Progressive Calendar 12.08.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2010 01:53:36 -0800 (PST)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   12.08.10

1. Alliant vigil   12.08 7am
2. Troubled waters 12.08 7pm

3. Paul Street - The sorry surrender of "the so-called radical left"

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From: AlliantACTION <alliantaction [at]>
Subject: Alliant vigil 12.08 7am

Join us Wednesday morning, 7-8 am
Now in our 14th year of consecutive Wednesday
morning vigils outside Alliant Techsystems,
7480 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie.
We ask Who Profit$? Who Dies?
directions and lots of info:

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From: Diane Peterson <birch7 [at]>
Subject: Troubled waters 12.08 7pm

enviro film on Mississippi River

You can register to see the free film in Mpls. which the U of M tried to
suppress. It shows the agricultural run-off problems with the river. The Q
& A discussion following the film examines the political role of the U in
our farm and food policy.

Land Stewardship Project Invites You to a Free Screening of the
Documentary Troubled Waters

- Still Time to Register for the Limited Number of Remaining Seats -

Troubled Waters:  A Mississippi River Story
   Wed., Dec. 8, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
   St. Anthony Main Theatre <>  in
   (SE 115 Main St. in the Minneapolis Riverfront District)

   The movie is free but you must register online by clicking here.

Troubled Waters is an engaging, science-based film that details how
excessive agricultural run-off into the Mississippi River is the leading
cause of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It also features innovative
approaches farmers and scientists are taking to address this problem.

This is your chance to see the movie that Karen Himle, vice-president of
public relations at the University of Minnesota, didn't want you to see!
The documentary tipped off a front page controversy when Himle attempted
to censor the film because of her concern it would offend corporate ag
interests. In the face of a public outcry, a key U official reversed
Himle's decision and the film was shown as originally scheduled. Read all
the details, including hundreds of internal U of M e-mails revealed
through a LSP Data Practices Act request, here
<> .

The Dec. 8 screening will be followed by a Q & A and community discussion
on the important environmental issues raised in the film, the influence of
corporate agribusiness at our land grant University and what we need from
our public University to advance stewardship in our food and farming
system. The discussion will be led by organic dairy farmer Loretta Jaus of
Gibbon, Minn., and LSP Executive Director George Boody.

This is a free event but pre-registration is requested. Seating is limited
and similar events have filled up quickly in recent weeks. Register here
Itek9LU0E6MQ> .

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The Sorry Surrender of "the So-Called Radical Left" (May 2010)*
By Paul Street
Wednesday, December 08, 2010

*The essay below is extracted from the May 2010 postscript to my book The
Empire's New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder,
CO: Paradigm, 2010) - the perfect Christmas gift for that not-so liberal
know-it-all fake-progressive partisan Democrat cousin or uncle or
sister-in-law who can't stop making excuses for the center-right Obama
administration's abject service to dominant domestic and imperial
hierarchies and doctrines.  Surely the deeply conservative Obama's
predictable (and widely predicted) "cave-in" (two days ago) to Republican
demands for the continuation of George W. Bush's arch-plutocratic tax cuts
for the rich (in a "deal" that also includes reduced pay-in to the Social
Security fund and a big "concession" to the Republicans on the federal
estate tax) ought to be the last nail in the coffin of liberal-left faith
that Obama is (in the words of Katrina Vanden Huevel, the
multi-millionaire editor of The Nation, last fall), "clearly a reform
president committed to improvement of peoples' lives and the renewal and
reconstruction of America" (Katrina vanden Heuvel, "Obama One Year One,"
The Nation, November 4, 2010

This was a fascinating comment more than ten months into an administration
that had already set new corporate welfare records in the process of
bailing out the very financial parasites who crashed the economy, an
administration that had approved an auto-restructuring plan that rewarded
capital flight, a "new" White House that had already made clear its
determination to pass a health bill that only insurance and drug companies
could love, that had already revealed its determination to undermine
serious global carbon emission reduction efforts at Copenhagen, that had
already showed it would not pursue major green jobs public works programs
(even as unemployment reached new post-WWII record levels), that had
showed its determination to escalate and expand the scope of imperial
violence, and that has showed it would not pursue the labor law and global
trade reforms Obama had eloquently promised to working class audiences in
2007 and 2008.

