Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just Nine Months

Sorry I haven't really posted in a while. Life called. I've kept up with current events, though. The negativity coming from both the right and left has bothered me. I mean, you got the conservative haters saying Obama is destroying the country. Liberal haters are saying he's not kept up to his promise of change. Well, they both can't be true. Sorry. And while I wish we were farther along in the agenda, I realize it hasn't been a year. Most of the promises Obama made during the campaign had a year-long deadline. Fix healthcare during his first year; close Gitmo in his first year; meet with foreign leaders we don't like in his first year.

It hasn't been a year yet. Just nine months. I think we're doing pretty good. If a woman became pregnant the day Obama was inaugurated, she'd just right about now be having the baby. And guess what?

It would still be just a baby.

So I while I do agree we need to keep progressive pressure on both the president and Congress, I think it's premature to declare "Mission Failure." And this article pretty much gets at the point better than I just did.
"Doom and Gloom" on the Left

by Randy Shaw

Beyond Chron - posted Oct. 27, 2009
San Francisco's Alternative Online Daily

As reports emerge of the Senate's increasing support
for a public option, it's a tossup whether Republicans
or some progressives are more distraught. After all, an
article in the October 19 edition of The Nation states
that the progressive agenda "has stalled," and "key
aspects of healthcare reform, like a public option,
appear dead." The writer even claims that corporate
interests face "little outright opposition" in the
legislative process, a remarkable statement in the face
of the massive organizing and outreach efforts of labor
unions and other progressive groups. (Click here to finish reading. And let me know what you think of the jump-break.)

Such negativity is not uncommon. It reflects a
disconnection from political reality far less prevalent
among activists actually engaged in social justice
struggles, or those assessing politics in the leading
progressive Internet sites. Nine months into the Obama
era, it's not simply the Right that is detached from
the perspectives of everyday people, and not just the
Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck crowd that express an "I
told you so" attitude toward the President's actions.

Reading The Nation, I am struck how much of its content
reflects the "Same as It Ever Was" attitude of
columnist Alexander Cockburn toward the Obama
Administration. Add to this Naomi Klein's April column
on how onetime Obama fans are already "hopebroken and
hopesick" - this is less than three months after
Inauguration Day - and you have a steady stream of
voices disconnected from the people whose activism and
votes elected Obama and the Democratic House and Senate

Progressive criticism of Obama and the Democrats is
essential. But far too many progressives have created
an alternative universe where nothing positive has
occurred since January 20, 2009, and where progressive
change will never happen.

It is a profoundly disempowering attitude. It enshrines
corporate power and diminishes activism, particularly
in saying that the greatest example of people power in
modern United States political history - Obama's
presidential campaign - has already proved for naught.

The Public vs. "Doom and Gloomers"
The progressive "doom and gloom" camp is strikingly
detached from political reality.

According to the most recent (October 21) ABC
News/Washington Post poll, Obama has a 67% approval
rating outside the South. And in the Northeast, the
progressive bastion where most readers of The Nation
live, his approval numbers soar to 82%.

Clearly, those in the "nothing has changed school" are
spending time with the other 18%. Or the 30% in the
Midwest and 32% in the West who told pollsters they
disapprove of Obama.

These remarkably high approval numbers send a strong
message that the hope for change that brought millions
of new voters to the polls last November has not been
lost. While some pundits and progressives may feel
betrayed, most people still trust the candidate they
elected President.

Ignoring Progressive Progress
Last week, the Obama Administration announced that the
Justice Department would no longer prosecute marijuana
dispensaries that were in compliance with state
"medical marijuana" laws. This dramatic shift from Bush
Administration attacks on activists like California's
Ed Rosenthal was largely ignored by the progressive
"doom and gloom" camp, likely because it greatly
benefited a gay and lesbian constituency toward whom
the Obama Administration has been justifiably
criticized for inaction.

To the "doom and gloom" camp, none of the major
environmental policy shifts that have occurred since
January matter because the President has failed to win
passage of a major climate change bill. And new
spending on schools, public infrastructure, and other
progressive-backed programs means little in the face of
steep unemployment and teacher layoffs due to state
budget cuts.

Many progressives are understandably frustrated over
the pace of change. But I think that amidst the
excitement over electing the most progressive President
since FDR, some forgot how the U.S. Senate operates to
stall change, and how, while Republican presidents have
passed sweeping tax cut measures, winning legislation
that changes how major industries operate is much
tougher and time consuming.

If there is one aspect of Obama that cannot be faulted,
it is that he said from his earliest campaign speeches
that change would take time. And while the "doom and
gloom" camp interprets the lack of wholesale
progressive change in Obama's first nine months, his
base better understands political reality.

Rooting for Failure?
Limbaugh and Beck make no secret why they want Obama to
fail: they oppose progressive policies. But
progressives in the "doom and gloom" camp also appear
to want Obama to fail, seemingly believing that the
sooner the public learns that he is not committed to
progressive change, the better.

These critics exalt "the people" as the source of
progressive power, but then denounce the politician
that rallied "the people" toward progressive ends
unlike any major candidate since FDR. If the doom and
gloom camp really trusts "the people," why are they so
negative about "the people's" - and this includes the
core progressive constituencies of labor unions,
African-Americans, Latinos, women, environmentalists -
choice for President?

Activist pressure on Obama has already proven
successful in many areas, particularly toward likely
ensuring a strong public option on health care. But
activists could not have succeeded in this and other
fights unless the public believed in the possibility
for real change - a feeling the "doom and gloom" camp
regularly seeks to erase.

Its heartening to see such strong enthusiasm for change
persist despite the health care debate pushing so much
else to the side, and this key issue involving a level
of complexity that is challenging to mobilize around.
We could be on the verge of one of the great activist
successes in decades, which will build the hope for
change necessary for the future struggles ahead.

[Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the
author of the new book, Beyond the Fields: Cesar
Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the
21st Century (University of California Press). Randy
discusses how to keep politicians accountable in The
Activist's Handbook]

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