Here’s a couple takeaways from this summer’s pre-convention maneuverings from the Obama Campaign. Obama is no Ralph Nader on policy (context: I like Nader on policy; i think he has horrible political judgment). Nader is the real economic populist that Edwards trumpeted himself as being and that Clinton drifted towards during the waning weeks of her campaign. Obama never went there.
Obama is closer to Bill Clinton’s 1992 middle way mahayana style democratic politics. He has been for years. He speaks a progressive game but, like Bill did, hires Goldman Sachs for economic advice.
Naomi Klein and David Sirota are right to point out the fact that Obama has not turned his back on Bush’s “shock doctrine” neoliberal policies, at least not in terms of his hires and campaign infrastructure. This begs the question, what’s the left to do?
Thing about Obama is that he never was an economoic populist. He may have used Saul Alinsky style organizing methods on the streets of Chicago. Hillary did too in her early organizing days. But Obama long aglo left these methods on the streets.
Sirota and others are grapplying with whether this is really an Obama moment for progressive or whether progressives need to step outside the moment and engage Obama not as a sycophant but as a movement. Problem is, Sirota is creating yet another black and white, either or dynamic, that the left must transcend right about now.
The key is that progressives need to do both. They need to use the campaign itself as a black and white “good versus evil” moment, because in a lot of ways it is. John McCain represents four or eight more years of Bushian evil. Strong words, but his most recent bellicosity towards Russia has me shuddering in my sandals. It is vitally important to see Obama get elected this fall. It is almost a matter of life and death. I believe this.
At the same time, progressives must not abandon “movement politics.” Sirota is right to say this is the only way to push an Obama administration away from the media constructed lens of a “centrist” american polity. MIchael Moore convinced me years ago, at one of his college circuit tours, that Americans follow progressives on the issues, they just don;t know it, and neither do the candidates. Movement politics is needed to force Obama to grapple with and reject the realities of “shock doctrine politics,” in terms of policy and his staff selections.
This is and isn’t a time for either/or decisions. The either/or isn’t “Obama Moment” politics or “movement politics.” That decision was made months ago. It is both. “Movement politics” folks need to be focusing on voter registration and local races around the country– creating a progressive infrastructure that will then force a president obama to pursue more progressive policies. And, the Obama moment is real, even if he selects Evan Bayh, which would be sad, but hey, so what. Let’s get this thing moving.