Thoughts From A Reader on Obama
This comes from a reader in response to the piece I filed on Obama’s Springfield announcement:
Reading your latest blog post and seeing a trend developing, I was wondering what your test is for a progressive candidate? And this extends to all the candidates, several seek to gain this title. What "litmus test" is needed to qualify or quantify their progressiveness? In response to your observations about Obama, his older speeches do reveal a more leftist slant, but the idea that he was a progressive savior was one of false hope. He captivated everyone with his oratory and charisma, yet at the end of the day, his actions and semantics seemed to betray a sense of calculatedness (If that's a word), and this offends the progressive community for some reason. That a self awareness is a bad thing. I for one would love it if the Democratic candidate can run in this country as someone that is unabashadly liberal: pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro income redistribution, pro government intervention, it would be great. Yet on an intellectual level, we are dissappointed when a "progressive" seems to show a sense of political reality, that America, as great as it could be, it has a long ways to go. While I don't believe they should sell out their ideals, the expectation by progressives is that their agenda is the best, and if they craft it in some special way, everyone will agree and utopia will follow. This has been the downfall of the left since the dawn of time. They don't spend enough time selling their ideas, instead feeling that the smart or enlightened will come around to their worldview. While the netroots have shown themselves to be effective as a force within Democratic, and by extension, left leaning movements, they have not shown any ability to "spread the word", so to speak, to the majority of Americans that have not heard their ideas.
The only movement that the left has created that has sold their ideas is the anti-war movement. While the message was good, why is it a war is only thing that can motivate them? I am not saying that the war is not horrible, but it is an event that has a start and eventually an “end”, while other, large scale problems with
America seem to be un addressed. America has needed another civil rights movement for a loooooong time, one that addresses the economic segregation that even MLK couldn’t bring down, a movement that takes
on the white, capitalist patriarchy that has ruled America since it’s birth (and before). The enviroment is fast approaching the tipping point, yet I have not seen a country wide protest that pressures the government to start addressing this issue.
Furthermore, there existed the subtext to the anti-war movement that screams “I told you so”, further enforcing the perception of intellectual elitism on the left. Meanwhile the same netroots pat themselves on the back because they shop at wholefoods, rescue a dog from the pound, and recycle diligently. Missing the big picture that they drive a gas guzzler, live in a de facto segregated neighborhood, and their house
is constructed so poorly, that if properly insulated and re-done, could save money and energy
Independents and non-committal voters (half assed fed dems) are turned off from a political system that is rigged and corrupt, which is not a stretch, just a very glass is half empty obervation. His rhetoric is
unity and cohesion, and I think it is part of a grander scheme, creating the illusion and neccessity for unity. While unity in the face of opposition is contradictory, as you said, perception is all
that matters. For years the Right has made mainstream positions seem liberal and out of touch (I could list them, but that’d take a while). If and when Obama, or another Democrat, wins the whitehouse in ‘08,
national healthcare will be on the agenda. The Right has done a lot
to make this policy appear to be the work of communists, yet the public wants it. I see Obama’s calls for unity as a tactic to make his liberal positions seem centrist and populist. Saying that he is a man for healthcare instead of a Democrat for healthcare, may tweak a lot of partisans (myself included), but it’s reception will be that much better.