Bullshit Philosophy

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

Posts Tagged ‘Green Party’

Were progressives duped by Obama?

Posted by Kevin on July 11, 2009

Lately, some progressives have been ceasing their rationalizations of President Obama’s blatant corporatism and militarism, and are starting to speak up about how little “change” the Obama administration really represents. However, this welcome transition also frequently comes attached to the problematic notion that they were somehow duped or mislead into supporting him, or that he betrayed the progressive movement.

This is essentially the argument made by Marie Marchand, executive director of the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center in Bellingham, WA, in an article at CommonDreams titled I Want My Money Back! (Pres. Obama!) From the article:

…I thought I was supporting change I could believe in, not more of the same bloodshed and war!

Betrayal is a part of life. After awhile, you just come to expect it. Yet, the initial shock always hits you as a surprise. Alas, the nature of betrayal. Humans are vulnerable to being betrayed because underneath our husky shells, our pain and hardened hearts, we are soft and trustful creatures. We want to believe in people.

I’m not that young, so I possess some cynicism. But I’m not that old either, so I manage some idealism. Sure, I am used to being betrayed by my government. But I thought my days of calling the White House in tears were over. To think that Barack Obama preyed on this naive hope in me and millions like me is unforgivable.

I expect the Republicans to throw money at the Military Industrial Complex. Yet, from the Democrats, I was promised a different direction (like OUT of the Middle East). Regrettably, there has been miniscule change. There is still nothing to believe in.

You know, it’s great that she’s saying this, that she’s seen the light. But I can’t help but feel frustrated when I hear arguments like this. In my opinion, there was ample evidence from the beginning, if you looked past the sunny rhetoric to what Obama actually proposed doing, to suggest that he was very “conventional” in his views. As Jeremy Scahill put it recently in an interview with Socialist Worker:

What people, I think, misunderstand about Barack Obama is that this is a man who is a brilliant supporter of empire–who has figured out a way to essentially trick a lot of people into believing they’re supporting radical change, when in effect what they’re doing is supporting a radical expansion of the U.S. empire.

I think that it’s a bit disingenuous for people to act as if though they were somehow hoodwinked by Barack Obama about this.

If people were playing close attention during the election–not just to the rhetoric of his canned speech that he gave repeatedly, and the commercials, and the perception of his supporters was that he somehow was this transformative figure in U.S. politics, but also to the documents being produced by the Obama campaign and the specific policies he outlined–you realized that Barack Obama was very much a part of the bipartisan war machine that has governed this country for many, many decades.

What we see with Obama’s policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Arab and Muslim world, as well as his global economic policies, are a continuation of the most devastating and violent policies of the Bush administration–while placing a face on it that makes it easier to expand the iron fist of U.S. militarism and the hidden hand of the free market in a way that Republicans, I think, would have been unable to do at this point in history.

A similar point could be made about Obama’s economic positions; how could anyone really think he was going to stand up for the downtrodden or radically restructure the system when he was surrounding himself with neoliberal economists like Larry Summers and had advisers privately tell people he didn’t really mean all that stuff he was saying about free trade? [A very telling anecdote: I remember how when news about the latter came out, the problem for my very pro-Obama in-laws was not Obama’s bullshitting, but how it would effect his chances of winning.]

There were some exceptions to this rule, areas where Obama supporters can legitimately claim to have been betrayed, such as Obama’s embrace once in office of Bush’s radical secrecy doctrines (which he had strongly campaigned against). As David Sirota notes, Obama hasn’t exactly been shy about blowing off campaign promises, and in fact expresses borderline surprise about actually being expected to follow through on the stuff he said to get elected. “It’s true that politicians have always broken promises, but rarely so proudly and with such impunity [as Obama]”, Sirota said. And even I have to admit to being surprised about the degree of Obama’s badness, of how totally Obama embraced Bush’s policies on some issues.

