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Trying To Understand The Obama Critics On The Left

I’ve been watching and trying to understand the harsh critics of the President since before he was elected in 2008. The ones that really bother me are the ones on the left who don’t seem to be living in reality, don’t seem to even try to understand the context of any given situation and are so knee-jerk in their criticism of the President, that they clearly have other reasons for those quick, over-the-top responses. And the reverse of that, they give no credit whatsoever for what he has accomplished. I’m a liberal, damn it, but I’m a pragmatist too. After spending many hours with my incredible mother watching C-Span and Sunday morning news shows and discussing the way things have worked and continue to work in our government, I’ve learned to be a pragmatist. My mother taught me as I kicked and screamed. She lived through the Great Depression, World War II and was witness to all the progress that has been made over the years for woman, minorities and our entire country. She tempered my idealism and made me realize that you have to compromise in order to move forward and make it stick.

Progress happens in stages and involves educating people, working together towards those goals and yes, speaking out so that pressure is brought on politicians who must make those changes. But it NEVER happens overnight and it can never be rammed down people’s throats. It causes an adverse reaction and push back, thus hurting the chance for progress. There are so many examples of this that you would think it would be obvious to thinking people, but you would be wrong. :)

In the recent uproar with Cornell West coming out full Anti-Obama (I’ll get to that later), he has given us a perfect example of that naiveté. In my reading, I came across this great post from Milt Shook at PCTC (Please Cut The Crap), that helps to explain reality. Here is one passage that said it well…(emphasis mine)

I am a true-blue, died in the wool, hard-core liberal/progressive. I have spent my life trying to do my little part to move this country in that direction. That last part is what makes me an actual progressive. Having all sorts of high ideals doesn’t make one a progressive; the desire to move the system in that direction – THAT is what makes me progressive. Got it? Good.

But here’s the thing.

This country has NEVER been all that progressive.  This country has NEVER fulfilled the promise of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Yet, I remain hopeful that it will. It’s moving in the right direction overall, but in recent years – about the last 40, give or take a few – there have been forces that are attempting to move it in the opposite direction, and they need to stop it.

This may surprise you, but I am not talking about the right wing. I’m talking about the extreme left wing of the political spectrum.  They suck at politics and, ironically, the very people they claim to be trying to advance in society are suffering as a result.

I highly recommend you go and read the entire post over at PCTC, I found myself saying out loud “damn right” and other positive grunts and utterances as I was reading it. Then come back and read my comments on the issue, please. I would also recommend that you buy Milt Shock’s new book, Not Another Savior, although I haven’t read it yet, I’m buying one myself later today. I really like the way Milt thinks and have to “believe” it is good, which is good enough for me to buy it. Kind of like faith. :) More from Milt at PCTC, saying things I’ve been thinking…freakin mind reader, anyway.

We live in a democracy. If you want to make policy, you have to win elections. Winning elections requires a majority. It’s depressing that I feel like I have to point that out to some on the far left, but I apparently do. If you want to be an ACTUAL progressive, then you have to take this equation into account. If you’re not prepared to do whatever is necessary to move in the right (as in correct) direction, which is to get a majority of the populace behind you, then you’re not really a progressive. You may agree with me on every issue above, but if you’re not doing what you can to make shit happen, you’re a phony. God, I hate to be that blunt, but it’s true.

If people who claim to want progress aren’t doing what needs to be done to make shit happen, they are just arm-chair quarterbacks, sitting on the sidelines lobbing grenades in the form of criticism, while at the same time weakening the very people who need strength in order to make that progress. As a “progressive”, very well defined by Milt, it’s fucking maddening to watch as these people tear down the only politician in Washington who seems to be trying to get shit done, President Obama. Individual congress-people and senators have very narrow interests, getting reelected in their districts being the main one. When the critics on the left attack and criticize the “congress”, that amorphous group of people who represent all variations of people in their districts and are sent to Washington for that purpose, I always see that as pretty naive as well. Who in the hell are they going to turn to, Gary Johnson, Ralph Nader? When it comes to the congress, the best analogy to me is the idea of trying to herd cats or chickens, good luck with that. So it takes a leader like President Obama to try to set the direction, educate people, and put pressure on the special interests who push Congress in the directions they want, even if they aren’t in the best interests of progress. It’s a tough job, and made much tougher when the loudest voices in the echo chamber are weakening you.

