Where Obamaism Seems to be Going

by Adolph Reed, Jr.

Prof. Reed takes us on a tour de force of transformations and other illusions associated with the Barack Obama phenomenon, as interpreted, conjured or hallucinated by the "left" - whoever that is. These certainly may be the End Days - but for what political tendencies? Will "progressivism" be transcended out of existence, along with race (with the exception of whites, of course)? We can all either patiently stay tuned, or we can seek answers from precocious youth, who are blessedly unburdened by experience. Could it be that nothing out of the ordinary is going on at all - just Power maintaining its grip?

Where Obamaism Seems to be Going

by Adolph Reed, Jr.

"It is ironic that Obama would be the one to complete Clintonism's redefinition of liberalism as conservatism."

A friend called me a few days ago from Massachusetts, astounded at a WBUR radio program featuring Glen Greenwald from Salon.com and Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, in which vanden Heuvel not only unflaggingly defended Obama's open and bald embrace of right-wing positions during the last few weeks against Greenwald's criticism, but also did it from the right herself, calling him a "progressive pragmatist." She affirmed Tom Hayden's insistence on the Progressives for Obama blog that the candidate is a progressive, but a new kind of progressive, or some such twaddle. In response to Greenwald's sharp rebuke of Obama's FISA sellout, she acknowledged that he had "missed an opportunity to lead." Defending his June 30 patriotism speech that included a gratuitous rehearsal of the right-wing line about anti-Vietnam War protesters from the "counterculture" who "blamed America for all that was wrong in the world" and the canard about antiwar activists "failing to honor" returning Vietnam veterans, which Obama asserted "remains a national shame to this day" despite the fact that is an utter lie, vanden Heuvel pointed again to Hayden's endorsement as a sign that Obama's cheap move must be okay because, after all, Hayden was a founder of SDS.

And perhaps most tellingly, despite their disagreements, Greenwald and vanden Heuvel both supported Obama's practice of going out of his way to attack black poor people, most recently in his scurrilous Father's Day speech and again before the NAACP. (And, by the way, he grew up without a father and is running for president, no?) To Greenwald, this is the "Obama we want to see more of," the one who takes positions that are "unorthodox" and "not politically safe." Since when has it been unorthodox or unsafe politically to malign black poor people in public? Who the fuck has been doing anything else for at least twenty years? Public sacrifice of black poor people has been pro forma Democratic presidential strategy since Clinton ran on the pledge to "end welfare as we know it" and made a burnt offering of Rickey Ray Rector, and victim-blaming based on just-so stories about supposed "behavioral pathology" has been the only frame for public discussion of poverty for at least as long. To vanden Heuvel, Obama's contretemps with Jesse Jackson, who, ironically, has his own history of making such attacks, around this issue reflects a "generational division" among black people, with Obama representing a younger generation that values "personal responsibility." She also, for good measure, asserted that Obama has been "nailed unfairly" for his cozying up to the evangelicals and promising to give them more federal social service money. In explaining that he comes out of a "community organizing" tradition based in churches in Chicago, she didn't quite say that the coloreds love their churches. But she didn't really have to say it out loud, did she?

"Since when has it been unorthodox or unsafe politically to malign black poor people in public?"

This is what passes for a left now in this country. It is a left that can insist, apparently, that Obama's FISA vote, going out of his way (after all, he could simply have followed the model of Eisenhower on the Brown decision and said that the Court has ruled; therefore it's the law, and his job as president would be to enforce the law) to align himself - twice, or three times -- with the Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Alito wing of the Supreme Court, his declaring that social problems, unlike foreign policy adventurism, are "too big for government" and pledging to turn over more of HHS and HUD's budgets to the Holy Rollers are both tactically necessary and consistent with his convictions. So, if those are his convictions, or for that matter what he feels he must do opportunistically to get elected, why the fuck should we vote for him?

I'd been thinking about doing a "See, I told you so" column about Obama; then, especially given the torrent of vituperation and self-righteous contumely I got after arguing that he's not what far too many nominal leftists were trying to make him out to be, I was tempted instead to do a "To hell with you, you deserve what you get" column. But the smug yuppies to whom I'd address that message -- the fan club we encounter in foundation offices, faculty meetings, soccer games and dinner parties and on MSNBC and in the Nation -- are neither the only people who've listened to Obama's siren song nor the ones who'll pay the price for their self-indulgent idiocy. (And Liza Featherstone deserves acknowledgement for having predicted early that the modal lament of the disillusioned would compare him unfavorably to Feingold.) Among other things, as I saw ever more clearly while watching Rachel Maddow talk with another of that Dem ilk about Obama and his family -- how adorable and "well-raised" or some such his kids are, etc, etc -- a few nights ago on Keith Olberman's show, an Obama presidency (maybe even just his candidacy) will likely sever the last threads of any connection between notions of racial disparity and structurally reproduced inequality rooted in political economy, and, since even "left" discourse in this country seems capable of conceptualizing the latter as a politically significant matter only in terms of the former (or its gender or similar categorical equivalent), that could just about complete purging entirely out of legitimate political discourse the notion that economic inequality is rooted fundamentally in capitalism's political and economic dynamics.

Underclass ideology -- where left and right come together to embed a common sense around victim-blaming and punitive moralism, racialized of course but at a respectable remove from the familiar phenotypically based racial taxonomy -- will most likely be the vehicle for effecting the purge. Obama's success will embody how far we have come in realizing racial democracy, and the inequality that remains is most immediately a function of cultural -- i.e., attitudinal, and behavioral -- and moral deficits that undercut acquisition of "human (and/or "social," these interchangeable mystifications shift according to rhetorical need) capital," a message his incessant castigation of black behavior legitimizes. In this context, the "activism" appropriate for attacking inequality: 1) rationalizes privatization and demonization of the public sector through accepting the premise that government is inefficient and stifles "creativity;" 2) values individual voluntarism and "entrepreneurship" over collective action (e.g., four of the five winners of the Nation's "Brave Young Activist" award started their own designer NGOs and/or websites; the fifth carries a bullhorn around and organizes solidarity demos); 3) provides enrichment experiences, useful extracurrics, and/or career paths  for precocious Swarthmore and Brown students and grads (the Wendy Kopp/Samantha Power model trajectory), and 4) reduces the scope of direct action politics to the "all tactics, no strategy," fundamentally Alinskyite, ACORN-style politics that Doug Henwood and Liza Featherstone have described as "activistism" and whose potential for reactionary opportunism Andy Stern of SEIU has amply demonstrated.  Obama goes a step further in deviating from Alinskyism to the right, by rejecting its "confrontationalism," which severs its rhetoric of "empowerment" from political action and contestation entirely and merges the notion into the pop-psychological, big box Protestant, Oprah Winfrey, Reaganite discourse of self-improvement/personal responsibility.

"An Obama presidency (maybe even just his candidacy) will likely sever the last threads of any connection between notions of racial disparity and structurally reproduced inequality rooted in political economy."

All of the above salves the consciences of our professional-managerial class peers and coworkers who want to think of themselves as more tolerant and enlightened than their Republican relatives and neighbors, even as they insulate themselves and their families as much as possible from undesired contact with the dangerous classes and define the latter in quotidian practice through precisely the same racialized and victim-blaming stereotypes as the conservatives to whom they imagine themselves superior. This hypocrisy, of course, is understood within the stratum as unavoidable accommodation to social realities, and likely to be acknowledged as an unfortunate and lamentable necessity. Yet those lamenting at the same time reject out of hand as impractical any politics that would challenge the conditions that reproduce the inequalities underlying those putative realities. Obama, in the many ways that Glen Ford, Margaret Kimberley and others have catalogued here, is an ideal avatar for this stratum.  He has condensed, in what political dilettantes of all stripes rush to call a "movement," the reactionary quintessence that Walter Benn Michaels in The Trouble With Diversity identifies in a politics of identity or multiculturalism that substitutes difference for inequality as the crucial metric of political criticism. It's apt in this connection that even elites in the Mississippi Delta, down to the level of the Cotton Museum in Lake Providence, LA, and the blues museums that dot every hamlet on US 61 in Mississippi between Greenville and Memphis, have come to appreciate the political and commercial benefits of multicultural celebration and even civil rights heritage tourism, without destabilizing the underlying relations of racialized subordination.

