Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite Save As Favorite View Article Stats
84 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

Has the Left Surrendered? The Overdue Conversation We Need

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 4 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Well Said 7   Must Read 5   Valuable 5  
View Ratings | Rate It

Headlined to H1 2/28/14

opednews.com

Source: Campaign For America's Future


(image by Illustration by Alamy)

Has the American left ceased to exist as a viable political force by surrendering its power to a corporatized Democratic Party? That's the argument put forward by political scientist Adolph Reed Jr., first in an essay for Harper's magazine and then in a televised follow-up interview with Bill Moyers.

Reed's essay, "Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals," has a blunt message which might be summarized as follows: The fault, dear liberals, lies not in our political stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. It's not necessarily a new thought, but it packs a punch, especially as Reed has organized and expressed it.

"Nothing Left" is an incisive, pointed cri du coeur with the potential to jumpstart some long-overdue conversations. And if there's one thing the left needs, it's a serious talk about its future. The alternative is the continued fragmentation of an inchoate movement, accompanied by a never-ending rightward shift in American politics and the continued ascendancy of corporate economic power.

Reed's analysis, while stated harshly at times, is very much on point. There's very little "left" left in American politics. But his outlook seems overly pessimistic, and it runs the risk of discouraging the very people who might someday help rebuild an American left. They're more likely to come together around a concrete agenda built on leftist principles such as job creation, fair wages, and a stronger social safety net. It's possible to be positive without being Pollyanna-ish.

To be sure, things are bad and getting worse. No argument here. But something is also afoot in the land, and it would be a mistake to dismiss it. The sudden popularity of the Occupy movement showed us that, despite its sudden and mysterious collapse, a "99 percent" agenda resonates. Liberals have scored a few victories lately by stepping outside the party framework. And despite the lack of an organized left, left policies enjoy surprising popular support.

Those policies could provide the framework for a leftist resurgence.

The Way We Were

Reed begins by noting that "for nearly all the 20th century there was a dynamic left in the United States grounded in the belief that unrestrained capitalism generated unacceptable social costs."

That's an important observation, especially at a time when leaders of the Democratic Party -- the only nominally liberal large-scale entity in the nation -- routinely celebrate that mythical entity known as the "free market."

Reed notes that the labor movement and the ideological left exerted great influence on American politics for many decades (although they sometimes worked at cross-purposes in the 1960s, to their mutual detriment). But the left's influence unquestionably faded. Why? Reed points to an increasing defensiveness among liberals during the 1980s and early 1990s, and adds that this defensiveness "increasingly came to define left-wing journalistic commentary and criticism."

This defensiveness became so deeply ingrained among Democratic leaders that it continued to guide their decision-making after the 2008 election, even after voters soundly repudiated conservatism and awarded the party all three branches of government.

Nor was the independent left able to capitalize on that election. Why has it become so weak? Reed points to the "subdued" labor movement and the fact that "social activists have made their peace with neoliberalism and adjusted their horizons accordingly."

The left has moved away from real-world policy objectives, he argues, and has increasingly focused on more symbolic goals like "celebrating appointments of individual women to public office and challenging the corporate glass ceiling."

There is also a lost sense of optimism, which Reed successfully captures by quoting historian Russell Jacoby on the lost vision of a movement which once believed that "the future could fundamentally surpass the present."

"Instead of championing a radical idea of a new society," Reed quotes Jacoby, "the (current) left ineluctably retreats to smaller ideas, seeking to expand the options within the existing society."

