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pscot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-18-10 11:57 AM
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Progressive manifesto
This was posted over at TPM by Dan K. I liked it so much that I'm posting it in full.

Some of the political labeling that is going on here is very crude and simplistic. Personally, I haven't called myself a "liberal" in over 20 years, and no longer feel very close to the traditions that define modern American liberalism in either the foreign policy or domestic policy sphere. I am turned off by the politics of identity and personal liberation that that mostly characterizes liberalism, as well as by the frequent and futile invocations of - seemingly natural - "rights".

Nevertheless, I am a certain kind of radical democratic egalitarian, who favors a restructuring of the American social, legal and economic order on more communitarian and rigorously egalitarian lines. Some might choose to call it a form of socialism. I am attracted by politics that emphasizes work, solidarity, renewed social comradeship, collective effort and organized public investment in large products serving long-term national goals. I despise the aimless and debilitating hedonism, materialism and commercialism of American popular culture.

I also favor a dismantling of most of the imperial national security behemoth that was fashioned in the aftermath of the Second World War, and whose rusty, authoritarian and sluggish hull is still beloved by the military and militarists, and by the professionals who have been trained by our top educational institutions to serve aboard that behemoth, including the "National Greatness Liberals" and aggressive interventionists like Will Marshall, Ivo Daalder, Susan Rice and others who regrettably comprise much of the foreign policy brain trust of the Obama administration.

I personally believe that old postwar order is dying, but that the established pros don't get it yet, and will in indeed probably be the last to get the message. I had hoped that the new leadership of the country would possess the acuteness and historic vision necessary to communicate the new facts of life to the American people, and help engineer a soft and somewhat hopeful landing as we made the necessary transition to a very different kind of nation-state with a different place in the world. Alas it is not to be. Instead this administration seem determined to produce a last tragic flash of grandiosity. Obama thinks it is his calling to be a restorationist figure, who puts the Humpty Dumpty empire of the pre-Bush, post Soviet, triumphalist hey-day back together again. He is mistaking profound historic shifts for mere blips of bad fortune caused by one bad President.

As for purely political developments, my view is that the recent disaffection on the left was no accident. It is the result of a deliberate White House decision to repudiate and humiliate the left, so as to position Obama aggressively toward the center in preparation for 2012. Will it work for him politically in the long run? Who knows.

But if things start to go sour, shouldn't more people start to ask Barack Obama how he managed to piss away the passionate affections, energies and aroused hopes of tens of millions of Americans who were among his strongest backers? Could it be that the current Obama White House is filled with a bunch of unimaginative and clueless hacks, the result of a deeply flawed staffing process in November and December of 2008, people who don't understand the nature of the historic times we are living in, who haven't grasped the profound trauma and reevaluation wrought by the Great Recession, and who don't know how to react to these events?

Obama apparently represents people like Cass Sunstein and Larry Summers who believe that there are only a few dozen Ivy League (and maybe U. of Chicago) professors, and high-level financial titans, with the brains to run the country, and that everybody else needs to be hoodwinked, manipulated and led by the nose. One thing that has surprised me is how averse this administration is to really listening to people, and to building a deep consensus on needed changes before legislating.

I went through my main period of disappointment with the administration during the transition in 2008, so the recent events are no big deal. When I saw the kind of crew he was hiring, and their attachment to the politics of the past, to conventional late 20th-century foreign policy traditions, and 90's-style Third Wayism, I realized then that these weren't going to be my kind of people. I didn't even have the heart to watch the inauguration. Since then, it's been mostly numbness and growing disinterest, with occasional flashes of attention.

I'm sure I'll jump in again from time to time, but I'm getting old, and I have more interesting and important things to do with the balance of my life on this earth than gnash my teeth and fret futilely about the degenerate and decadent politics of the sad last years of the 20th century American empire. I've become fatalistic about the view that the country is incapable of a soft landing I hoped for, and is headed for years of tremendous strife, frustration, crises, war and social discord. I'm looking for other ways to experience value, love and beauty during the debacles to come.

So, I'm out of ideas for "moving forward" - at least where we are talking about the direction that looks like forward to me. For now, I give up. I'm clueless. My advice to everyone else? Well one key lesson I have learned in the business world is this: the squeaky wheel gets the grease! Stand up for your own needs and desires, and the right to have them heard and counted. Don't be duped into thinking you should always be the one who has to give. Because when you give, you often don't find someone giving back in return. Instead someone else takes, and picks up the initiative and advantage you have dropped.

By the way, it turns out I actually went to college with that fool Brown. I saw his familiar-looking mug on TV this morning, and made the connection. We graduated from Tufts together in 1981. Didn't know him though. I didn't know any of the guys on the basketball team. I remember that he was a good long-range shooter nicknamed, predictably, "Downtown Scotty Brown."

Posted by Dan K
January 18, 2010 2:21 AM | Reply | Permalink

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