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'Stop criticizing Obama. You'll ruin everything!'

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'Stop criticizing Obama.
You'll ruin everything!'

The Absolute Right of Citizens to Speak Freely

Michael Collins

A few defenders of President elect Barack Obama are attacking one of his most enlightened statements of the campaign -- the request for open dialog and criticism from his supporters.  This occurred on his blog after he voted to support FISA legislation in the summer of 2008.

"I learned long ago, when working as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, that when citizens join their voices together, they can hold their leaders accountable.  I'm not exempt from that.  I'm certainly not perfect, and expect to be held accountable too."  Barack Obama, July 3, 2008

Responding to criticism of cabinet choices and, most recently, the selection of bigoted preacher Rev. Rick Warren to open the inauguration ceremonies, some Obama supporters are actually telling other supporters to "stop criticizing Obama!"

A Dec. 24 CNN poll showed that 82% of the public approves of the Obama transition efforts, while just 15% find them lacking.

If the well placed supporters can't tolerate negative feedback at 82% approval, what will happen when there's sizable public opposition for a broad based initiative?  Sending twenty thousand U.S. troops to Afghanistan comes to mind.

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During the cabinet appointment controversy, Obama's national deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, scolded the left in the Huffington Post.  While this preceded the Warren appointment, Hildebrand's general argument was used by those apologizing for Obama's choice of Warren, as well.

Hildebrand starts out by arguing that, "This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments."  What time would that be?  When we're all facing eviction?  After the next new war we simply have to fight?  When even more of those responsible for past failures are placed in positions of authority?

He then states the obvious:  "After all, he was elected to be the president of all the people - not just those on the left."  Always a helpful reminder.  Then those on the left are told to back off.  After listing the critical issues facing the country, Hildebrand says, "That's his job." Just let Obama do it.  Citizens are supposed to butt out while the boss takes care of it?

He ends by telling us that Obama will be a great president if "he can work with Congress and the American people."  Those who speak out are denying Obama his "greatness?"

This isn't about Obama or anybody's greatness.  It's about a nation in serious trouble, partially because the "loyal opposition" sat on its hands for eight years without raising as much as a whimper while corporatist policies brought the nation to its knees.

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These arguments don't square with the history of free speech and questioning authority in the United States.  Free speech is an essential element of greater economic and social justice, i.e., real change.

A Loyalty Oath and the Battle of Kings Mountain

During the Revolutionary War, those loyal to King George III and his regime took the position that the criticism of the Crown was intemperate and prevented a resolution of differences.

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