Indeed, Obama represents a class politics, one that promises to cement an alliance anchored in the professional-managerial class (including, perhaps especially, the interchangeable elements of which now increasingly set the policy agendas for what remains of the women's, environmentalist, public interest, civil rights and even labor movements) and the "progressive" wing of the investor class. (See, for example, Tom Geoghagen, "All the Young Bankers," The American Prospect, June 23, 2008.) From this perspective, it is ironic in the short term -- i.e., considering that he pushed HRC out of the way -- that Obama would be the one to complete Clintonism's redefinition of liberalism as conservatism. So there's no way I'm going to ratify this bullshit with my participation, and I'm ready to tell all those liberals who will hector me about the importance of voting that it's the weakest, most passive and least consequential form of political participation, and I'm no longer going to pretend it's any more than that, or that the differences between the Dem and GOP candidates are greater than they are, just to help them feel good about not doing anything more demanding and perhaps more consequential.

To be clear, I'm not arguing that it's wrong to vote for Obama, though I do say it's wrong-headed to vote for him with any lofty expectations. I would also suggest that it's not an open and shut case that - all things considered - he's that much better than McCain. In some ways Obama would be better for us in the short run, just as Clinton was better than the elder Bush. In some ways his presidency could be much worse in the longer term, again like Clinton. For one thing, the recent outpouring of enthusiastic support from all quarters - including on black academic and professional list serves and blogs and on op-ed pages - for his attacks on black poor people underscores the likelihood that Obama will be even more successful than Clinton at selling punitive, regressive and frankly racist social policies as humane anti-poverty initiatives. In a way, I suppose, there could be something useful about having a large strain of the black petite bourgeoisie come out as a militant racial class for itself. Maybe that could be a prelude to a good fight, but unfortunately there's no counterweight. And the black professional-managerial strata, despite their ever more blatant expressions of contempt for black poor people, continue to insist on speaking for the race as a whole.

"Obama represents a class politics, one that promises to cement an alliance anchored in the professional-managerial class and the ‘progressive' wing of the investor class."

Lesser evilists assert as indisputable fact that Gore, or even Kerry, wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Perhaps Gore wouldn't have, but I can't say that's a sure thing. (And who was his running mate, by the way?) Moreover, we don't know what other military adventurism that he - like Clinton - would have undertaken to make clear that he wouldn't be seen as a wimpy Democrat. As to Kerry, even though like all the other Dem presidential aspirants who voted for it, except Edwards, he claimed later that he thought he was voting for something else, he did vote to invade Iraq, didn't he? And, moreover, during his campaign didn't he say that, even if he'd known then what he knew in 2004, he'd still have voted for it? No, I'm not at all convinced that the right wouldn't have been able to hound either Gore into invading Iraq or Kerry into continuing the war indefinitely. Sure, neither Dem would have done it as stupidly and venally as Bush, but that's no comfort to the Iraqis, is it? Nor does it suggest a break from the military interventionism - old school imperialism - that's defined our foreign policy increasingly since Reagan. Obama is on record as being prepared to expand the war into Pakistan and maybe Iran, now apparently even generically anywhere in "Mesopotamia" (NYT, 7/14/08), after he does the Randolph Scott move and "talks" to his targets a couple of times. He's also made pretty clear that AIPAC has his ear, which does it for the Middle East, and I wouldn't be shocked if his administration were to continue, or even step up, underwriting covert operations against Venezuela, Cuba (he's already several times linked each of those two governments with North Korea and Iran) and maybe Ecuador or Bolivia.

This is where I don't give two shits for the liberals' criticism of Bush's foreign policy: they don't mind imperialism; they just want a more efficiently and rationally managed one. As Paul Street argues in BAR, as well as in his forthcoming book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics, an Obama presidency would further legitimize the imperialist orientation of US foreign policy by inscribing it as liberalism or the "new kind" of progressivism. You know, the black is white, night is day kind. And, as he has shown most recently in his June 30 speech he will similarly sanitize the galloping militarization of the society that proceeds under the guise of "supporting the troops." (How many of you have noticed being called on by flight attendants to give a round of applause to the military personnel on board a flight - it may be only a matter of time before pretending to be absorbed in reading will no longer work, and those who don't cheer them on will be handcuffed - or the scores of other little, and not so little, everyday gestures that give soldiers priority over the rest of us, in the mode of returners from the Eastern Front? Actually, befitting neoliberalism, these gestures are for the image of soldiers, what they get instead of medical care and income support for the maimed.) All in all, I'd rather have an inefficient imperialism, one that imposes some cost on the US for its interventions. Clinton, like Bush père and Reagan, was able to pull it off with "surgical" (i.e., broadly devastating and terroristic to the objects, relatively painless for the subjects) actions and had the good sense both to select targets that couldn't really fight back and to avoid the hubris of occupation. To that extent, no one complained; this was the new Pax Americana that in principle could have gone on indefinitely, with successive US governments creating and lighting up demon regimes abroad as needed.

"An Obama presidency would further legitimize the imperialist orientation of US foreign policy by inscribing it as liberalism or the "new kind" of progressivism."

This brings to mind Lila Lipscomb, the woman in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," whose son was killed in Iraq. She had proudly and quite happily sent two or three of her kids into the military before this one because it seemed like a reasonable bet for their being able to make the bases for better lives for themselves from the perspective of borderline poverty and general economic distress in Flint. Sure, the military no doubt lied in minimizing the likelihood of seeing combat and about how, if they had to do it, all their cool gear would keep them out of harm's way as they fired up bad guys all over the world who were threatening our or somebody else's "freedom." And all the politicians, Dems and Republicans, supported every deployment on those terms. And, like the vast majority of Americans, she probably would never have been moved to question the propriety of traipsing all over the world fucking with people - killing them and destroying their lives - who hadn't done anything to us. I don't make light of deaths of American soldiers; nor do I want to make one of those "maybe this will make them understand" points (though we certainly must recognize why people on the receiving end of this country's bipartisan foreign policy would feel that way). I do want to stress that: a) so long as we assign significance only to the death, injury, and sovereignty of Americans and not those of the people on whose countries we make war, we will be all the more likely to repeat wars like this one over and over and over and b) the bipartisan "support the troops" rhetoric that has become a scaffold for discussing the war is a ruse for not addressing its foundation in a bellicose, imperialist foreign policy that makes the United States a scourge on the Earth. Obama, like other Dems, doesn't want such a discussion any more then the Republicans do because they're all committed to maintaining that foundation. "Antiwar" arguments that begin with clauses like "since the troops are there" or "if they're going to be there" are no antiwar arguments at all. To the extent that Obama and his like christen them as such, they legitimize as "responsible" an "antiwar" discourse that reduces to no more than a technocratic focus on fighting interventionist wars in ways that minimize American casualties. If that's a "progressive" foreign policy, then, in the words of Amos from "Amos ‘n' Andy," include me out. And, by the way, since Obama is so fond of invoking Vietnam these days, I should remind the faithful that every major party presidential candidate between 1956 and 1972 - except one, Barry Goldwater, who ran partly on his willingness to blow up the world and was trounced for it - ran on a pledge to end the Vietnam War. Every one of them lied, except maybe Nixon the third time he made the pledge, but that time he had a lot of help from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.

And then there's the issue of the courts, the big joker the liberals wave when all other arguments seem shaky. But hasn't Obama already aligned himself with the right wing of the current Court, three times in the current session, and on three pretty show-stopping issues? I know, the response would be that he's just posturing and on balance he'd appoint more "centrist" -- as even his running dogs put it - judges. (This is the "I know he's always out with her in public and looks like he's enjoying himself, but he told me he really loves me and is just sticking around for the kids" argument.) Frankly, the courts bugbear is beginning to look played out. Past a certain point of giving away the store programmatically and ideologically, it doesn't much matter who's on the Court. And the more ideological ground that's given away, the farther right will be the boundary of acceptable "centrism."  Could Obama now nominate someone with a record of favoring gun control or late-term abortions for mental health reasons or opposing the death penalty? And this isn't even to raise all the other, property and contract related areas where the Courts' actions are significant with respect to people's lives.  There's no reason to expect anything from him in this area, especially when you factor in all the hedge fund and investor class money he gets and his close University of Chicago Law School and Economics Department connections.