Other betrayals include a key cave-in on offshore oil drilling, Obama's
recent announcement of a federal worker pay freeze (an exercise in cynical
"deficit-reduction theater" [Paul Krugman]), and his recent stealth
signing of what Jane Hamsher rightly calls "a new NAFTA-style 'free trade'
deal" with Korea.  And now we have, as predicted, the continuation of the
Republicans' deficit-driving fat cat tax cuts - this in what is already by
far and away the industrialized world's most unequal and wealth-top-heavy
society. "Whatever one thinks of Obama's policy on any specific issue,"
vanden Heuvel argued last year, "Progressives, should focus less on the
limits of the Obama agenda and more on the possibilities that his
presidency opens up". No: the election of Obama has not sparked
progressive potentialities but has instead discouraged and weakened them,
with the administration playing an active role in deterring and
suppressing popular resistance - with terrible results (essentially
predicted at the end of the postscript pasted in below - see the section
titled "Resentment Abhors a Vacuum"). The relatively paucity of left and
progressive dissent has encouraged reactionary elements within the beyond
the administration to take up and carry out an ever more extreme agenda.

Postscript(May 2010)

It was a relief to complete the main intensive research for this book in
the middle of December 2009.  Well before the one-year anniversary of
President Obama's inauguration, my feeling of validation over the fact
that the core argument of my 2008 book Barack Obama and the Future of
American Politics had been supported by the centrist, right-leaning and
corporate-imperial "re-branding" path of the Obama presidency had given
way to a sick feeling of political depression.  It's one thing to predict
a terrible authoritarian outcome. It is another thing altogether to live
through that outcome and to see little if any positive and democratic
popular response to it.

My previous "Obama book" advanced something of a mixed message on what the
meaning of an Obama presidency might be for the left-progressive politics
and movements with which I have long been identified.  On the one hand,
Barack Obama and the Future advanced dire warnings on the next president's
remarkable capacity to pacify and co-opt already weakened progressive U.S.
movements and politics.1  Obama, it seemed to me and others, was potential
poison for "the left," or what was left of it. On the other hand, my
earlier volume held out the promise that corporate-imperial Obama might
"oxygenate" (left social critic Charles Derber's term[2]) grassroots
social justice and antiwar movements by provocatively raising and then
betraying popular hopes for progressive change. At the same time, I hoped
that Democratic Party victories at both the White House and the
congressional levels in 2008 would enhance the progressive movement
potential of younger citizens by giving them a graphic lesson in the
bipartisan nature of American corporate-managed fake democracy and
imperialism - by demonstrating that the Democrats were deeply complicit in
defending and advancing the same core ruling domestic and global power
structures and doctrines as the Republicans.3

.What Exists of a Popular Left.

Across the fist fourteenth months of Obama's positioning in the real world
of presidential power, my warnings proved a better guide to political
reality than my hopes. It's been about suffocation, not oxygenation. The
problem wasn't so much that Obama had fulfilled my expectations of his
service to reigning power structures and ideologies. That was as foreseen.
The bigger difficulty is that Obama's (predictable and in fact predicted)
progressive betrayals transpired with only minimal opposition from what
passes for a "left" (what we might, following George Orwell, call "the
so-called left")4 in the United States. The administration and the
corporate Democratic Party have faced minimal pressure from "progressive"
forces, who have been predictably ignored by centers of power. Those
"forces" (if that's really the right word) cling to the curious notion
that ".now. . a remarkable period of massive economic, ecological and
imperial crisis and opportunity, loaded with radical-democratic
implications  . .is not the time" to fight aggressively for big left
ideals and radical re-structuring. They hold (some out of cynicism and
some from naivete) also to the delusional belief that the self-described
"New Democrat" Barack Obama is somehow their voice and "friend" in the
White House on behalf of a "people's agenda".5

The outlines of progressive capitulation were clear to one perceptive
observer less than a month after Obama's inauguration. As John Judis
argued in The New Republic last February, "there is not a popular left
movement that is agitating for him to go well beyond where he would even
ideally like to go.. Instead, what exists of a popular left is either
incapable of action or in Obama's pocket". By Judis' analysis, the U.S.
labor movement and groups like "Moveon.Org" were repeating the same
"mistake that political groups often make: subordinating their concern
about issues to their support for the [Democratic] party and its leading

.The Obama Disease.

