“Progressives for Obama” Fool Themselves

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.

Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. He can be contacted at: Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. Read other articles by Glen, or visit Glen's website.

25 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozhidar balkas said on July 9th, 2008 at 11:04am #

    the ruse that politico-clerical use when talking is about not comming near descriptive level.
    on this level, people understand what the speaker is saying.
    we all know or should know that predictions, blame, glittering generalities, promises, demonizations, evocation of perils, etc., r not descriptive; thus, they r ununderstandable.
    to such utterances answers true or false don’t appply. glib speaker like obama knows this. u can’t lie nor tell truth on that level.
    it sems some people don’t know this; so, blame selves or label selves “stupid” which is false.
    to call obama superb orator, a wordsmith, etc., is misleading. obama dosen’t say anything of value. thank u

  2. Martha said on July 9th, 2008 at 11:05am #

    The always great Glen Ford telling it exactly like it is.

  3. Carl Davidson said on July 9th, 2008 at 11:22am #

    Mr. Ford is obviously welcome to say anything about us that he likes, ‘Progressives for Obama’, that is.

    But he might serve his readers better if he at least read what we say and report it accurately.

    Some of the best critique of Obama are found on our site; far from being ’empty,’ we have many positive policy options. Readers can take a look and decide for themselves.

    In our opening call, from day one, we describe Obama as a politician speaking to and from the center, not as a leftist, anti-imperialist, or eve a consistent progressive, and warn about rightward drift as the reason we’re setting this project up, independently of him and critical of him, even as we encourage votes for him as ‘the best option.’

    If you think there isn’t an Obama mass movement, I don’t know what to say. Let’s just say the words must have different meanings for us. I will say this much: Obama is better on many counts than Howard Dean in 2004, who you had far kinder words for, to put it mildly. What happened in four years?

    Our project is doing quite well, and when the election is over, we’ll have new grassroots organization to build on, mobilizing to stop this horrible war against the White House and the forces behind it, no matter who sits in the Oval office. There’s just a difference that makes a difference between Obama and McCain, even if you can’t see it.

  4. Mauricio said on July 9th, 2008 at 11:41am #

    You didn’t mention that many blacks supported Obama solely because of his black heritage.

  5. Max Shields said on July 9th, 2008 at 1:58pm #

    Carl Davidson,

    First and foremost, if “Progressives for Obama” are not for Obama (all website suggestions aside) than what the hell is there purpose other than to get this empty suit elected?

    Secondly, it’s clear to this reader that Mr. Ford is very clear that the so-called “movement” (progressive or otherwise) is a FICTION. Obama’s supporters may be in a frenzy but that IS NOT a political, social, economic (progressive) movement!!!

    Progressives for Obama, like the Neocons that parade around mostly the militarist pols, may have advice for their candidate – but he is THEIR candidate. A progressive movement should demand a progressive agenda which does not play into the status quo corporatist duopoly which is Obama.

    Anything less is simply some weak-kneed liberalism, easily bent to the will of the DLC candidate.

    What BAR and Ford have seen – way before Obama ever declared his candidacy – was exactly what Ford is talking about now. Obama has not moved to the right or center. He is in EXACTLY the same place he’s always been, right in the pocket of the established military industrial complex and all that it encompasses. Differences between him and McCain are easily blurred. McCain can’t move far enough to the right without bumping into his buddy – Barrack Obama.

    That, sir, is the point.

  6. Erroll said on July 9th, 2008 at 3:37pm #

    Max Shields

    Bravo for pointing out that Obama’s [alleged] progressivism is an illusion and about as substantial as that of gossamer wings. Obama is taking the progressive vote for granted and too many of the progressives, unfortunately, are happy to accommodate him.

  7. Deadbeat said on July 9th, 2008 at 5:37pm #

    For straight language and unambiguously progressive politics, support Cynthia McKinney


    Cynthia McKinney voted to give Bush the authority to invade Afghanistan. I don’ that that was “unambiguously” progressive as Ford frames it.

  8. Brandy Baker said on July 9th, 2008 at 7:56pm #

    Carl Davidson, I’ve read your site and Glen Ford’s report on “Progressives for Obama” is accurate. I won’t bother responding to your other claims as Max did a good job of that.

  9. Brandy Baker said on July 9th, 2008 at 8:01pm #

    “Our project is doing quite well, and when the election is over, we’ll have new grassroots organization to build on, mobilizing to stop this horrible war against the White House and the forces behind it, no matter who sits in the Oval office.”

    The time to hold Obama accountable is NOW, when he needs your vote. After E-day, he will tell all of these leftists who supported him (despite their knowing better) to get off of his lawn.

