Thursday, August 18, 2011

Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Congressional Black Caucus Take On President Obama and the National Jobs Crisis


At some point even the national black community is going to have to seriously recover from the ongoing political coma/fever dream/mass hypnosis induced by the mesmerizing specter/spectacle of the "first black President" and actually deal with political, economic, and social REALITY once again. There's a traditional African American proverb that goes "Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream." Well folks (and this goes for all "others" in this rapidly declining country as well) it's way past time to finally WAKE UP. Even the usually clueless, moribund, and hopelessly asleep at the switch petty bourgeois members of the Congressional Black Caucus understand that...People need JOBS AND JUSTICE not empty electoral stump speeches and endless silly platitudes about the so-called "greatness of America." President Obama-- and the rest of us!-- had better get very busy and very soon creating a real, viable alternative to the misery, fear, and confusion we find all around us or otherwise we will all find ourselves stuck with and imprisoned by a truly lethal rightwing Tea Party government before we can say "what happened?"


Rep. Waters Pushes Back At Obama During Black Caucus Talk: ‘We’re Getting Tired’
by Frances Martel
August 17th, 2011


It’s town hall season, and the Congressional Black Caucus is the first this year to get a mouthful from frustrated constituents on the economy. In a clip that quickly made the rounds in the news cycle, the panel meeting the Detroit crowd yesterday defended the President’s work, but with a bit of malaise, as Rep. Maxine Waters argued they were “getting tired” and “don’t know why on this trip… he’s not in any black community.” That the President is having trouble with his most loyal constituency is already being touted as a sign that 2012 isn’t going to be a Democratic cakewalk.

At some points during the public meeting last night, the mostly black crowd became so agitated the representatives found difficulty speaking– this was certainly the case as Rep. Waters explained to the crowd that she believed “we’ve got to put pressure on the President, because you all love the President.” She said she understood the hesitation on attacking him, but then lay into the President once she got the crowd to settle, wondering where his economics plan was and lamenting that his August bus tour did not include any black neighborhoods:

“The Congressional Black Caucus loves the President, too. We’re supportive of the president, but we’re getting tired. We’re getting tired yall. And so, what we want to do is, we want to give the president every opportunity to show what he can do and what he’s prepared to lead on. We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is. We don’t know why on this trip that he’s in the United States now, he’s not in any black community. We don’t know that.”

The frustration among members of the black community seemed to reflect to some in the media why the President’s approval ratings have been dwindling in such a dramatic way recently, such that his core support group feels alienated has he tours rural communities where he has never had a solid following and has already encountered some trouble with the local Tea Party leaders there. As panel moderator Jeff Johnson explained in his wrap-up, “the ‘hope and change’ message that rallied support from African-American communities in Detroit and beyond is long gone. Many are unclear what message can motivate this base to the polls again, while so many are suffering under a devastating economy and the reality of unemployment.” This, “exacerbated by the fact that at the same time the CBC Detroit town hall was taking place, the president was in Iowa dealing with the issues of rural Americans,” gave the panel, to its host, a new sense of urgency.

Meanwhile, the news was covered on the cable networks as a sign of concern for the President. On MSNBC, Chris Jansing hosted a discussion with Roll Call’s John Traynham and MSNBC contributor Karen Hunter, the former who found that “it’s not by chance” the President was traveling to rural swing states– he has a serious problem among “rural white voters”– but the frustration due to the high levels of unemployment was palpable. Meanwhile, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly checked in with White House Correspondent Ed Henry, on the road with the President in Iowa, both of whom agreed that it was “extraordinary” to see the people who voted in the highest percentages for the President so raucous at a meeting featuring mostly Democratic Obama supporters.


Rep. Water’s statements, followed by commentary from MSNBC and Fox News, respectively, below:

The Major New Crisis Facing 21st Century Black Intellectuals and Activists


This is an important, trenchant, and sober analysis of the most significant challenges, issues, and demands facing black intellectuals and activists in the 21st century and we will all be compelled to seriously address and confront them no matter what our specific ideological and theoretical/practical stances happen to be both now and well into the future--whether Barack Obama is President or not...


Obama and the crisis of neo-liberal black intellectuals
by Antonio Monteiro
20th August, 2010
In These New Times

Posted by seumasach on January 8, 2011

African American Futures: This site is about African Americans and their possible futures. It is devoted to social theoretic, philosophical, historical and political economic inquiry, critical reviews and cultural analysis. It is founded and maintained by Anthony B Monteiro, professor of African American Studies. All essays, unless otherwise indicated, are written and copyrighted by Dr. Monteiro. Comments are welcomed. The site seeks to encourage critical thinking and debate on burning questions of our time.


Charles Pete Banner-Haley’s book From Du Bois to Obama: African American Intellectuals in the Public Forum (2010) is a history of African American intellectuals from the standpoint of Barack Obama ‘s presidency. From his Obama post racial dream-world, Banner-Haley tells us, “African American intellectuals in the twenty-first century can take their cue from an Obama presidency and the words he spoke in Philadelphia during the race for the nomination. They can become ‘transformative black intelligentsia’ (123).” It should be obvious, the last thing black intellectuals need to do is “take their cue” from a pro-war, pro Wall Street, pro American imperialism presidency. Rather than fulfilling the legacy of W.E.B Du Bois (as the author claims) it is its opposite. Obama’s presidency represents a rupture with Du Bois and the progressive wing of black intellectuals. Obama’s Philadelphia speech was a neo-Booker T Washington compromise speech (equivalent to Washington’s Atlanta Compromise Address delivered in 1895). Obama decidedly argued that we had pretty much moved beyond racism’s most lethal forms. For him, while slavery was the nation’s ‘original sin’ racism left scars that damaged both whites and blacks. Hence, both his white grandmother and Reverend Jeremiah Wright represented the past of racial prejudice, stereotypes, fear, animus and anger. He positioned himself as representing the future of racial compromise and reconciliation. In neo-Booker T Washington style he urged black folk literally to “put your buckets down where you are”, instead of challenging white supremacy. The Obama presidency, in the end, seeks to fashion a racial compromise with conservatives, similar to Washington’s compromise with the Jim Crow South.