Nothing has occurred in the first fourteen months of Obama's presidency to
seriously question the wisdom of that judgment.  For the American
"so-called radical left" (John Pilger),7 unjust  wars and occupations,
mega-bankers' bailouts and other regressive policies that were seen as
intolerable under the perceived rule of a boorish moron from Texas (George
W. Bush) were all too acceptable when carried out by an eloquent and
urbane black man from Chicago (Barack Obama). The mini-progressive
rebellion that I thought I was witnessing at the end of 2009 came to very
little indeed.  No substantive progressive and left challenges were
mounted to Obama's military escalations, Obama's corporatism, and/or
Obama's repressive police-statism.  The antiwar activist and journalist
Justin Raimondo captured the depressing reality after what was left of an
antiwar "movement" held small protests marking the seventh anniversary of
the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq in mid-March of 2010.  After noting
that no more than a few thousand marched in Washington along with an
"altogether poor turnout" in other major cities - far less than the tens
of thousands who marched in mid-March in 2006 and 2007 - Raimondo observed
the paralyzing impact of "the Obama cult of personality" even on some who
attended the antiwar march in Washington:

"Even among those who attended the protests, there were some whose
opposition to this administration's foreign policy is squishy at best.
Shirley Allan of Silver Spring, Md. carried a sign that read, 'President
Obama We love you but we need to tell you! Your hands are getting bloody!!
Stop it now..'

'Ms. Allan's sign says more about her than it does about the issue she
purports to address. To confess to loving a political leader whose hands
are even a little bit bloody is quite a revealing statement to make, and
it just about sums up why the crowd was smaller than on previous
occasions. The hate-Bush crowd has quickly morphed into the love-Obama
cult of personality, and the so-called progressives have deserted the
antiwar movement in droves. Our multiple wars just aren't an issue inside
the Democratic Party.

"On the non-Marxist left, the triumph of the Obama cult is complete. Only
the old-fashioned Leninists, such as the main organizers of the ANSWER
rallies, have come out in visible opposition to Obama's wars. Even the
Marxist left, however, is not immune to Obama-mania: the other major
antiwar coalition, United for Peace and Justice, led by veterans of the
old Communist Party, USA, issued a euphoric statement upon Obama's
election and has been essentially moribund as an active antiwar
organization ever since..

"It was in this kind of political atmosphere, then - one of near complete
political isolation - that rally attendees heard Cindy Sheehan wonder
whether "the honeymoon was over with that war criminal in the White
House". Sheehan's remark was met, according to AP, with merely "moderate
applause". Ms. Allan was not among the applauders". 8

Reading Raimondo's essay, I flashed back to the early Fall of 2009. In
late September of that year, the progressive television show "Democracy
Now" interviewed with Kehban Grifter, a young activist who was among a
modest number protesting the corporate-globalizationist G 20 summit in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "What we're here doing this week," Grifter said,
"is distributing our work and trying to talk to people about coal and
climate change and globalization. And unfortunately, it seems like a lot
of folks aren't turning out for these sort of mobilizations as much
anymore. Maybe they're depressed, maybe they're cynical, maybe they've
still got Obamaitis. We're on the outside here".9

Hearing Ms. Grifter's comment online, I was reminded of an e-mail exchange
in early 2007 I had with a leading left thinker who made passing reference
to what he called "the Obama disease". The point of his disparaging term
was that Obama was a standard corporate and military regime Democrat, but
one with an extraordinary ability to convince progressives that they would
somehow be in power if he was to become President of the United States.

I was reminded also of reports from attempted mass antiwar marches in
Washington in March of 2009.  Led by the once formidable UFPJ, the protest
was poorly attended.  It drew only a few thousand even as Obama
transparently escalated and expanded imperial violence in "Af-Pak," after
he made clear his determination to increase the Pentagon budget and
sustain the Iraq occupation, and even as he went forward with a highly
unpopular bailout package for Wall Street. Dejected organizers reported
difficulty getting significant numbers of people to turn out against a
White House that was perceived as "left" and antiwar. UFPJ's outgoing
director Leslie Cagan reported that her "progressive" and "activist"
people weren't protesting anymore because "it's enough for many of them
that Obama has a plan to end the war and that things are moving in the
right direction".10

