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Part Two: Dissecting Washington with Political Analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson

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Welcome back for the conclusion of my interview with political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson. So, Earl, as you see it, a major part of the problem is the system itself which protects entrenched special interests and marginalizes or co-opts progressives. Period. Is that the end of the story, then? It seems that Obama could have been using the White House much more as a bully pulpit to push progressive ideas, like a viable health plan, had he been so inclined. Or would that not have made a difference either?

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

No,, that's not the end but the beginning of the story. Or rather yet another wake-up call for Progressives to shed all delusions about "Progressive" big D Democrats, as the men and women on the mythical white horse and to maintain their principles and agenda, keep organizing around them, and hold the feet of those politicians within the system who can be worked with to the fire.

Back to Obama. On December 16, Glenn Greenwald wrote that Obama actually got the health care bill he wanted and that all the noise about how he couldn't overcome the congressional divide is just self-serving baloney (my paraphrasing). He cites the White House playing hardball last June with the war funding bill. At that time, various freshman members of Congress reported being cajoled and threatened by the WH to play ball or else. Is that a cynical reading of the facts or does Greenwald's reasoning resonate for you?

Greenwald got it mostly right and I'd add two more things. Obama has deftly let the world take shots at Lieberman for being the hog blocking the stream but that deflects attention from Obama who all along wanted a bill, any bill, no matter how hollow, to pass so that he could crow to the world that he did what no other president including FDR was able to do and that's get health reform. The proof: the two dozen secret meetings with big Pharma and private insurers at the White House earlier this year to craft the industry-friendly bill, the early dump of the public option, and the refusal to meet with the Progressive Democratic Caucus on the bill.

Well, Obama has certainly disabused anyone of the notion that he is a modern-day FDR. Sadly, regarding those secret meetings, he sounds more like the previous occupants of the White House. There are literally millions of people out there who are disappointed with what we've seen so far. Do you think that people of color are especially disappointed because Obama is a person of color? Are you?

To be disappointed in Obama you had to have had an expectation in the first place. From day one, I was virtually a lone voice warning that Obama was a back-room, deal-making, Beltway, corporate, centrist Democrat. The early warning signal for me went up with his coming of national age speech at the Democratic convention in 2004. His pitch that we're not red states and blue states set off a bell and whistle that here's yet another Clinton type, centrist Democratic who will compromise, conciliate and cut deals every chance with the GOP and Wall Street.

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His terribly compromised and right-center voting record in the Illinois State legislature, his top-heavy bankroll by the major Wall Street banking, financial houses and leading corporations, his back peddle during the campaign on every issue from the Iraq war to the death penalty, his absolute refusal to utter a peep about increased civil rights protections, his repeated 'blame the victim' bash of black males for the dire plight of poor blacks, his numerous deceptions and falsehoods about Hillary Clinton (not a cheerleader of her, just a point to show his politically chameleon tactic). The topper was his tout of Afghan war-making (August 2007 speech) and championing of Bush's patently illegal and civil liberties-busting, anti-terrorism measures.

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The only thing I got wrong was that he's turned out even worse than even I thought.

Well, that's pretty clear. Was there a candidate you preferred? Or do you think the system simply isn't conducive to enthusiastic choice?

Cynthia McKinney had the right position and politics and positions on the issues. The problem was her personally. She alienated as many persons as she inspired with her abrasive, take no prisoners, hard-headed, personal attitude. Third party, and Progressive Democrats have and can win office and even make some changes around the edge, as well as raise public consciousness if they combine the qualities of a sensible progressive position/program, build a solid grassroots organization, and develop an expansive small donor funding network. But they must keep their ear firmly attuned to people's most immediate needs and concerns (can't get too far ahead of the masses) and even be willing to make strategic compromises (as opposed to flip flops and betrayal of positions and principles).

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An example: some years ago my neighbors (regular salt of the earth working folk) wanted to organize a block club. All the neighbors came to the initial meeting. They all knew and respected me. I got up and railed about police abuse. They politely listened. And then, my neighbor across the street got up thanked me and then said "But I just wish I could get the city to fill that pothole in front of my house." He got thunderous applause and much favorable head shaking. The lesson: talk about potholes (literally and metaphorically, first win the people over) and then get to the big ticket, macro stuff.

This was a valued lesson I learned about people. A lesson Progressives too often forget.

What keeps you from being thoroughly depressed, pulling your hair out or both?

Hair first: I'm bald, so I don't have that problem. Depressed: I had one of the greatest remedies for depression in this world. My father he lived to be 101 years and he taught me patience, understanding, and always look at the better angels of human nature. He lived through the century when African-Americans were lynched, burned, belittled as subhuman, had absolutely no rights, could live nowhere but in American apartheid neighborhoods and schools, confined to the dirtiest jobs, last hired and first fired, excluded from all avenues of economic and political power in America.

Yet he persevered, never stopped hoping (and fighting for change), and did it all with a laugh and a smile. He and his generation went through the test of fire, took everything that America could throw at them, and still stood remained standing tall. He showed me how to do the same by his example and life. That's why even though bald, I have a full head of well nourished head of hair
internally, and refuse to be depressed about the human foibles of this world.

Your father was a wise man. You were lucky to learn from him. Thank you for talking with me, Earl. It's been good to talk with you.


Part one of my interview with Earl

The Hutchinson Political Report

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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