In Banner-Haley’s dreamscape, Obama’s election is both an end and a beginning. He insists, “Barack Hussein Obama in many ways was a culmination of the Civil rights movement and the starting point for African American intellectuals to confront those new definitions of race and identity (7).” The implication is “the new definitions of race and identity” are those that arise from an alleged post-racial America. African Americans, to cite Obama, have come 90% of the way to freedom. Obama, and by implication Banner-Haley, accept the neo-liberal position that the major problems confronting black folk are rooted in black culture, psychology and behaviors, especially of the poor. The author says Obama gravitated to Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson’s “synthetic analysis” that drew from both political liberalism and right wing conservatism. Wilson claims that since 1968 we have been in a period of the “declining significance of race”.

The book points to a new crisis of African American intellectuals. Cloistered in elite universities and increasingly leaning towards neo-liberal ideas on race, economics and politics, they are separated from black working people, the poor and the black middle class. While Obama, remains popular among African Americans as symbol of racial progress, his policies, that favor large banks, Wall Street and the military, places him and those black intellectuals who “take their cue” from him, at odds with the fundamental economic and social interests of the vast majority of African Americans. On the other hand, Obama’s insulting and practiced indifference to black suffering, his performance of post racialism, while savage racism engulfs him,his family, his presidency and all African Americans, his practice of keeping most blacks at arms length, yet on occasion inviting chosen Negroes to the White House, is nothing short of a put down of African Americans; behavior none of us would accept from a white President, Democrat or Republican.

Banner-Haley says, “Unable to make the connection either with the immiserated black poor or many of those newly arrived in the black middle class, black intellectuals found themselves visible, but encapsulated in an insulated academic world that may listen but often does not hear and does not act on the ideas, analyses, and prescriptions that these women and men present (45).” Because they are preoccupied with talking to white elites, they lack moral standing with black people. This is the price they pay to integrate white elite and capitalist circles. This, however, is only part of the problem. The larger part is that politically they are race neo-liberals. At the highest levels there is hardly a radical among them, unlike most in the past who were race radicals. The other problem is that they choose not to live among black people. They have separated themselves in their life styles, culture, and aspirations from the working class and poor in particular. Finally, they’re caught in the bind of trying to appear to serve opposing social and economic class constituencies. Elite universities demand that black intellectuals assume a post-racial sensibility and lifestyle; on the other hand, the black masses daily experience the most savage racism. Faced with this dilemma, neo-liberal black intellectuals become apologists for race and class oppression, while performing a not very convincing symbolic blackness.

Banner–Haley has it wrong, there is no trajectory from Du Bois to Obama. A more accurate description would be from Booker T Washington, and race compromise to Barack Obama and race neo-liberalism. Du Bois started his public intellectual career in 1897 founding, along with Alexander Crummell, Anna Julia Cooper and others, the American Negro Academy. In 1903 he publically presented his position on black leadership in the essay “The Talented Tenth”. He assumed that leadership would come from the educated. Reviewing talented tenth stance in 1948, he said, “I assumed that with knowledge sacrifice would automatically follow.” Rather, he insisted selfishness was a far greater impulse. He criticized himself for not realizing that most in a privileged group would tend to constitute themselves as an aristocracy, rather than a leadership connected to the masses and their uplift. In the year that he published in Talented Tenth essay he published The Souls of Black Folk. He made the famous prediction that the problem of the twentieth century would be the problem of the color line. What he meant was that liberal, or bourgeois democracy, could not advance, in fact would turn in upon itself, if the race issue went unresolved. While not being in the camp of liberalism, or of bourgeois democracy per se, he rightly understood that the obstacle to democracy for all excluded groups rested on resolving the race problem, especially the issue of black civil rights and the vote. But its resolution demanded the agency and activism of black folk, and black folk needed consistent and reliable leadership. At a time when Booker Washington was arguing that race and civil rights should be taken out of public and political discourse and that black leadership should take a back seat to white intellectuals, Du Bois argued the opposite. In 1948, he disappointedly concluded, most of the talented tenth abandoned its possible historic mission and became consumed in universal selfishness. He called for a new configuration of black leadership and black intellectuals. Rather than a talented tenth he called for a guiding one hundredth; a new leadership cadre drawn not only from the educated, certainly not from the ranks of those chosen “to lead Negroes” by white elites, but from the educated lower middle classes and the working masses. At this point he saw class origins and class loyalties as a critical determinant of black leadership.

With the Civil Rights and Black Power movements completed and civil rights legislation on the books, rather than a new racial democracy we witnessed a counter-revolution against black equality, rooted in preserving white racial privilege, branded as a new conservatism (Reaganism). Yet a small segment of blacks has progressed. A new talented tenth, which attempts to straddle the ideological divide between Booker T Washington and Du Bois. They claim Du Bois in words, but substantively are Bookerites.

