By Mark Rudd / The Rag Blog / November 28, 2008
‘He has a narrow mandate for change, without any direction specified. What he’s doing now is moving on the most popular issues — the environment, health care, and the economy.’
If you’re anything like me, your inbox fills up daily with the cries and complaints of lefties. Just the mere mention of the names Hillary Clinton and Lawrence Summers alone conjure up a litany of horrendous right-wingers appointed to top level positions.
Betrayal is the name of the game.
But wait a second. Let’s talk about a few things:
* Obama is a very strategic thinker. He knew precisely what it would take to get elected and didn’t blow it. He used community organizing methods to mobilize a base consisting of many people who had never voted before or who regularly don’t vote. Few other candidates in my lifetime have taken this road, which is contrary to conventional political wisdom. (Paul Wellstone was a wonderful exception to the rule.) But he also knew that what he said had to basically play to the center to not be run over by the press, the Republicans, scare centrist and cross-over voters away. He made it.
So he has a narrow mandate for change, without any direction specified. What he’s doing now is moving on the most popular issues — the environment, health care, and the economy. He’ll be progressive on the environment because that has broad popular support; health care will be extended to children, then made universal, but the medical, pharmaceutical, and insurance corporations will stay in place, perhaps yielding some power; the economic agenda will stress stimulation from the bottom sometimes and handouts to the top at other times. It will be pragmatic — Summers is talking about the growth in income disparity as a significant problem. On foreign policy and the wars and the use of the military there will be no change at all. That’s what keeping Gates at the Pentagon and Clinton at State and not prosecuting the torturers is saying.
And never, never threaten the military budget. That will unite a huge majority of congress against him.
And I agree with this strategy. Anything else will court sure defeat. Move on the stuff you can to a small but significant extent, gain support and confidence. Leave the military alone because they’re way too powerful. For now, until enough momentum is raised. By the second or third year of this recession, when stimulus is needed at the bottom, people may begin to discuss cutting the military budget if security is being increased through diplomacy and application of nascent international law.
* Obama plays basketball. I’m not much of an athlete, barely know the game, but one thing I do know is that you have to be able to look like you’re doing one thing but do another. That’s why all these conservative appointments are important: the strategy is feint to the right, move left. Any other strategy invites sure defeat. It would be stupid to do otherwise in this environment.
* Look to the second level appointments. There’s a whole govt. in waiting that Podesta has at the Center for American Progress. They’re mostly progressives, I’m told (except in military and foreign policy). Cheney was extremely effective at controlling policy by putting his people in at second-level positions.
* Read Obama’s first book, “Dreams from My Father.” The second section is the story of his three years doing community organizing in Chicago. It’s some of the best writing on organizing I’ve ever seen. That’s all it’s about, the core of the book. Obama learned many lessons of strategy and patience. Then read the first section, on his family and growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia. No other president has ever had such intimate experience with class and race. The final section is about his trip to Kenya. No other president has ever had an understanding of not only race, but colonialism and neo-colonialism, even using the terms. It’s the whole story he tells of his African family and especially his father, a victim of neo-colonialism. As was his step-father in Indonesia.
This is no stupid guy. I haven’t read The Audacity of Hope yet, but I plan to soon. I am ashamed that it took me so long to read Obama’s books. Had any of the stupid Republicans read his books, they never could have said, “We don’t know who this guy is.” You know every thought he’s ever had.
Our job now is to organize both inside and outside the Demo party. There’s already a big battle in the Demo party at every level. Here in the New Mexico State Legislature, the progressives are challenging the conservative Dems for leadership; the same is true in Congress. If you can’t stand to work in the party, work on putting mass pressure on issues such as healthcare and jobs and the war from outside.
Here’s my mantra: “Let’s put this country on our shoulders and get to work.”
Mark’s last line, “Let’s put this country on our shoulders and get to work.” is an invitation we all should accept. As an old activist I nonetheless agree that anger and an impatience to spotlight narrow issues must, instead, be re-focused for the near term into a floodlight. Obama is a lot smarter than a lot of us, and has a helluva lot more vision. I am willing to be reasonably patient to allow him to use his skill as a consensus maker to start a positive change of course for America.
