Journalist tells left , 'We have let Obama down'
"We have let Obama down:
Clancy Sigal, OpEdFranklin Roosevelt, the president we hoped that Obama would be like, had a huge advantage over our new president. At FDR's disposal were powerful mass movements – Huey Long's "Share the Wealth", Father Coughlin's radical racist anti-capitalist broadcasts, the elderly Townsend Clubs, the veterans' bonus marchers and militant labour unions with their sit-down strikes – that were an effective threat, a countervailing force to rich rightwingers eager to destroy the New Deal.
When Obama came into office with a mandate for change, the left sat back and waited. Instead, we should have mobilised ."
From OpEd journalist Clancy Sigal, a fellow Chicagoan and lover of Barack Obama.
Sigal says that it has occurred to him that FDR had one huge advantage over Obama: Dynamic social movements which backed his policies.
Looking back on the failure of Obama's mandate for change, and comparing our own time with the FDR 1930s, Sigal comes to the realization that the left has let the President down.
. . . FDR's good angel, his wife Eleanor, constantly reported to him about just how bad it was in the real world of the Great Depression. But Roosevelt told Eleanor and anyone else who came to him with demands for progressive change: "OK, you've convinced me. Now go out and put pressure on me."
That's where we've let Obama down. We on the American left – in a dysfunctional marriage with a bought-and-paid-for Democratic party, tamed by leechlike dependence on "non-profit" liberal foundations themselves funded by corporations, a women's movement obsessed by the abortion issue, a gay movement fixed on gay marriage – simply aren't up to the job. We have not backed up Obama with a serious antiwar movement (there isn't any), and our Big Labour is too weak to fight for itself, let alone for the rest of us. Grassroots activism still exists, but during the 2008 presidential campaign we slipped into the habit of allowing ourselves to be used purely as fundraising vehicles. Fundraising is no substitute for hell raising, as the Palin-loving Tea Baggers and Town Hallers are teaching us.
Obama came into office with a mandate for change. That should have been our signal not to sit back and wait for him to deliver but to mobilise to make sure he followed through. Instead, we relaxed our "Chicago muscle", the hard volunteer work that elected him. And I started my self-satisfying, ultimately pointless OBAMA BETRAYAL file.
Last week in America's northwest, Oregon voters, who are traditionally anti-tax-increase, showed how Chicago muscle works. Against fierce opposition led by Nike and other big businesses, they delivered a huge progressive victory by approving tax-raising measures on the wealthy and corporations. They did it the low-tech way, slogging door to door, volunteers from an improvised coalition of unions, community groups and small businesses, working together to overcome a well-funded rightwing scare campaign.
Sooner or later we on the American left will rise again and look beyond single-issue obsessions, sever our dependence on corporate charity, and – as FDR and Howard Zinn advised – relearn the lesson of how to apply pressure on a president who needs us more than we need him.
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