  10. Hue Longer said on July 9th, 2008 at 9:12pm #

    lol Brandy,

    like Pelosi telling code pink in her drive way that they’re not her constituents

  11. Deadbeat said on July 10th, 2008 at 12:19am #

    How the “left” has fooled us…

    Behind the Myth of War for Oil

    The widely-shared but erroneous view that recent U.S. wars of choice are driven by oil concerns is partly due to precedence: the fact that for a long time military force was key to colonial or imperialist control and exploitation of foreign markets and resources, including oil. It is also partly due to perception: the exaggerated notion that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were “oil men” before coming to the White House. But, as noted earlier, George W. Bush was never more than an ineffective minor oil prospector and Dick Cheney was never really an oil man; he headed the notorious Halliburton company that sold (and still sells) services to oil companies and the Pentagon.

    But the major reason for the persistence of this pervasive myth seems to stem from certain deliberate efforts that are designed to perpetuate the legend in order to camouflage some real economic and geopolitical special interests that drive U.S. military adventures in the Middle East. There is evidence that both the military-industrial complex and hard-line Zionist proponents of “greater Israel” disingenuously use oil (as an issue of national interest) in order to disguise their own nefarious special interests and objectives: justification of continued expansion of military spending, extension of sales markets for military hardware, and recasting the geopolitical map of the Middle East in favor of Israel.


  12. Deadbeat said on July 10th, 2008 at 12:53am #

    Finally, and perhaps more importantly, claims of “peaked and dwindling” oil are refuted by the available facts and figures on global oil supply. Statistical evidence shows that there is absolutely no supply-demand imbalance in global oil markets. Contrary to the claims of the proponents of Peak Oil and champions of war and militarism, the current oil price shocks are a direct consequence of the destabilizing wars and geopolitical insecurity in the Middle East, not oil shortages. These include not only the raging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the threat of a looming war against Iran. The record of soaring oil prices shows that anytime there is a renewed U.S. military threat against Iran, fuel prices move up several notches.

  13. Max Shields said on July 10th, 2008 at 7:22am #


    First, your persistance with this idea that “oil” is a pretext to hide the real reason for US hegemony in the Middle East seems to have found an article in Counterpunch to provide you with some support. But it’s interesting that Glenn Ford’s article seems to prompt your neverending diatribe on Zionism. Should I say a puzzlement.

    But the support is flimsy in this sense: oil is not simply a pretext used by so-called (invisible, everywhere and nowhere) leftists, but by many in the MSM and conservatives like Allan Greenspan. To try to separate ideology (American Exceptionalism and Zionism) from the military industrial complex is a fools errand. These are confluent.

    But that does not mean that resources is not a root cause of hegemony, conflict and war, and particularly as it is played out daily in the Middle East. I would contend that the geopolotics – in the form of US and by extention Israel hegemony – is caused by one of the most precious industrial requirements – OIL.

    Peak oil will be as controvercial as any forecast including global warming. Even as oil wells dry up there will be the nay-sayers who will proclaim an endless supply. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the earth has produced an endless supply of fossil which takes millions of years to create. Peak oil has been gauged since the early seventies, well before our current occupations – Iraq/Afganistan.

    I will give you this, there is an ideology in confluence with our Middle East and elsewhere hegemony – the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny = American Exceptionalism. It is an American Fundamentalism which has long ago joined forces with the corporatist and thereby the military industrial complex.

    The author of the Counterpunch article is partly right, GW Bush and Cheney are not so-much “oil men” but advocates for corporatism, oil industry being one of the largest. That some use their association with oil is mis-leading to be sure, but it is not a case for the centuries old foreign policies of the US of Amerika.

    In this regard, Israel can be seen as an extention of American colonialization and expansionism. Israel looks at American history (there are Israel historians who have made this case), the genocide of the Native American, slavery, plundering of Latin America, the annexation of large portions of Mexico through force, and say, Why not Israel? US history is being played out in Israel’s justification for Apartheid and it’s own MIC and hundreds of nuclear warheads.

    Again, DB, you seem to only strart reading history with the invention of Israel in 1948 which creates a narrow view in the extreme.

  14. Deadbeat said on July 10th, 2008 at 8:17am #

    Again, DB, you seem to only strart reading history with the invention of Israel in 1948 which creates a narrow view in the extreme.

    And Again Max your agenda has been to obscure the role and influence of Zionism on the American polity. This desire to obscure and divert the issue away from Zionism role is what is dubious and untrustworthy about the “left”. Critiques ring hallow when dishonesty and distortions emerges.