I mostly agree with Mark. My only caveat is that we don’t know FOR SURE how progressive Obama is “in his soul…” The first book was beautiful and had wonderful elements in it — I have to confess, I have been put off by the reviews of AUDACITY OF HOPE because I see it as political boilerplate — designed to identify him as “post partisan …”
I think one VERY TELLING sign will be if he puts off the rise in taxes on higher income people …
THe SYMBOLIC nature of it is all that’s important — the actual rise in the marginal tax rate for millionaires will be NOTHING — for the first 5 years of the Reagan Administration the top rate was 50%.
MUCH MORE IMPORTANT is the employee free choice act — and how the “bailout” of GM, FORD and CHRYSLER goes … If he permits the DLC wing of the Democratic Party to “win” the fight and continue the bashing of organized labor (and not putting all his strength behind attempting to re level the playing field between workers
and capitalists) then I think we’ve got the beginning of Clinton II.
I agree with Mark that he doesn’t SEEM to be that type — but it only means how important it is for us to organize and keep up pressure.
And we can do that without moaning, groaning, knashing teeth and complaining about him … The ball is in our court (bball analogy again!) and it’s OUR responsibility to mobilize whatever people we can influence for MORE SPENDING not less — IGNORING deficits (not worrying about them) — SUPPORTING higher wages (not bashing unions and demanding “restructuring” in the industrial heartland) — INSISTING on REAL controls over banks and other financials — and exposing FRAUD and CRIMINALITY there as much as possible.
The reason capitalism got such a bad name during the depression in the 1930s was because the criminality on Wall Street was exposed after the crash (that’s where William O. Douglas made a name for himself on the S.E.C. … ) — the same thing happened on a smaller scale after the S & L meltdown in the late 1980s — WE have to do that now — journalism, expose, political pressure for hearings, etc.
Sorry to ramble — but I did want to give a very qualified but enthusiastic endorsement to Mark’s intervention!
We DO have a lot to be Thankful for — not the least, our troops will be out of IRaq in a couple of years — !
Mark said: “On foreign policy and the wars and the use of the military there will be no change at all. That’s what keeping Gates at the Pentagon and Clinton at State and not prosecuting the torturers is saying.”
That being the case, it is the task of progressives to organize to make Obama back down. Look at his policy of escalation in Afghanistan:
I just don’t buy the argument that Obama is making these major appointments based on “strategic thinking”.
The election is over, he won. Isn’t it more likely that these are very telling early signs of what’s ahead, rather then a post electoral attempt to “feint to the right”?
I would love to see a play in which Mark of 1968 meets Mark of 2008. What would they say to each other?
Mark: Excellent piece. It is a mark of the brilliance of Obama that he recognizes the limitations of the presidency, particularly in relation to the dead weight of the status quo. As he himself reminded us a few days ago, 47% of the country didn’t vote for him, and he must bring them on board if he’s to affect real change.
I find it a mark of the immaturity of many critics who are already whining about his ‘swerve to the right’, and a ‘betrayal of his message’, etc. etc. This ‘government’ is far more than that: it is an immense social, ideological, economic and political system with 300 million moving parts, and like any large vessel, even when moving with all deliberate haste, it will always move slowly. I would council those who voted for change to ask themselves whether they prefer their change quick and transitory, or slow and permanent.
Again, good piece.
Mr. Rudd carefully explains the delusion that is so popular with those progressives who are pretending that the Left has somehow won a great ‘victory’ by helping to elect a man who is an avowed free-marketeer, has promised to prosecute the US imperial mission with zeal, and has appointed an avowed Zionist, a man who has direct ties with Israeli intelligence, (having gone off to serve the Israeli war machine at a time when his own nation went off to war), as the second most powerful person in Washington.
Mr Rudd so patiently explains to us, (as if we’ve just arrived home from a long expedition to the Arctic, and therefore have never heard this yet), that Obama is really a progressive in clever disguise who “knew precisely what it would take to get elected and didn’t blow it”.
He’s only pretending to be a center-rightist. Get it?? It’s all a big ruse to fool the center-right into thinking he’s one of them. His promises to increase military spending, escalate the war in Central Asia, give enthusiastic support to Zionist apartheid, and carefully preserve our health care system as a lucrative profit center for the insurance, drug, and health care industries by directly subsidizing insurance companies with our tax dollars, are simply intended to provide ‘cover’, so he can work cleverly, in disguise, behind the scenes (I guess), to help out the progressive cause, (according to Mr. Rudd). The long litany of his VERY disturbing policy positions are all just part of his cleverly disguised strategy, (with which Mr. Rudd tells us he agrees), to advance the progressive agenda.
