>Resistance Is Futile

>Once again, I repeat: if you aren’t reading Harper’s, you’re wasting your time.

April’s cover story, The Vanishing Liberal: How The Left Learned To Be Helpless (subscription only, getcha one), is a case in point. It traces liberal movements going back to the 1870s, points to globalization in the 1990s for its current woes, and arrives at this assessment of President Obama and the Dems:

Whereas the Populists’ soapbox lecturers or the Progressives’ magazine exposés or FDR in his radio “fireside chats” explained the way of the world to the people and argued for why and how that way must change, Obama—like most Democratic leaders—concedes that the way of the world is wrong but tells us why it must stay that way because, some time in the past, powerful interests decreed it so.

Thus we are told that single-payer or a public option may be a good idea but that private insurance companies are simply too well–ensconced for reform. Afghanistan may be hopeless, but we have already committed to it. The power of the people is never activated, nothing much is asked or required of us, even as thugs overrun congressional town-hall meetings.

Instead, the party that claims to represent all progressive interests in this country proceeds with its impervious, self-interested agenda. The administration’s stated priorities for the near future are to balance the budget before a deep recession has abated and to commit the nation to a long-running war in a dysfunctional Asian country that we neither understand nor care about—thereby promising to repeat, simultaneously, the two worst mistakes made by liberal presidents in the past seventy-five years. As for the long term, the White House will form a commission bent on cutting “entitlements,” such as Social Security and Medicare, that are the bedrock of retired Americans’ prosperity.

This situation has most sentient folks on the left deeply disturbed — hell, I was just chatting with my 78-year-old mother-in-law on the phone 20 minutes ago and she said in her sweet Southern way, “the only thing I’m mad at Obama about is that I just don’t understand why he didn’t open Medicare up to everybody and be done with it.” Indeed.

And the money quote:

Obama, the congressional Democrats, and most of our politicians at every level now maneuver within political confines defined by financial and military interests they cannot conceive of challenging.

The Tea Party is in no better shape:

No one is going to abolish the Federal Reserve, or the income tax, or Social Security and Medicare; if they did, small businesses and working people would be trampled beneath the corporate entities bent on their exploitation.

Liberalism is dead, the “great, forced opening of the past 130 years” it spawned has ended. And a true reformist movement? Good luck with that.

Hate to piss in peoples’ Wheaties but even if healthcare reform passes, we’re still doomed.

Adding …. All is not completely lost, of course. But the point of the article is to show how liberalism has been reborn repeatedly throughout history by appealing to new constituencies — farmers, workers, immigrants, blacks, women, gays. A place was made at the table for those who had been excluded from the halls of power; now, the “ruling elite” is one of

unparalleled diversity, and includes unprecedented numbers of women, minorities, and individivuals who have worked their way up to power on brains and determination alone, usually without having inherited connections or wealth. It is a meritocracy much like the one long envisioned by many liberal reformers–and it has decided to capitulate, reap its considerable rewards, and draw the ladder up after it.

In this environment it will take a massive effort to bring that ladder down again. Will it happen? I just don’t know.

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “>Resistance Is Futile

  1. >A long time ago, I promised that I would never give up. A new world brings new challenges. Our collective liberal conscience isn't dead. It's just lying unconscious and senseless on the mat. This Harper's article is just a fancier, more sophisticated version of Obama bashing. Personally, I was far more disappointed in Clinton's centrist/economically conservative approach to governance. We have to keep the faith because so much is at stake.

  2. >Evil ain't no devil thing, it's in folks hearts. It's kinda like oneathem "Ring" trilogies or sumpin. Just when you think Sauron is dead, the fucker comes back to life. Or, mebbe it's more like Boss Hawg on "The Dukes of Hazzard". It's sure like oneathem, though. Never give up, never lay down, never be meek, never stop.

  3. >One of the nice things about this article is that one sees over the past 130 years how liberal movements have rebuilt from their ashes time and again. However, we will have to a lot of work and I just don't know if anyone has the stomach for it.

  4. >I'm part of the problem. I became interested in political issues during Obama's campaign. My youthful passion was rekindled, but I've slipped back into a state of deep cynicism. I'm so disappointed with the present administraion and all they've failed to do.I do have one glimmer of hope. That's Hillary in 2012.