The brilliant Australian author, columnist, and filmmaker John Pilger
called months before Obama's election. "An Obama victory," Pilger wrote in
Mat 2008, "will bring intense pressure on the US antiwar and social
justice movements to accept a Democratic administration for all its
faults. If that happens, domestic resistance to rapacious America will
fall silent". 11

Re-Branding Bush Policy with a Pretty Progressive Face

Interest in opposing the Empire's New Clothes has not arisen since to any
appreciable degree across the nation's "progressive" community.  It hasn't
been for a lack of actionable issues, including (alongside numerous
continued and terrible incidents of civilian "collateral damage" in
Afghanistan and Pakistan):

* Obama's escalation of the United States' military presence in Yemen,
"now" (in Glenn Greenwald's words) "another predominantly Muslim country
(along with Somalia and Pakistan) in which the military is secretly
involved to some unknown degree in combat operations without any
declaration of war, and arguably without any Congressional authority".12

* Obama's explicit exclusion of Iran from his declaration that the U.S.
would not make a nuclear first-strike attack on a nun-nuclear nation.
This exclusion was reasonably grasped in the Muslim world and especially
in Iran as a threat of a first nuclear strike on Iran.

* Obama's promise in mid-March 2010 to veto any congressional legislation
to enhance legislative oversight over the White House and military's
unconstitutional intelligence-gathering through illegal surveillance
activities, including warrant-less eavesdropping.13

* Obama's efforts (through his Department of Justice) to obtain from Yahoo
"all e-mails" sent and received by multiple Yahoo accounts "despite the
fact that the DOJ has never sought, let alone obtained a search warrant,
and despite there being no notice of any kind to e-mail users" - this in
bold defiance of federal law.14

* Obama's decision to prosecute National Security Agency (NSA)
whistleblower Thomas Drake, whose leaks helped the Baltimore Sun expose
NSA efforts to discard key privacy provisions to ensure that the agency
would not illegally eavesdrop on the domestic calls of U.S. citizens.15

* Obama's decision to authorize the CIA and military to summarily
assassinate U.S. citizens "strongly" suspected of "organizing or carrying
out actions against the U.S. or U.S. interests.".16

In April of 2010, Glenn Greenwald offered an eloquent reflection - richly
consistent with the argument of the present volume - on the absence of any
meaningful "progressive" resistance to Obama's assassination program:

"Here again, we see one of the principal and longest-lasting effects of
the Obama presidency:  to put a pretty, eloquent, progressive face on what
(until quite recently) was ostensibly considered by a large segment of the
citizenry to be tyrannical right-wing extremism (e.g., indefinite
detention, military commissions, "state secrets" used to block judicial
review, an endless and always-expanding "War on Terror," immunity for war
criminals, rampant corporatism - and now unchecked presidential
assassinations of American citizens), and thus to transform what were once
bitter, partisan controversies into harmonious, bipartisan consensus".17

.Ignore the Progressives.: Vindicating Rahm Emmanuel

Things haven't been much better on the front of domestic social and
economic policy. Where has the nation's liberal and progressive political
institutional infrastructure been to capture and channel what dominant
U.S. media tended to arrogantly dismisses as dysfunctional "populist rage"
as Obama and much of the rest of the political class have acted in accord
with the standard state capitalist principle of government subsidy and
protection for the rich and market discipline for the poor and working
class?  It's been missing in action, at once bedazzled and disciplined by
the nation's first black president, whose chief-of-staff Rahm Emmanuel
threatened egregious retaliation against those liberal Democrats and
activists who dared to substantively challenge the corporate and
militaristic direction of policy.18 As the Left political commentator
Lance Selfa noted in mid January of 2010:

"The liberal groups who could be kicking up a ruckus to push for genuine
health reform or a real jobs program are instead playing the role of loyal
soldiers to the White House's agenda...The groups in question, led by the
Democracy Alliance and the liberal think tank, the Center for American
Progress...represent a liberal infrastructure that, in exchange for
regular meetings with White House officials, has neutered itself.
Meanwhile, existing right-wing networks have gone into full battle mode.
That has left the field open to the conservatives. Is it any wonder, then,
that most of the opposition to Obama's program is coming from the

