Cowardly Progressives

After listening to a number of speeches at a national conference of progressives I come to this conclusion: Progressives are more than eager to take credit for electing President Obama and even to complain about the many failures of him and his administration.  They overwhelmingly feel that his campaign promises were far, far better than what he has delivered.  They are disappointed.  They are frustrated.  They are sad.  But ultimately they are also cowards.

Why do I say this?  Because they seem completely incapable of using straightforward language to criticize Obama.  They resist saying he has lied to the public, betrayed progressives and sold out to corporate interests.  Most importantly, they do not want to openly confess and proclaim that he has been a sham government reformer.

At a time when progressives are working hard to get candidates for the US Senate to oppose Democrats they deem unacceptable in current primaries, they show no willingness to open the door wide to creating the circumstances to get someone they view as a better progressive to compete against Obama and keep him from winning a second term.

In other words, they seem intellectually incapable of concluding that Obama no longer deserves their support based, for example, on the hard, painful facts that he has persisted in wasting the country’s wealth and lives on two useless wars, he never cleaned up the regulatory system in the Department of Interior that allowed BP and other companies to escape effective regulation in the public interest, and he never fought for a public option in the health care reform legislation.  While he was eager to bail out Wall Street he has shown no courage in saving Main Street.  He has accomplished nothing effective to create private sector jobs and stands idly by as the middle class continues to slip down into the lower class.

Progressives admit that Obama is a consensus builder while hesitating to go all the way and scream that bipartisanship chasing and consensus building have overwhelmed adherence to reformist and populist principles.  They seem blind to the reality that the success of the tea party movement results from a failure by Obama to seek necessary government reforms that would show him to be a true change agent working to create better rather than bigger government.

If progressives do not have the courage of their convictions how can they expect Obama to have the courage of his supposed convictions?

The hard truth for progressives is that Obama has shown that he is just another politician playing the same old, corruption games and caving in to many special and corporate interests.  Obama surrounded himself with a number of people who had no progressive credentials whatsoever, including his Chief of Staff, Treasure Secretary and top economic advisor.  No surprise therefore that the Obama White House plays all the same old games that maintains corrupt and dysfunctional government.

Just as so many Americans have woken up and are demanding criminal prosecution of BP and making them pay fully for all of the terrible environmental and economic impacts their greed has produced, progressives should be leading the nation in condemning Obama.  Now is the time for progressives to admit that they are not getting the changes they were waiting for and never will get them from Obama.  Progressives need to find the courage to openly say that one term is enough for Obama.

Better to create the conditions for someone else to become the reformer so many Americans want in the White House.  Otherwise progressives may wake up to Republicans scoring very big in the coming mid-term elections and also offering up someone to take over the White House.  Unless progressive are willing to take some risk they risk losing even more than they already have lost.  Don’t stay with a loser.  Seek a real winner.  Someone people in the tea party movement might support.

Joel S. Hirschhorn was a full professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a senior official at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association; he has authored five nonfiction books, including Delusional Democracy: Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. Read other articles by Joel.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Max Shields said on June 8th, 2010 at 8:34am #

    Obama has lost meaningful support (even though many so-called progressives are cowards to the core – they seem compelled as you mention, Joel, to preface every criticism with how “great” Obama is – great??? what the hell kind of Orwellian double speak do we have here?).

    By meaningful, these very progressives will do little to nothing to support Obama, even though their apathy to create alternatives will stay clearly on track. Obama has achieved one thing, his presidency has taken the juice out of any sort of progressive alternative movement. You need a Bush with no where else to go.

    All that said, a corrupt and dysfunctional oligarchical political system cannot be changed by playing its game. Add a party and you get an Obama-like change that begins to equivocate to power. How real change occurs should be the focus of our attention. It may only be through collapse that we’ll see change – and it may not be pretty.

  2. Hue Longer said on June 8th, 2010 at 9:49am #

    I’m sure Obama lied about some things but for the most part he delivered on what he said he’d do and didn’t make promises elsewhere. I seem to remember many hopers saying he WAS lying and doing so to get elected – but that once in, he’d be great. There was even that insurance bet of “…as long as we keep him to the fire” just in case the hopers instinct of being a rationalizing coward was right.