More from Milt’s excellent piece…

Once again, you can’t get policy done without winning elections. Elected officials make policy. Elected officials make judicial appointments. Elected officials put policies into effect and enforce laws.  And you can’t get elected with high ideals but no support. It literally does not matter how “passionately” you feel about an issue; if you don’t give politicians the tools they need to turn your “passion” into policy, you’re basically masturbating, politically speaking. When you vote for a “third party,” you’re a political jackoff. When you vote for a candidate with no chance of winning, you’re a political jackoff.  If you plan to “stay away from the polls to send a message,” you’re a political jackoff and a joke. Seriously, how delusional does someone have to be to think that not voting sends a message to anyone? For shit’s sake, folks; half the population stays away from the polls in most elections; that’s like saying NOT going to a Lady Gaga concert sends a message that you don’t like her music. Here’s a clue, folks; she doesn’t give a shit about non-fans, and the political system doesn’t give a shit if you stay away from the polls.

But what really angers me about this certain stripe of phony “progressives” is that they’re so loud and obnoxious about it, they end up handing elections to the right wing pretty much by default.

I’ve had a theory for a long time that much of the harsh criticism on the left, the stuff that doesn’t help us progress, is based on pettiness, selfishness, racism towards our first black president, greed and extreme naiveté (or some combination).

I haven’t weighed in much on the Cornell West tirade of late because being a white man, I don’t feel qualified to speak on many of these issues. I certainly have my opinions and have a few years of experience exploring a lot of issues that have faced African Americans. I produced, directed, co-wrote and co-edited a historical documentary on The Second Great Migration and I’m currently in pre-production on a few other similar stories. But I still would never presume to be able to speak to the ideas that Cornell West is pushing in the black community. I leave that to others like Melissa Harris-Perry (2016). Having read to this point in this post, please watch this clip from Ed Schultz’s show featuring Cornell West and Melissa Harris-Perry. And please notice how unspecific Cornell West’s ideas are and how chimerical. You might also notice how easily he dismisses President Obama’s many accomplishments, if only Cornell had gotten a few more phone calls from candidate Obama and a couple tickets to the inauguration.

I am probably Melissa Harris-Perry’s biggest fan, I think she should run for president in 2016 and I hereby nominate her. I would imagine that watching what President Obama has had to go through to this point, she’s probably not looking at the job as a step up at this point. But here’s to hoping she has a moment of dementia and runs for elected office. I read in this “chirpstory” that I created from her Twitter feed, that she hasn’t ruled it out. Woo hoo!

So I keep trying to understand how people who seem sane, with moderate to high intelligence, who claim to be “progressive” (whatever the hell that means anymore), can attack the very party and President who they stand the only chance of making progress with. We as real liberals (or progressives) have to keep calling them out on their pettiness and how they are hurting the progress they say they support.

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May 19, 2011 - Posted by | 2012 Election, Accomplishments, Politics, President Barack Obama, Professional Left, Racism | ,

12 Comments »

  1. What I regard as happening with professional pundits of the left, along with various people like Professor West, is a combination of things, but principally, fear.

    In many ways, West’s rant is a microcosm of what’s going on with them. Wounded egos, a self-image of themselves as power brokers and policy-setters, financial considerations, and sadly, some unacknowledged prejudices. What we have is a President who didn’t get their blessing, until well after he’d wrapped up the nomination. He didn’t need them to get himself elected. What he actually ran on was not what they thought he should have run on. What he’s done since taking office has been to move an incredible amount of legislation through, and accomplish more – by objective measures – than most presidents get done in two terms.