Banner-Haley implies Du Bois ceased thinking after 1903, the year of The Souls of Black Folk. In truth, Du Bois became more radical the older he got. In the last quarter of his life he was a radical, anti-imperialist, socialist and communist. On this matter Martin Luther King Jr declared, ” We cannot talk of Dr Du Bois without recognizing that he was a radical all of his life. Some people would like to ignore the fact that he was a Communist in his later years.” Most scholars wish either to ignore this fact or claim that Du Bois had by the 1940’s lost his way and chosen “another path”.

The break by significant elements of the black elite with Du Bois started with the Cold War and McCarthyism. The US government labeled him “an agent of a foreign government ” for his pro-peace and anti-nuclear war stance. Many took solace in looking at the Du Bois of the early twentieth century, saying that his radicalism signified his separation from the struggle for black freedom. He was, they insisted, no longer a part of the civil rights movement, but of the far left. In the universities his name was seldom if ever mentioned. It was only with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, that it became permissible to mention his name and write books and article on him. Still his radicalism was viewed as that of a disappointed and isolated elder. His detractors explained his radicalism as the result of bitterness towards the talented tenth and not of his on going engagement with the realities of racism, war, colonialism and imperialism. Du Bois biographer David Levering Lewis, along with Cornel West and most recently Harvard professor Martin Kilson have looked on the last quarter of Du Bois’ life as a rupture with his “great period”, the period before 1945.

If we, as Dr King suggests, look at Du Bois’ life as a whole and view his latter years as part of an intellectual and scientific continuum of philosophical and practical development of the race question, his radicalism makes all the sense in the world. Elite African American intellectuals, most educated in white universities and who teach in these institutions, have made a break with Du Bois, while many, oddly enough, claim to be Du Boisian. American liberalism reached its high point in the 1930’s with the Presidency of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. Since the 1980’s American democracy has become more right wing and more authoritarian and liberalism has become increasingly neo-liberal rationalizations of American empire. The banks, Wall Street and the military have undermined most avenues of democracy, including elections.

Black intellectuals in the second decade of the 21st century should not take a cue from Obama’s presidency, but from Du Bois. They should stop being afraid of Du Bois’ radicalism and anti-imperialism and end their cow towing to the conservatism of the white academic establishment. King, one of the greatest black intellectuals was right, “It is time to cease muting the fact that Dr. Du Bois was a genius and chose to be a Communist. Our obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires.”

Charles Pete Banner-Haley’s book is a political failure, but more, it distorts the truth and obscures the paths to developing a 21st century radical African American intelligentsia. Anchored in Obamism, and by implication neo-liberalism, Banner-Haley is blind to the real history of black intellectuals and of Du Bois. We do need a history of black intellectuals, (a project that professor Martin Kilson for some years has been working on) which is not an apologia for American capitalism and empire. We need 21st century intellectuals who are not afraid to reject neo-liberalism, who will speak the truth about the Obama Administration and race and US Empire, who are not fearful of criticizing free market capitalism, and indeed like Du Bois stand for a human future beyond capitalism. Black folk need a new radical intelligentsia in the Du Boisian tradition.

New Academic Study Reveals the Real Ideological and Political Roots of the Tea Party;jsessionid=5CFE13D7527B9C3DD44A699F9FB2CC3B.w6?a=829691&single=1&f=28⊂=Contributor


Of course WE all knew from jumpstreet that the Tea Party was nothing but yet another historical manifestation and political 'updating' of the KKK, the White Citizens Council, and the John Birch Society--among the many other white supremacist/anti immigrant/religious fanatic groups in the United Hates. But its always good to know that other people are actually beginning to pay some real attention to who and what these virulently racist and far rightwing demagogues are and actually represent--especially now that the Klansman and "states rights" Governor of Texas Rick Perry is the leading Republican presidential candidate...



Crashing the Tea Party
August 17, 2011
New York Times

GIVEN how much sway the Tea Party has among Republicans in Congress and those seeking the Republican presidential nomination, one might think the Tea Party is redefining mainstream American politics.

But in fact the Tea Party is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion: among most Americans, even before the furor over the debt limit, its brand was becoming toxic. To embrace the Tea Party carries great political risk for Republicans, but perhaps not for the reason you might think.

Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent.

Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about - lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like "atheists" and "Muslims." Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.

The strange thing is that over the last five years, Americans have moved in an economically conservative direction: they are more likely to favor smaller government, to oppose redistribution of income and to favor private charities over government to aid the poor. While none of these opinions are held by a majority of Americans, the trends would seem to favor the Tea Party. So why are its negatives so high? To find out, we need to examine what kinds of people actually support it.

Beginning in 2006 we interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans as part of our continuing research into national political attitudes, and we returned to interview many of the same people again this summer. As a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously - isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant.

Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party's "origin story." Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party's supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.

What's more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 - opposing abortion, for example - and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek "deeply religious" elected officials, approve of religious leaders' engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party's generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann's lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry's prayer rally in Houston.

Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.

On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans. Indeed, at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today's Tea Party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern in 1972. The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party - repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the Tea Party, Republicans risk repeating history.

David E. Campbell, an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame, and Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard, are the authors of "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us."

"Or Does It Explode?": London Communities of Color Rebel Against the State and Its Oppressive Policies and Treatment in England


Naomi Klein tells the whole truth about the weeklong London street rebellions and what they really mean--politically and otherwise...


Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery
by Naomi Klein
August 16, 2011
The Nation

I keep hearing comparisons between the London riots and riots in other European cities—window smashing in Athens, or car bonfires in Paris. And there are parallels, to be sure: a spark set by police violence, a generation that feels forgotten.

But those events were marked by mass destruction; the looting was minor. There have, however, been other mass lootings in recent years, and perhaps we should talk about them too. There was Baghdad in the aftermath of the US invasion—a frenzy of arson and looting that emptied libraries and museums. The factories got hit too. In 2004 I visited one that used to make refrigerators. Its workers had stripped it of everything valuable, then torched it so thoroughly that the warehouse was a sculpture of buckled sheet metal.

Back then the people on cable news thought looting was highly political. They said this is what happens when a regime has no legitimacy in the eyes of the people. After watching for so long as Saddam and his sons helped themselves to whatever and whomever they wanted, many regular Iraqis felt they had earned the right to take a few things for themselves. But London isn’t Baghdad, and British Prime Minister David Cameron is hardly Saddam, so surely there is nothing to learn there.

How about a democratic example then? Argentina, circa 2001. The economy was in freefall and thousands of people living in rough neighborhoods (which had been thriving manufacturing zones before the neoliberal era) stormed foreign-owned superstores. They came out pushing shopping carts overflowing with the goods they could no longer afford—clothes, electronics, meat. The government called a “state of siege” to restore order; the people didn’t like that and overthrew the government.

Argentina’s mass looting was called El Saqueo—the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country’s elites had done by selling off the country’s national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.

But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn’t theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behavior.

This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensions – mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these “entitlements”? The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.

This is the global Saqueo, a time of great taking. Fueled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights left on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94 percent of millionaires were afraid of "violence in the streets.” This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.

Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing nighttime robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious.

The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered—a union job, a good affordable education—being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.

David Cameron’s response to the riots is to make this locking-out literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.

At last year’s G-20 “austerity summit” in Toronto, the protests turned into riots and multiple cop cars burned. It was nothing by London 2011 standards, but it was still shocking to us Canadians. The big controversy then was that the government had spent $675 million on summit “security” (yet they still couldn’t seem to put out those fires). At the time, many of us pointed out that the pricey new arsenal that the police had acquired—water cannons, sound cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets—wasn’t just meant for the protesters in the streets. Its long-term use would be to discipline the poor, who in the new era of austerity would have dangerously little to lose.

This is what David Cameron got wrong: you can't cut police budgets at the same time as you cut everything else. Because when you rob people of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect resistance—whether organized protests or spontaneous looting.

And that’s not politics. It’s physics.


"Most of all, it once again exposes the trickery and deceit of those who aspire to be our leaders. Not a single black 'leader' has spoken out in defence of the youths. Not one," Hal Austin writes in the August 9 CounterPunch. Austin is a Barbadian, living in London and a leading journalist and social commentator from the black community."


What the inevitable explosion in the London neighborhood of Tottenham dramatically truly signals and signifies is that the current Western world's attempts to bury alive its black, brown, red, and yellow communities throughout the United States and Europe will not succeed given a massive counter response on the part of its oppressed and exploited citizens. So don't worry 'bout a thing folks 'cause WE'RE NEXT...All praises to the valiant people of Tottenham and all the many other Tottenhams throughout England and the European continent..."What happens to a dream deferred?" Langston Hughes asked not so many decades ago. "Does it sag like a heavy load?/Or Does It Explode?" Well we already know the answer to that one, don't we?--and yes it's gonna happen again right smack dab in the middle of this ever rotting empire --because it has to. The signs are everywhere..."Hey Mr. President are you listening?"...yeah...right...


When Is a "Riot" a Revolt?
Friday 12 August 2011
by Carl Finamore, Truthout | News Analysis

Several days of unprecedented revolt by the most impoverished minority populated neighborhoods of London has shaken the normally staid and reserved British aristocracy. Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his Italian vacation in sunny Tuscany to return to the red-orange glare of a burning city. The prime minister was not the only one inconvenienced.

In an effort to mobilize 16,000 police officers concentrated in London alone, England's soccer-addicted fans saw their August 10 match against the Netherlands in Wembley stadium canceled.

So it appears, this week at least, after years of ignoring glaring inequality and injustice, it is safe to say that all of England took notice of the crowded south London neighborhood of Tottenham and to similar minority communities in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol where an explosive, fiery social consciousness has been rekindled.

Tottenham itself, where events first ignited over the police killing of an unarmed black youth, is a genuinely multi-cultural mix of mostly British-born African-Caribbean along with Turkish, Portuguese, Albanian, Kurdish and Somali peoples reportedly speaking 300 different languages.

It claims to be the most diverse community in all of Europe, but there is no doubt that most share in common the intense poverty and the abuse and neglect by the rich and powerful that is all too familiar.

During this past week, these different languages came together to speak with one voice: look at us; we deserve to be treated fairly.

London's current revolt is quite different than the massive protests in other European capitals and even distinguished from those in the Middle East.

The poor of Tottenham, however, do share much with their brethren in the black and minority communities of North America. Neither have powerful advocates that are independent of the political establishment.

London's Revolt Forecasts America's Future?

Traditional community and labor organizations in both Britain and the United States purporting to represent the working class have utterly failed these communities and allowed both Downing Street and Wall Street to impose their most austere policies on those least represented among us.

"Most of all, it once again exposes the trickery and deceit of those who aspire to be our leaders. Not a single black 'leader' has spoken out in defence of the youths. Not one," Hal Austin writes in the August 9 CounterPunch. Austin is a Barbadian, living in London and a leading journalist and social commentator from the black community.