  3. kalidas said on June 8th, 2010 at 10:41am #

    In a society of cheaters and the cheated, often people cheat themselves.

  4. hayate said on June 8th, 2010 at 12:13pm #

    At the progressive leadership level, a lot of the slack given obama is due to zionist loyalties, and in a few cases, non-zionist loyalties to the corporate status quo. Obama is the “telavivian candidate” and they everybody has their assigned “script” to follow. During 2009, many on the so called american left really gave obama a free ride. One of the litmus tests I use to determine the worth of a writer/speaker is how they frame obama’s ziofascism/fascism.

    There were also quite a few progressives/leftists who said obama was exactly what he is and don’t expect any positive change from him over that of bush. Some even were insightful enough to realise that with obama, the ziofascists/fascists would be using the obama image to push through even worse crap through than they could get away with under bush. So I’m not knocking progressives, just the frauds who pretend to be.

    At the level of most people, though, there is a lot of different reasons. Mainly, a lot of what they read is partisan, and skimps on the man’s failings, zionist loyalties and fascism. Their own partisan feelings dissuade them from looking further for better analysis. Bush was so bad, anything is viewed as an improvement, whether or not there is any actual change.

  5. Deadbeat said on June 8th, 2010 at 1:07pm #

    hayate writes …

    At the progressive leadership level, a lot of the slack given obama is due to zionist loyalties, and in a few cases, non-zionist loyalties to the corporate status quo.

    I find it hilarious that both Max Shields and Hue Longer on this thread are talking about “courage” when both men support Noam Chomsky. Real courage is when the Left takes the lens to itself and evaluates its own contributions to the election of Obama. That is the VACUUM created by the Left’s due to affinity to a racist ideology. The Left’s anointing an adherent to Zionism as its intellectual leader demonstrates the Left’s own hypocrisy and its willingness to ABANDON core principles and that ethnic loyalties are made paramount. What does that do for organizing? We’ve seen it with the decimation of the ant-war movement.

    A quick recap: In 2003 many in the anti-war movement openly raised the issue of Zionism as being the driving force for the War on Iraq. In order to quell this Chomskyites like Phyllis Bennis and her UFPJ cohorts decided to break the movement rather than deal with this issue. The constant denials of the power of the Israel lobby and their “U.S. Imperial” axioms and “War for Oil” canard split and weaken the movement.

    The in 2004 rather than support the Ralph Nader’s anti-war candidacy Chomskyite, Howard Zinn supported the “Anybody But Bush (ABB)/pro-John Kerry” strategy. The mantra from Michael Albert of Z-Magazine was to focus on the ABB than AFTER the election restart the movement. The message: Do NOT put pressure on Kerry from any anti-war marches and movement. In addition there was betrayal from within as Medea Benjamin help to sabotage the desire of the Greens to have Nader as their candidate. In other words Chomskyites came from ALL angles to punish the anti-war movement for shining a light onto Zionism.

    This failure in 2004 weakening the Left to such a degree that it was in NO position to challenge Obama in 2008. Then in 2008 the Left, although weak, crippled itself yet again by running TWO candidates — Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney — rather than run as a unified front. Under this circumstance rather than see a Republican victory many people RATIONALLY jumped onto the Obama bandwagon. Finally during the Obama campaign the Clintons played the race card and that drew in the allegiance of African American and Latinos. Whereby Obama won 95% of the black vote and 85% of the Latino vote.

    Once again the FAILURE of the Left to confront RACISM and ZIONISM and the Left’s symbolism of lionizing an adherent of the racist ideology of Zionism has retarded itself to such a level leaving it UNPREPARED to offer any real solutions. There is a lot of rebuilding needed in order for the Left to become viable and IMO what needs to be done is to start with an adherence to core principles and purging the “liberal” racists and Zionists within its ranks.

  6. Max Shields said on June 8th, 2010 at 1:39pm #

    Deadbeat, why would I support Chomsky? Is he running for office?

    Again, you’r lack of discernment keeps your offerings simplistic, DB. I think what Hirschhorn is addressing is the PDA tribe that have mouthed some strong criticism but side with Obama vis a vis the so-called Teabag crowd. In other words, these are people who cannot produce change because they are too busy playing US politics with the duopoly.