    Hence, the fear. They’re not “relevant,” except to a small subset of people. They’re not “power brokers” anymore. They’re not being consulted on policy. It’s a disaster for them, and threatening their pocketbook. So, the way to try to keep themselves relevant, and the money rolling in, is to attack this president.

    Comment by Norbrook | May 19, 2011 | Reply

    • Great analysis of Professor West’s mindset. I would imagine that Cornell thought that he was going to be an advisor to the President and have that power. Getting snubbed during the campaign and on the inauguration tipped him into the land you describe above.

      What really pisses me off is that if he REALLY cared about the people he claims to care about, he would do what Milt said and help us make progress. Incremental, but progress nonetheless. How bad are these folks memories, do they really want to return to Republican rule…in the style of George W. Bush. Those must be some big ass egos to sacrifice so much for them. Iiiieeeee!

      Comment by ExtremeLiberal | May 19, 2011 | Reply

    • Spot on analysis, EL. I do like what Ruy Teixeira (The Century Foundation, American Progress and Brookings Institution) said, “The basic job of progressives is not to pressure the president to move to the left…it is to move the country to the left and let the president follow.”

      It is hard for ONE man in the White House to overcome a congress filled with people elected to oppose him, even wanting him (and by extension the American people) to FAIL. Part of the fault for any of Obama’s failures, in the eyes of “progressives”, can be laid on Democrats who sit at home on election day OR worse yet, vote for some obscure third party candidate in order to feel smug that “they sent a message”!

      Comment by Grant in Texas | May 19, 2011 | Reply

  2. The fearless leader of Israel Rottenyahu or whatever he calls himself nowadays is a moron. Obama was exactly right and I seriously feel that Israel is the one really not wanting to pick the slack on this one.

    Comment by Jeff | May 20, 2011 | Reply

    • Since 3/4 of American Jews vote Democratic, the REICH here is doing their best to turn them towards the GOP, their reason for their wholesale condemnation of President Obama’s speech yesterday. They have succeeded somewhat in that there are more Jewish Republicans now than in years past. Even in Israel, a good 1/3 of Jews there are liberals and not enamored by Netanyahoo and his hawkish right-wing neocon Likudists. The Israeli right-wing has held the reins of power since 1995, ever since a right-winger assassinated Yitzak Rabin of the Labour Party who had been working towards peace with the Arabs.

      The majority of Zionists in the USA are evangelical christian who are trying to force “God’s hand” (didn’t know mankind could FORCE God to do anything) trying to bring about the events that need to take place (according to Revelation) before Jesus will come back (and it won’t be tomorrow!). Seems many christians are hoping for such worldwide death so their “select” can go to Paradise?…almost sounds like “suicide-bombing terrorists” wanting to go meet their 72 virgins.

      First needed event for evangelicals…to restore the State of Israel and thanks to the United Nations in 1948…CHECK.

      Second event must be restoring the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. However the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, THIRD holiest sites in Islam were built there in the 7th century…UNchecked. And razing Mount Moriah or Mount Zion as that rock plateau is also called, could of course lead to the next event!

      Third, their must be the worldwide War of Armageddon…UNchecked. So the christian Zionists NEED events to go their way.

      The Jewish Zionists realize the political strength of their christian allies in the U.S. and are letting them put pressure on our politicians. Both groups are playing each other…christians to get their way by hurrying up the Rapture, and Jewish Zionists getting BILLIONS of dollars from us and the strong arm of the U.S. military behind them. The christian “end-timers” believe that 1/3 of Jews will convert to Jesus, the other 2/3 will be killed in Armageddon (which doesn’t look good for Jews, worse than the Holocaust). However the Jewish Zionists don’t believe in a Jesus messianic character anyway, so aren’t expecting his return to earth. But the Jewish Zionists do enjoy the support from the christian Zionists.

      Comment by Grant in Texas | May 20, 2011 | Reply

  3. Norbrook, you are spot on. The issue with Cornel West, Tavis Smiley and the professional left is that they didn’t get invited to the party. Whereas once upon a time, Obama may have needed their “power” (although there is no evidence he ever kissed up to this ilk), they KNOW he doesn’t need them now – or ever and he is a black man with real power. They can’t stand it!

