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More pwogggies succumb

By Michael J. Smith on Wednesday March 26, 2008 12:22 PM

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.

Comments (18)


Yes, let's not forget that these were the same people who were pushing "Progressives for Kerry" four years ago.


progressive peaks ???

the late thirties, the early sixties

both dates oddly and slightly time shifted

from mid 30's and mid 60's



"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."

you malign malign intelligence



"But the closeness of the race makes it imperative that everyone on the sidelines, everyone in doubt, everyone vascillating, everyone fearing betrayals and the blasting of hope, everyone quarreling over political correctness, must join this fight to the finish"

this fight to the finish ???

to the finish of what

either pwogy hopes
or wall street dem control ??

words of wally deminovich
"we are
de obama forces "

Tim D:

yeah, i remember once having immense respect for Ehrenreich till she transformed into a mindless nader hater last election cycle (becoming a leading voice of the "nobody but kerry" movement). it's one thing to say you're not going to vote for the man, but another to join the chorus of the damned (i.e. fundamentalist democrats) in denouncing one of the only halfway decent men to ever be involved in american politics. then again, a self respecting leftist cannot be any less disappointed (and dumbfounded) by chomsky and zinn's entreaties to vote democrat (by the way, do you think this is just a result of lefty group think or is it perhaps, just that chomsky and zinn, seeing what happened to nader, decided to take the path of least resistance...and venom). if that wasn't disillusioning enough though, i recently happened upon an a democracy now! interview with michael parenti from 2004, where the angry old leninist also urged a vote for kerry! talk about nadirs...


"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? "

let hope gain the white house
and they will rise
like a mighty army
from out of
the aisles and cubicles
of whitey amerika

Al Schumann:
Where exactly are all these "grassroots social movements" ready to transmute Obama under tectonic heat and pressure into FDR?

The well educated, intelligent pwogs believe in some godawful conception of Emergent Society. I've had it explained to me in very sincere terms, but I'm convinced it's a poorly conceived and unfunny hoax at best.

Anyway, these grass roots movements will come about because they will be called into being by that which makes their emergence possible, necessary and timely. They await a catalyst and yet they don't. The catalyst could be an event, an avatar or an awakening process. Perhaps a combination of these things or something else altogether. Because Emergence helps those who help themselves, it's important to support Obama. Not for himself, though he's an avatar of Emergence, but in order to be close to his supporters, who are the most likely to be catalyzed, if that's what's called for. The hidden teachings reveal that we live in an electoral ashram without any walls or gurus, other than those gurus who Emerge. By a serendipitous function of coincidence, many of the gurus can get published in The Nation and invited to lecture gatherings of pre-catalytic convertees.


[H]er three co-authors are undoubtedly at least as smart as I am.

I doubt it. Anyway they certainly can't write like you can.


StO -- Thanks much for the kind words. With me, flattery will get you *anywhere*.


Bravo! (And Mr. Schumann's comments are pretty ripping, too.)

I wish I believed in your Leninism, guys, but as analysis....

LA Confidential Pantload:

And if Norman Thomas had only joined the Democratic Party, just think how much MORE progressive FDR would have been!


When I came across this dreck I was absolutely floored by the utter absence of any PROOF of the emergence of a social movement purposed for any purpose other than landing Obama in the White House. Talk about conjuring phantasms...

As for the issue of benificent empire, I recall that at a Left Forum keynote three years ago the redoubtable Ms. Ehrenreich plumped for a US-led police action in Darfur (I vividly remember her alarmo-Orientalist references to "armed thugs on camelback").

Malign intelligence of a...pirate captain?

brrring brrring

Pirate Captains' Anti-Defamation League on Line One...



I'm very sorry to hear about Ehrenreich joining the Darfur crusade -- and I missed her Naderphobia last time too. Sigh.

Tim D:

yes, exactly. it will stop once Obie is in the white house, because then the right-wing will predictably attack him and all the liberals will invariably begin writing all kinds of indignant, self-righteous articles and blogs in his defense, ultimately pushing him towards exactly nothing.

and if his dealings with exelon are any indicator (and i think they are) we know that, while his loyal fan base is busy shielding him from the slings and arrows of the right, he will be making backroom deals with the powers that funded his campaign - including...EXELON!!!!

Tim D:

MJS - ehrenreich's NYT article is only available to members now, but here was a response to it on counterpunch:


Just shows to go ya' gang; everything I needed to know about the Democratic Party, I learned from the Grateful Dead:

the bottle stands as empty
as it was filled before;
time there was, and plenty,
but from that cup no more!

though I could not caution all
I still might warn a few–
don't lend a hand to raise no flag
atop no Ship Of Fools!

Like I told ya', what I said...

CJ McGroarty:

The Democrats and their proxies in entertainment/journalism (hey, who can tell the difference anymore?) have been frightened and desperate for years. Losers, quite literally, all of them. Simpering, timid Kerry supporters in 2004: Was there anything so pathetic as watching Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, and Michael Moore, too, do an about-face on Ralph Nader in 2004, exposing their disgraceful lack of personal conviction? And Obama sycophants in 2008: Has Jim Jones spiked the lattes in NationLand? So, so, too, too sad. Go Ralph!

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