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The case against Obama and for liberal despair

(Crossposted at Voices on the Square)

Mike Lofgren of The Atlantic came out yesterday with another attempt at forestalling that evil third party that would challenge the system, titled "The Case for Obama and Against Liberal Despair." In the subtitle we are told, "There are valid critiques of the president, but what's important now is that a vote for Obama is a vote against extremism — and for functional government." That's nice. I suppose that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Grand Bargain, and a further expansion of Dick Cheney's War on the World are not extremism, because that's what we'll get with Obama's victory next Tuesday.


With Lofgren, as with Peter Coyote, we start with Matt Stoller and his critique of "progressive" Obama-religion. Lofgren can't really say too much against Stoller, so we start in on how "there are three counterarguments that should resonate in a political environment in which Mitt Romney and the policies he espouses are the only viable alternative."

Now, I suppose there are real counterarguments to the ones Stoller makes — the most prominent one that comes to my mind is one that blames the progressives for their loyalty to the Democrats — it follows that old saying "you made your bed, now lie in it. The progressives, then, deserve their despair because they’ve worked so hard to achieve it by working for Democrats. They should vote for Obama, then, because Obama is the culmination of all they’ve done in the political world. Never mind their rhetoric.

Unfortunately, Lofgren doesn't choose that one. What we get are arguments such as:

1) "Progressives are deceiving themselves if they think they have been deceived by Obama." Yeah, I guess that Stoller's list of broken platform promises can be dismissed out of hand. (Though I suppose party platforms are like the 1936 Soviet Constitution (or, soon, our Constitution) — nice for show.) And then there's the little stuff Stoller didn't mention there — no insurance mandate, a public option, accountability for the banksters, closing Gitmo, and so on.

2) "Obama has avoided a number of potential foreign-policy disasters" — that's nice. But let's ask ourselves this question: what does this mean? The US is the primary repressive force in the world today, and has been that for the past fifty years. How bad is "foreign-policy disaster" in such a context? And can we really call it a good thing that America’s work to undermine democracy around the world has not yet erupted in foreign policy disaster for Obama?

3) "Obama's claimed derelictions in domestic policy must be considered within the realm of the possible, meaning Congress." Oh, boo hoo. It's the weak Obama meme again. Obama dramatizes his struggles with Congress so that the end result is what he wanted from the beginning, not what the liberals are allowed to think he wanted.

4) When in doubt, go back to "Romney is worse." "It is difficult to see how Romney's announced policies would be less deleterious to the country than Obama's over any given span of time." The rules as regards Congress apply, of course, to Obama (who is really a leftist at heart y'know), but not to Romney, who will get everything he wants even though nobody really likes him. Arguably, then, pushback with Romney would be better than pushback against Obama.

The rest of it is just fearmongering. "Oh those Republicans are sooo evil… never mind Democrat complicity in their schemes." I made up the last clause of that sentence — it's not in Lofgren's text. "They're Nazis in fact — check out my Gunter Grass quote!" No, the Republicans aren't Nazis — they're just standard-issue American fools, though I suppose it's fun to equate fourteen years of the Weimar republic with 200+ years of American democracy. But let's focus solidly on Lofgren's conclusion:

The "lesser of two evils" political options that these people incessantly complain about are an existential fact of politics, just as many of our most important personal decisions in life boil down to choosing the lesser evil. We might as well wonder why man was born to suffer and die.

Or maybe we should be asking why "progressivism" and "liberalism" have been in solid retreat for the past forty years. Was man born to suffer and die in a global warming holocaust of his own making, out of luck financially because the banksters and corporate fraudsters took everything that wasn't nailed down, simply because he couldn't think of anything better to do about it than vote for the Democrats? We're going to have to get out of the "lesser of two evils" game sooner or later, and we might just as well consider doing it now for all of the evil that is being promoted by both parties in the name of this game.

Add to that evil the fact that the two-party complicity in evil has never been more obvious than now, and still all of the pundits and popstars line up to warn us that we must continue to play the game — or else! Or else what? Or else the political class will continue to do to us what it wanted to do all along?  Let's think of some "citizen" moves that don't involve playing the two-party game — of which not voting for Obama next Tuesday is certainly one. Lawrence O'Donnell:

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Ph.D., Communication, The Ohio State University, 1998
M.A., English, Sonoma State University, 1992
B.A., Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1984