Cannot the same be said in America where, for example, prominent national voices mobilizing the oppressed communities to demand jobs are noticeably absent?

Of course, the British government peddles a different story about events in Tottenham. Most are echoed by the establishment press.

A typical response came from GlobalPost's London correspondent, Michael Goldfarb, who was quoted on the PBS "NewsHour" web site as derisively dismissing the social problems of Tottenham by commenting that "the tension around [the police killing of the black youth] got out of hand very quickly, but it was clear almost from the beginning that this was plain old looting" by mainly unemployed youth with nothing to do on hot summer nights, he said.

To the extent that this crude and vulgar opinion is shared by many in Britain, it only serves to confirm the truth: Tottenham residents are isolated politically and socially from the rest of British society and particularly from the rest of the working class.

Fundamentally, their isolated existence explains the different form the rebellion took; more akin to a chaotic riot in many people's eyes as opposed to the far-better organized massive upheavals in Madrid, Athens and Cairo that united majority sections of their population and that, thereby, more easily won sympathy and admiration throughout the world.

It is important to recall that these same massive actions ultimately achieved major support from significant and massive social organizations that helped define the powerful and effective character of their protests.

Culpability for the desperate acts in Tottenham is shared by organizations of the working class that have so profoundly failed to embrace these communities and offer them the same shared benefits of organization and same shared status as brothers and sisters.

Their organizational and political inclusion early on, I believe, would have significantly altered and strengthened, how Tottenham residents reacted these last few days.

Divided and Disorganized

Attempts during the era of the triumphant civil rights movement to politically and socially unite the black community in the United States were met with government-inspired assassinations and police terrorism, as documented by revelations contained in the US government's COINTELPRO papers.

As a result, beginning in the 1970s, criminal gangs began replacing FBI-targeted militant organizations like Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Congress of Racial Equality, Southern Leadership Conference, Black Panthers, Young Lords, Brown Berets, and numerous other effective social and political organizations in the communities of the oppressed.

This had a debilitating effect after several decades, and results today in reactions to police brutality and poverty being often marked by scattered individual acts of frustration and anger. Protests are sometimes laced with anti-social behavior previously adopted as survival techniques.

For example, while ostensible political targets such as police cars and offices were burned in both Tottenham and Cairo, their was also, in the former case, the indiscriminate burning of buildings and some personal accounts of victimizations that come from pent-up rage.

There were other examples of criminal activity and even conflicts between gangs in the oppressed community of Tottenham that were also reported. Again, these are a result of decades of disorganization in the oppressed communities.

These are not excuses, neither are they defenses. It is an explanation that contains the answer for its resolution: new organizations must be forged that unite the community around common social goals and aspirations.

The proliferation of criminal gangs and the utter lack of a coherent, credible and socially class-conscious leadership is but another reflection of political and social separation from the majority of working people.

But this reality and the impact it has on distorting the communities' response should not in any way diminish the powerful and profound social nature of the Tottenham revolt, one deserving of our full support.

The 1965 Watt's rebellion in Los Angeles was similarly attacked in its day as a criminal enterprise, but history has now properly recorded it as a true revolt against poverty and discrimination. History will also record Tottenham on this honor roll.

The rich and powerful benefit from divisions and rivalries in the oppressed communities, both in Britain and in the United States. Arguably, these same forces promote criminalization as a way of preventing the kind of social unity that could become a powerful political force.

A politically cohesive and united Tottenham is the frightening specter that certainly haunts the wealthy elite in Britain, even more than the current very dramatic random acts of outrage.

As for their richer cousins in the United States, the wealthy elite here are only too well aware of the smoldering embers of discontent that have been stoked by the same draconian reductions in jobs and social services that have been adopted in Britain.

These issues affect the majority of Americans and, hopefully, we learn from Tottenham that a united response is the best response with no community or section of working people left alone to fend for themselves.

Carl Finamore is Machinist Local 1781 delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

The 2012 Presidential Election and the Rabid Demagoguery of Republican Candidates for the Presidency

Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999)
Legendary Singer/Songwriter

Composition: "If There's Hell Below, We're All Gonna Go" (1970)

Sisters, niggers, whities, Jews, crackers
Don't worry: if there's hell below we're all gonna go!
Blacks and the crackers
Police and their backers
They're all political lepers

Sisters, brothers and the whities
Blacks and the crackers
Police and their backers
They're all political actors

People running from their worries
While the judge and his juries
Dictate the law that's partly flaw
Cat calling, love balling, fussing and cussing
Top billing now is killing
For peace no one is willing
Kind of make you get that feeling...

Educated fools
From uneducated schools
Pimping people is the rule
Polluted water in the pool
And Nixon talking about don't worry, worry, worry, worry
He says don't worry, worry, worry, worry
He says don't worry, worry, worry, worry
He says don't worry, worry, worry, worry

But they don't know
There can be no show
And if there's hell below
We're all gonna go, go, go, go, go

Everybody's praying
And everybody's saying
But when come time to do
Everybody's laying

Just talking about don't worry, worry, worry, worry
They say don't worry, worry, worry, worry
They say don't worry, worry, worry, worry
They say don't worry, worry, worry, worry...


A gaggle of madmen (and women), liars, fools, assholes, jerks, demagogues, thieves, hypocrites, and criminals--That's the GOP for ya. Boys and Girls can you spell E-V-I-L?



Magical Unrealism
August 12, 2011
New York Times

There was nothing particularly surprising about the shrill skirmishing at the ideological edges of Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Iowa. What was shocking were the antics in the center.