I'm increasingly convinced that the courts issue looms so large because the liberals have given away everything else. It feels ever more the property of Dem hacks who have to strain to find any basis for plausible product differentiation during election season. (A friend used to maintain that there's so little difference between the two parties in this bipartisan era that people determine their allegiances in the same ways they sort themselves into Ford and Chevy people. Now I think it's more like Buick v. Pontiac; they have the same structure and frame, same engine, and same chassis design - just different flourishes and labels.) It's a deal-maker only if you accept the premise that formal preservation of Roe v. Wade is the paramount issue, the sine qua non, of gender justice in the United States or that holding on to the shreds of a mangled, "mended" version of affirmative action is the same for blacks. Those two areas don't stand out so much when you add up everything the Dems have caved on that has more directly injurious effects on black people and women, often with more direct and persisting impact on reproductive freedom - or "choice" in the liberals' capitulationist parlance - and economic security than abortion rights, which are exercised, at best, episodically, and affirmative action, the meaningful scope of which is effectively reduced by retreats in other policy areas. For openers, just think of comparable worth, welfare reform, publicly supported child care, cuts in Federal urban aid, education, the War on Drugs, NAFTA, the ethnic cleansing program of HOPE VI, corporate health care, privatization, abetting union-busting, fetishizing deficit reduction, as only among the most obvious areas where they've rolled over. For most blacks and women, most of the time, abortion rights and affirmative action are at best more symbolic than practically meaningful, particularly in a context in which in all those other areas that affect their lives directly, the Dems have already given away the store. Trying to stoke hysteria around abortion rights and affirmative action looks more and more like a feeble attempt to deflect attention from that fact, and to convince people who don't stand to get much from a Dem victory that they should commit to them anyway - for the sake of those who do stand to benefit. I've finally realized what this move is all about: what makes the Dems every four years "better" is always something that the hacks and yuppies are likely to imagine getting if they win, and their disgusting moralizing about the imperative to vote for their "lesser evil" - which means "I may get what's important for me, but you have to recognize that what you need is naïve or impractical" -- is all about bullying the rest of us into believing we have an obligation to vote for what's good for them.

"The courts issue looms so large because the liberals have given away everything else."

Bill Clinton's "successful" presidency underscores this point. Like baseball managers, presidents probably get too much credit for economic growth and too much blame for downturns. Yes, the growth of inequality may have been tempered in some ways during his administration. But how was Clinton able to pull off his triangulation that combined stimulating the economy while sharply reducing the deficit? I may be a little out of my depth here, but it seems to me that part of the answer is his support for another burst of deregulation in the financial sector, which generated the speculative stock market boom and its inevitable bust that wrecked so many small investors' lives and gutted their risky, defined-contribution pensions. Another part apparently was his administration's role in stimulating housing market speculation - which included encouraging in a couple of different ways the proliferation of subprime lending. Thus a longer-term effect in both cases, between bailouts and the concentration that's part of capitalism's crisis tendency, an element of its dynamic of "creative destruction," was upward redistribution. And, by the way, if you add the fact that the steepest cuts in the federal meat inspection program occurred under Clinton (Tyson's Chicken has its needs, after all), then the libs' halcyon, nay Edenic, days of the Clinton presidency lose a lot of their prelapsarian splendor, as its fingerprints are all over three of the biggest domestic crises in this decade. And there's no reason, other than the will to believe, to expect that Obama would be any better, and it's entirely likely that in some ways - including those bearing on racial justice - he'll be worse, again by moving the boundaries of thinkable liberalism that much farther to the right. There is nothing in his record, much less his recent courting of some of the worst tendencies of the right, to reassure us on this front. The argument that he has to give away everything in order to get elected is substantively only an argument that we have no reason to elect him.

All that said, I reiterate that, although I've been clear about my own decision to abstain from this charade, I'm not arguing that people shouldn't vote for him. Nor do I see any third-party candidate as a serious alternative. I was a Commoner elector in 1980 and voted for Nader in 2000 (I'm proud to declare that, whatever else I may have done in my life, I've voted against Joe Lieberman at every opportunity I've had to do so), but the fact is that third party candidacies are really the same as not voting, just more costly and time-consuming. They aren't an answer to anything. They don't galvanize movements, and unless they emerge from dynamic, powerful movements - like the Republicans in the 1850s - they aren't more than vehicles for collecting and registering protest by isolated individuals. This can be defensible, so far as it goes, but it is not an alternative or shortcut to building a movement capable of changing the terms of political debate. And that can't happen during the heat of an election period.

The point is that we need to approach this presidential election stuff, and not just this time around, with no illusions about the trade-offs involved and recognize that it's not even as simple a matter as Obama being better than McCain in the here-and-now on a select menu of issues. I could understand the impulse to rally the troops to produce the outcome that's better on immediate tactical grounds, if we had some troops to rally. If we had such a base, it might even make sense to consider an organized boycott of the election, which may be the only way to keep from being treated like a 2 am booty-call for triangulating Dems. However, we don't have it, and it can't be built during an election season.

"Although I've been clear about my own decision to abstain from this charade, I'm not arguing that people shouldn't vote for Obama."

Perhaps the one luxury of the left's weakness now is that we're absolved of the need to hew so closely to such tactical considerations because we can't influence the outcome of the election anyway. Pretending that we can is a convenient excuse for laziness and opportunism, on both intellectual and political fronts. This, by the way, is yet another area where we've been failed by much of the left media that too easily succumb to simple cheerleading, counting up outrages, and engaging in wish fulfillment, indulging the fantasy that there is a coherent political movement out there somewhere that can assert its electoral will.

Here are two sobering thoughts for the "yes, but" left. First, despite all breathless claims about how the Obama campaign "energized" young voters who could remain mobilized to become the cornerstone of the base that will push him to be more like the fantasy Obama, when all was said and done, 18-29 year old voters were 14% of those voting in the primaries. True, that was up a few points from the last several elections, but it is exactly the average of the "youth" turnout over the past thirty years. Second, the escrow account established by progressive Obama supporters to hold him accountable has, according to the New York Times (July 13, 2008) raised $101,375 from 675 people in nearly a month. By contrast, the campaign's chief fundraiser, Penny Pritzker of the Chicago real estate magnate and philanthropic family, a week earlier scheduled "more than a dozen big-ticket events over the next few weeks at which the target price for quality time with the candidate is more than $30,000 per person"(NYT, July 4, 2008).  I guess our side had better get cracking with those bake sales on Democracy Now!

Finally, I recognize that trade-offs would be involved in rejecting the premise that we can't afford to jeopardize the chances for a Democrat's victory, no matter how little he or she may differ from the Republican. Two little items in the July 15 NYT illustrate this point. One is about the Bush administration's effort to push through a regulation requiring any hospital or medical facility that takes federal money not to discriminate in hiring those - nurses or pharmacists, for example - who oppose abortion or contraception on religious grounds. The second is that the GAO has outed the wage and hour division of the Labor Dept for its laxity and worse in handling complaints and apparently not paying attention to low-wage industries at all. When the right is in power, they can push their agenda into the administrative and regulatory interstices insidiously, and a Democratic administration, at least to this point, would be less likely to pursue objectives such as those, which clearly make things substantively worse than they were and at least temporarily more difficult to fight.

When and whether it's appropriate, or not, to accept the immediate costs of such trade-offs is a decision that would be properly made systematically, in the context of a larger strategy for pursuit of political power, not on the fly, by individuals in the heat of the moment. It's an issue that would best be discussed and debated in institutional forums - labor federations, constituent advocacy and membership groups - and through movement-linked media.

"Obama threatens to go beyond any of his Dem predecessors in redefining their all-too-familiar capitulation as the boundary of the politically thinkable."

But here's the catch-22: The left version of the lesser evilist argument stresses that it's unrealistic and maybe unfair to expect anything of the Dems in the absence of a movement that could push them, and no such movement exists. True enough, but where is such a movement to come from if we accept the premise that the horizon of our political expectation has to be whatever the Dems are willing to do because demanding more will only put/keep the other guys in power, and they're worse? I remember Paul Wellstone saying already in the early ‘90s that they'd gotten into a horrible situation in Congress, where the Republicans would propose a really, really hideous bill, and the Dems would respond with a slightly less hideous one and mobilize feverishly around it. If it passed, they and all their interest-group allies would hold press conferences to celebrate the victory, when what had passed actually made things worse than they were before. That's also an element of the logic we've been trapped in for 30 years, and it's one reason that things have gotten progressively worse, and that the bar of liberal expectations has been progressively lowered. It's also one of the especially dangerous things about Obama, that he threatens to go beyond any of his Dem predecessors in redefining their all-too-familiar capitulation as the boundary of the politically thinkable, as the substance of "progressivism." He can manage this partly because of the way that he and his image-makers manipulate the rhetoric and imagery of energizing "youth," whose righteous fervor is routinely adduced to demonstrate the power and Truth of Obamaism, rather than evidence that they just don't know any better.

