A minor flapdoodle has erupted in recent days after publication of "An Open Letter to the Left Establishment" sent by, who else, the left establishment, or a portion thereof. Full disclosure: though my own distinguished signature was not individually sought for this broadside, I nevertheless went to the Web site and signed on as a steerage passenger, and I encourage everybody else to go and do likewise, for two reasons: 1) The letter calls for "disruptive" protest -- an idea dear to my heart -- and 2) it made Tom Hayden furious.
Hayden's response is worth reading, if you've got a few minutes to kill, and if you enjoy the spectacle of a preening popinjay writhing under an affront to his amour-propre. But he doesn't have anything interesting to say, of course.
Bill Fletcher, however -- one of Obie's legions of "critical supporters" -- is somewhat interesting, though a little obscure, in his own clearly annoyed response to the letter:
"The Letter reads as if those named in the first paragraph have been sitting on their hands or standing at the gates refusing to permit the masses to pass through and challenge Obama... it is odd that the names would all be thrown together as if someone were actually trying to stir up confusion and promote disinformation. I don't know, but i have actually seen a film much like this before....That second paragraph is intriguing. What's Fletcher's downside scenario, I wonder? Attacking Obie from the left is going to make some black folks do... what? Join the Teabaggers? Get annoyed at white leftists? Vote Republican? Sit out the next election?
One thing that the authors of the Letter did not address was the question of the African American electorate. I don't know about you, but how we handle the question of this administration is particularly dicey when the African American electorate feels, overwhelmingly, that Obama is under an intense racist assault from the political Right (which is, as you know, quite correct). This basic question of the African American electorate and huge portions of the Latino electorate means that our electoral tactics in the coming two years will have to be handled very carefully, even while we put the pressure on this administration and struggle against its defense of warmed over neo-liberalism.
Some of these scenarios seem unlikely -- the Teabagger option, for example. Others, though perhaps regrettable, are tolerable: tension between some white lefties and some black activists is an old story; it doesn't necessarily reflect badly on either party -- nobody has a monopoly on wisdom, and everybody has a duty to fight his own corner; and we can always get together on the things we agree about, even while sniping about the ones we don't agree about.
But one, at least, of these scenarios seems to me like an unalloyed good: namely, that disillusioned black folks might sit out the next election in droves. As I've argued many times here, it's better to do nothing than to do something that's actively harmful.