In full public view, the party’s mainstream jumped the tracks of reality on issues of spending and taxes, brightly illustrating the ruinous magical thinking that has led to a downgrade of the nation’s credit and invited a double-dip recession. When asked if they would reject a deal to cut the deficit that had 10 times the amount of spending cuts as it had tax increases, the hands of all eight candidates went up. Even a tincture of new revenue, though mixed with huge cuts in government spending, would be too much for the modern Republican Party.

The raised hands included those of Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney, two former governors who have proved that they know better. Mr. Huntsman was the only one on the stage who said he would have accepted last week’s budget deal and the only one to point out that Washington should never even consider defaulting.

Saying as much is already Tea Party heresy, so why not take the next logical step and admit that the nation’s finances are unsustainable in the long term without some tax increases? Even Mr. Huntsman was unwilling to take the slightest risk of offending the rigid and unforgiving Republican Party primary electorate.

Mr. Romney derided the budget deal as “Mr. Obama’s dog food” and said he would not eat it, perhaps hoping the public has already forgotten that it was really the deal demanded by the Congressional leaders of his party. (Speaker John Boehner said last week the deal was “98 percent of what I wanted.” We’d love to know what the remaining 2 percent is.)

Rejecting compromise was not the way Mr. Romney governed. He balanced the Massachusetts budget with new income from $269 million in closed tax loopholes, and $271 million in increased fees. He has claimed unconvincingly that those were not taxes, but it turns out that his administration boasted about them to the bond rating agencies in 2004 and 2005, and his state won an upgrade by demonstrating fiscal prudence. Now he is repudiating that approach at the federal level.

That has been the nature of every Republican debate this cycle: deny the truth or tell an outrageous lie with such bellicosity that no one dares to challenge it.

Representative Michele Bachmann, for example, said the credit downgrade was because the government could not pay its debt. Standard and Poor’s actually said it was because lawmakers like her did not take a default seriously. Representative Ron Paul ridiculously claimed that the United States is bankrupt. Tim Pawlenty said President Obama had no plan to reduce social insurance spending, conveniently forgetting that Mr. Boehner walked away from the president’s overly generous offer to reduce that spending in exchange for revenue increases.

The Republican Party has been led into its current cul-de-sac by manipulative officials who would not tell voters the truth about the government’s finances. It will remain there if even its “moderate” leaders refuse to break the pattern.

He's Not Wearing A White Hood and Robes But He Might As Well Be: Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas Enters the 2012 Presidential Race

Richard Ellis/Getty Images
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas announced his candidacy for president at the RedState Gathering, a meeting of conservative activists, in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday.


Rick Perry is nothing but the Ku Klux Klan + the Tea Party in a suit and therefore a very dangerous and deceptive man. BEWARE! (for real). That he, like the notorious Bushwhacker 2, has been Governor of Texas for the past decade (!) is enough by itself to indicate just how stubbornly backward and violently reactionary the Republican candidate for the Presidency is going to be in 2012. Get ready for the most openly racist, brazenly cruel, and lowdown dirty dog national campaign since the post Reconstruction era of the 1880s and '90s (remember the "black codes"?--well if you don't you will certainly find out exactly what it was--and still is--quick, fast, and in a hurry...Here come the paddyrollers once again and guess who they're looking for? (as usual)...


Promising Better Direction, Perry Enters Race
By Ashley Parker
August 13, 2011
New York Times

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Gov. Rick Perry of Texas announced Saturday that he was running for president, declaring it was “time to get America working again” as he sought to offer the Republican Party a well-rounded candidate who appeals to fiscal conservatives and can also rally the evangelical base.

As many of his fellow candidates flooded Iowa over the weekend to woo voters at the Ames Straw Poll, Mr. Perry headed here to announce that he was seeking the nomination at the RedState Gathering, an annual convention of conservative bloggers.

“I came to South Carolina because I will not sit back and accept the path that America is on, because a great country requires a better direction, because a renewed nation needs a new president,” he said.

“With the support of my family and unwavering belief in the goodness of America, I declare to you today as a candidate for president of the United States.”

And with that, Mr. Perry, 61, whose spectral presence has lingered over the Republican primary contest — he was even the topic of a question at Thursday night’s Republican debate in Iowa — officially became a candidate for the Republican nomination.

Mr. Perry’s entrance into an already crowded field is expected to reconfigure the dynamics of the race, offering Republicans a fiscal and social conservative who not only appeals to the party’s base but can also challenge Mitt Romney, who is leading in many polls, on jobs and the economy.

His announcement reverberated 1,200 miles away in Iowa, where thousands of Republicans gathered to size up the party’s candidates, who delivered speeches and asked for support in the Ames Straw Poll. Though Mr. Perry’s name was not on the ballot, a group called Americans for Rick Perry urged people to list him as a write-in candidate.

In a sea of people wearing green shirts for Tim Pawlenty, orange shirts for Michele Bachmann and red shirts for Ron Paul, dozens of maroon shirts bearing Mr. Perry’s name stood out in the crowd. He is set to travel to Iowa on Sunday, where he intends to spend three days in the state introducing himself to voters who will open the nominating contest early next year.

“He’s an attractive candidate,” Tim Gibson, 59, of Clive, Iowa, said as he stood in line at the straw poll waiting to cast his vote for Mr. Perry. “He brings leadership to the race. My top priority is winning the election, and I want to vote for someone who can win.”