Well….Uhhh…..Okey dokey……Is this really what passes for ‘strategic thinking’ on the American Left.
Mr Rudd tells us that Obama can move on environmental issues because he has a public mandate. Well…We’ll see what he does, but he sure got a LOT of money from the corporate establishment, didn’t he?
And then Mr. Rudd skillfully implies that Obama’s industry-friendly Trojan Horse health care plan, (which will very likely kill true health care reform for at least a generation), is a necessary compromise, (as if giving direct tax subsidies to this industry represents a ‘compromise’).
And his promises to support the military, prosecute the war on terror, support the racist policies of Zionism, and get tough with Russia by putting missiles in Poland, (in other words, to shore up and protect the American Empire), are all simply matters of pragmatic subterfuge, because “he … knew that what he said had to basically play to the center to not be run over by the press, the Republicans, scare centrist and cross-over voters away”. And whew! To the great relief of what passes for our progressive ‘intelligentsia’, (and Mr. Rudd), “He made it”.
What a relief! We can all breath easier, and assuming that Obama follows through on his promises, (escalating wars, shoring up the Empire, and supporting the free market), we can rest secure in our knowledge that this is all only part of the clever ruse he is playing out to butter up the center-right so that he can fulfill the promises of “hope and change”, (on which his empty rhetoric soared so high), to advance the progressive agenda.
I was, upon first confronting this phantasmagoric line of thinking, completely incredulous. How could intelligent people on the Left, people whom we respect and admire, promulgate this degree of utter non-sense, which is so brazenly audacious in its complete irrationality that it is difficult to argue against? (When someone argues with great conviction that the sky is green, where do you start a rebuttal?)
But what has become very clear at this point is that a coalition of people who heretofore have enjoyed the great respect of the progressive Left, have deluded themselves to such an extent with this irrational line of thinking that they have confidently and brazenly undertaken a deliberate plan to ‘isolate and ostracize’ anyone on the Left not foolish enough to follow them into the quagmire of the Democratic Party. They have already begun to sling mud in the faces of anyone who won’t go along. (As does ‘Sid’, writing anonymously, as he characterizes as “immature” and “whining” anyone who happens to have noticed that Obama’s actual policy positions are not at all progressive).
These ‘august’ thinkers, who have heretofore passed for members of the Left intelligentsia, are completely blind to the fact that their ‘brilliant’ plan is only going to serve as a huge source of divisiveness on the American Left, (as it already is, after only a few weeks). It cannot help but weaken the Left, and thereby serve the purposes of the Center-right Clintonistas to whom Obama is quite obviously, (to anyone not blinded by self-delusion), beholden.
As all this emerges from the fog of back room campaign deals, to become apparent to all us dumb-grunts of the mere grass roots ‘rank and file’ Left, this is beginning to look like the work of a coalition assembled by Tom Hayden and his Progressive Democrats of America crew. Hayden is one of the leading principles of this foolishly arrogant ‘Progressives for Obama’ faction that is so freely slinging insults in our faces if we do not embrace Obamamania, (with Carl Davidson, who promotes ‘democratic organizing’ while he runs their public forum with an iron fist, serving as one of their principle attack dogs).
The “inside-outside strategy” that Mr. Rudd promotes here is the PDA mantra. This ‘strategy’ calls for a few self-selected upper-level (elite) progressive policy wonks, (most of whom are careerist campaign veterans for one Democrat politician or another, or else career lobbyists for ‘inside the beltway’ 501 C3s, PACs, and other establishment NGOs), to walk the halls of power, and elbow up to power-brokers on the cocktail-party circuit, pretending that they are real power brokers themselves, (when in reality nobody pays much attention to them at all, because 1) they don’t have any money, 2) they don’t control any votes, and 3) they have no means to communicate with more that a relatively small number of people).
