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The Sorry Surrender of “the So-Called Radical Left”

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The essay below is extracted from the May 2010 postscript to my book The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2010) – the perfect Christmas gift for that not-so liberal know-it-all fake-progressive partisan Democrat cousin or uncle or sister-in-law who can’t stop making excuses for the center-right Obama administration’s abject service to dominant domestic and imperial hierarchies and doctrines…

Paul Street, ZCommunications.org

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Lydia Howell

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The essay below is extracted from the May 2010 postscript to my book The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2010) – the perfect Christmas gift for that not-so liberal know-it-all fake-progressive partisan Democrat cousin or uncle or sister-in-law who can't stop making excuses for the center-right Obama administration's abject service to dominant domestic and imperial hierarchies and doctrines.  Surely the deeply conservative Obama’s predictable (and widely predicted) “cave-in” (two days ago) to Republican demands for the continuation of George W. Bush’s arch-plutocratic tax cuts for the rich (in a “deal” that also includes reduced pay-in to the Social Security fund and a big "concession" to the Republicans on the federal estate tax) ought to be the last nail in the coffin of liberal-left faith that Obama is (in the words of Katrina Vanden Huevel, the multi-millionaire editor of The Nation, last fall), “clearly a reform president committed to improvement of peoples’ lives and the renewal and reconstruction of America” (Katrina vanden Heuvel, “Obama One Year On,” The Nation, November 4, 2010).

This was a fascinating comment more than ten months into an administration that had already set new corporate welfare records in the process of bailing out the very financial parasites who crashed the economy, an administration that had approved an auto-restructuring plan that rewarded capital flight, a “new” White House that had already made clear its determination to pass a health bill that only insurance and drug companies could love, that had already revealed its determination to undermine serious global carbon emission reduction efforts at Copenhagen, that had already showed it would not pursue major green jobs public works programs (even as unemployment reached new post-WWII record levels), that had showed its determination to escalate and expand the scope of imperial violence, and that has showed it would not pursue the labor law and global trade reforms Obama had eloquently promised to working class audiences in 2007 and 2008. Other betrayals include a key cave-in on offshore oil drilling, Obama’s recent announcement of a federal worker pay freeze (an exercise in cynical “deficit-reduction theater” [Paul Krugman]), and his recent stealth signing of what Jane Hamsher rightly calls “a new NAFTA-style ‘free trade’ deal” with Korea.  And now we have, as predicted, the continuation of the Republicans’ deficit-driving fat cat tax cuts – this in what is already by far and away the industrialized world’s most unequal and wealth-top-heavy society. “Whatever one thinks of Obama’s policy on any specific issue,” vanden Heuvel argued last year, “Progressives, should focus less on the limits of the Obama agenda and more on the possibilities that his presidency opens up.” No: the election of Obama has not sparked progressive potentialities but has instead discouraged and weakened them, with the administration playing an active role in deterring and suppressing popular resistance – with terrible results (essentially predicted at the end of the postscript pasted in below --- ee the section titled “Resentment Abhors a Vacuum”). The relatively paucity of left and progressive dissent has encouraged reactionary elements within the beyond the administration to take up and carry out an ever more extreme agenda.

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