    Hardly think Chomsky represents the entire leftish mind-set. There are plenty who have taken to wrap themselves in a kind of anti-zionist ideology that while appreciated to a point, consumes one with a sense of “Attack of the Alien Beings”. When Zionism becomes some kind of uber-human or other-state-of-being than it becomes the counterpoint to racism. Neither are allowed to be defeated because they sustain this weird ideology. And you, DB, exemplify it.

    None of this is to say that Zionism as an genocidal imperial leech should not be dealt a final blow. To be sure, I have stated here and else where, boycott this wretched Israel and defang it of any military prowess. Subdue it through meaningful resistence. I have time and again declared that a one-regional solution is the only way to bring lasting peace and create a balanced existence in the region. To my knowledge, Chomsky disagrees with both of my propositions and yet YOU, DB, continue to blend all into a simplistic – Zionist / Racist paradigm that is as Deadended as you are a Deadbeat. So LYAO over that.

  7. Deadbeat said on June 8th, 2010 at 2:51pm #

    Max Shields writes …

    Deadbeat, why would I support Chomsky? Is he running for office?

    You’re right Max. I should NOT have said that you support Chomsky. Let me correct that. You DEFEND Chomsky’s axioms as well as his dismissal of the growth of the power of Zionism on U.S. foreign policy. What you also argue against is the hypocrisy of the Left and its promotion and protection of Chomsky axioms which has RETARDED the Left and maintaining its weakness.

    If you don’t like me saying it then you can refer to James Petras who has written much more about this problem that I have: see link below…

    James Petras with references

  8. Hue Longer said on June 8th, 2010 at 4:47pm #


    Deadbeat said on June 8th, 2010 at 1:07pm #

    “I find it hilarious that both Max Shields and Hue Longer on this thread are talking about “courage” when both men support Noam Chomsky”.

    That’s because the article is titled “Cowardly Progressives” Not “Dead Beat Dads For Petras Comment Here And Unite Against Closet Chomskyites”

    Maybe hayate can change it to make a better acronym…he’s the clever one in your club

    (sorry editors…I encouraged more pages of redundant lunacy)

  9. Heavily_armed_liberal said on June 8th, 2010 at 6:46pm #

    Point of information. Chomsky has been banned along with Norman Finkelstein from entering Israel. Are you sure that Petras, whom I admire, fully understands Chomsky’s position?

    This is not meant to be argumentative, I’m simply having a difficult time considering Noam Chomsky to be a Zionist supporter. I know that when he was a young man he considered himself to be a Zionist but that was back in the 1950s. I certainly had difficulty with his decision not to openly back Nader in 2004 and 2008 but I certainly didn’t think he was a Zionist supporter.

  10. JE said on June 8th, 2010 at 8:19pm #

    I’ve seen where Chomsky has been denied entry into Israel and the West Bank but I haven’t seen anything that indicates his is “banned.”

    If one takes Chomsky advice then you are free to recognize the limitations by which even his prodigious intellect is bound…that is to say “don’t take his word for it” and don’t adhere to doctrines and hero worship and most importantly take the good parts from an intellectual’s contributions and discard the rest.

    To my knowledge, Chomsky is for a two state solution. I find that to be so absurd it’s offensive. I also find it offensive that he reprints the same shit in twenties different books with a few nuances and updates each time. It reeks of avarice.

    Personally I find Finkelstein to be a much more compelling and courageous intellectual than Chomsky ever was. Chomsky’s niche is more teaching “intellectual self-defense” which is great if you’re a neophyte but his propaganda model and his foreign policies discussions really only skim the surface.

  11. hayate said on June 8th, 2010 at 10:16pm #

    Heavily_armed_liberal said on June 8th, 2010 at 6:46pm

    “I’m simply having a difficult time considering Noam Chomsky to be a Zionist supporter.”

    You mean this noam chomsky, right?