But for the most part, I don’t think it’s right to speak of Obama as having “betrayed” progressives. It’s not betrayal if he didn’t agree with you in the first place. He was pretty clear about where he intended to lead the country; the idea of him being this great progressive was almost entirely wishful thinking on the part of his supporters. That’s what’s so frustrating: the preponderance of evidence pointed to Obama being a kinder, gentler face for American Empire, but supporters like Marchand chose to tune that out in favor of hopenchange.

Also, at the risk of sounding bitter, my sympathy is dampened somewhat when I think back to how, as a Green Party supporter, I was treated like a buffoon by people like Marchand when I questioned whether Obama was really the closet lefty that many seemed to think he was. When they weren’t rationalizing his positions, the best defenses I would get were along the lines of: “Come on, he can’t be that bad!” “Yeah, [insert position here] is horrible, but he doesn’t really mean that; he has to say that to get elected.” “You’re being such a Naderite purist; wouldn’t anyone make you happy?” “Don’t you understand, we can’t let McCain win! It doesn’t matter how horrible the other guy is!” It’s hard not to take the asshole route and say, “I told you so!” An acknowledgment of wrongdoing on their part would be nice, but probably too much to expect from people trying to justify why they supported Obama in the first place. It’s just easier for them to say, “No one could have seen this coming!”

I know some will say it’s too early to be talking about 2012, but is Marchand’s realization about how shitty Obama is going to translate into a vote against his reelection? Or is she going to blow off her concerns and fall for the hype again (or at best hold her nose and vote for him anyway)? How long until we start hearing that Obama can’t really start getting things done until his second term?

My point in all this is that I don’t think progressives were tricked or duped by Obama (just as I don’t think they themselves were stupid or uninformed); rather, they fell for him because they wanted to believe.

[Certainly, there are other progressives who knew exactly what they were voting for with Obama, but did it anyway for various reasons. I disagree with them too, but this post isn’t about them.]

That said, it’s important that we try to understand why people like Marchand wanted to believe if we ever want them to drop their support for the Democrats. There are possibly a lot of people out there like her who are becoming disillusioned with Obama (although as The Nation‘s Eyal Press argues, it’s not clear how much of the Left this represents; there’s still a lot of people out there, like Press, for whom nothing can seem to shake their support for Obama). Sounding smug and superior, putting them on the defensive, isn’t going to win their support for an independent progressive movement that won’t allow itself to be an arm of the Democratic Party. We need to recognize that some of the reasons they wanted to believe are legitimate, if unfortunate, and work from there.

The most important thing to realize is that none of us are perfectly rational, coolly and calmly weighing the pros and cons of candidates/positions. People choose candidates in large part based on how those candidates make them feel and then justify that gut decision after the fact. For people desperate to believe that change within the two-party oligopoly is possible, Obama made them feel pretty good. Marchand says as much in her article:

I knew I was naïve; yet like millions of Americans, I had no choice but to believe. Our hearts were desperate for hope. We saw Barack Obama as an oasis in the desert. To think that he may be just a mirage is heartbreaking.

At least Marchand has the guts to look within and admit that the object of her hope is just a mirage, even if she can’t go all the way to realizing that she should have known that in the first place. It’s good that it’s happening this soon into Obama’s term. As for the numerous progressives for whom it seems Obama can do no wrong (or who like Press blow off that wrongdoing by talking about how we need to be “pragmatic”), bear in mind that it took six years after Bush was elected for conservatives to turn against him. I’m not holding my breath waiting for the Obama lovers to wake up.

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“Cynical Obama hater”?

Posted by Kevin on January 26, 2009

The title for this post comes from an email I received a few days ago, presumably from a reader, who had the following to say:

You should really stop being such a cynical Obama hater, you know, the best way to make sure nothing good happens is to keep telling yourself only bad things are going to happen under Obama. Why don’t you try to make things better, have some optimism already!

I didn’t really want to respond at first because I thought it was kind of a ridiculous assertion and I wasn’t sure it was worth taking the time to respond to, but on further reflection I realized that a reply might help to clarify a few things and keep him and others from misunderstanding my frequent criticism of Obama and the Democratic Party.

So, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a cynical Obama hater. I guess I can’t really reject the cynical part; it’s right in the name of the blog after all! I guess I am pretty cynical in the sense that I’m suspicious of the motives of Obama and the Democratic Party, and think Obama’s reputation in some quarters as a great progressive champion is almost entirely undeserved, but I’d say my cynicism is with good reason. The last time I was somewhat optimistic about the Dems was in 2006, when they took back Congress; a fat lot of good that did me. They couldn’t manage to stop or even slow down many of the Bush administrations crimes, and in many cases were complicit in them – this includes Obama. So you’ll have to forgive me for not taking them at their word that things are going to be different now, that Obama isn’t just another mushy-middle centrist politician. I’ll believe it when I see it.

As for being an Obama hater, that to me would be someone who criticizes Obama more or less no matter what he does, and I don’t really think that applies to me. I’m definitely an Obama critic, but I won’t deny that there have been encouraging signs from Obama in his first few days in office. The question is whether he’ll keep it up, or if he’ll come under the sway of the neoliberal and/or hawkish advisers he’s surrounded himself with as time goes on.

[That’s already pretty much happened on economic policy, as Obama’s top priority seems to be handing another $350 billion to Wall Street. Because that worked out so well the last time!]

For instance, it’s undeniably good that Obama issued an order on day one to close Guantanamo (and while we’re on the subject, that Obama’s appointed a number of people to the Justice Department and especially to the Office of Legal Council who oppose torture as well as the Bush admin’s monarchical view of executive power), but it’s still unclear what system the detainees will be tried under. What have we really gained if, as some are advising him, he just ends up trying the detainees in “national security courts” where “tainted” evidence (i.e. stuff gained through torture) can be used?

Likewise, I don’t know enough about the guy one way or the other to say for sure, but it seems encouraging that Obama picked George Mitchell for his Mideast envoy, showing that he might be more evenhanded in his approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict than his predecessors. And he just remarked in a speech today that the Gaza blockade should be ended. Still, this is Obama’s only concrete statements on the issue so far, and it’s still an open question as to what he’s actually going to do about any of it. Given both Obama’s past hostility to the Palestinians and that of many of the people around him (i.e. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emmanuel), once again, I’ll believe it when I see it.

That said, I certainly do tend to come down pretty hard on the Dems on this blog, probably harder than I do on Republicans/conservatives, but it’s not because I’m implacably opposed to the Dems or something. Rather, I’m just frustrated at the fact that they’re frequently in a position to implement progressive policies, or to stop conservative ones, but choose not to. You don’t bring about change in that fact by being a groupie, you do it by criticizing them and/or withdrawing support when they do bad things and only praising them when they deserve it.

It also has to do with my desire to offer something in my writing that other people aren’t already saying, and let’s face it, there’s no shortage of groups and blogs to cheerlead for the Dems.

I will say that, as a Green Party supporter, there’s a danger for us in being perceived as too close to being “Obama haters.” One Democratic criticism I heard during the 2008 election campaign went something along the lines of, “Greens aren’t going to vote for a Democrat anyway, so there’s no point in courting them.” Being perceived as too knee-jerk critical could make it easier to write us off.

However, I think Obama lovers pose a much bigger threat to the progressive movement than the Obama haters. An Obama lover is the opposite of our earlier definition: this is someone who supports Obama and the Dems pretty much no matter what they do. These are the people like my father-in-law who, when faced with Obama’s vote for the FISA bill, immediately did a 180 in their position on warrantless wiretapping, or at least stopped seeing it as such a big deal.

This faction of progressives, the Cult of Obama Worship as I call it, has been the main source of my frustration in recent months. Obama is going to be under enormous pressure to maintain the status quo, and no change is going to happen if the pressure is only coming from the establishment forces. If you really want him to do good things, then the best thing you can do for him is to hold his feet to the fire and create conditions under which he has to implement progressive policies if he wants to stay in office.

