It seems like only yesterday that Barack Obama became our first African-American president. And yet this is 2011, and none of the rhetoric concerning recent “dry runs” at the Republican candidacy discusses Obama’s historic stature. The Republican party is clearly trying to re-orient American public discourse concerning U.S. priorities at present, and has achieved quite a coup by turning budgeting priorities into the new “buzzword” section of government. A similar ‘re-orientation’ of American public discourse helped bring Obama to power; it could, perhaps surprisingly, remove him showing little for his efforts, making him a sort of American Edith Cresson.
Many of us, I’m sure, are not eager to return to the days when a George W. Bush ran America. And yet, like many older Marxists, I am less than sanguine today about a strategy of “Democratic aid” for 2012 and beyond. It isn’t that there is no relevant difference between the two parties, but that Democratic austerity politics now blocks ‘telescoping’ out to leftist social-justice concerns more effectively than ever. The ‘redwashing’ of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the ‘progressive choice’ in 2008 was an important issue worth dealing with, but there is undoubtedly less motivation for 2012 to be captivated by liberal bromides which yet again will fail to meet the political needs of the American majority painlessly and cheaply.
Even if it would be worthwhile to have Obama serve a second term, this is not to say that mass America’s political energies are best suited to being palliated by his Kennedyesque charm. Perhaps radicals could instead make 2012 “the year of the issue”: presenting fuller slates of writing and broader organization dealing with economic and social problems than the Democrats or Republicans provide candidates and ‘framing’. If mass government there is to be, let us try to provide ‘straw polls’ for a systematically ramified and elaborated working-class politics enabling the people to take a shot at governing America.
Ricardo Levins Morales’ essay for Solidarity US, “Let’s Not Take America Back”, started me thinking about these issues. If one ignores the past lunacy of the Weathermen, and remembers the limits of ‘lifestyle’ organizing a la fur protests, it is perhaps a “revolutionary” and not a “procedural” point in American leftism. When arguments count more than rights, it’s time to reexamine the whole ball game.