    Clearly “history” didn’t “begin” in 1948 however the CURRENT war on Iraq and the war in Afghanistan — a war that McKinney help to authorized — was NOT for the reason being sold by the “left”. And if the “left” has a bogus agenda then solidarity that is needed for any MASS movement will not happened. We saw this in 2003 when issues surrounding Zionism was brought up only to be dismissed. The entire anti-war movement was diffused because of it.

    This is also the reason why much of the criticism coming from the left about Obama right hallow. The left FAILS to analyze its own role in Obama’s emergence. HAD the left maintained the momentum from the anti-war movement in 2003 or supported Nader in 2004 and not diffused in order to obscure and protect U.S. Zionism (you see MAX I’m not talking about Israeli Zionism) then Obama would be an unknown.

    None of the analysis by Ford and other even dare take the vacuum created by the left into their accounting. Thus since the left created the vacuum therefore left offers NO ALTERNATIVE. At NOT in 2008. AND if the LEFT does not, like you MAX, dare confront ZIONISM WITHIN the United States there is NO hope for solidarity.

    The Counterpunch article provides CLARITY and provide the analysis needed to confront both Zionism and militarism. Unfortunately many on the left like you Max would rather continue to spread misinformation regarding the basis for the U.S. waging wars in the Middle East today.

  15. hp said on July 10th, 2008 at 8:37am #

    “Liberals and leftists only hate fascism when it doesn’t involve Israel or Jewish fascists.”

  16. Deadbeat said on July 10th, 2008 at 9:52am #

    During the past few decades, major oil companies have consistently opposed U.S. policies and military threats against countries like Iran, Iraq, and Libya. They have, indeed, time and again, lobbied U.S. foreign policy makers for the establishment of peaceful relations and diplomatic rapprochement with those countries. The Iran-Libya Sanction Act of 1996 (ILSA) is a strong testament to the fact that oil companies nowadays view wars, economic sanctions, and international political tensions as harmful to their long-term business interests and, accordingly, strive for peace, not war, in international relations.

    On March 15, 1995 President Clinton issued Executive Order 12957 which banned all U.S. contributions to the development of Iran’s petroleum resources, a crushing blow to the oil industry, especially to the Conoco oil company that had just signed a $1 billion contract to develop fields in Iran. The deal marked a strong indication that Iran was willing to improve its relationship with the United States, only to have President Clinton effectively nullify it. Two months later, sighting “an extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the U.S.,” President Clinton issued another order, 1259, that expanded the sanctions to become a total trade and investment embargo against Iran. Then a year later came ILSA which extended the sanctions imposed on Iran to Libya as well.

    It is no secret that the major force behind the Iran-Libya Sanction Act was the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main Zionist lobby in Washington. The success of AIPAC in passing ILSA through both the Congress and the White House over the opposition of the major U.S. oil companies is testament to the fact that, in the context of U.S. policy in the Middle East, even the influence of the oil industry pales vis-à-vis the influence of the Zionist lobby.[24]


  17. Deadbeat said on July 10th, 2008 at 10:25am #

    It’s not about “Imperialism” which is another canard by the “left” to obscure and deflect the role of Zionism on the American polity…

    But the major reason for the persistence of this pervasive myth seems to stem from certain deliberate efforts that are designed to perpetuate the legend in order to camouflage some real economic and geopolitical special interests that drive U.S. military adventures in the Middle East. There is evidence that both the military-industrial complex and hard-line Zionist proponents of “greater Israel” disingenuously use oil (as an issue of national interest) in order to disguise their own nefarious special interests and objectives: justification of continued expansion of military spending, extension of sales markets for military hardware, and recasting the geopolitical map of the Middle East in favor of Israel.

  18. Deadbeat said on July 10th, 2008 at 10:44am #

    [Military and Zionist] interests are careful not to draw attention to the fact that they are the prime instigators of war and militarism in the Middle East. Therefore, they tend to deliberately perpetuate the popular perception that oil is the driving force behind the war in the region. They even do not mind having their aggressive foreign policies labeled as imperialistic as long as imperialism implies some vague or general connotations of hegemony and domination, that is, as long as it thus camouflages the real, special interests behind the war and political turbulence in the Middle East.

  19. Brian Koontz said on July 10th, 2008 at 1:59pm #

    Glen Ford is great. He’s pretty much covered Obama though – it’s time to move on.