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The obligatory Blagojevich post from a former Illinoisan

Posted by Kevin on December 28, 2008

“If the state of Illinois politics today doesn’t demonstrate the need for the people to embrace and build the Green Party – a true party of, by and for the people – I don’t know what will.” -Rich Whitney, 2006 (and possibly 2010) IL Green gubernatorial candidate, in a statement on the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Ok, so the word on the street these days is that Rod Blagojevich is a corrupt douchebag. It’s a big enough story that I doubt I need to go into the details. Let’s just accept it as a given for the moment that Blago is, in fact, a corrupt douchebag. My question is: Is that really news?

It was obvious he was corrupt as hell years ago. The Dems didn’t have much of a problem with pay-for-play when Blago was up for reelection in 2006, at least not enough of one to actually do something about it. I remember well how progressives then didn’t have time to worry about little things like corruption, and couldn’t vote for Rich Whitney, because the most important thing in the world was beating Judy Baar Topinka. This is an archetypal example of what you end up with by voting for the lesser of evils instead of the people you actually agree with.

Also: how is this not just a particularly brazen example of the sort of behavior that’s considered business as usual in Springfield (or in Washington for that matter)? As Christopher Hayes notes over at The Nation: “I’m not defending this at all. Let me make that clear. I’m saying that politicians trade things for fundraising help all the time, it’s half of what they do. So where’s the line where that becomes illegal?”

It bothers me that thus far this scandal has been presented by the establishment as just one particularly rotten apple, rather than a symptom of a wider problem. Of course, both the Democrats and Republicans would rather we think that if we just get rid of this one guy, everything will be fine. Not that I think Blago shouldn’t be impeached. But that should be the first step, not the last. One of the biggest other steps is of course serious reform of Illinois’ pretty much nonexistent campaign finance regulations. In addition, Illinoisans should be getting rid of not just Blago but all the corrupt politicians, starting with House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones.

This situation presents us with a test of how possible it really is to work within the two-party system. If the Dems, who control pretty much all the levers of power in Illinois, don’t push for an end to pay-for-play politics now, there’s no reason to believe they will when public engagement and outrage isn’t as strong as it is currently. If they continue to obstruct real change, then that leaves no reasonable choice but to abandon them and join an independent movement that isn’t beholden to them or the moneyed interests that control them.

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BLAST FROM THE PAST: Post-election Blues

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 12/13/08]

So once again I find myself having to apologize for not posting. I’d hoped to say more about the election before the election, but this whole campaign season (and the aftermath) has gotten me so down that I’ve had trouble just getting myself to read about politics (as my small pile of unread or barely read issues of Newsweek and The Nation should tell you), let alone write about it.

As far as the presidential race went, there weren’t many positions lonelier than that of a Green Party supporter in the 2008 elections. Criticizing Obama doesn’t exactly make you the most popular person in the room among progressives. The most frequent vibe I got was, “Hey, can’t you be happy just this once? And even if you can’t, can you please not ruin it for me?” I finally ended up writing in Cynthia McKinney, and though I already knew how little energy there was in any sort of third-party or independent movement this time around, it was still a huge letdown that no such candidate, on either side of the aisle, even broke 1%.

More generally, pretty much every candidate I cared about lost massively. There were some bright spots, of course: I’m glad Elizabeth Dole’s campaign of blatant anti-atheist bigotry ended up losing, there’s still hope at this point for Al Franken, Prop 2 won in California (which mandates more humane standards for farm animals), and various anti-abortion referenda lost, among other things.

But then there’s Prop 8 (maybe not a massive loss but still a major buzzkill), and the reelection of Jim Douglas here in Vermont, and the Green congressional candidates I was following in Illinois. Particularly saddening was the Vermont House race. Having written about this race before, I had no doubt that many Vermonters would turn down a solid progressive over a guy with a D next to his name, but goddamn, it’s pretty depressing that Peter Welch got 83% of the vote, and that Tom Hermann barely got more votes than a fucking anti-Semitic pothead (by which I mean Cris Ericson, one of the independents)!