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3  |  4

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/the-dumbest-bipartisa

Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future
Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

How to Fix the Fed: Dismiss Dimon, Boot the Bankers, and Can the Corporations

The Top 12 Political Fallacies of 2012

Pawn: The Real George Zimmerman Story

What America Would Look Like If Libertarians Got Their Way

"F" The Bureaucracy! The White House Can Help Homeowners Right Now

The Price of Evil at JPMorgan Chase

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
30 people are discussing this page, with 84 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

There are several problems with the traditional Le... by Scott Baker on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 9:42:53 AM
I would also add a certain self-indulgence of ton... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 12:02:30 PM
Valid and valuable point that Scott Baker often me... by Charles Roll on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 12:24:34 PM
The Left and the Right have been controlled by th... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 2:25:58 PM
"...there is a magical difference between a Democr... by Daniel Penisten on Monday, Mar 3, 2014 at 4:06:27 PM
The difference isn't magic, but it is real, essent... by Richard Pietrasz on Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014 at 4:21:23 AM
Absolutely spot on vis-a-vis democracy and republ... by Richard Girard on Tuesday, Mar 4, 2014 at 5:47:52 PM
Well stated Richard.But I am wondering, about some... by Daniel Penisten on Tuesday, Mar 4, 2014 at 8:28:29 PM
Very insightful. I wholly agree.  Let's get b... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 6, 2014 at 10:04:40 PM
The comment in this article  that " Patience... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 10:07:45 PM
Thank you Pal Palsimon. For the link to "Move To A... by Daniel Penisten on Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014 at 10:25:10 PM
Self-defeat begins with asking what is possible. ... by William Boardman on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 11:09:31 AM
Is rule by the people more desirable than rule by ... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 2:47:58 PM
Excellent questions, these. ... by Daniel Penisten on Monday, Mar 3, 2014 at 6:04:40 PM
Our  problems in this nation are due to the ... by Patricia Gray on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 11:15:58 AM
Yep, except that rule by the rulers was restored ... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:00:15 PM
True.I have to laugh when I hear Americans talk ab... by George W.Reichel on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:27:47 PM
Richard Eskow needs to study and support the Agen... by Gary Reber on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 11:47:31 AM
Bosh, Gary. "Third Way" nonsense is just ast... by Olivia LaRosa on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 2:04:33 PM
The Fed has deliberately failed its charter, will... by Jack Flanders on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 7:11:34 AM
OCCUPY WALL STREET we're not communists OCCUPY W... by Mark Breza on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 11:51:49 AM
There are more positions to take than just Left or... by Scott Baker on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:44:08 PM
The "left' was bought just like the "right".Called... by George W.Reichel on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 12:01:35 PM
What is called the left (by the right) sold out a ... by Richard Pietrasz on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:17:40 PM
the traitororous, gate-keeper, "left" - read all ... by Kent Welton on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 12:12:58 PM
Yes, but why no mention of why, or when?It is Rea... by E. J. N. on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 12:33:39 PM
Clintons work for Goldman sachs / bankers /intern... by Textynn N on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 1:09:18 PM
Well, I wouldn't put it that way. But thanks, bec... by E. J. N. on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:17:01 PM
And now sociopaths,Bil and Hill are fabulously wea... by George W.Reichel on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:32:02 PM
Obama committed a tactical mistake that was and is... by Scott Baker on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:54:42 PM
Ripped off then murdered. ... by Hosea McAdoo on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 5:19:59 PM
I know what you're saying Scott, but I've always w... by Amy Schreiner on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 10:07:39 PM
I add, along those lines, that it was the press wh... by Richard Pietrasz on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 3:23:09 PM
FDR suffered from diminished mental capacity? ... by Amy Schreiner on Tuesday, Mar 4, 2014 at 8:20:13 PM
He most certainly did.  Even without knowledg... by Richard Pietrasz on Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014 at 4:40:10 AM
Rn Regan had mental problems the whole time he was... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014 at 4:22:20 PM
Didn't Reagan's diminished mental capacities occur... by Amy Schreiner on Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014 at 7:11:04 PM
That is likely a coincidence, in that Reagan had o... by Richard Pietrasz on Thursday, Mar 6, 2014 at 3:25:14 PM
Your brain does not develop those black spots beca... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 6, 2014 at 4:20:29 PM
