily given up on him yet, but I've been disappointed like everyone.

I wonder, really, if the Tea Party is the problem or the solution to left apathy. As Alain points out, progressives have come alive again in the past few months, and in part that seems to result from antipathy towards the Tea Party. I sense that the Tea Party, in its excesses, has served to activate the very people they hate.

And are the Tea Party the rapers in the Zizek analogy? They're racist, no doubt, and anti-poor, but the real raping seems to be occurring in the BP and Goldman Sachs boardrooms. And what will change megacapitalism? Hack, protest, strike, boycott, but it would all have to occur on such a broad level to create change outside of the framework of electoral politics which, I sulkily conclude, we're stuck with.



Is there any alternative to the might represented by Goldman Sachs?

An all in one giant, a result of economic neoliberalism that led to our current economic crisis.

The alternative is no longer the Socialist Left.

The alternative is personified in Merkel, who want to push for harder regulation of hedge funds and the financial market.

Here we witness a fight between David and Goliath.
With a modern twist.

Paul Deppler

Why doesn't it empower the left to have a capable President from the left? Obama has done what he's campaigned on and run the government well. He's made important incremental changes (important to the left) that can be improved on later. I feel that Obama is concerned about the country primarily, not about the left, and that this is a good thing for a president to be concerned with. It's just what Bush didn't do.


Paul, I couldn't disagree with you more. On civil liberties he has largely abandoned his campaign promises (torture still occurs in Bagram, he has declared to unilateral power to assasinate Americans who are suspected of terrorist activity or support of terrorist activity, he has fought and won the right to hold people without habeas Corpus) and in the reform measures he has passed he has consistently advocated for policies that benefit large corporations. The list of his betrayals of the American people (not the "left") is longer than I could have imagined after only one year in office. The only legislation I can think of where he has not sided with big business is the student loan reforms. Otherwise he has governed as merely a more moderate corporatist than President Bush. And I am someone who is not a radical leftist - in fact I am what used to be called (30 years ago) as a traditional new deal liberal. I thought Obama was slightly more conservative than myself when he ran for office, but I never imagined he was such a total corporatist shill. Obama has done more damage to the progressive cause in this country than any Republican could possibly have done.

Paul Deppler

Thanks for responding Alain!

I just don't see, looking at the history of the presidency, how you can hope for much better than Obama, and in this climate. LBJ, after medicaid and civil rights, had his compromises also. Maybe the disappointment with Obama is disappointment with leadership as such -- the limits of what leadership can do for a movement.


My first thought is that Medicare, Medicaid and Civil Rights were transformative not only in terms of government programs but in terms of benefiting people in their ordinary lives. Health Care reform had that potential and for the most part Obama never fought for real change. Yes, more people will be forced to by crappy insurance from private insurance companies, but that really doesn't get at the root of the issue. And it is debatable whether it will do more harm than good. So if that is reflective of the "limits of leadership" than we are doomed. The only alternative I can imagine is one of armed insurrection or anarchy - in the sense of local communities organizing in small groups, taking care of each other. While this has a romantic quality to it, it doesn't seem realistic in a country as large as the United States.

Paul Deppler

LBJ first passed civil rights legislation as senate majority leader (I think it was the voting rights act). It was very limited in its scope, it upset northern democrats for that reason, but set the stage for what was to come; and there's a parallel to be found there with the health care bill. (In a similar way also it only narrowly surmounted a filibuster from the southern block.) There are no guarantees but break throughs are real change.

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