Mr. Perry is the longest-serving governor of Texas, having been elected to three full terms and having held the position for more than 10 years. He is known as a fierce and skilled campaigner, as well as a prodigious fund-raiser. In past campaigns, he has eked out victories and also come from behind to win by large margins. He also seems to have uncanny luck and the ability to recognize and capitalize on it.

“He becomes immediately one of the top three candidates, and he fills a vacuum — of someone who is a conservative, who has credibility and can speak to the fiscal conservative, anti-big-government and anti-Washington crowd, but he’s also a social conservative,” said Matthew Dowd, a former strategist for President George W. Bush. “At least in the short term, he is a major disruption in the race.”

Mr. Perry was heading to New Hampshire on Saturday evening and then to Iowa, but what he does in the coming weeks will be the real test of his candidacy, said Republicans who were waiting to see if he could withstand the scrutiny that comes with a presidential campaign.

“He either gets in and gets through the gantlet of the first month or so and consistently moves forward and wins the nomination, or he’s got this terrific flameout,” Mr. Dowd said. “There’s no middle ground.”

Mr. Romney has positioned himself as the candidate with real-world experience who can turn the economy around and create jobs, and Mr. Perry will compete with him on that front, having ushered in a decade of job growth in Texas. But not everyone is convinced that Mr. Perry’s tenure has been great for Texas.

“He’s cutting services in order to maintain really low tax rates, and so many of the jobs he’s created are these minimum-wage jobs, not these living-wage jobs,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat of Texas. “I think he has, as they would say here in Texas, plenty of ’splaining to do about his positions.”

Mr. Perry, a fifth-generation Texan, grew up in a rural community in Paint Creek, on a tenant farm nestled in the West Texas plains, an area known as the Big Empty. Mr. Perry, an Eagle Scout, told Texas Monthly last year, “There were three things to do in Paint Creek: school, church and Boy Scouts.” His mother, he said, was a good seamstress who still made his underwear when he went off to college at Texas A&M University, from which he graduated in 1972 with a major in animal science.

Mr. Perry, a Methodist who regularly attends an evangelical megachurch near his home and hosted a large “Nation in Crisis” prayer rally this month in Houston, is a natural candidate to appeal to his party’s religious right, as well as to parts of its Tea Party contingent.

In some ways, Mr. Perry embraced Tea Party ideals before the party itself was popular, winning re-election in 2010 — first by beating Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in a primary challenge for governor, and then defeating Bill White, the former mayor of Houston — by positioning himself as an outsider, despite his two terms as governor. He pitted Texas against Washington, and prevailed.

Mr. Perry has walked a fine line on immigration, trying to balance his state’s business interests with calls for hard-line reform and border security, and that may not endear him with some Republicans, especially those aligned with the Tea Party.

In 2001, he signed his state’s version of the Dream Act, a bill that allowed children of illegal immigrants to attend state universities as long as they were working toward citizenship and had graduated from a Texas high school. Yet a decade later, he led the push for a “sanctuary city” bill that would have allowed the police to question people they picked up about their immigration status.

Mr. Perry is Mr. Bush’s direct successor as governor, and with his Texas twang and swagger, he can seem like a caricature of the former president. Voters trying to figure out what they think of Mr. Perry will invariably wrestle with their feelings about Mr. Bush, which, Republicans say, may become a potential liability if he makes it to the general election.

Though Mr. Perry is a disciplined campaigner, he has been known to get carried away when speaking and sometimes finds himself trying to rein in his own statements. In 2009, he dabbled with secession.

“There really was considerable talk down here about all the talk of secession that bubbled up around his gubernatorial campaign,” Mr. Doggett said. “So that when he started talking about running for president, the question was: of which country?”

Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Ames, Iowa.


More on the Klansman Governor from Texas running for President and his neocon/protofascist posse...


Rick Perry's Neocon Friends
by Robert Dreyfuss
August 15, 2011
The Nation

No one seriously believes that Republicans will nominate the wild-eyed, certifiable Michele Bachmann for president, and Romney the Robot isn’t setting Tea Party hearts aflutter. So it looks like Rick Perry, the Bible-thumping, secessionist hawk—who’s already assembling a team of neoconservative advisers—will get the nod to challenge President Obama in 2012.

Were Perry to win, his victory—especially if the GOP, as seems likely, conquers the Senate—will speed the United States down the merry path to oblivion at least a couple of decades before the rise of China and India do anyway. Worryingly, Perry might be exactly the know-nothing hawk who decides to use US military power to forestall America’s inevitable decline by force, even if it leads to World War III. Like Tea Party fanatics who courted financial Armageddon by insisting that reneging on US debt obligations wouldn’t be so bad, Perry’s own Tea Party Pentagon, staffed by neoconservatives, might decide the nuclear Armageddon wouldn’t be so bad, either, as long as it makes the world understand how exceptional American exceptionalism is.

Indeed, as James Lindsey points out [1] for the Council on Foreign Relations, in his screed, Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America from Washington, a book that he allegedly wrote, Perry declares that “exceptional” America has to be prepared for war with China and India:

“We are now confronted with the rise of new economic and military powerhouses in China and India, as well as a Russia that is increasingly aggressive and troublesome to its neighbors and former satellite nations that are struggling to maintain their relatively newfound independence. There is no reason to believe that armed conflict with any major power is imminent, but the world is rapidly changing, and the United States must be prepared for the ramifications of shifting balances of power.”