  5. >See I don't think Hillary 2012 is the answer. She's as entrenched in the same powerful interests that Obama and every other Dem and every other Republican is.The problem is that we need to completely rebuild a new party, we can no longer transform the old one because the old one has shown us its only interest is in preserving the status quo, answering to the military and corporate interests that have so thoroughly woven themselves into the fabric of our governing. And the recent SCOUTS decision on corporate personhood has pretty much assured us that it will stay this way.A real grassroots reform movement needs to be built. The last two sentences of this article sum it up perfectly:"The idea of modern American liberalism has vanished among our elite, and simply voting for one man or supporting one of the two major parties will not restore it. The work will have to be done from the ground up, and it will have to be done by us."And yet, I don't see the will, the leadership, or the motivation. Maybe in a couple of years. Maybe the young people of today.

  6. >Thank you for a super post, this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart: how did the progressive movement in the US die and be replaced by a reactionary system?The scary bit is that Richard Nixon would be considered a liberal given the policies he instituted as president.And attmpted to institute, such as a national health insurance scheme.I truly hope you are correct and that a new progressive movement will arise on the ashes of the old.The problem is that the youth of today has been immersed in a reactionary media (fox news and so forth).I wish I knew the answer to all this.

  7. >Obama has to get out of the Beltway more. When the can't-fight-their-way-leftwards-out-of-a-wet-paper-bag stalwarts at NPR are the nearly unacceptable pinkocommiefascist vanguard for Beltway Inbrededness, poll after poll tells us that real people want real leftie policies…And I second our host: If you think the shitstorm ginned up for Obama was bad enough, remember that that was from square one.A whole bunch of ignorants have plenty of HillaryHate left over from the '90s.

  8. >As much as I'd like to comment, I find I've never read Harpers' magazine, much less subscribed. Still, I can comment on hope… that no matter who wins, left, right or middle… it is us (you all and me and them) that need to stand up and take action.Closed minds think about themselves and never use dictionaries… open minds think about others first, but know what they are talking about. We, as a world, and as Americans really need to pay more attention to what is going on around us. We need to communicate with our neighbors, visit with relatives, and get outside more. Bickering never gets anything done, nor does believing only you are right. If that is the case, we will always have to wait until a majority is totally and completely in power. Witness the hypocrisy of the Bush years. The very people who stand up and scream so loud were quiet as church mice then.I don't believe the media will help. They divide and produce news as product, not as relevant. They would have us believe that 50 people standing in front of the White House constitutes what America is really all about. Truth of the matter, we need help to get through all of the talking points, talking heads and opinions posing as news.Where is the next Walter Cronkite?CM13

  9. >Resistance is not futile.The most subversive thing to do is NOT spend your money, NOT exchange gifts on holidays, only spend money of food and essentials, wear only tattered and torn clothes (old denim is much more comfortable), turn grubby chic into a fashion statement, and keep your old wreck of a car. Meanwhile, stash your unspent funds in an offshore account denominated in Swiss Francs and await the coming of a New Dark Age.Of course, I'm only serious!

  10. >I partially agree… that Consumerism is a dangerous drug that we should ween ourselves off of. We need to find out something a little bit more "real" on which to base the world's economies. The mall is a poor place to find ourselves in our torn and frayed blue jeans. Of course, if you believe that clothes make the man… you'd be wrong.CM13

  11. >A lot of this plays into the our looming war with China which is playing out in D.C. right now, under the radar a bit … the fact that China is manipulating its currency to sell undervalued goods is a problem for our own manufacturing (NY Times has an op ed on this today, I'm too lazy to go link to it) but my first thought is: who is to blame here, the drug pusher or the drug user?If our country's values weren't so warped and we had some kind of social fabric holding us together maybe we wouldn't go running for the comfort of the cheap shopping thrill.

  12. >A lot of what once linked us is still there, just buried in too many mediums and playthings. What Obama said about guns and religion on the campaign trail was not really that far off. It's a shame that the tools who take everything wrong warped even that simple convenient truth. When times get tough, we all reach out to friends, loved ones and even strangers who are going through equally tough times.Religion and prayers at family dinners were once part of many families day to day living. Bibles were passed down from generation to generation. It's not a bad thing to believe in a higher calling.The drugs we choose are varied and different now. Many things divide us and it is much easier to live in perpetual fear and persuaded by fear mongers when we do not communicate with one another. Divide and conquer worked very well after 9/11. Remember the "Report Suspicious Behavior" on our metropolitan electronic signs?As far as China's economy goes, that plays right into this theme of consumerism… and lack of America's ability to get businesses to stop buying from overseas' markets. Do we really make that much more per hour that we can't be more competitive? If so, that's our fault, not China's. We do not need all of their "stuff". Blame the Walmarts, Targets and car manufacturers, etc. America has been manipulating it's own currencies as well to stave off inflation. We have nowhere left to go. We are almost at 0. Taxes are inevitable, especially if you want policemen, firemen and teachers to continue their jobs.It's a rough ride we are in for…. and none of us are getting any younger. Our children will be facing the blunt trauma of this ride we all share.A war with China isn't going to happen if we keep buying their goods… if their economy is based on consumerism, conquering America won't keep them fighting for American dollars. Of course, a war with China is not what either side wants. I sure hope not anyway. Good thing there isn't a Bush in the White House wanting to find out.