I think Obama was a "plant" by people with money a... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 5:08:20 PM
Neo Liberals support fascism, bankster control, e... by Textynn N on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 12:51:42 PM
I agree completely except for the following statem... by Jack Flanders on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 7:24:19 AM
I agree.  Israel has a seat at the head table... by Richard Pietrasz on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 3:42:06 PM
Although you make some excellent points, I wo... by Bob Davey on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 10:14:19 AM
I agree in the sense that Occupy actually opened s... by Richard Pietrasz on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 3:44:11 PM
Have you ever wondered who or what started this l... by Olivia LaRosa on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 2:11:52 PM
The ruling elite was already in control of the "la... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:19:03 PM
USA has never been against genocide, except when i... by Richard Pietrasz on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:20:21 PM
Indians were our Palestinians ... by George W.Reichel on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:35:15 PM
Thanks for posting that link, Olivia.  Powel... by Derryl Hermanutz on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 4:46:01 PM
The left gave up on politics when it's so-called "... by rich winkel on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 2:34:50 PM
While this failure is true,  surrender happe... by William Boardman on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:56:59 PM
I'd say that the Left has been obviously controlle... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 4:11:05 PM
Very pertinent comment, thank you. I'll dare to g... by Daniel Noel on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 9:32:09 PM
"Left" better indentifies issues than self-identi... by George Flower on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 2:42:15 PM
Except that the votes are "counted" in secret and ... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:38:13 PM
I'm totally in favor of counting votes in the utmo... by Bob Davey on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 8:03:56 PM
And let me add- It's a sorry situation when "we ... by Bob Davey on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 8:15:59 PM
To avoid having to put a special parenthetical to... by George Flower on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 11:50:33 PM
Yep, and the puppets in office took the people's m... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 10:50:56 AM
I think the author's viewpoint has been subverted ... by Richard Pietrasz on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 3:43:38 PM
There certainly are strange things about the "lef... by Bob Davey on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 7:34:30 PM
Bob, You're right. "middle class jobs" vs. libera... by Jack Flanders on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 7:43:38 AM
Maybe I missed it, but this article does not seem... by Jerry Kann on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 7:54:11 PM
Um....somebody refresh my memory here... HOW MANY ... by Jill Herendeen on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 8:17:11 PM
Maybe it would help if one was built around restor... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 10:57:41 AM
"Another one" might have significant differences, ... by Daniel Penisten on Tuesday, Mar 4, 2014 at 9:56:21 PM
The Greens and Socialists already exist.  So ... by Richard Pietrasz on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 4:06:38 PM
Yes, but that leaves us all with a quandary. I ju... by Hosea McAdoo on Thursday, Mar 6, 2014 at 5:50:17 PM
If it's any consolation: re-read thepen's article... by Jill Herendeen on Thursday, Mar 6, 2014 at 7:48:27 PM
(Though of course it doesn't matter who votes for ... by Jill Herendeen on Thursday, Mar 6, 2014 at 7:49:56 PM
See also:  Jeff Rock's "Spoiler Theory Spoils... by Jill Herendeen on Thursday, Mar 6, 2014 at 8:19:12 PM
The left died on sept 11 2001, when its so-called ... by rich winkel on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 9:32:17 PM
The left died with John F. Kennedy. ... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 6, 2014 at 10:01:10 PM
.   Many who have been vociferous in crit... by Lance Brofman on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 9:46:32 PM
As I see it there are two major factors effect the... by Neal Chalabi Chambers on Saturday, Mar 1, 2014 at 11:42:38 PM
Equal time has usually worked out to be Repub v De... by Richard Pietrasz on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 4:10:51 PM
Take This Country Back From the 1%! Read http:... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, Mar 2, 2014 at 5:11:03 PM
Until a large block of good citizens gain influenc... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, Mar 3, 2014 at 1:42:46 AM
Conversation toooooo little, tooooo late....mayb... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014 at 4:27:20 PM
"Organizing around issues" is related to identity... by S. Juniper on Monday, Mar 3, 2014 at 9:41:41 AM
Doesn't it take "battles" to "temper" capitalism?"... by Daniel Penisten on Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014 at 11:25:06 AM
Conversation toooooo little, tooooo late....maybe:... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014 at 4:29:26 PM
Here is a link to one: click here ... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 14, 2014 at 3:42:41 PM