  20. bozhidar balkas said on July 10th, 2008 at 2:51pm #

    a sensible piece by u. however, uncle sam is the boss. uncle sam was always the boss. uncle sam, to me, is ab, 5% of US pop. or it may be just 2%.
    whatever perccntage, zionism being ab law breaking, expanding, violating human rights, expelling people, etc. may be compared w. uncle sam’s doings.
    as partners in crimes they need each other. being for israel is being for US. there appear no conflict, no treason being for israel to 95% of the pop.
    israel de facto may be part of US.
    as for left in US, here’s how i see it: 50% of US pop is just left and right of franco/mussolini/hitler, 45% is s’mwhat more left of hitler, and 5 % is against uncle sam and his beloved israel. thank u

  21. Max Shields said on July 10th, 2008 at 8:26pm #


    Since you are a leftist lol, do tell….

    You and hp need to begin reading a little American history. And when you have explain to all how James Monroe chaneled Zionism ala ME 1948 and how that figures into the hundreds upon hundreds of occupations this country has set up shop, the death-squads in and throughout Latin America. How zionism got us involved in South East Asia and much of Africa, as well as the far East?

    What Zionist told T. Roosevelt to invade Cuba, Panama, and the Philipines, just for starts. And how were the Zionists responsible for Andrew Jackson’s merciless slaughter of Native Americans; and Prez Polk in annexing Mexico’s land known today as Texas or California and on and on…?

    Where are the “leftiest” in this narrative…pray tell?

    You conflate some left of center Israel/AIPAC supporters with the entire US of A history’s Manifest Destiny and its endess wars since its inception.

    Ignornance is about as kind a word as I can come up with for your repeated and narrow world-view. You take one situation and blow it across time and space.

    bozhidar balkas you are right Uncle Sam is the boss, which pretty much negates everything Deadbeat has written, regardless of what anyone thinks of Zionism, Israel or AIPAC or Obama….

  22. hp said on July 11th, 2008 at 12:12pm #

    History? Don’t make me laugh.
    Besides, this is now.
    Now, where we have Israelis and “Zionists” screaming like rabid dogs for the nuclear destruction of Iran. Possibly WWIII.
    Now, as they control our Congress and have “Uncle Sam” by the balls, so to speak.

    As for history, turn over the rocks of these events and look at who is under them. Look at who financed Columbus, Monroe, the slave trade, WWI, (both sides) WWII, (both sides) etc., etc., etc.
    Do you know, Max, who financed Monroe? Look it up.

    For Christ’s sake look at who the Fed is.
    Look at whose movies, tv, newspapers and lawyers dictate what “news” is, what “history” is, what reality is.
    The “usual suspects.” That’s who.

    Cicero agonizing over their rotten conniving coveting and maliciousness.
    History is full of philosophers from every nation on earth “philosophizing” about these deviants, these shape shifting lizards.

    So much for “history.”
    “Zionists” by any other name.

  23. hp said on July 11th, 2008 at 4:20pm #

    Pay no attention to the monster behind the curtain…

    “The same cancer that bankrupted the Soviet Union and the early Russian Federation, namely the Russian-Israeli Mafia — the global organized crime syndicate that uses Israeli government protection and passports to cover their illegal worldwide activities — has so thoroughly permeated the American political and business system that the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies are virtually powerless to bring the major perpetrators to justice.”


  24. hp said on July 11th, 2008 at 4:28pm #

    General Ashkenazi!!!
    Dude, he didn’t even bother to change his name to Ben-Gurion or Ben-Hur or something Hebrew sounding. Something he most certainly is not.

    Barak will hold talks for three days with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – as well as U.S. President George Bush.

    Barak’s visit will also precede a tour by Israeli military chief of staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, who is set to meet with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen.”
    Posted Jul 11, 2008 08:20 AM PST
    Category: IRAN

    “Looks like Washington is getting its “marching orders” from Tel Aviv about the next upcoming war to “neutralize” yet another of Israel’s “existential threats”.


  25. Progressive for Progress said on October 10th, 2008 at 9:42am #

    Carl Davidson, Bill Fletcher, Tom Hayden and the rest do seem pretty clear: Obama is an imperialist, neo-liberal corporatist politician… and the SUPPORT him.

    There’s nothing progressive about it, Ford is exactly right except that saying they are liars is too kind. They’ve actually adjusted their politics to the “new normal” – let the government spy on us, bomb Pakistani/Afghan babies instead of Iraqi babies (since the countries destroyed already anyway) and let the Palestinians eat dirt. Oh, plus he’ll vote to loot the entire economy for the financial sector along with John McCain and George W. Bush.

    Basically: these so-called progressives for Obama have no principles worth the name and exist ONLY to marginalize, attack and guilt-trip anyone who is on the left with an actual vision of change. They are spear-carriers for the empire, and will position themselves wherever their little career path takes them.