Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Getting Bogged Down in the Details: Why We Shouldn’t Focus on Obama

Regular readers might have noticed that I’ve been particularly harsh towards Obama in the days since the 2010 midterm slaughter.  My criticisms might seem unwarranted and counterproductive; after all, it’s a case of the left attacking the left, isn’t it?  And even if Obama hasn’t fulfilled the dreams he inspired in millions of reasonable Americans during the 2008 campaign, he is surely an improvement over George W. Bush, right?  So why devote so much time to criticizing one of our own, rather than fighting our true enemies:  Republicans and teabaggers?

Much was said in the days following Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity about the notion of false equivalencies, with Stewart being accused of inaccurately equating the lunatics of the Right (a.k.a. teabaggers) with those of the Left (9/11 Truthers and their ilk).  If we are discussing the elements of the population who identify themselves as Left or Right, then certainly it was highly erroneous to imply that the level of insanity on both sides were equal.   Applying this notion to the MSM itself, we easily observe that Fox News is more batshit crazy than MSNBC, and in the realm of politics, Michelle Bachmann is clearly more unstable than, say, mild-mannered Harry Reid.

But if we take a broader perspective, the supposed false equivalencies suddenly become genuine.  On the vast political spectrum that exists beyond our narrow, corporate media defined perspective, Republicans and Democrats stand virtually side by side, as do their corporate-controlled mainstream media counterparts.  Barack Obama might genuinely seem like an extreme socialist when compared with the likes of George W. Bush or Rand Paul, but compared to the actual Left Obama is about as conservative as they come.  Fox News might be more blatant in its penchant for spewing out absurd right-wing propaganda, but at the end of the day CNN, MSNBC and all of the major so-called “liberal” players embrace the same distorted world view – a world view of which the parameters are defined and enforced by the corporate elite.

If we are interested in seeking genuine social progress, it is foolish and counterproductive to waste our time supporting politicians who fall within this narrow spectrum of American right-wing politics.  While elected officials such as Obama might identify themselves as “liberals” or “leftist,” in practice this is but a skillful example of highly effective doublespeak in use.   The reality, as should be fairly obvious to anyone who has been paying attention for the last fifty years, is this:  Anyone who willingly associates him/herself with the Democratic Party, and succeeds in rising within the ranks of that party, could not possibly be anything but a corporate shill.  Such are the facts of our jaded nation.

Following this vein of thought, it becomes apparent that it is impractical to waste our time and energy criticizing higher elected officials from either major party.  Since we know by default that any Republican or Democrat who reaches the national stage of power is inherently corrupt, it is clearly pointless to highlight their flaws.  It’s like making the highly redundant observation that shit smells.  Well of course shit smells – such is its very nature.

The problem we face is that it is far easier to criticize the elected officials we now have than it is to speak in terms of the bigger picture.  Obama puts a face on the failure of the left to overcome decades of corporate subversion, and it is a natural reaction to take out our frustrations on him.  But Obama is doing exactly what he what he set out to do, which was to fulfill his corporate agenda.  Obama is not the one who failed, we are.  When we devote so much of our time and energy to criticizing Obama, questioning whether he is or is not a liberal, whether he will end the wars or repeal DADT and DOMA, we lose sight of the larger issues at hand.  We fall prey to the corporate media’s ploy to control the boundaries of public debate, and we fail to push the national dialogue back towards the left where it belongs.

But there is a fine line to be observed here.  Until enough people realize that Obama and the majority of his fellow Democrats are nothing more than the negligibly more leftward-leaning representatives of the Business Party, it is fruitless to discuss the larger ideas of social progress and genuine reform.  It’s like outlining detailed designs of a permanent settlement on Pluto when we haven’t even moved beyond our own moon.  So to a certain extent it is necessary to criticize Obama and his fellow Democrats, but it is imperative that we do not become so bogged down in the trivial details of pseudo-left and ultra-right that we forget about the larger issues at stake – which is precisely the strategy the corporate media has vigorously followed, and the reason for the Left’s seemingly perpetual state of squalor.


