Obama: The Lesser or the More Effective Evil?

AMY GOODMAN: … I want to ask Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report, as you talk about Obama, President Obama, being the more effective evil, are you saying it would be better to have Romney in the White House?

GLEN FORD: No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that with Romney in the White House, even Dr. Dyson and others, many others, would join in the resistance to austerity, the resistance to war. Apparently, they cannot muster the energy to do that under a Democratic president, under the first black president. It’s their behavior that does in fact facilitate these austerity assaults and these war—this warmongering, because they don’t resist it, and they accept it as something that is a fait accompli, that is an inevitability. But what our obligation is, is to resist austerity. I do not accept that Obama has to make these so-called compromises. I don’t think their compromises; I think they’re part of his overall plan to have a grand accord with the Republicans. But if you accept that, then you’re saying that the Democrats could not on their own stop these assaults on Social Security. And that’s just not true. But they cannot be expected to stop these assaults on entitlement programs if there is a Democrat president in office who is putting his bully pulpit and his immense prestige within the party itself towards these compromises. That’s what Obama has done. That’s how he facilitates it. And, yes, if you do not—if you do not have an effective critique, make effective demands against this president, then he will go on his right-wing-drifting merry way.

Debate on Bemocracy Now! between Glen Ford and Michael Eric Dyson on Pres. Barack Obama and the 2012 DNC

Here’s some more food for thought–or an alternative preparation of the recipe Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party proferred in the last post–pertaining to the question of whether a vote for Obama advances or obstructs a progressive/leftist agenda. The author and editor Glen Ford makes a consistently strong case throughout his debate with Georgetown sociologist Michael Eric Dyson against giving the president full-throated support and for telling the truth about his effectiveness in pushing further the agenda of the 1%. “We say that he is the more effective evil,” Ford says of Obama, “because he is able, being a Democrat, to accomplish more of that right-wing agenda than the Republicans ever could.” If you doubt this bald statement, I highly recommend watching the debate in full. Ford’s case against the president as progressive, in domestic and foreign affairs, on Social Security and “national security,” is devastating and difficult to refute.  (Certainly, as Conor Friedersdorff at the Atlantic astutely noted, Professor Dyson had difficulty refuting it.) Continue reading

Who’s On Third?: Jill Stein, Green Party


Dr. Jill Stein talks with Paul Jay of The Real News Network about her candidacy for president as the 2012 nominee of the Green Party. Democrats will probably find her about as convincing as Ralph Nader was in 2000 and 2004. However, Dr. Stein does (it seems to this formerly ardent Democrat)  make the point Nader failed to make (for me) about the similarity between the two major parties much more persuasively, particularly toward the end of this clip. In a nutshell: The Democrats may sound sweeter, warmer and fuzzier than the Republicans, but this is a question of marketing and presentation rather than actual policy. When Democrats are given actual power, they are enabled to take some Republican policies (notably free trade and imperial national security) further by virtue of the taming of the opposition to these policies.

Her remarks on this in transcript form follow the jump. Continue reading

Why Are Republicans Obsessed with Voter Fraud?

Good question with an obvious answer:

You’re more likely to be hit by lightning than you are to commit voter fraud at the polls. So why are Republicans so set on passing voter ID laws and other measures to stop this non-existent threat? According to Ari Berman, it’s all part of the GOP’s strategy to suppress the Democrat-leaning voter blocks of young people, people of color and immigrants.

Does the Left Have a Patriotism Problem?

[I]t should not be lost on anyone that it is conservatives who typically carry around copies of our Constitution in their pockets. It is the Tea Party that refers relentlessly to the nation’s Founders. The movement’s very name invokes a key event in Revolutionary Era history to imply that there is a kind of illegitimacy to the current government in Washington akin to that of a king who once ruled the American colonies far from our shores. Representative Mike Pence of Indiana perfectly captured conservatives’ inclination to believe that their entire program is a recapitulation of the nation’s founding documents. “There’s nothing that ails this country,” Pence told a 2010 meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, “that couldn’t be fixed by paying more careful attention to the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.”

While the right was talking about history, liberals were talking about—well, health-care coverage, insurance mandates, cap-and-trade, financial reforms, and a lot of other practical stuff. One can offer a sympathetic argument here that progressives were trying to govern in a rather difficult moment and didn’t have time to go back to the books. But the left’s default was costly, and it was noticed by an editor of this journal in the spring of last year. “Beyond the circumscribed world of academic journals and conferences,” Elbert Ventura wrote in these pages, “history is being taught—on TV and talk radio, in blogs and grassroots seminars, in high school textbooks and on Barnes & Noble bookshelves. In all those forums, conservatives have been conspicuous by their activity—and progressives by their absence.” Ventura ended with this alarming coda: “If we don’t fight for history, progressivism itself will be history.”

