The “Progressives for Obama” project was always doomed, largely because the candidate was determined to pull the rug from under it at his earliest opportunity. That time has arrived, in such dramatic fashion that even the corporate media recognize that Obama’s sharp Right turns are irreversible and much more clearly reflect his essential political nature.
Obama chuckled last week at the very thought of having been “tagged as being on the Left” — and then unceremoniously jettisoned those Leftists that had taken it upon themselves to claim him as one of their own. In case “the Left” didn’t get the message, Obama wrapped the insulting rejection in a Zanesville, Ohio speech announcing his “faith-based” appeal to Reagan Democrats and Bush Republicans.
But the most important reason that “Progressives for Obama” should have never existed is its utter lack of content. Leftists attempted to impose themselves on an electoral campaign where they were not wanted, and yet persisted in identifying with an organization over which they had no control, no ability to provide content. It was a game of make-believe that has run its illogical course. Frankly, the project can also be seen as an act of opportunism, an attempt to graft the Left onto a corporate campaign that at some point must eject it like a foreign body.
If it were just that lonely Lefties, tired of fighting in a thoroughly corporate-saturated political culture, simply wanted to hitch a ride with the younger Obamite crowd, they might be forgiven. But these veteran progressives deployed their reputations to spread falsehoods that they knew to be untrue. They provided a veneer of progressive credibility to a candidate who was nothing of the kind.
We were subjected to ideological nonsense such as: the Obama campaign is inherently progressive because it has excited millions of new potential voters. Therefore, progressives must publicly identify with Obama, take care to be seen as allies, and never do or say anything that might harm his candidacy. We were even told that the excitement surrounding Obama constituted a “movement.” But of course, there was never a social movement that was devoid of content, and excitement is a politically neutral quality that can be generated by the Left or the Right — or in wholly apolitical circumstances.
If popularity and excitement are hallmarks of progressivism, then “American Idol” is a valuable progressive institution. (In reality, it is a great diversion, and to that extent, harmful.)
This illusionary progressivism — as vapid as the candidate, himself — posits a movement without regard to content, objective direction, or a even simple analysis of who profits and who pays the campaign’s bills and determines its ultimate goals and priorities.
Remember that Hip Hop was also called a “movement” — and some continue to insist that it still is. It is true that Hip Hop contained a great deal of progressive political content during the heyday of the late Eighties-early Nineties, before the major labels bought out the independents. Today, commercial Hip Hop is saturated with anti-social lyrics and themes; its content is overwhelmingly non-progressive, although the musical form remains much the same as during the genre’s progressive era. Content is everything.
What “Progressives for Obama” have collectively done, is to allow Obama to “pass” for what he is not: a progressive. It was a foolish project from the start, since it required the candidate’s ongoing collaboration. How could the organizers have imagined that a politician like Obama, who takes such great care to speak the language of ambiguity (a form of lying), would feel an obligation to protect progressives from ultimate embarrassment of their own making?
Bill Fletcher, the former TransAfrica president and current executive editor of BlackCommentator.com, was a founder of “Progressives for Obama.” Although Fletcher declared that he was not an Obama supporter on January 17 of this year, by March 24 he and others were hallucinating a “movement.”
“Even though it is candidate-centered, there is no doubt that the campaign is a social movement, one greater than the candidate himself ever imagined.”
If the candidate isn’t aware if the nature of the “movement” he is leading, then who is? If the “movement” that Obama is supposedly at the head of is essentially “progressive,” does that mean Obama is a closet progressive — so closeted it is a secret to himself? Or are there progressive Rasputins furtively whispering progressive thoughts in the ears of the candidate and his key people?
Apparently, all that is necessary to have a movement, is to declare one.
Tom Hayden, another “Progressives for Obama” founder, also imagines a kind of donut movement, a progressive circle with a non-progressive middle, where the candidate stands:
“I first endorsed Obama because of the nature of the movement supporting him, not his particular stands on issues. The excitement among African-Americans and young people, the audacity of their hope, still holds the promise of a new era of social activism. The force of their rising expectations, I believe, could pressure a President Obama in a progressive direction and also energize a new wave of social movements.”
Nothing of that nature will occur, because Hayden and other progressives are not organizing to make it occur. They are too concerned with remaining “for” Obama. Not only are Hayden’s and Fletcher’s peculiar “movements” without political content – they emerge like magic, requiring none of the hard work of organizing.
And just how were those popular “rising expectations” that Hayden speaks of supposed to express themselves? Progressives waited until it was far too late to bring these “expectations” – to whatever extent they exist — to bear on the candidate. Obama coasted through the primaries with virtually no dissent from his loyal progressives, and now sees his way clear to publicly dismiss them, so as to never again be “tagged as being on the Left.”
Obama now challenges his critics on the Left to go back and read his previous policy pronouncements. He is on firm ground, here. The folks who were misreading his Iraq, NAFTA and other positions were largely progressives who were pretending that Obama was one of them. Writers such as Paul Street, Kevin Alexander Gray and our own BAR crew have understood Obama all along: that he is an imperialist, a corporatist, and opposes measures designed to redress specific Black grievances in the U.S. society. It is the “Progressives for Obama” who have tended to distort his record.
Is Obama a liar? Of course he is. As a gifted orator, a superb word-smith, Obama’s slickness is purposeful — he means to fool people! However, so did many of the progressives that supported Obama, knowing perfectly well that his carefully chosen words were designed to hide more than they revealed. Such progressives lent their reputations to discourage criticism of Obama from other Leftists, or from the “expectant” rank and file. Therefore, they are guilty of offenses against truth.
For straight language and unambiguously progressive politics, support Cynthia McKinney, who is expected to win the Green Party presidential nomination, this week in Chicago. There is little chance that the courageous former congresswoman from Georgia will win the White House, but she won’t lie to you, and from her truly progressive campaign a real “movement” may grow.