The health "reform" legislation that finally passed Congress and gained
Obama's signature into law in mid-March of 2010 was a corporatist measure
very much in line with the analysis presented in this volume's third
chapter.  Reflecting corrupt deals Obama made many months earlier with the
big insurance and drug companies, it contained no public insurance option,
irrelevantly supported by a large majority of Americans in a CBS-New York
Times poll last January.20 The "reform" bill prohibits the government from
negotiating prices with drug companies and from permitting the importation
of drugs (two things that are also irrelevantly popular with most
Americans).  To make matter worse, it permits the big insurance companies
to retain their exemption from antitrust laws, restricts coverage for
abortions, and denies coverage to "illegal" (and other) immigrants, who
will continue to frequent emergency rooms and receive care. 21

According to Obama's chief-of-staff Rahm Emmanuel, speaking on the Public
Broadcasting System "News Hour" just after the bill passed, "It's very
similar to the bill Republicans advocated in 1993 [with its]... basic
approach, which is a free-market, market-based-system approach." 22 This
was a revealing comment on the bill's conservative essence, though
Emmanuel was technically incorrect to call the corporate-socialist Patient
Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (PPAHCA) a "free market"

The White House and its loyal "liberal" defenders made a truly laughable
and Orwellian effort to claim that the bill was some sort of bold and
progressive act of "standing up to special interests".23  But, as the
health industry paper Kaiser Health News noted in a March 22nd article
titled "Doctors, Hospitals, Insurers, Pharma Come Out Ahead With Health
Bill":  "Most health industry sectors are winners - some bigger than
others - under the sweeping health care legislation that will expand
coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans over the next decade..." The
trade paper detailed the vast benefits each industry received, the slight
costs they paid, and the notable success they experienced in killing the
threats of real competition and serious reform - in slaying the public
option, Medicare expansion, drug-re-importation, bulk price negotiations,
and repeal of the insurance giants' anti-trust exemption). Kaiser Health
News gave "one indication that the insurance industry is likely to do fine
under the bill: health insurers' share prices had risen by an average of
71 percent in the previous twelve months. "That's hardly surprising,"
Glenn Greenwald noted, observing that "a former Wellpoint executive was
the principal author of the original Senate bill from which the final bill
was derived".24

In late 2009, many members of the Democratic Party's congressional
"Progressive Caucus" and leading liberal organizations like MoveOn had
criticized Obama's health care bill as too corporate-friendly.  Many of
the "progressive" legislators raised political money on their pledges to
refuse to vote for any legislation that lacked a public option. By the
time the measure came to a vote in mid-March of 2010, however, White House
pressure (with Emmanuel in the lead of the arm-twisting effort) elicited a
total surrender of the (not-so) left (non-)opposition. Every single member
of the "Progressive Caucus" caved in and traded their not-so deeply held
principles to help score a partisan victory for a bill that promised (in
the word of principled progressive activists at the left-liberal
organization Firedog Lake) "to enrich and strengthen the same industries
that comprise our immoral health care system".25 The ex-progressive,
Obama-captive organization MoveOn actually picketed the Cleveland office
of representative Dennis Kucinch (D-OH) to pressure him (successfully) to
go back on his pledge (the Cleveland Plain Dealer article reporting this
revealing episode bore the unintentionally ironic title "Kucinch Draws
Fire From the Left on Health Reform").26 As Glenn Greenwald noted,
"progressive" Democrats' capitulation starkly vindicated Rahm Emmanuel's
advice to Obama: "ignore the demands of progressives on the ground that
they would fall into line at the end no matter what". Greenwald summed up
the harsh reality of total "left" surrender:

"For almost a full year, scores of progressive House members vowed -
publicly and unequivocally - that they would never support a health care
bill without a robust public option.  They collectively accepted hundreds
of thousands of dollars based on this pledge.  Up until a few weeks ago,
many progressive opinion leaders - such as Moulitsas, Howard Dean, Keith
Olbermann and many others - were insisting that the Senate bill was worse
than the status quo and should be defeated.  But now?  All of those
progressives House members are doing exactly what they swore they would
never do: vote for a health care bill with no public option - and
virtually every progressive opinion leader is not only now supportive of
the bill, but vehemently so.  In other words, exactly what Rahm said would
happen - ignore the progressives, we don't need to give them anything
because they'll get into line - is exactly what happened..27

As the bill was passed, the "progressive" commentator Ezra Klein
preposterously claimed that the bill marked the "twilight" of health and
insurance industry influence,28 who had been vanquished by the great
supposed progressive President. But "to pretend that these interests were
vanquished or 'neutralized' here - in order to glorify the President as
the Greatest Leader Since Abraham Lincoln with sycophantic, Leader-worship
hagiography is, Greenwald noted, "not just deeply misleading but, worse,
helps conceal what remains the greatest threat to the democratic
process..". 29

.The Progressive Movement is Officially Dead.