The Obamistas have exploited the opportunism and bankruptcy of adults whose lack of will and direction, and maybe their hyper-investment as parents, lead them to look to precocious young people as sources of wisdom and purpose. But "youth," first of all, is an actuarial and advertising category, not a coherent social group, and one of its defining features is lack of experience. Another, lest we forget, is its transience; youth, by definition, is a status that disappears with time, and rapidly. (I'm reminded of joking with comrades more than three decades ago, after the Student Organization for Black Unity - SOBU -- had become YOBU about what would be the next step in the progression after Student and Youth.) The many organizational debates over the decades about where to set the upper age limit of the "youth" section should have been a signal of how arbitrary and concocted the category is. And these precocious young, mainly middle class enthusiasts, who believe that the world began when they started paying attention, have not had the experience of being sold out by Dem after Dem; they didn't live through their parents' versions of the exact same overblown and unfulfilled enthusiasms for Jesse Jackson, who also supposedly energized youth and was historic, and/or Bill Clinton. They haven't seen the Dems run a slightly different version of the same candidate and campaign as their Magic Negro every four years since Dukakis, or maybe even Mondale or Carter, with almost always the same result. Many of them don't understand the difference between a political movement and a protest march, chat room or ad campaign. And, most of all, they by and large don't feel adult anxieties about health care, working conditions, pensions and the like. Therefore, they are the ideal propagandists for the fantasy that Obama can transform the political environment through his person, as well as his bullshit about "community organizing" and the real progressivism being that which transcends, even obviates, conflict, and his arsenal of student government platitudes like the notion that "hope" has a self-evident, concrete meaning or that partisanship is a bad thing or that "politics of gridlock" is something more than important sounding filler for use by the male and female news bunny corps and their stable of talking head guest commentators.

"Many young people don't understand the difference between a political movement and a protest march, chat room or ad campaign."

And, no, I don't mean to dismiss young people's role in politics. Because of their point in life and the social location associated with it, they tend to have more social energy and to be more inclined to experiment than older people. These can be valuable attributes for a political movement. They are also reciprocals of lack of experience and immersion in adult concerns. The Obamistas' opportunistic exploitation of the imagery of youth activism, though, makes it especially important to be clear-headed, to avoid mystifications and facile nostalgia about what role to expect from young people in building a movement.

Neither the civil rights movement nor the Vietnam era antiwar movement was the product of precocious youth, least of all the sort who create their own NGOs, though both at various points depended heavily on the energy, flexibility and other talents of young people, however defined. The direct action explosion of the 1960s civil rights movement in the South was the product of years of organizing and institutional political agitation and action that stretched back to the 1930s. The leadership of the Montgomery Improvement Association were adults: E. D. Nixon was more than 50 years old and a long-time activist in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and NAACP; Rosa Parks was over 30 and an NAACP functionary, and King himself, the novice, was a married father and pastor. SCLC, CORE and the NAACP similarly were led by long-time activist adults who shaped those organizations' programs and their directions. James Farmer was 40 at the time of the Greensboro sit-in, and Bayard Rustin was pushing 50. And this isn't even to consider the many labor and other organizations that fed into, shaped, and sustained the movement.

The story of the student and antiwar movements is similar. SDS began as an offshoot of the labor-based League for Industrial Democracy, and the anti- Vietnam war movement in no way is reducible simply to its student or youth component. Labor, civil rights, pacifist and many other types of activist organizations shaped, pushed, funded and directed the larger movement. It's telling that the mass youth antiwar movement collapsed almost immediately with elimination of the draft.  

I recognize also that one reason it's so difficult to have the discussion about the point at which it makes sense, if not to break with the Dems at least to stop lying to ourselves about the cataclysmic significance of voting for them or not, is that the election year is in a way not the optimal time to have it. This is precisely because of the immediateness of the stakes and the kind of politics - i.e., by definition not "transformative," if we take the term to imply potential to alter the terms of political debate substantially - elections warrant and require. The problem, though, is that even within the ineffectual enclaves that pass for a left, as well as all the more solid left-of-center interest configurations - labor, enviros, women, civil rights, etc -- "politics" increasingly has come to mean only getting someone elected or defeated or some bill or initiative passed or defeated. So elections are the only context around which it's possible that even politically attentive people and those who see themselves as activists are inclined to discuss political strategy at all. And then, because the frenzy of electoral jockeying stokes passions and leads to extravagant claims, the discussion becomes overheated, and distinctions between tactics, strategies and goals blur, with the first likely to drive the other two rhetorically. The predictably exaggerated claims that support electoral mobilization, e.g.,  "Obama is a transformative politician," etc, strive to channel and subordinate all political discussion to the immediate goal of winning what can be won right now and not really entertaining questions about how much, not to say whether, it's actually worth winning, or even whether the victory could be pyrrhic.

"How can we hold them accountable once they're in office if we can't do it when they're running?"

So we "don't have time" to have the strategic political discussion about how to try to change the terms of debate during the election year, and "we don't have time" to have it between election years because (a) there are other, equally instrumental objectives that consume everyone's time as immediately more pressing - some other 8% adjustment to fight for or against - and (b) the dilettantish left persists in the belief that some gimmick - some Special Candidate, some clever slogan ("No, we're really the ones who ‘support the troops'" or "We need a policy that helps ‘working families' and the ‘middle class'") - can magically knock the shackles from the eyes of the majority that already exists as our constituency but doesn't yet know it, if we could only find the right one. Then we're back to the next election year, and some new candidate becomes the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams and the one who'll call that majority together for us. Frankly, I've begun to suspect that the election year version of the "now is not the time" argument and its sibling, the "get him elected first then hold him accountable" line, as well as their first cousin, "Well, that's what they all have to do to get elected," reflect nothing better than denial of the grim reality that we can't expect anything from them or make any demands of them. After all, how can we hold them accountable once they're in office if we can't do it when they're running, when we technically have something we can withhold or deliver?

The fact is that they know we don't have the power to make them do or not do anything and treat us accordingly, and they will until we develop the capacity to force them to do otherwise. I know this is a difficult message for those who like to believe that politics is about good people and bad people, or that writing really smart position papers that demonstrate the formal plausibility of a win/win agenda that satisfies everyone's concerns should be enough to counter the influence of those $30,000 per head corporate and hedge fund contributors, but that's just not the way the deal goes down.

So the question is: how are we to break this cycle to be able to try to build the movement we need to do anything more than staunch the bleeding? Consider as well that the staunching looks less and less meaningful to the growing population that gets defined as on the wrong side of the triage line and that each iteration of the losing game further shrinks the ranks of the relatively secure economically, drives more and more people to the margins, and shifts the thinkable terms of political debate, as well as the electorate's center of gravity, more and more to the right. We have seen, for example, that after nearly thirty years of bipartisan government-bashing, even in the wake of massive catastrophes like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the notion of public obligation to provide for the citizenry's well-being is steadily being wiped out of public consciousness. (And, by the way, those precocious NGO engineers are energetically instrumental in doing a lot of the wiping.) And it's crucially important for those who identify with the left to recognize that there is no designated moment at which the crisis becomes intolerable and "the People" either "wake up" or "rise." That is simply not the way politics works. Absent concerted, organized intervention, it could go on indefinitely, with all kinds of inventive scapegoating available to stigmatize the previous rounds of losers and provide desperate reassurances to the next. And that would be a political situation and social order likely to grow ever uglier and more dangerous.

Adolph Reed, Jr. is a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of Class Notes, The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon, W. E. B. DuBois and American Political Thought, and Stirrings in the Jug, and can be contacted at [email protected].



I appreciate your well spoken comment. I am a black pastor preacher, former hard-core gangbanger, recovering drug addict, ex-pimp, playa, hustler and convict. I have filled many of the other roles that come with being poor and growing up on the westside and south side of Chicago. I was blessed to be delivered from the hell that was my lifestyle and went on to earn graduate degrees and doctoral education. Ever since I've heard about Obama, I've had some serious questions about his authenticity. Firstly, how does someone who supposedly was born in Hawai, grew up in Indonesia, attends elite prep schools in Honolulu, matriculates to Colombia and receives a law degree from Harvard, never grew up in the hood, never ran with OG's never hung on the corner, never played the dozens, never talked shit for the sake of talking shit, never had the police locking him up for nothing, when he is speaking/preaching how in the world can he sound like me or any other brother who has been there and done that and lived to tell it. Given where he came from and the circles he's been in Obama's attempts to sound down with it are bogus.
It seemed to me that if the attempt to sound like a black baptist preacher are phony then how much else is real?

quoting this

"This is where I don't give two shits for the liberals' criticism of Bush's foreign policy: they don't mind imperialism; they just want a more efficiently and rationally managed one."

