23 November 2009

The Right Hand Doesn't Know What the Left Hand's Doing

I don't know whether to be amused or annoyed whenever someone calls the President a socialist or says that he's out to "destroy capitalism," as Mr. Right put it recently. Comments like those are put in their proper absurd light when real leftists comment on the Obama administration. Here's Alexander Cockburn, for instance, in the newest issue of The Nation:
It's exactly as I predicted from the start. The past year has yielded one surrender by the administration after another -- whether it be renditions, phone-tapping or an accelerated schedule in giving the finger to organized labors, whose troops had done the most to put Obama in the White House. Even before his election last November, Obama extinguished all hopes -- risible though they were to those who had followed the senator's brief political career -- that he would harvest public fury at Wall Street and curb the power of the banks. He voted for the Bush/Paulson bank bailout and then hired Lawrence Summers -- one of the prime architects of the country's economic death plunge -- as his chief economic adviser.

You would think that people would take the word of authentic leftists that Obama is no leftist, but writers like Cockburn are dismissed as extremists or fringe elements. No one will deny that Cockburn himself is a leftist, but leftists apparently have no say in saying who's a leftist and who's not. That responsibility has been claimed by the right, the Republican party and the radio talkers. The left is whoever they say is the left. So Katha Pollitt's complaints against Obama and the congressional Democrats in the same issue are also irrelevant. "If I ever give that woman another dime," she writes, referring to Claire McCaskill, a supporter of the Stupak Amendment, "shoot me." Pollitt feels sold out by the Democracy, believing as Cockburn does that progressives effectively elected Obama only to be betrayed by concessions to Blue Dogs. She'd probably agree that Obama is not a man of the left, but who even reads or hears these complaints without subscribing to progressive media or publications. When in the "MSM" is a conservative calling Obama a leftist or socialist challenged by someone ready to criticize Obama for not being one?

It's no wonder that Americans feel that their options are limited, or don't know that they have more choices. Why should they look up genuine leftist organizations when they're told that the Democrats are the leftist party, and that a choice between Left and Right is perfectly represented by the American Bipolarchy of Democratic and Republican parties? The Bipolarchy is a two-way street, of course, and Cockburn also warns against identifying the Republicans with the conservative fringe. Using C. Wright Mills's terminology, he predicts that "the 'sophisticated right' equipped with big Republican money will assert its power over the 'wild-eyed Utopian capitalists.' Glenn Beck will burst the envelope he's already pushing or be impaled on some disclosure from his fraught psychic past. Sarah Palin will be similarly discredited as a public figure." As a result, he predicts, the GOP will retake the House of Representatives next year. In this case, he expects the Democrats to be complacent in their belief that they'll face easy targets in 2010. In Cockburn's view, they'd be buying into their own propaganda that the Republican party as an institution represents the far right. It serves their interests to persuade people that the likes of Beck or Rush Limbaugh are the true face of the Republican party (rather than representatives of grass-roots reaction that isn't necessarily powerful in its own right), because that's preferable to what Cockburn implies is the truth: that the true faces of both major parties look more alike than either would admit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the source of the problem is that Americans in general, and especially on the right, tend to try to categorize everything in extreme black and white with no shades of grey, let alone in color. As I've often noticed on Craig's List, conservative posters can't seem to tell the difference between a leftist and a liberal. While those on the left tend to categorize everything to the right as "conservative". This is quite obvious when you look at the fact that there are only two parties with any real political power, the Demorats and the Republicans, and any other party that hopes to have a voice has to agree to allow a major party candidate to run on their ticket.