In March of 2010, Obama betrayed a campaign pledge and disregarded
irrelevant progressive environmentalists by announcing that he planned to
allow environmentally  disastrous oil exploration and drilling in vast new
offshore areas along the Southeastern United States and Alaska.  It was
chilling news for those who remembered and opposed Obama's rejection of
John McCain and Sarah Palin's eco-cidal campaign call (in the late summer
of 2008) for America to "Drill, Baby, Drill" (for offshore oil). The
announcement brought only minimal complaint from the nation's leading
official Obama-captive environmental organizations.  When a British
Petroleum (BP) oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico in late April,
sending a "giant flaming ball of oil straight for the coasts of Alabama
and Mississippi" (and calling into question the ecological wisdom of the
president's new drilling plans) in what could well be the worst
environmental disaster in decades, the leading "progressive" environmental
organization The Sierra Club didn't mention the epic ecological debacle on
the front of its Web site for eleven days. "I know it makes the
President's recent decision to allow offshore drilling look awkwardly
timed," Jane Hamsher of Firedog Lake wrote to the Sierra Club, "but this
is, sort of, you know, your issue, and there's no mention of it on your
landing page.  Reflecting also on the "Progressive Caucus" recent plan to
"give the coal lobby everything it wants," on the absence of any
meaningful progressive response to "liberal" U.S. Senator (and Obama ally)
Dick Durbin's (D-IL) recent call for "bleeding heart liberals" to admit
that Social Security and Medicare benefits are going to have to be cut for
the economic good of the nation, and on the broader surrender of the
nation's leading "progressive" groups to Obama's state-capitalist
administration, Hamsher concluded on a cold but appropriate note:

"Congratulations progressives, our already weakened institutions have
finally tumbled..As we watch that flaming ball of oil make its way to the
coasts of Alabama and Mississippi our corrupt environmental groups do
nothing about their signature issue that might make the White House
uncomfortable.. I think it's safe to say that the progressive movement's
resistance to the agenda of corporate America is officially dead [emphasis

Resentment Abhors a Vacuum

Meanwhile, a dangerous right-wing variant of elite-coordinated
fake-populism has arisen in the anger void left by the significantly
Obama-induced slumber of "what exists of a popular left". In the absence
of meaningful anger and protest on the portside, the dodgy Republican
right wing and its still-potent "noise machine" has been left to soak up
and express much of the legitimate "populist rage" that ordinary Americans
quite naturally feel over Washington's continuing captivity to
concentrated wealth, corporate-direction, and the military-industrial
complex in the Age of Obama. The ominous resurgence of the American right,
who leading political symbols and agents (Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck,  Sarah
Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Rush Limbaugh) and "movements" (including the
"Tea Party") absurdly accuse the state-capitalist Obama of "socialism" and
other "radical leftist" apostasies technically contradicts a plethora of
public opinion data showing that most Americans hold left-of-center
attitudes on key foreign and domestic policy issues. (Massachusetts
voters, among the most progressive in the nation, were hardly an
exception). But where are voters supposed to turn to act on their majority
progressive opinions and on their rising "populist" resentment? Not to
Obama and the Obama-age Democrats, who have led the record transfer of
federal taxpayer dollars to Wall Street titans and funded the Pentagon at
record-setting levels while largely abandoning workers and the poor and
turning "health reform" over to the corporate insurance syndicate.31 As
Lance Selfa observed after the previously unknown right-wing Republican
state senator Scott Brown won a stunning victory over the establishment
Democrat Martha Coakley in the open seat election for the critical U.S.
Senate post formerly held by leading liberal Democrat Teddy Kennedy in
"arch-liberal" Massachusetts:

"The idea that Obama was even pursuing a liberal agenda will come as news
to millions of his supporters who have become increasingly demoralized
with an administration that seems more interested in helping out Wall
Street bankers than "Main Street" Americans losing their jobs and houses.