Mr Reed, this Country was born by imperialism, and it's going to die by imperialism.

That's because as the bible said "every foul bird and wicked thing has gathered here."

Why, and what type of people leave their lands to follow the gold?

They are people who are all about nothing but da gold.

They don't care about anything else, and like dragons, they are going to keep on doing what they do to get da gold just for the sake of getting da gold.

It will never stop.

Poor people are hated because they don't have the same passion.

In one of Will Smith's many propaganda movies about how if Blacks would only learn to kiss ass and sell their souls, they could be like us too--they actually had a carload of smiling, happy white people, fanning dollars, riding across the screen in a scene that had nothing whatsoever to do with that section of the movie.

The message was clear:

Where rich, white and happy and you're not.

They're rich and white, but they aint happy.

You can never be happy if all you value your worth and eternal spirit by is money.

The funny thing is, despite this obsessive occupation with the poor by hollywood, Washington, and racist America, the poor rarely says anything.

Everybody is talking but them.

And soon everybody is going to be joining them on the hard knocks side of life.

Guess then, who is going to be jumping out of windows, slitting wrists, powder burning temples, or begging God or the government to do stuff?

To the poor it's going to be just another day in the life.

They aint so unhappy, and the only way they have to go is up.

The bible says that too.

At least get it right

Needless to say, I find Reed's "I'll abstain, but it would likely be OK if the rest of you blocked a McCain victory" a tad elitist and rather tiresome.

But if he wants to criticize 'Progressives for Obama', he's welcome, but at least read our initial call and get it right.

We've never called Obama a consistent progressive, and pegged him as a candidate of a progressive-moderate coalition speaking mainly to the center from day one. The need to promote a progressive pole against the rightward drift we saw as inevitable is the reason we started the project to begin with.

Reader can go to our site and make up their own minds about how well we'll doing, and what we actually think.

Meanwhile, we're building new grassroots groups, registering new voters, and preparing for mass action in the streets in Denver as well.

Reed is probably best right where he is. Given his views, he wouldn't be very good at this work anyway.

'I don't give two shits for the liberals' criticism' - say that

Your text is too long, and you lost me when you quoted Paul Street.
Here is what I wrote this morning under his article:
'Agent Provocateur'

Don't shirk the real issue here. Everybody can see your pathetic attempt to save an agent provocateur. The photo shows an American soldier in Iraq, a war which Chomsky believes Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are behind it. And you want to advice people to read his books? That Bill Gates has been lobbying for Israel?
'No conference organized by high-tech companies have ever drawn 65% of the members of Congress and the Senate and all major Presidential candidates to pledge their allegiance to their corporate interests in Israel.
To continue to masquerade as 'war critics' while ignoring the central role of the Zionist Power Configuration makes pundits like Chomsky, Moyers and Powers and their acolytes irrelevant to the anti-war struggle. They are part of the problem, not part of the solution.'

Just posted by James Petras few minutes ago http://tinyurl.com/5z9vsn

To the Ex OG

While I'm not defending Obama, I have to ask, Why does he have had to have run with OG's, Talked shit or played the dozens in order to be "down with us?"

Such behavior is not a prerequisite for standing up for black folk. Perhaps it's a pre-requisite for getting through the heads of current gang-bangers, but that's not the only thing that needs to be done in our communities. There are people needed to play different roles in our struggle, some of those will be ex gangsters and some will be squeaky clean. Lets not play those extremes against each other.

Hard to tell

Obama and McCain share the same "nationa1 security" advisr. Brze zinski used to be McCain's advisor, whereas now he's in Obama's camp http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2007/09/the_obamabrzezinski_alliance... , but his son is still advising McCain though http://mediamatters.org/items/200802070004 . They probably will be very much the same, except that McCain prefers to get people used to war right off the bat, where Obama will probably use much more subtle pretext.
I think they both very much want to establish a long term secure of Iraq as soon as they see possible, in their own ways, so they can move on to the next.
Obama says students should serve, and wants to tie government guided "community service" to federal school funding, so I think his goals may be a little loftier.

Correct me if I'm wrong

It seems to me that the biggest problem we face today is the myth of the two-party system.
As long as we all pretend that there is any difference whatsoever between the major political parties in this country, we will continue to be vulnerable to manipulation by those global corporate entities who are really in charge.
A wet-behind-the-ears, newly elected junior senator does not have the wherewithall to mount a successful, dragon-slaying campaign without some powerful mojo from outside interests.
Nearly one hundred million dollars on hand before he was barely introduced to the millions of small donors who supposedly funded his campaign?
A manipulative, Rovian primary strategy that gamed the process in a style mastered in a ridiculously short political career, one spent almost entirely running for office and winning not on merit, but on technicality?
This is not the campaign of a committed politician, this is a carefully orchestrated puppet show.
The man behind the podium is a self-admitted blank screen, a chameleon, a shape-shifter.
To black Americans, he is redemption, validation, the culmination of the struggle, fulfillment of the dream.
For white Americans he is vindication, exoneration, absolution.
To young America he is hope, the promise of the future, the sign of the times, the prospect of things to come.
He's a liberal, he's a conservative, he's a hawk, he's anti-war, he's progressive, he's right-wing, he's black, he's white.
You name it, he is it.
What could be better?
Yet that is who he is only because that is who he is scripted to be.
In reality he is none of those things.
He's a two-bit political hack who can't seem to form a coherent sentence without a TelePrompter, let alone formulate or even explain a comprehensive, complex position on any government policy.
He simply looks the part for which he was cast.
In the minds of the string pullers he's the preferred winner, his opponent an equally scripted and cast, acceptable alternative.
What's so sad for black people is that to be so emotionally invested in what amounts to little more than an elaborately produced made-for-tv-movie is a sure-fire prescription for heartbreak.
The tragedy of buying the hype is there is no return policy, no money back guarantee, no recourse whatsoever.
What happens after the heartbreak is what worries many of us older folks, can our people endure such large-scale disillusionment?
Because the bottom line is whether he succeeds or fails those who look to him to be the reality of a common destiny realized are bound to be devastated when they realize it ain't about you.
And it never was.


The term "social problems" is a neoliberal framing used to excuse government inaction. The reality is that there are two types of problems: systemic and nonsystemic.

A Worthy Brilliant Critique ......& a Call for Action!

Delicious, a full course meal, with wine & dessert!..........lol

A detailed systemic thorough Diagnosis of the Obama Quest;

Unveiling potential terminal long term social contradictions indicative of a schizophrenic body politic...

though short on treatment/therapy
& bleak on Prognosis;

Brotha Adolf declares:

"question is: how are we to break this cycle to be able to try to build the movement we need to do anything more than staunch the bleeding?"

Speaks louder than wordz

Will I be young?

About 15 years down the road when I am the age of Lord Obama, I wonder if that will still be considered young? Are other people his age considered young now?

Dante's Inferno 2008

Daaayyyum Mozella,
Sista Queen;

*U* Zero faith in dat Boy..................lol

If he's a soulless automaton of shadow puppet masters...

& McInsane is a prop too

Then how do we wake up from this "ground hog Day" ...

is this HELL???

I knew the moment I saw Dr. Reed's name on this article it would

I want to thank Glen Ford for publishing this article on the site. It's an important read and one that I'm going to email to many of my co-workers and family members who are staunch Barack Obama supporters.

I'm a big fan of Glenn Greenwald, so I'm very disappointed that he has now joined in with the other cheerleaders when Obama assails poor black folks. Someone of Greenwald's intellectual caliber should know better. Once again, Dr. Reed, thank you for writing this important piece and having BAR publish it for their readers.

P.S. I think that you're going to lose some friends at The Nation over your criticism towards Katrina vanden Heuvel.

Thank You, Prof. Reed!

As always, you provide clarity and a host of useful ideas and phrases.

Meanwhile, Carl Davidson -- do you want to make that bet, the one about the movement you'll deliver to the WH lawn?

Wonderful stuff

Wow, this piece is wondrous! As the husband of someone who has also appeared in these pages (The Age of Oprah)I have begun occasionally to check this site out but this is truly great stuff which could not appear anywhere else. Adolph Reed has written an argument my wife and I have believed from early on, that an Obama win is actually worse in the long run for any real political/social justice to occur. I have argued with friends for some time now that the greatest obstacle to the creation of a more just society is not the Republican party but the Democratic one since the rise to dominance of the DLC. This is the first piece I have seen that seems to make a similar argument. In the late seventies two prominent members of the French left had a public debate in which one of them (name of Nicos Poulantzas) argued that an electoral victory for the left in a society without a mass movement would be a disaster. The victory of the French socialists in 1980 made Poulantzas prophetic. Reed is our Poulantzas. Great stuff and I am getting my credit card out now (while it still has some value) and contacting PayPal. Thank you,
Bill Riordan

vandenHeuvel has long been an apologist for American Exceptionalism and Imperialism -- that's the whole point of The Nation, to offer a "liberal" take on Imperialism, to give it the nod-and-wink of the "intelligentsia" of the "left."