Ahhh…But if they only had a mass movement behind them, (they have reasoned), just think how much cooler that would be. (THAT’s the ‘outside’ part). While our self-selected ‘representatives’ hob-nob around the edges of the power-elite, OUR job, (as the ever dutiful grass roots), is to join up as the rank-and-file troops in the army they need behind them in order to gain credibility as they clack their heels down the marble halls of power.
So…..These self-selected ‘leaders’ tell us to join their ‘democratic’ organizations, (like PDA). We’re supposed to be too dumb to notice (apparently) that in these ‘democratic’ organizations, like PDA, the leaders are all self-appointed, the agenda is handed down from the top, and the only channel of communications that is maintained is from the top down. The primary job of members in these ‘democratic’ organizations is to send in money to pay the rents of those hob-nobbing with the power-elite, and to organize other foot-soldiers to do the bidding of our self-selected ‘generals’.
The possible flaw in their plan is that there are a heck of a lot of us who just aren’t that dumb, (despite the fact that they apparently think we are). We know the difference between bottom-up democratic organization, and the typical top-down chain-of-command management style that characterizes groups like PDA, (which give lip-service to being ‘democratic’ while they try their best to ‘run a tight ship’).
Anyway……Whatever…..There’s no stopping these folks, (or reasoning with them). They’ve obviously made up their minds. They’ve already embarked on this path. We’ll see where it takes us.
I certainly got my share of goose bumps while listening to Barack Obama weave his magic with words. I’m still scratching my head wondering how his rhetoric could soar so high with such inspiring promises of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, while all his policy positions have promised nothing but more of the ‘same-old-same-old’. Are so many of the people REALLY this easy to fool so much of the time? Hey…..Maybe I’m the one confused here. Maybe I’m just too dumb to know that it’s best to ignore the walk someone walks in favor of the oh so sweet talk he talks.
But time will pass. We’ll see what the man DOES. I’ll be very happy to have my fears proven groundless, as he locks horns with corporate power, to bring a ‘new New Deal’ to the American people.
But it sure looks to me that whatever Obama does or does not do, the American Left seems to be determined to defeat itself once again with sectarian divisiveness. This ‘Progressives for Obama’ camp has arrogantly declared ‘war’ on clear thinking progressive Leftists, intending to ‘isolate and ostracize’ any who will not hop on board their brilliant ‘inside-outside’ plan, (as Carl Davidson urged us to do in his recent ‘Bumpy Road Ahead’ piece), as they arrogantly sling ordure in the faces of anyone who insolently refuses to wilfully ignore mere reality.
It’s not that ‘inside-outside’ is such a bad plan. With some honing here and there, it could be workable enough. If put forth with an attitude of respect and democratic cooperation, something could perhaps be built around it. And at the very least, if Hayden and his people want to still think, after a lifetime of failure, that they can force the Democratic Party to serve the people, rather than its corporate power base, hey, they could go knock themselves out with their efforts, and the rest of us could do whatever we think is best to do, and we could find ways and means to cooperate democratically to serve each other’s interests.
But, noooo! As always, the devil is in the details, and in what we can see to this point, this ‘inside-outside plan’ looks like a plan hatched by a self-appointed leadership ‘elite’ that wants us to sign up in their ‘army’, and is now actively engaged in slinging insults on anyone who will not ‘cooperate’. It’s not the basic ‘plan’ itself that is so odious. It’s the arrogant disrespect with which it is being promulgated, and the fundamental hypocrisy of promoting it as ‘democratic’, when we all can see that its focus is on building the power of a self-selected leadership elite.
Mark Rudd tells us his inbox is flooded with ‘protests’ against this Left embrace of Obamamania. But no matter. Mr. Rudd and his Progressives for Obama (P4O) cohorts will not be deterred. Like all leadership elites, they disregard ‘protests’, coming from the mere peons, with contempt.
One of the most elegant pieces of prose I’ve seen in some time, even though agree with only a few lines you wrote. This, for instance: “But time will pass. We’ll see what the man DOES. I’ll be very happy to have my fears proven groundless, as he locks horns with corporate power, to bring a ‘new New Deal’ to the American people. Unfortunately, that glimmer of reason is
“47% of the country didn’t vote for him, and he must bring them on board if he’s to affect real change”
No, no. In this 47% are the true patriots who will rip the cancer of liberalism from the body politic and cast its bled out shriveled remains on the trash heap of history.