"A September 2009 Economic Policy Institute [EPI] poll asked a national
sample of registered voters to say who they thought had 'been helped a lot
or some' from the policies the administration enacted. The result: 13
percent said the 'average working person,' 64 percent identified 'large
banks,' and 54 percent said 'Wall Street investment companies'...32

Consistent with the EPI's findings, Boston Globe reporter Brian Mooney
reported that Brown won mainly in the suburbs, where voter turnout was
high. In less affluent and more strongly Democratic urban areas, the
turnout was much lower, reflecting Obama and the corporate Democrats'
success in disillusioning and demobilizing many among the Democratic
Party's working class and minority constituents. "Many voters in
traditionally Democratic cities stayed home, dooming the candidacy of
Democrat Martha Coakley," Mooney noted.33

This was hardly surprising. As the liberal Democratic New York Times
columnist Bob Herbert observed five days after Brown's remarkable victory
in a column titled "They [the Democrats - P.S.] Still Don't Get It".:

"The door is being slammed on the American dream and the politicians,
including the president and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill, seem
not just helpless to deal with the crisis, but completely out of touch
with the hardships that have fallen on so many..

"While the nation was suffering through the worst economy since the
Depression, the Democrats wasted a year squabbling like unruly toddlers
over health insurance legislation. No one in his or her right mind could
have believed that a workable, efficient, cost-effective system could come
out of the monstrously ugly plan that finally emerged from the Senate
after long months of shady alliances, disgraceful back-room deals,
outlandish payoffs and abject capitulation [emphasis added] to the
insurance companies and giant pharmaceutical outfits..

.The public interest? Forget about it..

"The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake
them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary
Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court,
back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other
predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of
human beings..34

A "left" without forthright answers for legitimately angry masses of
people is a dangerous development with dark historical antecedents. As
Noam Chomsky noted in an interview prior to Brown's victory:

"There is a right-wing populist uprising..If you look at those people and
listen to them on talk radio, these are people with real grievances..

"For 30 years their wages have stagnated or declined. The social
conditions have somebody must be doing something to them, and
they want to know who it is.  Rush Limbaugh has answered: It's the rich
liberals who own the banks and run and run the media.  They don't care
about you.  They just want to give everything away to illegal immigrants
and gays and communists and so on..

. .There is a whiff of early Nazi Germany.  Hitler was appealing to groups
with similar grievances and giving them crazy answers, but at least they
were answers: that is, they blame the Jews and the Bolsheviks..

.Liberal Democrats aren't going to tell the average American, "yeah,
you're being shafted because of the policies that we've established over
the years that we're maintaining now". That's not going to be an answer.
They're not getting [straight] answers from the left..  [By contrast,]
There's an internal coherence and logic to what they get from Limbaugh,
Glenn Beck, and the rest of these guys.  And they sound very convincing,
they're very self-confident, and they have an answer to everything - a
crazy answer, but it's an answer..35

Popular resentment abhors a progressive vacuum, in the Age of Obama as in
numerous previous historical periods, with consequences that have often
been quite unpleasant.


1 Paul Street, Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder,
CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2010), xxii-xxviii, 161-163, 173-176.

2 On the back dust jacket of Street, Barack Obama and the Future.

3 Street, Barack Obams and the Future, 203-06.

4 George Orwell, An Age Like This, 1920-1940 ((New York, NY: Harcourt
Brace Jahonovich, 1968), 353.

5 Ricardo Levins-Morales, .Revolution in the Time of Hamsters,. ZNet
(September 18, 2009), at

6 John Judis, .End the Honeymoon,. The New Republic, February 13, 2009,
read at

7 John Pilger, .Power, Illusion, and America.s Last Taboo. (July 4, 2009),
read at

8 Justin Raimondo, .Springtime for Obama and the Death of the Old Left,. (March 22, 2010), read
9 Democracy Now, .Headlines for September 24, 2009,. at

10 Comment quoted in Glen Ford, .First Black President Defeats Antiwar
Movement,. Black Agenda Report  (April 15, 2009), read

11 John Pilger, .After Bobby Kennedy (There Was Barack Obama),. Common
Dreams (May 31, 2008), read at
12 Glenn Greenwald, .Presidential Assassination of U.S. Citizens,. Salon
(January 27, 2010).

