Monday, December 7, 2009

Running Around in Circles

Chris Hedges has a provocative new piece up over at Truthdig entitled "Liberals are Useless". In it he argues that, well, liberals are useless:

They talk about peace and do nothing to challenge our permanent war economy. They claim to support the working class, and vote for candidates that glibly defend the North American Free Trade Agreement. They insist they believe in welfare, the right to organize, universal health care and a host of other socially progressive causes, and will not risk stepping out of the mainstream to fight for them. The only talent they seem to possess is the ability to write abject, cloying letters to Barack Obama—as if he reads them—asking the president to come back to his “true” self. This sterile moral posturing, which is not only useless but humiliating, has made America’s liberal class an object of public derision.

Yikes! While I disagree with labeling all liberals as "useless" Hedges does make some very good and bold points in his article. There are often some very troubling perceptions that are held by the public when it comes to Democratic candidates for office. President Obama is only the most recent example of a candidate who got a large percentage of liberal support and who has not turned out to be all that he was cracked up to be. I agree with Hedges when he says: "So here we are again, begging Obama to be Obama. He is Obama. Obama is not the problem. We are." People bought into the brand that the Democrats tried to sell, even despite the signs that Obama was not the progressive that he was being made out to be. Now, here we find ourselves with the country operating in the same old fashion, escalating war, bailing out Wall Street, and expanding executive state secrets powers beyond what the Bush Administration tried to do.

Liberals and Progressives as a whole need a lot of help in holding Obama's feet to the fire. The anti-war movement has gone dormant and the face of opposition to the current Administration is defined by groups of people who think that Obama is a communist and support politicians like Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin. Talk about an uphill battle.

BlueTexan over at Firedoglake had a different take on Hedges' article:

The notion that voting for Ralph Nader or an even more ridiculous figure like Cynthia McKinney is an effective strategy to move the country in a more progressive direction was thoroughly discredited by the 2000 election.


Does Hedges really believe the country would look no different today if the Supreme Court hadn’t appointed Bush in 2000? Because I think he’s wrong.


Just don’t tell me that a vote for Nader in ‘08, which was a vote for Palin, was the way to get a more progressive country.

Let's forget for a moment that Blue Texan skipped over much of what Hedges said in his article. The 2000 election, which Blue Texan claims would have put this country on a different path, was conceded to by the Democrats. Al Gore, who won the popular vote, did not stand up and fight for a fair recount of the votes despite encouragement from some of the more progressive members of his party. The fact that the election was so close was not an indication of how badly Ralph Nader screwed up the Democrat's chances, but an indication of how the Democrats did not resonate strong enough with the people.

Have we learned nothing? While there are minor improvements from what Gore was proposing over Bush and to what Obama was proposing over McCain, we still end up with the same government that is closely aligned with corporate interests, that wages brutal war, and defends the status quo. Blue Texan says that a vote for Nader in '08 was a vote for Palin. Is it really necessary to explain that in a Democracy citizens should vote not for the "least worst" but for the candidate that they feel is the best in the race? This is the same argument that was advanced in 2000 and if progressives are going to continue to line up behind Democrats then this is going to be a steep uphill battle.

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