What’s still got me down is the whole Cult of Obama Worship, which has been making me fucking sick for some time. Some progressives are unwilling to make even the slightest criticism of Obama as he drifts ever further to the right, instead choosing to rationalize everything he does, ignoring or minimizing the importance of the many conservative statements or appointments Obama has made while trumpeting the few token progressive ones as loud as they can. Before the election, people like me were constantly chided to just wait until after the election to attack Obama because we couldn’t afford to weaken him; now they’re saying to wait longer still. “He’s not even in office yet, give the guy a chance!” Is it ever going to be the right time?

Others are shocked and appalled at Obama’s rightward drift, apparently not having heard anything he said during the campaign. As Glenn Greenwald and others have noted, there were plenty of signs from the beginning that this is exactly where Obama intended to go as President; he’s just being more blatant now. Progressives didn’t demand a thing of Obama during the campaign, and now some of them are surprised that he clearly doesn’t feel he owes anything to them. I just don’t get it.

That said, I do of course admit that there are positives about Obama’s victory. It should be obvious, and yet I keep having to explain it to progressive Democrats: yes, Obama will almost certainly be a better president than McCain. It’s great that we’re going to have our first black president, and that Americans turned down a blatant campaign of fearmongering and race-baiting. That doesn’t mean I have to like the guy. So far on both economic and foreign policy it’s looking like Obama’s administration is going to be a rerun of the Clinton years, which I think are a huge mistake to look back on as the “good ol’ days.”

I really do hope I’m proven wrong, that he really is a progressive deep down, that all those conservative and/or neoliberal appointments are just there to provide establishment credibility for progressive policies as some have suggested. But basing your support for him on that hope is no different than blind faith. [On the subject of Obama’s appointments, personnel may not absolutely determine policy, but do you really think he’s going to surround himself with neoliberal economists like Larry Summers and foreign policy hawks like Gates and Clinton… and then just completely blow off all their advice?]

So, because of this case of post-election blues, I just haven’t felt like doing much of anything political, including on this blog. I’m getting sick of feeling like the grumpy old man at the party. I’m growing more and more cynical, less convinced that real, systemic change is possible. And less convinced of my ability to have an effect on anything. A question keeps nagging at me: why bother? I really don’t have a satisfactory answer yet.

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BLAST FROM THE PAST: Why We Can’t Wait

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 10/9/08]

It saddens me to see people I highly respect spouting nonsense. That’s unfortunately the case with Howard Zinn and Greta Christina, who’ve both embraced the memes (“Wait until after the election to pressure the Dems” and “This is the most important election ever”) I discussed in my post Why the hell are progressives enthusiastic about Obama?

Here’s Zinn:

So, yes, I will vote for Obama, because the corrupt political system offers me no choice, but only for the moment I pull down the lever in the voting booth.

Before and after that moment I want to use whatever energy I have to push him toward a recognition that he must defy the traditional thinkers and corporate interests surrounding him, and pay homage to the millions of Americans who want real change.


And here’s Greta (who I’ll address more fully in a separate post):
If you disagree with Obama about one or more issues, then — once he’s elected — by all means, make your voice heard. Scream and shout. Hold his feet to the fire. As a citizen, that’s more than just your right — that’s your job. And if you think we should have a strong third party, then by all means, work to build it from a local level up.

But this election is way too important to screw around with.

Please don’t fail to act because you can’t act perfectly.


I think I addressed these arguments pretty fully in my previous post, but I do have one thing to add to the part about how we should wait until after the election to put pressure on the Democrats.

My problem with this argument, and the reason why I think it’s the same as doing nothing, is that the only leverage we really have over politicians is at election time. It doesn’t take a political science degree to know that getting elected is their foremost concern, and justifiably so. But if you signal that you’ll vote for them pretty much no matter what they do, that tells them that they can safely blow you off. They know that they only have to be a tiny bit better than the other guy to get your support.

And there’s no need to speculate about that, by the way, because the Democratic party comes right out and says it. As Stanford professor (and Obama supporter) Lawrence Lessig remarked a few months back about Obama’s support for the FISA bill:

When you talk to people close to the campaign about this, they say stuff like: “Come on, who really cares about that issue? Does anyone think the left is going to vote for McCain rather than Obama? This was a hard question. We tried to get it right. And anyway, the FISA compromise in the bill was a good one.”