With political hack and legal pollyanna Glenn Greenwald taking the position adverse to vandenHeuvel we are assured that nobody will speak ill of the US Government. Greenwald has been working himself up to the level of a 6th-rate Noam Chomsky, and his prominence among the "left" blogtopia netizenry has increased... but sadly, he remains politically stupid and legally naive. Greenwald continues to think we can fix America by merely voting for BETTER Democrats. He continues to believe there's a meaningful difference between Republican and Democrat. In other words, Greenwald lives in a fantasy world conjured by his own mind, and reaffirmed by people such as vandenHeuvel, Moyers, Chomsky, and all the other pseudo-critics of the Imperialist Democratic Party.

This is no good. None at all.

Greenwald will continue his upward trajectory -- he seeks fame, and by hook or crook he's going to have it! More people will hear his smack and believe it just because he was approved by or published on something like NPR or PBS.

The skeptical, critical, informed American is a threatened specie. I wonder how many exist today.

Overlooking the obvious

It is no doubt Obama will say many true things to make his lies more palatable.

"question is: how are we to break this cycle to be able to try to build the movement we need to do anything more than staunch the bleeding?"
Simple - http://www.votenader.org/

What do people have against Nader? It's like a drowning boat that just keeps looking down and snubbing the man who's been throwing a line for years and years. Is it because he saw the problem too soon, and sounded crazy trying to explain it before people believed what was going on? Is it because we believed the hype, that it's a two party system and there ain't no way around that? We can only have two choices, be beat with a stick, or a switch, and we're too afraid to stand up against it, because we don't know who will stand up with us? I don't know. It would be a huge upsetting of the play, something the puppet masters never conceived, if enough black voices publically voiced their support for the man that's been trying to break the two party monopoly for decades, and said "I want an option C".

Too bad he was a "white Arab", trying to tell people Obama was turning his back on his base. Maybe he sees problems too soon though, or he's just not PC enough. Maybe America will only accept hard truths or real help from colored folks or something now.

Then outspake Carl Davidson, the captain of the Progressives for

"Meanwhile, we're building new grassroots groups, registering new voters, and preparing for mass action in the streets in Denver as well".

How are the new grassroots groups going to differ from the old? How are the new voters going to differ from the old? Mass action in Denver! For what purpose Carl? Progressives for Obama, you are a bunch of brilliant activists indeed. Your program of action is out of this world... What a shame that if Obama had not been groomed and recruited to run for president, we would not have had the fortune of hearing from you guys. Where have you been all these years? Do you undersyand that your program of action could have liberated us decades ago? You have been watching the rest of us loitering in the dark without a clue as to what needs to be done to effect revolutionary change! Shame on you for monopolizing such brilliant ideas!!!

Yes to the poli sci from Brother Reed, who as usual lends sobriety to this mess. And no to Carl D, who years after his break with Maoism still peddles drunken ideology.

There is no lesser evil, OPT OUT!

“Since when has it been unorthodox or unsafe politically to malign black poor people in public? Who the fuck has been doing anything else for at least twenty years? Public sacrifice of black poor people has been pro forma Democratic presidential strategy since Clinton ran on the pledge to "end welfare as we know it" and made a burnt offering of Rickey Ray Rector, and victim-blaming based on just-so stories about supposed "behavioral pathology" has been the only frame for public discussion of poverty for at least as long.”- Adolph Reed, Jr.

So in a nutshell the Democrats are running their own “Southern Strategy?” Sweet.

Professor you make many accurate and salient points, in eloquent tones and insightful words, but isn’t the gist of it this? “We’re screwed" in terms of the major parties? If so, then why not a third party? Why are we so afraid of creatively destroying the Democrats? Richard Viguerie and his minions aren’t afraid of the GOP losing, he believes their electoral failures ultimately translated into the Reagan Era. He said this back in 2006, today his followers still believe the GOP has “betrayed” them. Add to that mix the Libertarians and Bob Barr who’ve OPTED OUT. (How long will Black GOPers hold their noses to their Party's race baiting? I’m not here to debate the accuracy of Viguerie's reading of history, but what’s the point of continuing the madness? Who else feels “betrayed?” Sure, there may never be a movement or consciousness-raising in this country, we are, after all brain dead and aloof, but given the coming economic collapse, who knows? To paraphrase “Tired”, “When the sh*%t hits the fan Whites will be clamoring for government funding too,” so economic events may shift the paradigm whether we like it or not, whether planned for or not.

That being said, I ARGUE FOR OPTING OUT. My time is better spent on volunteerism, mentoring, and working with like-minded persons to strengthen community, to spur learning, to encourage diet and exercise, to teaching persons to reduce their consumption, to save, to grow gardens, to travel and shop wiser. There are hundreds of practical, sensible things I can set as objectives without hitching them to one of the “Party(s).” (Those communal hippies of the 70s don’t look so foolish anymore do they?) I will inform myself regarding politics in the same way I inform myself about sports, interesting, but ultimately meaningless.

Why are “we” afraid of losing, especially when it doesn’t matter in the end?
The money, rules, barriers to entry, and structure of America may never lend itself to a Third Party, but perhaps people who are ready and willing to seek alternatives can at least add some meaningful AND PRACTICAL dimension to their lives by working towards a movement with those like-minded. Isn’t that better than working on McCain’s or Obama’s campaign? Moreover, haven’t we witnessed historical currents change directions in the midst of economic crisis?

It’s clear that government will do less and less, it’s broke after all-fiscally and morally- so why not encourage a movement, whether political or social or intellectual, that encourages both self-sufficiency and communal sharing whether that movement morphs into a formal party or not, regardless of whether it elects one politician? Perhaps this “movement” will never amount to more than consciousness raising, or revamping our lifestyles, but that’s better than being reactionary to the coming economic collapse, or false "hope." Then, on the other hand, perhaps a third or fourth party could emerge if the foundation is laid today, maybe it will take 20 years? What’s the alternative, according to you there is none, why continue to swim upstream? OPT OUT! There is no “lesser evilism. Last, why can’t 5 or 6% voting bloc make a difference, operate as a lever? After all Rove and the GOP calculated presidential wins based upon getting a similar slice of the Black Vote, true? It is not possible to play spoiler with those numbers in today’s retail political market?

There is no better time to OPT OUT of the two party system than now. As for the Black Bourgeois, let them eat cake as they try to refinance the subprime loans on their trophy homes. LOL

Onwuku Mawelulu ,

No, Onwuku, this is not hell.
This is America.


I like Prof. Reed do not want to take part in this charade of an election! However if we as Black people are going to cast our vote we should do so for McKinney/Clemente '08! A vote for these sisters is truly a vote against the status quo!

Fantastic Article

Where has Reed been hiding? I haven't come across his name very often recently. Like a reader up above, I knew this was gonna be great, and it didn't disappoint.

U Penn Admissions Link for Carl Davidson

Carl Davidson's tiresome and vapid robo-trolling bears the persistent Orwellian imprint of his apparent (I am inclined to believe Michael Hureaux on this) onetime Maoism. It has polluted ZNet for months and has now shifted to BAR.

People are beating on Davidson here like they're doing to his pal Tom Hayden over at commondreams.org. "Left" Obamaists are in retreat.

Mr. Davidson: you are now in the same state as Dr. Reed and it never too late to go back to school. Here is a link for the Department of Admissions at U. Penn, where you should think about picking up some Poli-Sci credits (you can re-live your student radical days) at Penn, under the tutelage of professor Reed:


onwuku you racist "Caucazoid"-calling buffoon, you fall over yourself to praise my ally Dr. Reed but you can't contain your noxious venom (replete with denuncations of PhDs) in regard to my similar and related reflections (though you did retain your standerd anti-intellectual admonition at the end... as if reputable action could ever proceed on the basis of faulty diagnosis). Gee, what that's all about...I wonder.

Beyond his brilliant dissection of the Obama disease, I applaud and second Dr. Reed's utter contempt for "what passes for a left in the U.S." This essay is so dead on its almost scary.


