Bullshit Philosophy

Half-assed political and religious commentary from a cynical left-winger

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Why the Hell Are Progressives Enthusiastic About Obama?

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 10/4/08]

As an addendum to my earlier post, I stumbled on some perfect examples of the party-before-principles, Democrat-before-progressive mentality that I discussed. From the letters to the editor in a recent issue of The Nation. They are in reference to the open letter to Obama published in a past issue, which called on him to “stand firm on the principles he so compellingly articulated in the primary campaign.”

Bellingham, Wash.

…I ask that all of us unite to fully support Obama and the other Democrats running in this election. It is not a good time to harass Obama and other Democrats, who face a difficult and important election. We may not agree with them on all issues, and we must continue our efforts in support of those issues. But we should not attempt to force our candidates to run their campaigns on our pet issues.


Bedford, Mass.

I think you are pushing much too hard on this rare and wonderful candidate. He, and all of us, find ourselves in a truly dirty fight. The senator needs all the support we can give him. He has quite enough to handle.


Rochester, N.Y.

I read your Open Letter. Well done. But remember, if we want change and to leave the Republican disaster behind, we must allow Obama to be more moderate. I hope the left has the courage, decency, intelligence and political savvy to grant Obama some flexibility until after the election. Let’s not ruin the show by being too ideological.


I have to say, I just don’t understand how people like these think. It’s almost like they’re saying, sure, Obama supports a $700 billion giveaway to Wall Street, warrantless wiretapping, telecom immunity, ethnic cleansing in Palestine, an indefinite American presence in Iraq, an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and faith-based initiatives; opposes single-payer health care; never says a word about American imperialism and largely embraces the Bush Doctrine and conservative framing of foreign policy; refuses to take nuclear war “off the table” in regard to Iran; almost without exception supports “free” trade agreements; has the penultimate drug warrior as his running mate; opposes impeaching or prosecuting one of the most criminal administrations in American history; is up to his eyeballs in corporate cash; and surrounds himself with economic advisers from the corporate wing of the party (many of whom helped design and push the policies that are now making such a mess of Wall Street). But we should still support him. Why? Because the Republicans are evil!

[Quick aside: A friend of my wife’s once asked her what the difference is between the Democrats and Republicans, to which Rebecca explained that the difference is that “the Republicans are evil.” I’m not saying that to criticize her, I just thought it was funny (and adorable *snicker*)].

One of the most common slurs against Green Party supporters is that we think there’s no difference between the two establishment parties. To my knowledge, no Green of any prominence has ever actually said that, and I certainly don’t believe it. What we do say is that there isn’t nearly enough difference on many important issues (especially, I would argue, on foreign policy issues).

Yes, I’ll admit it, the Republicans are evil whereas the Democrats are just douchbags. And yes, I would totally prefer an Obama administration to a McCain one. But I fail to see why I should be at all enthusiastic about Obama or the Democratic Party. I don’t get what’s so “rare and wonderful” about him, as one of the letters asserts. He seems like just another fucking politician to me. And that’s what I don’t get about progressives, the fact that so many of them are so enthusiastic about Obama despite the fact that on many issues he’s opposed to them right down the line. Can their standards get much lower?

Also in the letters is the reprise of the “just wait until after the election, this isn’t the right time to challenge” meme, along with the closely related one, “this is the most important election ever, we’re all fucked if the Republicans win now.”

In response to the first, my question is, when the hell is the right time? As I’ve mentioned before, I have no doubt that even if Obama wins, people like these will say that we can’t challenge him because we’ll undermine his presidency and make it more likely that the Republicans win next time. Just look at how they refused to criticize the Democratic Congress for, among other things, continuing to back the war after 2006. The burden of party unity always seems to be on the progressive wing, never on the leadership and/or corporate wing.

And in response to the second meme, I’m admittedly young but I haven’t seen an election yet that hasn’t been called the most important ever. This is a perfect manifestation of a big problem with the progressive movement: we’re too focused on short-term electoral politics and not enough on long-term movement building. In addition, I also haven’t seen an election where it hasn’t been said that if the Republicans win then America is going to be a fascist theocracy. Granted, the Bush regime has come pretty close to that. But if we’d had a real opposition party then the country never would have drifted quite as far in that direction, so I fail to see how the Greens and other groups are to blame for the Dems failing to even slow Bush down. It’s not like they couldn’t; they just chose not to. And let’s not forget how that same party’s last president set the stage for much of what Bush did. I won’t go into detail, but with the Wall Street bailout having passed yesterday it’s important to note that Clinton gleefully pressed for much of the deregulation that led to the current financial crisis.


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