  13. >Here is the Op-Ed link from the NY Times (3-17-10) about the Chinese currency manipulation.http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/opinion/17wed1.html?ref=opinionCM13

  14. >Southern Beale: "See I don't think Hillary 2012 is the answer. She's as entrenched in the same powerful interests that Obama and every other Dem and every other Republican is."You're absolutely right. I was just starting to get worked up about Hillary, but you're right. I think I'll save myself the trouble.

  15. >It is a shame that Hillary Clinton has the stigma of her more famous husband and the 1994 Healthcare to be judged by. It really doesn't do her personally any justice. Yes, she has played a certain teary card a few times too many, but she is a smart lady.The true shame is that she would get absolutely no help from the GOPhers whether she had the best possible plan for anything. Just as President Obama has been reduced to calling these wannabe politicians out on occasion these days, Hillary would have to do the same thing. These obstructionists on the right (and some on the left) really do not see the bigger picture. Their focus is on small trees when the whole forest has so much at stake.The general state of our American economy and even that of the world is in the hands of so few. We really need a cleaner, more transparent government to get the job done and back on track so that all of us can sleep better at night.Hillary is part of the machine at this point, and I'm not sure if she would be able to accomplish the daunting task of rebuilding America when there is so much hate and revile when her name is mentioned. She isn't perfect by any means, but she doesn't stand a chance against the windbags against changing the status quo. Lying seems to be okay, along with deception, misquoting and leaving out facts … in light of that, she would be sorely abused and targeted. Shame. I do believe she deserves better.CM13

  16. >What Obama said about guns and religion on the campaign trail was not really that far off.Yup, it showed us what he really thinks of Americans who don't see the world from his viewepoint.

  17. >Sorry Mike W. … but I don't think the way you do. You took the comment negatively and you have that right. I know what he meant as I've had some bad times to relate to the comment. When you've had another tough time and the day is so very long and the sun has gone down and you don't know where your friends are or why your life feels empty, ask yourself why it hurts, why me, and say a prayer. There was no hate, desperation or disparagement in his comment, but it seems, there was plenty of hate for him afterwards. Amazing.

  18. >There is no collective liberal conscience. As Bill Maher put it, over the last 30 years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved to the insane asylum.Keeping the faith because so much is a stake is little more than magical thinking.There have been two great progressive thrusts in the last 80 years. One was the New Deal, which came out of national desperation, and was strongly opposed by conservative, who like Gollum, hates FDR forever.The other was the Great Society, which came from the desperation of a growing subclass of the population, and was strongly opposed by conservatives, who like Gollum, hates FDR forever.If there is to be a new progressive resurgence, it will be out of the desperation of the current depression, which I believe is only beginning. And conservatives fill fight is every agonizing step along the way.If I'm wrong, and the economy recovers, then it's just going to be the last decade played out for a long, sad time as the middle and underclasses get bled into oblivion.And yes – I think a war with China is inevitably in our future.WASF,JzB

  19. >Oops. Re: The other was the Great Society, which came from the desperation of a growing subclass of the population, and was strongly opposed by conservatives, who like Gollum, hates FDR forever.Of course, that was supposed to be hates LBJ forever. Cheers!JzB

  20. >Anonymous @ 3/17–2:58 PM:You have to be careful to never use the word "gun" in the same sentence with words like "Obama", "left", "control" or other words of that sort. It results in pavlovian response from mikey, right down to the drool.

  21. >CM13:Religion and prayers at family dinners were once part of many families day to day living. Bibles were passed down from generation to generation. It's not a bad thing to believe in a higher calling.The same wholly babble that justified slavery, oppression of women, homophobia, antisemitism…yeah, Those Were The Days™.