    Comment by staci | May 20, 2011 | Reply

    • The funny thing is that if you look back at them in 2007 and early 2008, they were either backing Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. So any “power” they had wasn’t being put behind Obama. It was a major shock to many of the professional left and others who are critics from the left to suddenly find that the candidate they hadn’t been supporting was going to be the nominee. Obama build a new organization that didn’t rely on them handing him the keys to power, and the result was that they had to scramble to get “on the winning side.” That they now want to claim credit for it is simply their trying to persuade people that they’re still relevant.

      Comment by Norbrook | May 21, 2011 | Reply

  4. A lot of progressives I know don’t want to acknowledge the reality that large parts of this country are traditional and conservative. I remember how upset people were about the Blue Dog Democrats, but in some of those places, Blue Dog really was the best we could do! It’s a painful reality…it’s painful to me, too, but it’s reality. Many people in this world are centrist in their approach to life, and they’re not going to support anything that feels too radical or abrupt.

    For what it’s worth, at least Glenn Beck, the Tea Party and many of the righties get frustrated about the same thing on their side: they feel the Republicans are too centrist for their liking. So we’re not the only ones who get to feel the pain.

    Comment by eurobrat | May 21, 2011 | Reply

    • When I moved to Texas in 1965, there was hardly a Republican Party here at all, having held only 3 Republican primary elections in the 100 years after Reconstruction. Early GOP activists in Texas were John Tower and George H.W. Bush, who each won a national seat, Tower in the US Senate, Bush in the US House of Representatives.

      Back then, the Democratic primary was THE election to win with “conservative Democrats” running against “liberal Democrats” and their campaigns let you know which were which! With the Dixiecrats scrambling from the Democratic Party over the Civil/Voting Rights acts, the “Party of Lincoln” began to grow in Texas in the 1970′s with Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford bringing out a large voter turnout in 1976 Republican Primary which Reagan won with a 2-1 margin. Texas has open primaries meaning one can vote in either party’s elections.

      The first Republican governor elected in Texas in 104 years was Bill Clements in 1978. Democrats took over again with Bill White and Ann Richards each serving a term each. Richards defeated the misogynist Republican oil man/rancher, Clayton Williams, who liked to make sexist remarks and even refused to shake Richards hand when she offered it. During the campaign, Williams publicly made a joke likening rape to bad weather, having quipped: “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it!”

      Richards lost her bid for a second term in part due to scurrilous rumors started by Karl Rove, that the grandmother was a lesbian. Since 1995, Texas has only had Republican governors, George W. Bush and the current Gov. Rick Perry. Bush was considered moderate at the time and Perry keeps going farther right.

      I see the Democratic Governor of Kentucky is pushing to give $43 MILLION in tax breaks to build a Bible Theme Park. Not that poor women and children need any money for health issues in that cash-strapped state! To improve roads to the theme park may cost the state another $11 MILLION but politicians there must pander to the fundamentalist snake-handlers, I guess. The governor says it will create JOBS, his main argument of support.

      http://thinkprogress.org/2011/05/20/kentucky-bible-park-tax-breaks/

      Comment by Grant in Texas | May 21, 2011 | Reply

  5. Melissa Harris-Perry: “if Cornel says oligarch or plutocrat one more damn time.”

    THANK YOU. I thought it was just me.

    One of the problems that West and Smiley have with Obama is that he didn’t need to be anointed by them. Actually, they placed their bets on Clinton and when they were soundly rejected for it by the black voters( during the primaries, Smiley’s status as a pariah was on full display anytime he make a guest appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning show, the most popular syndicated black radio program in the country), it cut them deep. West made a meager attempt to come late to the Obama party, but the President isn’t an idiot. West was one of the major proponents of the “He’s not black enough” narrative, and basically accusing Candidate Obama of being a “black mascot” long before that idiotic phrase was coined by West. Although the president is not one the ever let them see him sweat, I think this and the Birther nonsense really offends him. So if West ever had a chance to be part of the inner circle, and that’s a big if, he blew it during the primaries.