    ???? ?????? ??????? ????? Noam Chomsky

    israelnews — May 23, 2010 — ??????? ???? ?????? ???? ?????? ????? ??????, ????? ???? ??? ???? ??????? ?? ??????????? ??? – ??? ???????. ???? ????? ??? ???? ?????? ????? ?????? ???? ???? ?????? ????? ?? ??????? ????? ???????. ??? ??????? ????;

    Where he says: “I regard myself as a supporter of Israel”

    The amusing thing in that video is the israeli hitler youth wannabee doing the interview attacks chomsky for not being a supporter of israel and he demonstrates that he is.

    The zionist freakshow is not monolithic, there are varying degrees of fanaticism exhibited among adherents of this Jewish supremacist ideology. Chomsky is not particularly fanatical about it, while the israeli twitch interviewing him definitely is. The zionists have their own individual and group leanings, that affect their zionism and differences among them are quite real. Just ask nazi sympathiser shamir (that’s been documented as fact, btw) who was offed by a group of zionists even more further out there on the right-wing fringe because they though his politics were too left-wing.

  12. hayate said on June 8th, 2010 at 10:39pm #

    JE said on June 8th, 2010 at 8:19pm

    “Personally I find Finkelstein to be a much more compelling and courageous intellectual than Chomsky ever was.”

    I’m much more familiar with chomsky’s work than finkelstein’s. I’ve read maybe half a dozen books by chomsky and read/heard probably a 100 interviews, articles, talks, etc. over the years since the mid’80s. I’ve not read any of finkelstein’s books and only seen around a dozen or so interviews and articles of his. So I cant honestly make a comparison between the two. I do think both of them have essentially similar pov about the zionist lobby. Both claim it’s the usa running israel and that the zionist lobby has little or no effect on american policy. One of the reasons I never read much of finkelstein’s works was I read/heard this debate between him and Petras.

    The Pro-Israel Lobby Debate by Hagit Borer, James Petras, and Norman Finkelstein April 17, 2007

    Finkelstein didn’t impress me enough to be worth paying that much attention to after that, so I never took an interest in what he had to say later on. I recommend paying very close attention to what finkelstein says in that debate, he really isn’t the sort of person a lot of people make him out to be. In fact, you can tell that Petras was rather incredulous with finkelstein’s expressed views, like as in, “You got to be (bleepin) kidding me”!

  13. Deadbeat said on June 9th, 2010 at 3:13am #

    Perhaps the Deadbeat tone in reporting the betrayals (forget cowardly progressives) of the Left is too harsh for some visitors here but as George Bernard Shaw has stated telling the truth in a world of deception is a REVOLUTIONARY act. Deadbeats are sick and tired of so-called “Left” writers who soft-sell the situation. The truth is HARSH!

    However for those who wants a softer tone perhaps these links may help…

    The Treachery of Noam Chomsky & Liberal Imperialist-Zionism

    Noam Chomsky – Green Snake Numero Uno!

    Zionist Control of US Policy

    Noam Chomsky Was Not Prevented From Entering Israel

    Norman Finkelstein is a Zionist!

  14. bozh said on June 9th, 2010 at 5:52am #

    I find that many or most ‘jews’ who criticize israe’ls doings, present selves as fierce fighters for basic human rights, justice, peace, etc.
    But, in fact, became s’mwhen-s’mhow-for some reasons, land robbers and the defenders of ‘jewishness’ [a peculiar cultishness-craze] tnx

  15. hayate said on June 10th, 2010 at 6:41pm #

    Chomsky has a new article out and it’s pretty good, though I do have a problem with this portrayal of his:

    “The siege is savage, designed to keep the caged animals barely alive so as to fend off international protest, but hardly more than that. It is the latest stage of longstanding Israeli plans, backed by the U.S., to separate Gaza from the West Bank.”

    See: The Real Threat Aboard the Freedom Flotilla

    My problem is that is not why israel is treating Gazans so poorly and Gaza already has been separated from the West bank. The reason behind the israeli barbarity is they want to make conditions so bad for the people in Gaza that they will start leaving. It’s a continuation of israel’s ethnic cleansing policies of forcing out all non-Jews. The treatment is also a reflection of israeli racist/cultural hatred and sadism. Chomsky knows this, so why didn’t he write it instead of that wishy-washy crap he did write instead that coincidentally, doesn’t make israel look so disgusting.