To the passionate commentator who responded to my initial email which contained some references to my own struggles and experiences growing up in Chicago. The real locus of my statement was really not playin the dozens going to jail talking smack or some of the other common experiences that many African-American males go through. Nor do I think that one has had to have these same experiences to support black folk. I also said I am a person with graduate degrees and doctoral-level training. The real point that I was making is that given Obama's background, the speech, cadence, inflection,he presents in his messages are contrived. They are not borne out real experiences and lack the real ethos that exists for most of us who grow up in inner city situations. Therefore I wondered if the speech ain't real what else ain't. I am well-aware of the need to have different people bringing different gifts to the table. My comments weren't about that, but the authenticity of his presentation

"Supporting the Troops"

Yes, I've been on flights when that has occurred - the attendant asking us to 'give it up' for those few soldiers on board. I, too, stay absorbed in my book. And at such moments as these and others I'm always reminded of the late comic Bill Hick's non-sequitar delivered during one of his routines at the height of the first Gulf War:
"I support the war but I don't support the troops."


Gee Carl, way to miss the entire point of the fucking article. You have your head so far up your ass it's ridiculous: Rather than rebut any of the many substantive arguments Adolph has made here, all you do is cry foul about him picking on your little ladies auxillary group. Fuck you, you arrogant shit, this is the future of the god damn world we're talking about, and all you care about is your little kid club.

Well, he tried

You really are in your own hell. I think McKinney is OK, but if you'd rather support her just because she's black, it's just one kool aid after another. I wanted to trust her and she was just singing Obama's praise a few months ago. Maybe she's not to blame for her supporters, but they were were using "ungreen" tactics to take him off the ballots http://www.draftnader.org/ , until Nader decided it would be less divisive to run separately. Plus, you talk about pragmatism with the lesser of two evils, and you ignore that Nader's historically consistant courage against the machine, fighting against corporate owned media, to get cheap AI_ds drugs to poor countries, and the list goes on, has earned him support that McKinney just doesn't have outside of the black community. If you truly believe she deserves more cred than Nader right now, or she's done more for the planet and America, or some other reason she's better than just being black, please vote for her and ignore Nader. You could turn this all around, but if his being white is an obstacle, then you don't want change, you just want to be on top.
Nader's even fighting for McKinney's right to be an option and be heard in the debates, which is irony.

Memo to Obama "Progressives"

Carl Davidson writes:
> Meanwhile, we're building new
> grassroots groups, registering
> new voters, and preparing for
> mass action in the streets in
> Denver as well.

A pep rally is not "mass action."

Nicely done, sir

Professor Reed's unvarnished examination of Obamaism and the state of party politics in the US should be mandatory reading for anyone "left." As usual, his analysis is relentless and dead on.

My compliments to the editors of Black Agenda Report. More, please.

mozella, astute observations, my friend. I'm posting them to my blog.

uku mawelulu - then you are lost for now at least

He's no soldier, and you are not either appearantly. You forget he's allied with the co-founda of the Trilateral Commission, who with Rockefeler, were architects of disaster, and you, my brother, are only being racist. That's what they were hoping for. For God and mankind's sake, I was hoping we were smarter than that.


He is good at rallying people, and so was Hitla. If you can tell me, in honest truth, why he's better than Nader in the fight against all we hate, and the fight for all we hope for, I will follow. If your arguement is just because he's black, then don't bother. We're all trancending race, whether we want to or not, so don't kid yourself. Once Obama's king, there is no blackagenda.


The column was on the long side, but did articulate brilliantly the real significance of the Obama "campaign," that is, a neo-liberal (barely liberal) cover for waging class war against working and poor people, using an assault on blacks as the leading edge--from a "black" candidate.

Obama is such a shameless careerist, it's hard to know where to begin...constitutional professor who buries the fourth amendment? Virulent zionist warmonger? It goes on and on and on in disgrace and infamy.

As a career not-for-profit human services professional, I have long held that the quantity of "charities" is a negative barometer of the state of social/economic equality in a society. We wouldn't need so many goddamned charities in the first place if our wealth distribution wasn't so fucked up. Obama will lavish more dollars on inefficient, corrupt and ideologically dangerous poverty huslters. And pretend it's progressive, as the poor are driven into the streets to beg.

God help us.

There is no place for decent people in the demo-rat party and the sooner we face this fact and get on with it, the better.

Long March Toward What ??

If having a president who uses anti-Black stereotypes moves you closer to "liberation", then you might as well go for the KKK.

Just don't forget to give the supremacist's representative a black skin and a Black's name.

That's all Obama is really, KKK with a black skin.

1) littlehorn understands why Jesse Jackson suggests that Obama may as well be a gelding. Nice work, littlehorn!

2) James has a problem with McKinney, but not with Nader. What's at the root of that, I don't know. Neither is superior to the other; both are superior to any other choice on the 2008 "ballot" that supposedly will be used in November for an "election." Maybe James can put aside US vs THEM mentality for a moment? Doubtful.

3) Paul Street's got Carl Davidson's number -- and I think it's 666. Or whatever number is used today in religious mythology to denote the liar and dissembler who comes in the guise of a friend. Reading Davidson is like swallowing Syrup of Ipecac -- it simply makes me puke.

There is no lesser "evilism" OPT OUT

Professor Reed spent a long time saying two things: First, the Democrats are running their own "Southern Strategy" with Obama as propagandist-in-chief, the deal sealer. Second, w/r/t Dems and GOP, "were screwed."

This nibbling at the edges of the Imperial Venture with Dems or GOP agenda's is a waste of time, why not at least attempt a 3rd Party? Why are people so afraid of creative destruction of the Democrats? Hard-Rightists like Viguerie believe the GOP has "betrayed" them and are OPTING OUT> They are not afraid of losing. So are the Libertarians and Paleo-Conservatives behind Barr and Paul. Is there anyone here who also feels "betrayed?"

Why are people who identify (or use to) themselves as Democrats afraid of losing? When in the end a victory doesn't matter? Sure there may never be a viable 3rd Party, but given the coming economic collapse who can say how events might change?

Government will do less and less, it's broke after all--fiscally and morally--so why not encourage a movement, whether political, social or intellectual that encourages both self-sufficiency and the betterment of community whether or not that movement morphs into a political party or elects one politician? Perhaps the "movement" will never amount to more than consiousness-raising, or revamping our lifestyles, but that's better than being reactionary to the coming economic collapse and waiting on "hope."

Last, I'm no political scientist but I say don't underestimate the impact of 5 or 6% of the electorate, after all this was the figure in African American communities Rove and the GOP went after in presidential races, they considered it a difference maker. We live in a era of retail politics and small margins. Many believe if Barr gets 5/6% it hurts McCain. Part of the argument is that 3rd Parties make no difference, yet people shudder at the prospects of the Naders and Barrs, ask yourself "why?"

There is no better time to OPT OUT of the 2 party system than now, as for the Black Bourgeois or Managerial Class? Let them eat cake as they try to refinance the subprime loans on their trophy homes. LOL

Lighten up? Okay, Onwuku.
Batman says:
"There is no hope in crime alley."

Snowballs for Hell

Davidson's group "Progressive for Obama" could change their name to "Snowballs for Hell"

Onwuku too bad you couldn't sign on - this brilliant Reed essay is your own special Father's Day lecture. Take some damn personal responsbility for getting it right on the Obama delusion.

Maybe they've got a poetry workshop at Penn so your Obamaist comrade Carl D.(he's a Caucazoid however....like a whole bunch of your fellow members of Obama Nation) and you can do a joint admission.

As another commenter/fool (gess) was also unable to perceive above, Dr. Reed did not quote me.

Today on ZNet, an all-out critique of the exploitation of race by the ruling class in connection with the BO pheonomeon:


Put that in your pompous presumptuous anti-marxist pipe and smoke it OM.

Listen to Chavez's wisdom

Chavez told his supporters not to raise their hopes that relations with the United States would improve if Obama is elected U.S. president, saying there was little difference between him and Republican candidate John McCain.

"The two candidates for the U.S. presidency attack us equally, they attack us defending the interests of the empire," Chavez said at a meeting of his socialist party.

"Let's not kid ourselves, it is the empire and the empire must fall. That's the only solution, that it comes to an end."

Obama said earlier in his campaign that he would be prepared to sit down to talk with Chavez. But in recent weeks he has called the leftist Venezuelan leader an enemy of the United States and urged sanctions against him.

THE EMPIRE MUST FAIL Y'ALL. At least the Libertarians get it, what's the problem with u so-called progressives?

OK once again but no insight...

Hearing Obama critique the poor black man but not seeing the man.

This article is so so once again as I said before Obama is a giant and this article just comfirms it.

Obama will be stepping...

