Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Barack Obama and the Progressives

Chris Bowers at Open Left has a new "hypothesis" on Barack Obama's "synthesis" of the "progressive" movement, with this introduction:

Despite the consternation that I, and others, have shown over Obama altering the progressive movement to become less partisan, less leftist, more compromising, and more conservative media friendly, Barack Obama is instead an excellent reflection of the current state of the progressive movement.
Bowers lays out a number of subsequent points, but check out this key summary:

The contemporary progressive movement is steadily swelling its ranks, and continues to reorganize the relationships more and more individuals with dominant cultural institutions. However, at this point in time, the movement still only impacts what can be understood as more "elite" demographics, such as the highly educated, those with higher incomes, and those already highly engaged in both media consumption and political activism. Obama's anti-partisan message appeals to this grow[th] not despite the implied elitism of the message, but rather because of the elitism of the message. His message reflects the more "elite" concerns of the movement, rather than changing those concerns.
If you can get through the god-awful prose, Bower's basic point is that Obama's leading a movement of elite "progressive activists," but the progressive legacy that's argued in the piece is a reference to the "turn-of-the-century" reform movement that weakened the 19th century patronage machines, and instituted direct democracy procedures in the states, like initiative petitions and the recall mechanism.

This comparison's not that compelling if one takes a look around at precisely which elite "demographics" are represented among today's self-styled progressives, for instance, Daily Kos, Firedoglake, and Hullabaloo, for starters.

This is the same coalition of activists and bloggers that's backed a "
responsible plan" to force a total capitulation to terror in Iraq, to be implemented in Darcy Burner's call for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the engagement.

No, today's progressive don't hark back to the
Hiram Johnsons of yore, but to the 1960s-era radicals, like Tom Hayden, who called for a revolution overthrowing American militarism and racial oppression.

Hayden's now leading the charge of
a new generation of "progressives" backing Obama's candidacy.

The fact is, today's "progressives" hope not for political reform - like that advocated by the original political reformers such as Johnson and former President Theordore Roosevelt - but social revolution.

Today's "progressives" are in truth
internet radicals, who have abjured street protests for political mobilization, online policy advocacy, and campaign fundraising:

"The term 'progressive' has evolved a great deal over the past 35 years. By the ’70s, many ’60s veterans had concluded that working 'within the system' had become a viable option. As a result, many leftists stopped using rhetoric and slogans that had marginalized them from the political mainstream. Labels like 'radical', 'leftist', and 'revolutionary' sounded stale and gratuitously provocative. And so, gradually, activists began to use the much less threatening 'progressive.' Today, 'progressive' is the term of choice for practically everyone who has a politics that used to be called 'radical.'

A popular perception currently is that political progressivism (or leftism) represents idealism and a bold revolutionary spirit -- "the courage to change," as some modern politicians have put it. By contrast, many deem the political "right" (or conservatism) synonymous with social reaction or counter-revolutionary tendencies.
Bowers at Open Left simply builds on a left-wing pattern of obfuscation regarding the true motives of extreme left-wing political action. The Vietnam generation of the '60s helped end a war, leaving a legacy of debilitation in American foreign policy until the Reagan administration.

Today's "progressive" radicals want more than an end to the American "occupation" of Iraq. They're looking for a whole overthrow of existing institutions, to move America to a model of European continental democracy of anti-hegemonic welfare state corporatism. Taxes will go up, freedom down, and troops abroad will be down and out.

Don't believe the blather about the futuristic "reorganization of the public sphere" for a minute.

These folks are wreckers, and their outrage at the "Bush/Cheney regime" is just the pretext for the establishment of their own Jacobin reign of terror for the coming age.


Photo Credit: "Engraving 'Closing of the Jacobin Club, during the night of 27-28 July 1794, or 9-10 Thermidor, year 2 of the Republic'" (here).