    Besides, West and Obama just aren’t cut from the same cloth anyway. That line, from West’s interview, concerning the baggage handler at his hotel having tickets to the inauguration lets me know that.

    Comment by Hsquared | May 22, 2011 | Reply

  6. Let’s for a second ignore the personal attacks on Obama by Dr. West.

    Can anyone explain to me besides those points that what he said wasn’t true.

    You can’t.

    If you don’t want to hear the word oligarch or plutocrat then you have no idea who is really running this country.

    Obama had the chance to destroy the Republican party. Instead he extended his hand. As they spit on it every chance he gave them.

    If you want to completely focus on West’s personal comments on Obama and let those completely blind you to the remarks about his policies then so be it.

    Bush should be in jail right now. Instead of prosecuting Bush he chose to look forward.

    Do you think the GOP would do the same.

    Tim Geithner was the one man who could have stopped the economic meltdown before it ever started.

    Instead he stood by and did nothing then gave trillions of dollars to those who were responsible.

    I laugh when I see the post about the things Obama has done for the poor and minorities.

    If you add them up it’s barely a 100 billion.

    Do you know how small a 100 billion is compared to trillions.

    Comment by sensistar | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  7. If Bush would have done this I’m pretty sure the liberal you are would have had a fit. Instead. Your silent.

    The always-expanding bipartisan Surveillance State
    BY GLENN GREENWALD

    There are three events — all incredibly from the last 24 hours — which not only prove how true that is, but vividly highlight how it functions and why it is so odious. First, consider what Democrats and Republicans just jointly did with regard to the Patriot Act, the very naming of which once sent progressives into spasms of vocal protest and which long served as the symbolic shorthand for Bush/Cheney post-9/11 radicalism:

    (snip)

    Next we have a new proposal from the Obama White House to drastically expand the scope of “National Security Letters” — the once-controversial and long-abused creation of the Patriot Act that allows the FBI to obtain private records about American citizens without the need for a subpoena or any court approval — so that it now includes records of your Internet activities:

    (snip)

    So first they conspire with the GOP to extend the Patriot Act without any reforms, then seek to expand its most controversial and invasive provisions to obtain the Internet activities of American citizens without having to bother with a subpoena or judicial approval — “they” being the Democratic White House.

    … on the very same day that we have an extension of the Patriot Act and a proposal to increase the government’s Internet snooping powers, we have this:

    The Justice Department should publicly release its legal opinion that allows the FBI to obtain telephone records of international calls made from the U.S. without any formal legal process, a watchdog group asserts.

    The nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel violated federal open-records laws by refusing to release the memo.

    The suit was prompted in part by McClatchy’s reporting that highlighted the existence of the memo and the department’s refusal to release it. Earlier this year, McClatchy also requested a copy and was turned down.

    The decision not to release the memo is noteworthy because the Obama administration — in particular the Office of Legal Counsel — has sought to portray itself as more open than the Bush administration was. By turning down the foundation’s request for a copy, the department is ensuring that its legal arguments in support of the FBI’s controversial and discredited efforts to obtain telephone records will be kept secret.

    What’s extraordinary about the Obama DOJ’s refusal to release this document is that it does not reveal the eavesdropping activities of the Government but only its legal rationale for why it is ostensibly permitted to engage in those activities. The Bush DOJ’s refusal to release its legal memos authorizing its surveillance and torture policies was unquestionably one of the acts that provoked the greatest outrage among Democratic lawyers and transparency advocates (see, for instance, Dawn Johnsen’s scathing condemnation of the Bush administration for its refusal to release OLC legal reasoning: “reliance on ‘secret law’ threatens the effective functioning of American democracy” and “the withholding from Congress and the public of legal interpretations by the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) upsets the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government.”

    Comment by sensistar | May 23, 2011 | Reply


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