1. Stephen Diamond

    One hardly knows where to begin, Carl.

    First, if you have been paying careful, or even not so careful, attention to my blog posts on Obama running back to the spring of 2008 it should be clear that I have never taken the position that Obama is or ever was a leftist.

    I differ with you and others in and around the Committees of Correspondence/ex-CP/ex-SDS milieu that the politics of the figures – Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Frank Davis – who mentored Obama are anything other than authoritarian and bureaucratic; anti-capitalist, perhaps, but not leftist. Of course that is also the politics of COC, so it is not a surprise that it would be hard for you to recognize this.

    One of the best examples and one important to Obama’s political and professional development, of course, was the 1988 Chicago school reform where Obama backed, together with Bill Ayers, the anti-union, racially divisive and undemocratic “local control” effort that was intellectually authored by CP’er Earl Durham. That the big business elements in Chicago joined in this effort – and that it caught the warm attention of the Heritage Foundation – should have been a clue to any serious leftist the real intent of this reform. Obama’s late 80s involvement in that reform would serve him well when Ayers appointed Obama to chair the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in 1995. Propping up the withering local school councils set up in 1988 was a central goal of the Challenge.

    When word of Ayers’ ties to Obama through the Challenge surfaced in the Obama campaign, David Axelrod worked with Ayers to block, unsuccessfully, access to the Challenge’s documents housed at the University of Illinois.

    So you don’t impress me by suggesting that Obama is some kind of neo-Keynesian. Obama has been a comfortable member of the Chicago south side stalinoid milieu for many years. That is why Alice Palmer was willing to hand her state senate seat over to him. And why she expected he would hand it back to her when she got clobbered by Bobby Rush. She just underestimated his ambition.

    Perhaps you did, too.

    In any case, did you share your intimate knowledge of Obama’s true politics with the rest of the Progressives for Obama crowd? I only ask because it seems clear to me that most of them would have no idea what you are talking about.

    They assumed he would deliver on his promised inside/outside strategy. He told this milieu that he would push for “progressive” policies but would need outside pressure to give him the political cover he needed. He hoped to get health care through first and then use the political capital of that victory to turn to changes in foreign policy.

    He decided to use his ability to appoint “special advisors” as a means around Congressional oversight to create an internal White House cadre answerable to him and the Chicago campaign era cabal of Jarrett, Axelrod, Emanuel and Gibbs.

    A perfect example was the clearance by Jarrett of Van Jones as special advisor on “green jobs.” Van – whom I knew vaguely at law school – is a stalinist blowhard from his earliest days and thus perfect hench man for the new team to use to “mau mau” the flak catchers when the stimulus cash got handed out.

    Jarrett’s naivete in welcoming “truther” Jones to the White House is stunning but it exposes clearly the hope to generate an inside/outside strategy.

    Now that it has failed you and your COC milieu are trying to distance yourself from the man, but you voted for him and now you are stuck with him. Good luck.

  2. Obama was never a radical or a man of the left, Steve, nor even a consistent progressive.

    In our original call for ‘Progressives for Obama’, we pegged him as a ‘liberal speaking mainly to the center.’ He’s always been a neo-Keynesian who understood the internet, salted with a little of Alinksky’s militant redistributionist liberalism.

    We never had much influence on him, if any at all. He opposed the war in Iraq, and was prepared to end it. That was enough at the time to distinguish him. Now his team has some ‘reform’ neoliberals from Wall St setting the direction to his downfall, unless something drastic happens. We’ll see, but I’m not betting on a second term unless there’s a major change in course.

    I’d still tell people to vote for him over McCain-Palin. But our task in the campaign was to build our own independent forces around our own platform. And we did fairly well, and are still growing.

    You and your co-thinkers have never really understood this, making up all sorts of ‘just so’ stories that wildly exaggerated or simply falsified Obama’s ‘leftism’, along with the extent of our strength and influence. Now you face all sorts of ‘paradoxes’ of your own invention.

  3. TeakWoodKikte

    Great read Steve Diamond. Thank you.

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