It’s instructive to compare this with how the Republicans treat their base. Look at how McCain’s rhetoric constantly vacillates between moderate and hard-right conservative. He’s engaged in a delicate balancing act where he tries to keep the far-right base happy without making the rest of the country think he’s crazy. Why does he feel the need to do that, whereas Democrats seem completely comfortable taking the left for granted? Because McCain know he has to keep the base happy, or they might stay home on election day. Or even if they do hold their noses and vote for him, they won’t be very enthusiastic about it, won’t donate time or money, won’t convert their friends/family/coworkers, etc. Many conservatives, for some odd reason, see McCain as a closet moderate, and if he does anything to reinforce that notion then they might not turn out for him. Why do you think he took on Palin as his running mate? There were multiple reasons, but one of them was certainly to reassure the religious right, a group that was until then pretty tepid toward McCain.

I’m not saying don’t go out and protest for single-payer health care, or an end to the war, or anything else. I’m just asking, even if progressives do actually try to push Obama in a more progressive direction after the election (which I still highly doubt), what good will it do? He already knows he can pretty much ignore you, because you’ll have given up any leverage you had over him, any means of punishing him for doing the wrong thing. In fact, it’s entirely within reason that Obama would just use progressives a a rhetorical punching bag to show how “serious” and “independent-minded” he is, as he has already done on issues like telecom immunity.

So, my response to people like Greta who say that “This is not the time to be taking a principled stand” is that this is precisely the time to do it, in fact the only time it matters. Withholding our votes is really the only way to show the Democratic Party that there will be negative consequences for ignoring us. I’m not saying we should hold out for perfect candidates (in fact I think the suggestion that Greens and others do insist on perfection from candidates is a straw man), but that’s no reason to set the bar as low as we all to often do. It’s far from a perfect solution, but I have yet to see anything else proposed that doesn’t perpetuate the status quo indefinitely due to more or less relying on Democratic politicians to doing the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts, which will probably never happen.

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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.

KARL KLEEMAN


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.

BARBARA MERCER


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.

MALAHAT BAHREMAN


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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BLAST FROM THE PAST: Feminist Clintonistas and Cynthia McKinney

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 6/3/08]

This clip of a Clinton supporter going batshit insane on camera has been making the rounds on the internet for a few days now, but even if you’ve seen it already I want to use it as a jumping-off point for a thought I’ve been kicking around for some time now.

One quick thing before I get to that: about the “inadequate black male” comment in the video, Harriet, you should just get it over with and call him an uppity nigger, because everyone can tell that’s what you’re thinking. And in any case, Obama’s primary victory is not part of some sexist conspiracy to deny America a woman president by deviously winning the popular vote – although it’s not for lack of trying on the part of Chris Matthews and other misogynists in the media. There are plenty of reasons besides sexism to be dissatisfied with Hillary Clinton. On the contrary, I think Obama’s victory is in spite of the Clinton’s subtle appeals to white racial resentment, which you’d be hard-pressed at this point to admit that they haven’t at the very least been the passive beneficiaries of.

[I could go on about the sense of entitlement evident in Christian’s rant: she’s practically saying, “how dare he skip his turn! How dare the Dems not override the will of the voters and back *my* candidate!” Says one of the commenters at the Alternet post on the video: “Rules be dammed. Forget the delegate count. Nothing would have made this person happy except the straight forward annointment of Hillary.”]

Now, on to my main point. For some time now many feminist Clinton supporters, illustrated in the present instance by Harriet Christian but including many big-name feminists and feminist groups, have seemed to argue that her policy positions don’t matter all that much; what matters is getting a woman in the White House. Now, that’s not the same as saying they’d support Katherine Harris for President, but Clinton’s gender seems to matter quite a bit more to her feminist supporters than the fact that she could almost out-hawk McCain on foreign policy.

I actually have no problem with preferring non-white and/or male candidates, all else being equal. Considering that there really aren’t many substantive differences between Clinton and Obama, I can’t fault Clinton’s supporters too much for putting extra weight on her gender – although I take issue with their hypocrisy in criticizing Obama supporters for doing the same with race [i.e. the “He’s only popular because he’s black” meme]. In fact, race and gender are part of the reason I’m supporting….

