‘Millions have been newly engaged and motivated as a result of the recent electoral process and most are not traditional players who automatically buy in to the traditional assumptions.’
By Thorne Dreyer / The Rag Blog / November 20, 2008
History has taken an unexpected turn and, astounding as it may seem to those of us made numb by decades of disappointment, the possibility of building a viable progressive movement is before us.
Millions have been newly engaged and motivated as a result of the recent electoral process and most are not traditional players who automatically buy in to the traditional assumptions. Add to that the critical and tantalizing fact that these people need not fall back into the woodwork thanks to the unprecedented communications networks that we now have at our disposal.
The emergence and consolidation of a serious progressive movement is nowhere near a given, and we certainly have a tradition of blowing it — especially through turning in on ourselves rather than intelligently identifying and directing our energies at the real enemy — but we’d be fools not to bust our butts trying to make it happen.
We must recognize and be tolerant of our differences in ideology and approach, but we must also recognize that our only power is in unity. It is not only our right but our responsibility to address the Obama presidency with a critical eye; we must always hold Obama accountable to a progressive vision.
But we must likewise be supportive and leave the Obama-bashing to those who are best at it — the rabid right. The resurgent clout of the racists and the fear-mongers will be underestimated only at our serious peril.
The crises we face now scream of catastrophic potential and there may not be another chance.
Rag Blog reading list on the task at hand (much more to come):
I highly recommend that everyone read Carl Davidson’s Bumpy Road Ahead: Obama and the Left posted on The Rag Blog Nov. 18, 2008.
Few of us will agree with every word, but I believe it to be a bold and thoughtful beginning. Please join in the discussion by clicking the “comments” at the end of this (and every) post.
Other articles recently published on The Rag Blog that analyze the election from a left perspective and address the question of the day: what do we do now?
Robert Jensen : Real Hope: Facing Difficult Truths About an Uncertain Future by Robert Jensen / The Rag Blog / Nov. 18, 2008
‘Two Party’ or Not ‘Two Party’ : A Rag Blog Discussion on Change with articles by David P. Hamilton and Scott Trimble / The Rag Blog / Nov. 16, 2008
Bert Garskof on the Obama ‘Movement’ : Shoot Where the Ducks are by Bert Garskof / The Rag Blog / Nov. 10, 2008
Paul Buhle : The American Elections of 2008: A First Take by Paul Buhle / The Rag Blog / Nov. 8, 2008
Makani Themba-Nixon : A Black Woman Looks at the Election by Makani Themba-Nixon / The Rag Blog / Nov. 8, 2008
Obama Presidency : What the Left Should Expect by David P. Hamilton / Nov. 8, 2008
Ayers Seems Relieved That the Election is Over by Bill Ayers / Nov. 7, 2008
The Crash of 2008 : More ‘Washington as Usual’ Under Obama? by Dr. S. R. Keister / The Rag Blog / Nov. 7, 2008
Ron Ridenour on Obama : Conditional Hope from Across the Seas by Ron Ridenour / The Rag Blog / Nov. 6, 2008
Tim Wise : Tuesday Night Obama Made History; Now the Work Begins by Tim Wise / Nov. 5, 2008
Paul Buhle : FDR, Obama and a new Popular Front by Paul Buhle / The Rag Blog / Nov. 5, 2008
Michael Moore : Pinch Me! by Michael Moore / Nov. 5, 2008
[Thorne Dreyer was a pioneering underground journalist in the sixties and seventies and was active with SDS in Texas and nationally. He lives in Austin where he works with MDS/Austin and Progressives for Obama. A writer, editor and bookseller, he is a contributing editor to Next Left Notes and is co-editor of The Rag Blog.]
It was lovely to read your blog message about “progressive opportunity,” and I took your advice and read Carl Davidson’s piece and some of the comments posted on the blog at the end of his essay.
I need to tell you at the outset that I feel myself only marginally connected to what you and others are calling a “progressive” vision or movement. I am connected more specifically only to parts of that vision — especially gay rights and environmental protection. As for the issues of class, race, social justice, war/peace, my views are probably not that different from most “progressives,” but I can’t see myself getting actually involved on a day-to-day basis in so many issues. As for being “anti-capitalist,” well, I can’t and won’t applaud capitalism , but I feel that focusing on the worn-out concept that capitalism and corporations are the “enemy” to be destroyed doesn’t work for me and is destined to be futile. I think more about working toward compromises where the basic capitalist system is “softened” or humanized with socialist concepts such as has been accomplished in many European societies and even to a certain extend in the U.S. (with Medicare, food stamps, etc.).
Carl’s long piece was hard for me to read, as it was so reminiscent of the long pieces that used to appear in New Left Notes in the late 1960s, very heavy with words like “hegemonic” and in many ways based on the socialist vision of that era. I did not read Carl’s article very carefully, but I can’t remember a single mention of the struggle of gays and lesbians, and very little about the environment, so that bothered me (as you might imagine from the fact that these are the areas where I am most involved and committed).
Also, I am one of those people (and there are many of us, some of us Jews, some not) who do not agree with the current popular left-wing diatribes against Israel, villainizing Israel and failing to recognize what the Arabs’ role has been in that tragic situation. Thus, the extreme and basically hateful anti-Israel diatribe by Zwarich (in response to Carl’s article) was very painful for me to read.
I cannot see myself being part of a movement where I have to listen to Zwarich or argue with him. Frankly, I don’t have the energy or the time for such arguments.
There may be others like me, who do not feel attracted now (as perhaps we were in the past) to the calls for building a movement, and who just want to do what they can, on a fairly small and mostly local basis, to make the world a little better.
Is this something to do with my age? Perhaps it is, and I won’t apologize for that. It’s the way the world looks to me now, and I am certain that the large circle of friends I have now, for the most part, are pretty much like me in this regard. I can’t think of a single one of my friends — and they are all wonderful, caring and progressive people who’ve been celebrating the Obama victory — who would want to read Carl Davidson’s essay. They probably would enjoy some of the writing on the Rag Blog, however, but not the kind of strong, far-reaching “call” for political involvement and movement-building that is currently afoot. These people, most of whom are in their 50s and 60s, are far too busy with their work, family and community lives — and their commitment to enjoy leisure, recreational activity and otherwise have fun in a life that seems way too short. I wonder if my attitude resonates at all with other Rag Blog readers, or perhaps I seem to them as a hopeless “liberal,” simply not “left-wing” or committed enough.
Thorne: I couldn’t agree more with your commentary, but articles like this (http://washingtonindependent.com/19654/clintons-team-at-state) posted on Huffpo do not auger for a particularly unified future. What is it about the left/progressives that they always have to ‘holier than thou’ their ideological mates? According to that article… and I’ve seen many like it over the past month… the Clintons are suddenly the retrograde revisionist old-guard democrats that the new kids on the block need to be careful of.
I simply cannot fathom the ends or the benefits of this kind of ‘I’m more progressive than you’ thinking. The omnivores are looked down upon by the vegetarians who are looked down upon by the vegans, who are looked down upon by the fruitarians, etc, etc.
I truly look forward to the day that progressives grow up, stop being so exclusionary and divisive over the dot’s of ‘i’s’ and the crossing of ‘t’s’… and can be the genuine big tent that they pretend to be. The great ideological contradiction of the left… and the contradiction that Obama must resolve… is that they are not nearly as tolerant as they demand (no contradiction there, right?) that others be. I have hope that he can, and his appointments would indicate there is reason for that hope.