Ford answers Linda Burnham's recent assault on the non-Obamite Left, whom she sneeringly refers to as victims of "Left ‘anticipatory disillusionment'" and assorted other "psycho-babble." Burnham sets up Left straw men, to knock them down, all in an attempt to justify her cohort's capitulation to Power. "One great tragedy of the current episode," writes Ford, "is that the [economic] crisis occurred at a moment when the remnants of the Left and Black movements in the U.S. have been neutralized by imperialism's Black champion." Hilariously, Burnham credits Obama with having "wrenched the Democratic Party out of the clammy grip of Clintonian centrism" when, in actuality, "Obama's government IS Clintonian. And the new president is as skilled and ruthless a triangulator as Bill ever was."
“Burnham’s definition of ‘motion’ does not involve confronting Power, but rather, attaching oneself to it.”
Lots of folks on the left, it is now apparent, no longer seek anything more than to bask in the sunshine of Barack Obama’s smile. No matter how much national treasure their champion transfers to the bankster class, and despite his exceeding George W. Bush in military spending, so-called progressives for Obama continue to celebrate their imagined emergence as players in the national political saga. Having in practice foresworn resistance to Power, they relish in bashing the non-Obamite Left.
In tone and substance, Linda Burnham’s recent, widely circulated piece, “Notes on an Orientation to the Obama Presidency” is several cuts above last summer’s vicious rant by Amiri Baraka, “The Parade of Anti-Obama Rascals.” But both assaults on Left critics of Obama are based on the same false assumptions and willful illogic, and although no one can trump Baraka in argumentative foul play and sheer nastiness, Burnham’s article is nonetheless littered with sneers at those who “are stranded on Dogma Beach…flipping out over every appointment and policy move [Obama] makes.”
Burnham launches immediately into a denigration of non-Obamites, claiming Obama’s election “occasioned some disorientation and confusion” among those on the Left who “have become so used to confronting the dismal electoral choice between the lesser of two evils that they couldn’t figure out how to relate to a political figure who held out the possibility of substantive change.”
“Burnham’s article is nonetheless littered with sneers at those who ‘are stranded on Dogma Beach.'"
Burnham’s method is to invent straw men and then place words and thoughts in their fictitious mouths and brains. Certainly, we at Black Agenda Report were anything but “confused” by either Obama’s political conduct or his extraordinary popularity, having placed the young upstart under intense scrutiny beginning in the early Summer of 2003, while he was still a low-ranked candidate for the Democratic senatorial nomination in Illinois. His phenomenal talents, hitched to a transparently corporatist, imperial worldview – and a practiced dishonesty about his rightist alliances – made Obama a person worth watching. The BAR team, then operating out of Black Commentator, had Obama pegged as a potential vector of confusion in Black and progressive ranks long before his worldwide debut at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. And we were right. It is in Burnham’s political neighborhood that confusion reigns, not ours.
Burnham claims that many on the Left “were taken by surprise at how wide and deep ran the current for change.” Either she’s talking about herself, or she hangs around a very cloistered crowd. Or, more likely, Burnham is conflating the word “change” with “Obama” – an effect of drinking too much Kool-Aid. In either case, none of it applies to folks like us at BAR – and there are a number of others on the Left – who more than five years ago understood both Obama’s mass appeal and the mass desire for real change, and feared that one would thwart the other.
Left critics of Obama, according to Burnham, fail to recognize that he is not the “lesser of two evils,” but rather holds out the “possibility of substantive change.” This is a core position, central to the “progressive” Obamite argument. Beyond the fact of having broken the presidential color bar, which in the American context is a positive development on its face, Obama is near-identical to Hillary Clinton on virtually every policy issue, as became evident in the primaries. Their compatibility was revealed as something closer to political intimacy when Obama erected his Cabinet – a house as Clintonian as anything Bill ever built, with plenty of room reserved for friends from the Bush gang. Color aside, whatever kind of “evil” Hillary and Bill are, Obama is.
Burnham outlines what she says is the “active conversation on the left about what can be expected of an Obama administration and what the orientation of the left should be towards it.” We will have to take her word for it, although her mischaracterization of Left Obama critics (certainly those at BAR) makes us less than confident that the “conversation” is as she describes. Below are the “two conflicting views” on Obama, on the Left:
"First, that Obama represents a substantial, principally positive political shift and that, while the left should criticize and resist policies that pull away from the interests of working people, its main orientation should be to actively engage with the political motion that’s underway.
"Second, that Obama is, in essence, just another steward of capitalism, more attractive than most, but not an agent of fundamental change. He should be regarded with caution and is bound to disappoint. The basic orientation is to criticize every move the administration makes and to remain disengaged from mainstream politics."
The first viewpoint is no doubt held by Burnham. It is essentially mooted by the reality that most Left Obamites only weakly “criticize” and virtually never “resist” Obama’s rightist policies and appointments in the crucial military and economic arenas – which was, first, the fear and, later, the main complaint of the non-Obamite Left. The Obama Effect is to neutralize Blacks and the Left (Blacks being the main electoral base of the American Left) by capturing their enthusiasm for Obama’s own corporate purposes. Obama and his Democratic Leadership Council allies (and their corporate masters) monopolize the “motion,” all the while shutting out even mildly Left voices (as in the recent White House Forum on Health, from which single payer health care advocates were initially barred). Blacks and the Left have not been in any kind of effective forward “motion” since Election Day. As we shall see, Burnham’s definition of “motion” does not involve confronting Power, but rather, attaching oneself to it.
“Whatever kind of 'evil' Hillary and Bill are, Obama is.”
Policy-wise, Obama no more “represents a substantial, principally positive political shift” than his political twin, Hillary – again, color aside.
The second viewpoint is supposedly held by the opposition, and partially reflects the views of the BAR team. Yes, Obama is “just another steward of capitalism, more attractive than most, but not an agent of fundamental change.” This has been easily observed, since Blacks and the Left have allowed Obama to act upon his corporate and imperial instincts, unimpeded by even the mildest counter-pressures. His presidency takes shape to the Right of Democratic congressional leaders, who have made more noise over Obama’s Iraq trickle-out and his clear threats to Social Security and other “entitlements,” than have many Left Obamites.
Obama is not simply “bound to disappoint” – he has already been cause for great disappointment, even among those of us who scoped his essential corporatist nature years ago. Who would have predicted that he would play the most eager Gunga Din for the bizarre Bush/Paulson bank bailout decree, last year? Who would have foreseen that Obama would retain the loathsome international criminal Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense? That he would continue Bush’s policies on Africa – Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, AFRICOM – without missing a beat? That he would so quickly offer to put Social Security “on the table” for “reform” (in the Republican sense of the term)?