4 responses to “Getting Bogged Down in the Details: Why We Shouldn’t Focus on Obama

  1. Pingback: Wikileaks: Obama Protected Bush Administration War Criminals « Failed Empire

  2. LarryE January 1, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Came here via the Jon Swift Memorial.

    I agree on two points: One, we have to continue to rhetorically fire away at Obama and the Dems because, well, because they are the ones who are there with the power to act in government. While they are not on our side, we can and should demand more of them because for years they have told us that we can expect more of them. Consider it a twist on the old challenge: You wouldn’t shut up, so now you have to put up.

    Two, at the same time, we have to avoid getting bogged down in arcane arguments about how left is left and how right or left or center is Obama; rather, we need to pay attention to what is being done rather than to what labels are applied.

    But I disagree that it’s “fruitless to discuss the larger ideas of social progress and genuine reform.” To the contrary, I think it’s necessary: If we want to move people beyond what you accurately call “our narrow, corporate media defined perspective,” we have to give them a place to go. Put another way, it does no good to convince people that the highway they’re on leads to a dead end unless you can point out an exit ramp.

    In fact, writing this comment reminds me that I haven’t done enough of that discussing of larger ideas. I think I just made a New Year’s resolution.

    • Andrew January 2, 2011 at 9:25 am

      Thanks for the comment, LarryE.

      I think we’re in agreement on all of these points, actually. When I stated that it was fruitless to discuss the larger issues of social progress, I was thinking one a much broader, perhaps even idealistic, scale. In some of my earliest posts on this blog, I discussed the notion of humans being unique among all lifeforms in that we alone possess the capacity to alter the course of our own evolution – in both physical and social development. Social development, however, is the most pertinent issue here.

      Being intelligent beings, we have (in theory, at least) the ability to craft precisely the kind of society we desire. With the exception of some as yet uncured diseases, there are absolutely no problems facing human kind today which cannot be solved: wars can be ended, the poor can be sheltered and fed, the devastating gap between rich and poor can be bridged. Ultimately, our society is doomed to endless inequality and sustained human suffering unless we can grow out of our futile addiction to the profit motive. Humans, as one unified society, will have to realize that the love of fictional wealth is a counterproductive source of motivation, and leads to horrible, wholly unnecessary consequences. An enlightened society will act for the sake of acting alone – it will seek to expand its knowledge and understanding simply for the sake of understanding itself.

      But try explaining such ideas to a person who firmly believes that Republicans are “conservative” and Democrats are “liberal.” You won’t get anywhere. You can’t get anywhere, because that person’s mind is so firmly entrenched in the narrow corporate world view I mentioned above. So you can discuss issues such as universal health care, cessation of the wars, subsidized college education. But try asserting that capitalism is a doomed system, or the military should be entirely disbanded, or that education should not only be free but should be an integral, lifelong endeavor undertaken by all members of society, and you will likely be called a dirty pinko-commie-hippie.

      So I guess the phrase “larger ideas” is somewhat ambiguous, but I think we are basically in agreement.

  3. LarryE January 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Yeah, we’re basically in agreement. 🙂 We’re talking shades of meaning here, not real dispute.

    Some years ago I made a speech in which I quoted both Danilo Dolci (“Faith does not move mountains. Work, exacting work, moves mountains.”) and Bobby Kennedy’s adaptation of George Bernard Shaw (“Some look at the way things are and ask why; I dream of things that never were and ask why not.”) and said that in my version, Kennedy’s “why not” became “how.” What are the practical steps we can take, right now, in pursuit of those never weres? “We have to approach the world with steel in our eyes.”

    But, I went on, “we can’t allow the steel in our eyes cloud the dream in our hearts” and called on the audience to be “steely-eyed dreamers,” people who know the hard work to be done but never forget what it’s ultimately for.

    What that also means, however, is that while some of us focus more on the immediate hows (universal health care, for an example you raised), some of us have to focus on the longer-term whys and thus risk being called “dirty pinko-commie-hippie”- or what is worse because it’s more dismissive, “crank” – with the only consolation being knowing that at some point, should humanity survive long enough, people will be saying “Binro was right!” (And how’s that for an obscure reference?)

    My New Year’s resolution that I came to above was drawn from a renewed recognition that I’ve been focusing rather too much on the how at the expense of the why. I suppose I assume the why seeps thorough for those who read a fair amount of my stuff – but you know the joke about “assume,” especially since I doubt there are a significant number of people who have read “a fair amount” of my stuff.

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