[drum roll…………………………………..]

Cynthia McKinney, the presumptive Green candidate, who happens to be both black AND female!

Of course, I prefer McKinney for a variety of other reasons, but the fact that she’s a black woman certainly helps. But that’s a topic for another time. The point I’m trying to make here is this: If Clinton’s gender is so crucial, will her feminist supporters back McKinney now that Obama is all but assured the Democratic nomination? This is an especially important question in light of the fact that the Harriet Christians of the world are claiming to be so consumed with rage at Obama that they’ll consider a vote for John McCain, an anti-abortion hardliner who voted for pay discrimination. If you’re that pissed at Obama, why not vote for someone you might actually agree with?

And if you’re still not willing to consider a vote for McKinney just because she’s a Green, then obviously it’s not that important to you to get a woman in the White House.

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BLAST FROM THE PAST: Oh noes, Whitney is teh socialist!

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally published 12/6/06]

This is officially one of the funniest things I’ve seen in awhile. For those who don’t know, this is in reference to the “Red Scare” that reared its head in the last days of the Illinois gubernatorial race, as republican candidate Judy Baar Topinka “outed” Green candidate Rich Whitney as an official in the Socialist Labor Party over a decade ago.

See, the usual conventional wisdom about Greens “stealing” votes from Democrats was stood on its head in the last election, as Whitney appears to have drawn votes fairly equally from both Democratic candidate Rod Blagojevich and Topinka, and with Topinka in fact having lost more in the polls from Blagojevich’s corruption scandals than Blagojevich himself. Pollsters speculated that this was due to voters laying the blame on a corrupt system, which both establishment party candidates were a part of, rather than any individual candidate.

So, long story short, a good chunk of the anti-Blagojevich vote was set to go to Whitney, and Topinka latched onto the Socialist thing as something to try to discredit Whitney with. It surely convinced a few morons, but from what I’ve seen the response was largely indifference. (A few of the people I know were actually more likely to vote Whitney after hearing about it!) Mostly, it just showed everyone how desperate Topinka was getting.

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BLAST FROM THE PAST: Keep the Illinois National Guard Out of Iraq

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 9/20/06]

To be honest, I didn’t write most of this; it’s actually condensed from Whitney’s more lengthy position paper on the subject. The task they gave me was to shorten it to be usable as a press release.

So, the fact that I, uh… partially contributed to this has nothing to do with why I’m posting it. 😛


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 19, 2006

WHITNEY: KEEP THE ILLINOIS NATIONAL GUARD OUT OF IRAQ

Contact:
Jennifer Rose, Campaign Manager
Whitney for Governor, whitneyforgov.org
campaignmanager@whitneyforgov.org
618-528-VOTE

Tim Tacker, Communications Director
Whitney for Governor, whitneyforgov.org
communicationsdirector@whitneyforgov.org
815-735-6139

As governor, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney will work to end the involvement of the Illinois National Guard in the occupation of Iraq and will prevent any further mobilization, making him the only gubernatorial candidate to have a position on this important issue.

As a congressman, Rod Blagojevich voted to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq. Rich Whitney opposed the war before it began, understanding that the real goal was to ensure control of Iraq’s oil and economy by giant U.S. corporations – the same corporations that buy the votes of Democratic and Republican politicians.

“I will not consent to sending our young men and women to fight and die in the service of corporate greed, in an ill-conceived war that is making us less safe and more hated around the world and that is starving our state and local governments of funds to meet human needs at home,” Whitney said.

As commander in chief of the Illinois National Guard, the governor has the authority to veto deployment of Guard units for federal duty. Whitney acknowledged that, in response to the refusal of several state governors to consent to mobilizations for operations in Central America under the Reagan administration, Congress limited the power of governors to veto a mobilization “because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such active duty.” However, he argued, this leaves open the possibility of a veto because of the illegality of the mission.

The invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq is plainly illegal under
international law, particularly the U.N. Charter, which “as a whole imposes a general prohibition on the use of force to resolve conflicts in international relations,” Whitney said. The only exceptions are a specific authorization by the U.N. Security Council or the right of self-defense, the latter of which did not apply because the U.S. was neither attacked nor even threatened by Iraq.

As such, Whitney said, the invasion and occupation were and remain acts of aggression, a war crime under international law. Further, he argued that as a government official, he would be legally required to not participate in such a crime by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, which states that “Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity… is a crime under international law.”

“I will not be even a complicit or passive participant in a crime under
international law,” Whitney said. “I will do everything possible to prevent the sacrifice of any more human life in the service of such a crime.”

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BLAST FROM THE PAST: Chicago-Style Big-Box Law Good For Illinois

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 9/19/06]

The fact that I wrote this has nothing to do with why I’m posting it, I swear 😛

Yeah, I know, I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again when my National Guard release goes out in a day or two.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 18, 2006

WHITNEY: CHICAGO-STYLE BIG-BOX LAW GOOD FOR ILLINOIS

Contact:
Jennifer Rose, Campaign Manager
Whitney for Governor, whitneyforgov.org
campaignmanager@whitneyforgov.org
618-528-VOTE

Tim Tacker, Communications Director
Whitney for Governor, whitneyforgov.org
communicationsdirector@whitneyforgov.org
815-735-6139

Green gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney, lamenting the failure of the Chicago City Council to overcome Mayor Richard Daley’s veto of an ordinance requiring “big-box” retailers like Wal-Mart and Target to pay a living wage, will work to pass and implement a similar law for the entire state of Illinois if elected.

“While I don’t buy the complaint that the ordinance would drive big retailers out into the suburbs, the solution would be to expand the law statewide,” Whitney said, pointing out that retailers would have to comply with the law in order to access the Illinois market.

The vetoed Chicago ordinance would have required stores larger than 90,000 square feet to pay workers $10 an hour with $3 an hour in benefits by 2010.

“A full-time job should provide enough income to support a family,” Whitney said, but even on this state’s minimum wage, increased over the federal minimum, it is still possible for people who work hard every day of their lives to fall under the poverty line. Requiring big-box retailers to pay living wages has the potential to improve the lives of thousands of workers at a time when the buying power of the minimum wage is at an all-time low.

In response to claims that requiring big-box retailers to pay decent wages will increase joblessness and decrease economic growth because such companies will invest less in Illinois as a result, Whitney disputed the notion that more Wal-Marts are the solution to our economic woes.

“All that more Wal-Marts and Targets means is more dead end, low paying and low benefit jobs,” Whitney said. “Should we really be patting ourselves on the back for that? Instead, I think we should pass laws supporting small, locally-owned business that properly reward the contributions of their workers by giving them a more level playing field on which to compete with corporate giants.”

Besides just driving down wages and benefits, big-box retailers also hurt workers another way. Studies show that far from creating jobs, they actually cause a net loss of jobs in the communities they enter due to driving other local businesses and the fact that they typically employ fewer people to obtain the same amount of sales. For instance, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Urban Economic Development estimated in a 2004 study of the impact of a proposed Wal-Mart store on Chicago’s west side that its opening would cause a net loss of 65 jobs.

Therefore, Whitney said, it makes sense to require that big-box retailers pay decent wages to compensate for the loss in jobs and economic activity. This would also be a boon to local economies, he said, because “the greater purchasing power in the hands of working people is largely expended directly on goods and services in the community. In contrast, wealth extracted from poorly paid workers, accumulated in the hands of a few wealthy corporate owners, is largely taken out of the community.”

A living wage law for big-box retailers would also benefit taxpayers by decreasing government expenses on social programs. Because companies like Wal-Mart refuse to give the workers their fair share, we pay more in the form of increased reliance on Medicaid and welfare programs, costing the state over $2 billion a year according to another UIC study. “This is money that could be going to improve our schools or fund research into clean energy,” Whitney said. “Instead, it is being used to indirectly subsidize giant corporations that post massive profits and could easily bear the costs.”

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