We are well armed, dedicated and will be victorious.
I would like to read more of your putting the nation on your back and getting to work as everyone from Teddy Roosevelt Republicans to yourself can agree on that fine virtue.
The problem sir is Mr. Obama who you praise has put in more robber barons at treasury, his Chicago syndicate depends upon imported Mexican slave labor in human traffic and I’m concerned for you that you
Since when is intelligence alone the measure of a man?
The big O is an opportunist of the first water. He’s never worked in private enterprise or held a real job and being a community organizer is no more than shaking down whitey for money. In other words, the liberal white guilt candidate played the same for fools and they are genuflecting in awe.
But to get back to the intelligence issue; character and principle also come into play. O is a socialist, even a marxist as opposed to the fascist socialism of Bush/ McCain (McMussolini). Further, he’s a player and had to be to come out of the crooked politics of Chicago and a hypocrite besides. Has he donated the money he made over the limit he quoted Joe the plumber out of the goodness of his little progressive heart? How much does his mansion cost he got from fat Tony? Has he opened it up to the “community”, organizer that he is.
We say nothing at all of the black version of a KKK church he attended for 20 years. Yes, I know anybody that dares to mention this is a racist, because that’s the first thing you get called/smeared with when you’re winning an argument with a liberal. But to move on.
In short if the liberal white guilt voters wanted somebody 100% black, 100% African,100% socialist and 100% experienced (at wrecking an economy) they would do better with Robert Mugabe in the first place.
But wait, after the pointy heads at the IMF and the blue helmets at the UN get together and engineer his removal, Roberto should be available for Sec. of Treasury.
In other words, a vote for either of the mainstream clone candidates means we’re still drinking the kool aid, whether in this case we are talking about the articulate blackface puppet (who is oh so intelligent, swoon) instead of the not so articulate paleface carbon copy (boo, hiss).
Ron Paul had it right. It’s not government’s job to run everything including the economy and passing laws doesn’t stop gravity or market corrections. We don’t need more affirmative action mortgage crisis bailouts or micromanagement by the feds, no matter how smart they are, much more if they really were that smart, they would admit it and act accordingly.
We have had 8 stinking years of idolizing, enabling and excusing the Repub admin and now it only looks like we will have another 8 years (?) of the same for the Dem candidate/regime.
This is progressive?
Please, gentlemen, don’t make me laugh/throw up.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
The new boss is the same as the old boss.
You got played if you voted for McBama O’Cain globalism and if you want any self respect or street cred, the best thing to do in the long run is to admit it.
Black Agenda Report editor Glen Ford (who apparently has spent more time examining and studying Barack Obama’s actual political and personal history than has Mark) recently wrote the following anti-war and anti-racist Movement critique of B.O.’s post-election political direction that was also recently posted on the CounterPunch anti-war website, which might interested ragblog readers:
“In case there are any lingering doubts, it’s official: Barack Obama has earned a well-deserved rating of “center-right” politician, courtesy of the New York Times. The president-elect worked hard to pull himself rightward, after starting off with a reputation as a liberalish “peace” candidate. Nobody calls Obama that anymore, not since he endorsed the bankers’ bailout, put the economy’s future in the hands of the same people that set the stage for financial meltdown, and let Bush’s War Secretary keep the keys to the imperial armory. So let’s give it to Obama. He won’t ever have an identity crisis, again.
“There are lots of political appointments to go before Obama’s roster is complete, but the heavy lifting is done. The ideological pillars of America’s first Black presidency have been planted wholly within the parameters of governance allowed by big capital and the imperial military. Obama’s “transition” is more accurately seen as a “continuity” of rule by the lords of finance capital and their protective screen of warriors and spies. The Obama regime, still incomplete, already reeks of thieves and war criminals.
“Obama’s “national security” and economic lineup is an infinity of ugliness, more repulsive than I could have imagined back in the summer of 2003, when Obama’s rise to glory was about to begin. The supremely talented actor/state senator’s capacity for obfuscation; his refusal to take a firm position on any subject of real controversy; his transparently false denials of fealty to the corporate Democratic Leadership Council, which had publicly claimed him – all this should have marked Obama as bad news for Black America. But his was a fatally attractive package, like the shiny little cluster bomblets that kids pick up in places like Afghanistan.