E.J. Dionne, “Why History Matters to Liberalism

It’s almost accepted as a truism that people on the right in the US are more patriotic–or, at least, more comfortable with expressing patriotic sentiment–than people on the left. This is not too controversial a notion on left or right, though you will certainly find many in the Democratic Party full-throatedly denying that it’s based on fact. Liberal Democrats, they say, can get just as teary-eyed over “The Star Spangled Banner” as the most politically constipated Bircher. You will also hear among a certain kind of Democrat the sort of argument you hear among liberal Christians comparing themselves to fundamentalists, about the ersatz nature of right-wing patriotism compared to “real” liberal patriotism.

But I think most people would agree that those on the right are far more comfortable wrapping themselves in the flag than those on the left. To test that, ask yourself how you think the fellow in the photo below would feel about corporate tax rates, government regulation of companies’ CO2 emissions, federal investment in renewable energy sources or subsidization of early childhood education in the barrios of our Southwestern cities.

Image Continue reading

Fun with Dishonest Quotes from the Manhattan Institute

James R. Otteson of the Manhattan Institute begins his article “An Audacious Promise: The Moral Case for Capitalism” with a shameless distortion of a quote from President Obama:

“The market will take care of everything,” they tell us…. But here’s the problem: it doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ’50s and ’60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.

—President Barack Obama, Osawatomie, Kansas, December 6, 2011

Clearly, Otteson wants you to think Obama attacked capitalism and the free market, but, of course, Obama did not. Here’s what Otteson elided between “they tell us” and “But here’s the problem”:

If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty. Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker.

In fact, Obama’s words make clear that he was criticizing Reaganite supply-side economics, which, as a professor of philosophy (Chair of the department at Yeshiva University, according to his bio!) should know, is not identical with “capitalism.” As a professor of economics, Otteson should also know that, at the very least, Obama’s case against trickle-down has some strong evidence to back him up. It should occur to anyone arguing in favor of supply-side to pause for a second and compare 30 years of predominating Reaganism with 30 years of Rooseveltian-Keynesian economics to consider which was more successful at resource distribution and scarcity management in the long run. I wouldn’t want to be on the Reaganist side of that debate if I wanted an easy win. Continue reading

So What if Derrick Bell Visited the White House?

I’ve just had a testy little exchange of tweets with Jake Tapper, White House Correspondent for ABC news. Tapper tweeted  this question this afternoon: “Did Professor Derrick Bell Visit the White House? http://abcn.ws/vZLFsU” To which I replied: “So what if he did?”

The occasion of these tweets was the late Andrew Breitbart’s last gasp attempt to smear Obama as a black separatist radical with a tiny snippet of video from a protest at Harvard Law School in 1990 for more diversity on the faculty. Taken from a WGBH news story that was quoted in a  Frontline episode that ran in 2008, Breitbart’s clip shows Obama introducing and then embracing the late Derrick Bell, Harvard’s first tenured African American law professor and one of the intellects behind “critical race theory.” (More about that in a bit.) Continue reading

Ron Paul’s Racist Backers (and Backstory)

Michael McAuliffe at Huffington Post reports on some sizable donations in Ron Paul’s campaign war chest from the sorts of racist fringe dwellers the notorious Ron Paul newsletters of the early 1990s were designed to appeal to:

Paul’s 2012 campaign has received more than $6,000 from people who have identified themselves as white separatists or supremacists, or who are listed on anti-hate group sites such as the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Two prominent donors are leaders in what may be the most ambitious white nationalist political movement in the U.S., American Third Position. One is William Johnson, the group’s chairman. Another is Virginia Abernethy, a former Vanderbilt professor who is listed as a director of the party.

Abernethy has given Paul at least $2,451 for this election. Johnson has donated at least $3.349.

Most presidential campaigns reject what they regard as money from tainted sources. Paul has not done that, even though Abernethy and Johnson are well known for their views and Paul has encountered Johnson before.

