Tom "gives opportunism a bad name"(*) Hayden, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher Jr and Danny Glover have issued a manifesto
over at The Nation:
Progressives for Obama
All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama.... We believe that the movement today supporting Barack Obama continues [the] great tradition of grassroots participation.... We believe that Barack Obama's very biography reflects the positive potential of the globalization process.... We should instead be globalizing the values of equality, a living wage and environmental sustainability in the new world order.... By its very existence, the Obama campaign will stimulate a vision of globalization from below....
During past progressive peaks in our political history--the late thirties, the early sixties--social movements have provided the relentless pressure and innovative ideas that allowed centrist leaders to embrace visionary solutions. We find ourselves in just such a situation today.
... Even though it is candidate-centered, there is no doubt that the campaign is a social movement, one greater than the candidate himself ever imagined.
As argument, this ranges, of course, from the incoherent to the delusional. It's an admittedly "candidate-centered" campaign, but even so a "social movement". No evidence is offered for this latter claim -- probably because there isn't any. Globalization is a bad thing but could be a good thing if it were driven by different "values", which of course would happen if Obama were President. We "find ourselves today" in a situation like the Thirties or the Sixties. Huh? What have
the Gang of Four been smoking? Where exactly are all these "grassroots social movements" ready to transmute Obama under tectonic heat and pressure into FDR? Have I been looking in the wrong places on YouTube?
The whole thing from start to finish is like this -- a wild oneiric slalom over vast moguls of baseless and contradictory assumption and gaping bottomless chasms of logic. It all comes to a sharp focus in this masterly formulation:
...The fact that Barack Obama openly defines himself as a centrist invites the formation of this progressive force within his coalition. Anything less could allow his eventual drift towards the right as the general election approaches.
Surrender is victory! Let's clip-clop into the slaughterhouse and management will
let us take it over! By throwing in the towel and lining up behind the admitted
"centrist" Obama, the pwogs will somehow -- it's a great transcendent mystery, like the Trinity -- somehow have more
influence rather than less.
* * * * *
A close friend of mine recently asked me why, exactly, I think I'm so much smarter than all the millions of people who do vote and do care
who wins. It's a good question and applies to anybody who takes a contrarian
or minority position on any topic at all. This Nation essay re-poses the question.
Ehrenreich is quite smart, and and her three co-authors are undoubtedly at least as
smart as I am. The problem is not their intellectual capacity. The problem is that for some reason they check their brains at the door. Why does this happen? How can four smart people produce such a farrago of laughable nonsense as this Nation statement?
I can only assume that they're acting under the pressure of feelings so deeply-rooted and so strong that facts and logic cannot prevail against them. There's no disgrace
in this, of course -- we all do it all the time, in our personal lives at any rate.
It's always presumptuous and often risky to speculate about what drives other people's behavior. But the Gang of Four are all successful, well-known, well-connected and well-socialized people. It can't be easy for folks who have made their way successfully into the institutions of American civic and cultural life to turn around and say that those
institutions, under present conditions, are simply not capable of producing the kind
of outcome for people in general that these well-intentioned Pwogs would like to see.
Intellectually they know that Barack and Hillary are both seeking a job whose description can be summarized as
Immiserator-In-Chief and General Manager of Empire. Yet they can't help feeling that
there simply must be some way to reclaim the machinery of empire and exploitation for good ends. A willingness to operate the existing social machinery without
dropping a shoe into it is a precondition of the success that these four have all, in various degrees, enjoyed. So... surely... it can't be all bad? Surely, with
a more humane hand at the controls, it can turn from its wickedness and start producing "globalization from below"?
Enter the Magic Negro, that supernal figure who can square the circle, reconcile
the irreconcilable, make the lion lie down with the lamb; the irresistible force that
can move the immovable object. When magic comes to town, facts and logic don't matter any more; that's the nature of magic.
* * * * *
There's another element. The gang of four observe about Barack's admittedy wonderful "race" speech:
.... as great a speech as ever given by a presidential candidate, revealing a philosophical depth, personal authenticity, and political intelligence that should convince any but the hardest of ideologues that he carries unmatched leadership potentials.
Apart from the curious plural on "potential", I can endorse every one of these claims,
as far as they go.
What they boil down to, however, is the fact that Barack is recognizable to the Gang
as a person like themselves
, characterized by "depth, authenticity, and
intelligence" -- unlike Hillary, who we all know has the depth of one of those deadly
needle-apexed isosceles triangles in Flatland; the authenticity of Judas Iscariot; and the malign intelligence of a pirate captain.
In other words, for the Gang, Barack is what individuals of a certain type are apt to
call P.L.U. -- People Like Us. And thus it follows that he must somehow be able to
take the helm of the American deathstar and turn it into, what, an intergalactic
day-care center cum community college. The Gang believe -- correctly enough, no doubt -- in their own good intentions. And as we noted above, they don't believe that
the machinery of empire, and the dynamos that drive it, are intrinsically miserific. So put a PLU in charge -- and hey presto, ice-bound Narnia will bloom again.
(*) A characterization we owe to national treasure Gore Vidal.