“My colleagues and I were most fearful of the effect Obama’s corporate-rigged explosion onto the national scene would have on the black polity – both the masses and leadership circles. Obama’s phony progressivism didn’t fool us for a second – although we yearned as much as other African Americans for the appearance of a Great Black Hope. Obama wasn’t “The One,” no matter what Oprah said. Rather, he became a menace to black folks’ collective mental health.
“We knew that a mass hallucinatory phenomenon was about to occur, that would loosen many black folks’ grips on reality no matter how often and loudly we warned that Barack Obama was a cynical corporate striver who encouraged whites to believe that his election would mark the end of black politics as we have known it. (Take breath, here.) He was the anti-Jesse, the anti-Sharpton, a fraudulent peace candidate, an eager servant of the rich. We diligently provided evidence of Obama’s true political nature, and at every juncture before and during the primaries we were proven correct in our analysis. But no matter. African Americans’ pent up hunger to see a (pretty) black face in the highest place, would not be denied. They desperately needed the Obama of their imaginings, and would draw and quarter anyone that questioned the senator’s sainthood.
“Were black folks “losing their damn minds,” as comedian David Alan Grier puts it on Comedy Central’s Chocolate News?
“Yes, they were.
“Black America became a fortress, impregnable to truth. The ever-mounting evidence of Obama’s abhorrence of real social change beyond his own singular elevation; his fawning deference to big business; his call for an additional 100,000 soldiers and Marines; his early refusal to consider a moratorium on housing foreclosures; his reversal on electronic spying on Americans – none of these actual, real world occurrences could puncture the mass delusion. A kind of collective autism sealed off the African American mind from reality-based phenomena. The cruelest, blanket insults to African American dignity issued repeatedly from Obama’s mouth, yet were gratefully accepted as proof of the candidate’s “tough love” for “his people.”
“Fast forward to the present. Obama has awarded his administration’s economic and imperial military portfolios to plundering investment bankers and their servants (Robert Rubin’s derivative-addicted sidekicks) and endless-warriors (Iran-Contra super-spook and master of intrigue Robert Gates). In this scariest chapter of world history to date, the Secretaries of War (let’s have some truth in language) and Treasury will be the dominant players in determining the nation’s economic and military place on the planet. That’s where the bulk of the national wealth will be diverted. Everyone else will scramble for crumbs. The store has already been given away to the military and economic Right. Thank you, Obama. Macro military and economic adventures and experiments will be the governmental order of the day – and whatever else happens will be sideshows, dwarfed by the massive movement of mega-money deployed to salvage the imperial system.
“Which is why it is pitiful – and sad in the extreme – to hear influential black activists make a huge deal out of Obama’s proposed White House Office on Urban Policy. “Just you wait and see,” these wishful souls seem to be saying. “Obama’s gonna come through for us. Yes, he will.” As if a little advisory outfit tucked into the White House organizational chart will make a damn bit of difference as the giants of the cabinet battle over trillions.
“Our world changed fundamentally between Obama’s acceptance speech in August, and his endorsement of the banker bailout in early October. The bottom fell out of the global capitalist financial system. From now on, it’s all crisis, all the time. Obama has done everything humanly possible to assure the Lords of Capital that he is at their service. His appointments prove it. But some African Americans – far too many – still labor under the illusion that a solemn pact exists between themselves and Obama. It is a belief based on blind faith and things unseen – or an imagined exchange of winks.
“A prominent and highly intelligent, lifelong New York activist assures audiences that Barack Obama is winking at black folks, to confirm the understanding between the president-elect and his people. White folks can’t see the wink, but if a black person looks closely – there it is! And black folks shouldn’t hesitate to wink back at him, to acknowledge the secret we share.
“I assume the organizer is speaking metaphorically, though I sometimes wonder. The point is, although it might appear that Obama has broken his commitment to African Americans (actually, he never made one), we should rest easy – his thoughts are with us. Whenever it seems like he’s brushing us off, well, that’s just his way of fooling the white folks – in our interests, of course.
“When the psychological need is great enough, people will believe anything. But chasing mirages is no road to freedom.”
Glen Ford is editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article appears. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com
The Tea Party will delight in turning your tactics on yourselves and destroy your communist efforts, Viva La Freedom, ass whipes