It doesn’t look as though Paul will be gaining any more traction as a Republican. He’s got his solid fan base in the party, which doesn’t seem able to grow or shrink or bear any sign of sensitivity to the currents of the primary race. So, unless the anti-Romney contingent decides to throw over Santorum and Gingrich finally, this news is likely to have zero impact either way. And the way things are in the GOP, it would likely be more of a reason to move toward Paul than away from him, if only because Republican rank-and-filers love to side with anyone under attack from the “liberal media” for being too outrageously right-wing.

We have a hint as to how Paul intends to handle this, according to McAuliffe. Continue reading

While I Get Back Up to Speed… Greenwald and Robin on Paul

Hi, everyone. Happy New Year. If it’s not obvious by now, let me say it explicitly: I’m alive.

I’ll be returning to my history of DemocraticUnderground and other original writing shortly, but in the meantime, here’s a very interesting read, in my opinion, from the always interesting Glenn Greenwald, citing a supporting opinion from Corey Robin, on the merits of Ron Paul, which has earned Greenwald, at least, some opprobrium from his peers in the Left media (all emphasis in the original) Continue reading

Fractured Dems, Part 4: The Rightward Drift of DemocraticUnderground

Before the changeover to DU3, which I wrote about in my last post, Democratic Underground’s rules for posting in its forums were last modified in August of this year, about a month before the #OWS movement was front-page news. “Failure to abide by these rules,” the introduction to them warned, “may result in your post being removed, your thread locked, or your posting privileges revoked without warning.” A sampling demonstrates the administration’s bare tolerance for politics left of the Democratic center:

  • This is a website for Democrats and other progressives [sic].
  • Do not personally attack any individual DU member in any way. Do not post broad-brush attacks, rude nicknames, or crude insults toward a group of DU members.

  • Do not post support for non-viable or third-party spoiler candidates in any general election.
  • Do not post disrespectful nicknames, crude insults, or right-wing smears against Democrats.

On the face of it, the second bullet point, adapted from many previous iterations, looks like a fair (and balanced) warning to both sides of the primary wars of 2008–team Obama and team HRC–not to attack each other. Not being inside the administrators’ heads, I won’t presume that they didn’t intend it to be taken that way. The effect, however, was that by the time those revised rules were posted, most of team HRC had long before either been driven underground or “tombstoned”–as a ban from DU was called because of the image of a tombstone (with the epitaph “Here lies a disruptor. He disrupted badly.”) that replaced the offender’s avatar on their member profile page. But those primary wars had continued by proxy, it seemed to me, in battles with moderators and more and more with a stable of Obama faithfuls who were quick to gang up on anyone who made the slightest criticism of the president’s performance. Continue reading

DemocraticUnderground and the Fracturing of the Democratic Grass Roots, Part I

A couple of days ago, I accidentally stumbled upon a fascinating American subculture I was not well aquainted with:  the prickly, stranger-shy cluster of rightist (though many self-identify as “liberal”) Hillary Clinton voters who were so enraged by the alleged (not to imply falsely alleged) chicanery between Team Obama and the DNC during the 2008 Democratic primaries that they picked up stakes and headed for any hill they felt sure Obama or the Democrats hadn’t defiled with their presence.

In my ramblings on the internet over the last few years, I have encountered many a Clinton supporter of the left who was driven to internet purgatories where other disaffected or disaffiliated Democrats gathered to share solace and critiques of Obama’s America with lefties (Greens, Naderites, Marxists) who had given up on the Democrats as the best hope for progressives long, long ago.  Indeed, I’ve lately felt much more comfortable with the left-wing victims of Obama’s serial betrayals than with Obama supporters, one of which I nominally was in 2008. But this was my first encounter with the radicalized centrists and center-rightists in the Clinton contingent who felt the sting of the Party’s betrayal.

Let me tell you:  radical centrism is a trip!  I’m sure my new friends in this subculture would find such an amused anthropological assessment of them annoying. To them I can only say, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. You’d be laughing at yourselves too if you could only see yourselves through my eyes.  But I’m going to try to set aside my amusement with them, which owes mainly to their strangely and almost uniformly vicious defenses against anyone not in their club–e.g., me, in my clumsy attempts to learn more about them–and try to focus on my observations about what this group tells us–tells me, anyway–about the Democrats’ prospects in 2012 and beyond. My main interest is in how the party’s recent past and future connect with the rise of #OccupyWallStreet. My hypothesis: The story of grass roots Democrats in the 21st century is one of numerous parallel threads of ordinary Americans’ political desires being thwarted by indifferent or even hostile political institutions, and this may be the beginnings of a new American Revolution. Continue reading