Just dont get in the way or you will be crushed.

Once you have a foot hold in our great secret place just as Jesse Jackson did and KNOWS so does Rev Wright all too well, you become a giant that is in the black church.

Those 20 plus years certainly paid off wonderful dividends.

Too bad for those who have ears to hear our community especially those who are on the outside (willingly or unwillingly) is losing this insight.

Just let the man make it to the White House or be crushed.



micah pyre,
I agree that McKinney and Nader are both superior to Obama. I thought I stated my reasons that Nader is superior to back at this moment. I do question that McKinney seemed to fall for Obama's line for so long, even though he was introduced and promoted last year by a well known g1obalist, interventiona1ist and exp1oiter of the poor. Some Greens made deals in 2004 with the Democrats not to run a high profile candidate that would threaten a Democratic win, which helped pull the rug out from under Nader.
Nader has a much stronger base outside the black community, with or without a party, while still standing for equality and justice for all Americans, blacks included. He has a strong platform. I just have not heard why McKinney is better, but I do respect the woman. Nader is already over halfway to getting in the yahoo/google debates. All it would take is enough black voices saying he wasn't crazy or racist trying to tell people Obama had turned on his base and was "talking white now". A lot of whites think any criticizm of Obama is racist, and he's the little guy fighting back, don't ask me why. These guys play the news like a fiddle. Is Nader acceptable, and if not, why? He wants to fix the electora1 process so there's no third party hatred. When he's not running for presidency, he's starting citizen power and awareness groups, trying to protect the environment and get cheap A1DS drugs to poor countries and things like that.


Several things wrong with this critique.
1. Accepts the racist media's representation of Obama's speeches as underclass ideology. But Obama has proposed tripling the EITC, opposed Clinton's welfare reform, and insisted that the govt must meet people half way. Most blacks are workers, and Obama supports card checks and social clauses in trade agreements.
2. Obama is right to criticize absentee fathers, and he also notes that the government policies can compound the problem.
3. Reed has no sensitivity to the politics of the FISA decision; this is much more complex than he is making it out to be. Yes, the FISA vote has confused people. He clearly did not agree with telecom immunity and warrantless surveillance. So he should have held out for a better compromise or rejected this one, but he was worried that with the lapsing of some warrants in August, the Republicans could blame him for playing games with national security for something as nebulous as constitutional principles. So he caved, though he knows that Bush could have easily found some way to renew legitimate warrants. This seems to be the clearest case where Obama compromised his own principles. Here he let popular opinion or his fear of Republican manipulation of popular opinion lead him to do what he knew was wrong--vote yes on the FISA bill.
I still think the evidence is clear that he will change the surveillance regime as president. He may even pursue criminal penalties against the telecoms. And he remains an ardent defender of habeas corpus. So the reasons to vote for him remain as strong as ever, but the FISA vote changed his image as a straight talker, rather than a poll driven politician. It was a tough call, but I think he had to guard against Republican propaganda.
Reed's and Greenwald's criticism is made from within the bubble of a blue state enclave.
4. Obama has spoken for a withdrawal from Iraq. This is major, and he is willing to negotiate with Iran, signaling through Biden that he will accept, more or less, their offer sheet sent through a Swiss envoy. He has proposed tripling reconstructive aid for Pakistan and Afghanistan, he has criticized US killings of innocent civilians in Afghanistan; and even Ahmed Rashid realizes that long suffering Afghanistan cannot enjoy stability without a military defeat of warlords and the Taliban. Sending a couple more brigades there is not aggressive war mongering or imperialism.

Libertarians, My Butt

Lou, exactly what is it that the libertarians get?

Have you checked out Ron Paul's proposed immigration policy? It's state-fascist.

There is no such thing as a libertarian. Life is social, and, when the chips are down, everybody knows it.

I was expecting something of a fight here from the Obama haters...

Unlike Reed, I don't think raids on Taliban camps in Pakistan amounts to an imperialist occuption of a sovereign nation state, but then I am not so fond of the jehadis who are looking to build on their victories in Afghanistan by pushing on to Kashmir and India.

This is from Ahmed Rashid in interview with Amy Goodman about a month ago:

Well, you know, I mean, someone like myself obviously has been watching this very closely. I have been very encouraged by Barack Obama’s comments that he would put more resources into Afghanistan, he’d put more troops in, more money, he’d take reconstruction much more seriously than the Bush administration has taken. But again, I mean, I would like to see in the next few weeks and months how Obama puts flesh on that policy and really builds up that policy, what he would do with Pakistan, what he would do with Afghanistan. This is all terribly important.
McCain, on the other hand, has said absolutely nothing about Afghanistan, and clearly he can’t, because if he criticizes Afghanistan, he’s criticizing the performance of his own Republican Party. And even though—if you saw this visit just recently—Laura Bush went to Afghanistan a couple of days ago painting a very rosy picture of development and women going to school and all the rest of it, the fact is that one-third of the country is in the grip of an insurgency. So, clearly the Bush administration will be trying to paint Afghanistan as a major success story. We’ve had Condi Rice writing in Foreign Affairs this week about how US policy towards Pakistan is a major success story for the Bush administration. So if McCain is going to be following that line, that Pakistan and Afghanistan are big success stories, frankly, I don’t see anyone buying it. The American people will find it difficult to swallow, when you’ve got reports out today like the RAND Corporation report, which is saying just the opposite. "

And on another point: if Obama is the conservative spokesperson for underclass ideology, why has he opposed the federal minimum sentencing requirements that Reed's favorite Hillary Clinton supported?

More distortions in the Reed article.
By agreeing with the recent Supreme Court decision on capital punishment for child rape, Obama was not expanding the number of capital crimes. He has always argued to reduce it below the number to which Clinton had expanded it. He supports the death penalty only in cases such as child rape and serial murder. Given widespread American support for the death penalty, I don't see how this would not be a progressive compromise. Plus, Obama insists on the videotaping of all confessions in capital crimes, and this kind of reform seemed to have helped to create a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.
If Obama can get people to agree to late term abortions when a woman's health is at stake, while expanding women's effective right to an abortion and freeing foreign aid from stipulations against birth control and abortion, this too would be major progress.

Hartal, Prof. Reed is nowhere NEAR a Clinton supporter.

If you've read ANYTHING by Reed in the 90s you'd know that he was extremely critical towards the Clinton Administration. He's no fan of the Clintons, certainly not Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, Obama did not disagree with Clinton's Welfare Reform. In fact, in his book "The Audacity of Hope" he applauded Clinton's Welfare Reform because he felt that poor blacks were too "dependent" on government which crippled their initiative to go out and find work. He's as much of a neoliberal as Bill Clinton, that's why he's pretty much running the same type of campaign that Clinton ran in '92, despite the fact he has no reason to since the Republican/conservative brand has been tarnished by Bush. At least with Bill Clinton there was some justification as to why he ran and govern as a conservative Democrat since the polices of Reagan were still fully embraced by the public at large. There's no logical reason for Obama to run the same type of campaign.

Reed did say in the New York Times, I believe, that he was supporting Clinton in the nomination process. Obama clearly opposed the Clinton welfare reform because it denied benefits to legal residents and did not do enough to meet child care and job training needs. Obama is not a neo liberal as President CLinton was when it comes to financial sector regulation, union organizing rights, telecom regulation. President Bill Clinton also authorized Operation Desert Fox without Security Council approval or explicit Congressional authorization. Obama is a clear critic of such unleashed executive power.

Be careful Mr. Hartal

I sit back and watch this site a lot and these people dont play fair at all.

If you make passionate and intelligent arguments against their lynch party they will delete your post as I observed them do to the Onwuku Mawelulu guy. He could be agitating but he did make good counter points to the one sided Anti–Obama party that these guys throw.

So if you start a fight up in here and they dont like it,they censor you.

You are more informed than me and I like your perspective, Good luck, I will be watching

No Libertarian am I


You missed my point(s). Frankly I am aligned with no damn party to be clear. I'm a free thinker. My point is that Libertarians whether u like them or not, (they are relative to me like every other so-called Party), are more stridently antiwar, anti imperialist than progressive Democrats. They are also more adamant about the encroachment of the National Security State on personal freedoms. That's not a vote for Paul or Barr. Second, you cannot disagree or refute their argument (theirs and others) that Empire and Republics don't coexist.
Last, they are not afraid of their home Party--historically the GOP-losing. To that extent one might argue they are more principled than go-along-get-along Dems. They also have many "sins" as you elude to, I'm not defending those, won't. Take the good, throw away the bad. That's what makes life social, right? Don't over analyze me, please.