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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Muddle over Obama's move to the middle

My voice has been just one small shout in the chorus of progressives disappointed in what appears to be Obama's major slide to the center of the political spectrum in recent weeks. Of course, Obama is one of those candidates who, like a magic talking mirror, allows a voter to see what he or she wants to see and hear what he or she wants to hear. Who is the most beautiful candidate of all? Why Obama, of course, because he reflects all that is good about ourselves--right?

Anyway, my friend and blog pal Marc Cooper, the political commentator with whom I agree most often these days, tackles the Obama centrism issue in a very interesting and perceptive post called "O-Bummed." A few tidbits, and then I would urge you to read the entire post--and also take a look at the comments from Marc's usual menagerie of bloggers, including the irrepressible "reg" and the blog's poster boy for rightwing stupidity, Woody.

Marc begins:

There’s cold fear in the blogosphere. Liberals from Malibu to Madison have broken out into hives. Hands are wringing and knickers are twisted. Turns out that Barack Obama might be a centrist! Or even worse, it seems.

Consternation among progressives:

His critics on the Left demand to know what the heck is going on?

The answer is, quite simply, that Barack Obama wants to get elected.

Marc, a diehard leftist who is nevertheless hated by many others on the left for daring to question its more foolish shibboleths, knows that is not a good excuse:

Believe me, I know the counter-arguments. I’ve been making them for years (and on top of that I’m actually one of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit against the telecom giants for their role in the domestic eavesdropping adventure). It goes something like this: provide the proper leadership and The People Will Follow. Democrats lose because they are Republican Lite. The Democrats will triumph only and if the Democratic wing of the party dominates and eschews all compromise and wavering. That’s it, right?

But what makes you so sure? If this formula were so exact, we’d have already completed the second term of the Kucinich administration, wouldn’t we? John Edwards would be this year’s nominee and he’d be vowing not to implement national health care, but rather he’d be promising to further improve it. Along with our humming national high-speed rail system, our bio-fuel fleet of cars, and our beloved national service program that provides free college tuition to all students who promise civic duty.

I will leave it to you to read the rest. As I have argued so many times, Obama is no savior, and should not be seen as such; the promise he holds out is the possibility of an ideological sea change in the United States that could give social activists the political space they desperately need to organize and operate. Of course, that means that Obama has to be elected first. Perhaps social activists should spend just a little less time attacking Obama and a little more time being socially active.

Update I: Nothing I say above, by the way, should be construed as letting the Democrats, including Obama, off the hook for their chronic capitulation to the Bush administration on anything related to the "war on terror" or the war in Iraq. A federal judge's decision yesterday in a wiretapping lawsuit would seem to indicate that Congress is about to hand Bush a completely unnecessary victory. And some Obama supporters are very mad about his stance on the upcoming vote.

Update II: When even the New York Times editorial (July 4) complains about Obama's flip-flops and new positions, it is a matter of concern. Will the Democrats once again hand a major campaign gift to the Republicans?

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