13 Glenn Greenwald, .Obama Threatens to Vetro Greater Intelligence
Oversight,. Salon (March 16, 2010)

14 Glenn Greenwald, .The Obama DOJ.s Warrantless Demand for E-mails,.
Salon (April 15, 2010).

15 Glenn Greenwald, .What the Whistleblower Prosecution Says About the
Obama DOJ,. Salon (April 16, 2010).

16 Dana Priest, .U.S. Military Intelligence Deeply Involved in Yemen Air
Strikes,. Washington Post, January 27, 2010.

17 Glenn Greenwald, .Olbermann on Obama.s Assassination Program,. Salon
(April 8, 2010).

18 See the chilling account in Christopher Hayes, .Tuesdays With Rahm,.
The Nation (October 26, 2009).

19  Lance Selfa, .Can the Right Stage a Comeback?. International Socialist
Review, Issue 69 (January-February 2010).

20 New York Times-CBS Poll, .Confusion Over Health Care,. survey of  1,042
adults, September 19-23, question number 57, p. 15 of 26, poll results at

21 For more details and sources right after the bill.s passage, see Paul
Street, .Health Reform: Theirs and Ours,. ZNet (March 24, 2010), at;
.Corporatist Health .Reform,.. ZNet (March 31, 2010) at

22 read transcript at

23  Sam Stein, .David Axelrod: Health care Lobbyists Descending Like
.Locusts. on Congress,. Huffington Post (March 14, 2010)
Jonathan Chait, .The Insurance Industry Doesn.t Want its .Giveaway,.. The
New Republic (March 1, 2010), at;
Ezra Klein, .Twilight of the Interest Groups,. Washington Post, March 19,
Klein actually went to the pre preposterous length of saying that the
Obama administration .succeeded in neutralizing every single industry. in
the health care sector.

24 Phil Galewicz, .Doctors, Hospitals, Insurers, Pharma Come Out Ahead
With Health Care Bill,. Kaiser Health News (March 22, 2010), at;
Glenn Greenwald, .Industry Interests are Not in Their .Twilight,.. Salon
(March 20, 2010).

25 Firedog Lake, March 18, 2010, read at

26  Sabrina Eaton, ..Rep. Dennis Kucinich Draws Fire From the Left Over
Health Care Reform,. Cleveland Plain Dealer , March 12, 2010, at

27 Glenn Greenwald, .Has Rahm.s Assumption About Progressives Been
Vindicated?. Salon (March 18, 2010), read

28 Klein, .Twilight of the Interest Groups..

29 Glenn Greenwald, .More on Those .Neutralized. Special Interests,. Salon
(March 23, 2010).  The liberal commentator Matthew Yglesias noted that
Ezra Klein's claim about interest groups  losing out in the health
.reform. was just wrong:  "interest groups were able to get their way on
most key points without needing to seriously attempt to deliver votes in
exchange. . . . the interest groups were able to get 85 percent of what
they wanted in exchange for absolutely nothing." Matthew Yglesias,
.Interests Group Alive and Well,. Yglesias (March 20, 2010), read at

30 Hamsher, .The Progressive Movement is Officially Dead;. Jane Hamsher,
.Progressive Caucus Outlines its Plan to Give Coal Lobby Everything It
Wants,. Firedog Lake (April 7, 2010) at;
Jane Hamsher, .Durbin Says .Bleeding Heart Liberals. Should Be Open to
Medicare and Social Security Cuts,. Firedog Lake (April 29, 2010), at
Durbin is quoted also in  Jackie Calmes, .Obama Tells Debt Commission
.Everything Has to Be on Table,. . New York Times, April 27, 2010.

31 Paul Street, .What.s the Matter With the Democrats? Post-Massachusetts
Reflections on Popular Resentment, the Liberal-Left Vacuum, and the Right
Comeback,. ZNet (January 24, 2010); Lance Selfa, .Can the Right Stage a
Comeback?. International Socialist Review, Issue 69 (January-February

32 Lance Selfa, How Did This Guy Win?. Socialist Worker, January 20, 2010,
read at

33 Brian Mooney, .Suburbs Carried Brown to Victory: Low Turnout Recorded
in Most Cities,. The Boston Globe, January 21, 2009, read
you to Noam Chomsky for alerting me to this story.

34 Bob Herbert, .They Still Don.t Get It,. New York Times, January 23,

35 Noam Chomsky and Diane Krauthamer, .Worker Occupations and the Future
of Radical Labor: An Interview With Noam Chomsky,. Z Magazine (February
2010), 22.


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