And Perry adds, concerning the “reset” in relations with Russia:

“It was a slap in the face to a number of our allies. As a Wall Street Journal article put it, ‘Some prominent figures in the region, such as former Polish President Lech Walesa, worried the new US administration was turning away from its traditional allies in Central Europe to placate Russia’.… Surely we can’t be serious?”

In his speech proclaiming his candidacy, in which he said elegantly that “we don’t need a president who apologizes for America,” and he added: “What I learned in my 20’s traveling the globe as an Air Force pilot, our current president has yet to acknowledge in his 50s—that we are the most exceptional nation on the face of the earth.”

No surprise, of course, that Perry is consorting with left-over neocons [2] from the Bush administration, as National Review reported in July, such as Douglas Feith, the ¨uber-hawk who oversaw the war in Iraq, and Bill Luti, Feith’s compatriot in the Bush White House, who joined with Vice President Cheney to persuade Bush that an unprovoked attack on Iraq was the right thing to do, and Dan Blumenthal, another Bush veteran who’s taken up residence at the American Enterprise Institute. Though the Tea Party types who support nut-libertarian Ron Paul oppose wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan and want to reduce the size of the Pentagon, Perry appeals to the other side of the Tea Party and to traditional Republican hawks who oppose the libertarians’ outright isolationism. Indeed, a source close to Perry told National Review [3] that Perry does not exhibit “the neo-isolationism that you might expect from certain people [close to] the Tea Party.” (According to Politico, Donald Rumseld is setting up Perry’s encounters [4] with the neocons.)

Like this blog post? Read it on The Nation’s free iPhone App, NationNow. [5]

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The Emerging Conflict Between the Neoliberal Policies of President Obama and the Progressive Reform Agenda of His Democratic Party Base

Supporters congratulate Barack Obama at his 50th birthday party: Standard and Poor's later delivered a very unwelcome present. Photograph: Scott Olson/EPA

Why the liberal base has so little leverage with Obama

The outcry from progressive voices over his debt ceiling posture is loud, but Obama is betting it won't last


Progressive elite disgruntlement with the administration of Barack Obama has been aired so many times during the last year that it is sometimes difficult to remember how deep and wide it has become. Like lights blinking off in house after house late at night, the number of liberal opinion-leaders willing to offer robust support for Obama’s policies and political strategy and tactics has steadily dwindled to the point where it appears as an occasional dull glimmer on the cable news shows and in the op-ed pages and the blogosphere. But up until now, signs of any rank-and-file liberal Democratic "base" revolt against Obama have been few and far between. Perhaps that’s why a poll from CNN last week publicized as showing that liberals were the main source of his latest drop in approval ratings got more attention than a random survey normally captures.

There has certainly been a persistent and growing gap between elite and non-elite progressive attitudes towards the 44th president and his administration. Liberal elite defections from the Obama camp started early and have spread steadily.

First off the grid were those angered by TARP and the coddling of miscreant CEOs and other elements of the financial community. They were quickly followed by civil libertarians upset by the failure to reverse Bush policies on surveillance and treatment of terrorist suspects; foreign policy doves alleging broken promises on Iraq and Afghanistan; and economists pining for mega-stimulus. The health reform debate produced another cohort of progressive dissenters baffled by the administration’s successive concessions to private health industry lobbies and Blue Dogs, while many environmentalists denounced a watered-down climate change bill before that entire effort was abandoned. In the months since the appalling 2010 midterm elections, progressives have largely deplored the president’s “cave” on expiration of the Bush tax cuts and, with ever-greater intensity, his advocacy of deficit reduction and “entitlement reform” as paramount national priorities.

Suffusing all these sources of discontent on the left has been a growing impatience with Obama’s steady commitment to bipartisanship in the face of Republican disrespect and obstruction; frustration over his apparent inability to articulate progressive values and goals in a way that mobilizes public opinion and gives hope to down-ballot Democrats; and contempt for suspected incompetence in such quotidian matters as executive and judicial appointments. To say that liberal elites are "disappointed" with Obama is a great understatement; terms of moral opprobrium such as "betrayal" and "sellout" are now routinely tossed at the White House.

But so far, this profound unhappiness has failed to translate into any tangible intramural challenge to the administration, in a way that defies all precedent. During his first term Bill Clinton faced regular revolts from congressional Democrats, losing a majority of House Democrats on NAFTA, GATT and welfare reform. Despite threats over the healthcare public option, Afghanistan funding, and most recently, administration offers to "reform" Medicare and Social Security, congressional Democrats have yet to bolt from Obama on any major legislation. LBJ and Carter attracted powerful left-bent primary challenges. Not so Obama, beyond vain fantasizing among the chattering classes.

A big part of the paper-tiger nature of progressive protests against Obama’s policies and politics has been the absence of any mass base for a serious revolt. Until such time as Democratic (or Democratic-leaning independent) liberal voters begin to share elite anger toward the incumbent, then all the thundering from thinkers and writers on the left (or even from staunch Progressive Caucus members in Congress) represents little more than a standing invitation to be "triangulated" by a White House seeking swing voter approbation.

And that’s why the headline accompanying the new CNN poll -- "Drop in liberal support pushes Obama approval rating down" -- is arousing fresh hopes of the left finally obtaining some political leverage over the administration at a critical moment in the budget/debt limit brouhaha.

But they are probably false hopes.

First of all, CNN’s numbers don’t quite back up the hype. The results note that Obama’s approval rating among self-described liberals is "only" 71 percent, "the lowest point of his presidency." CNN doesn’t provide a trend line for liberal approval ratings of Obama’s job performance, but Gallup’s latest weekly tracking poll has him at 75 percent among liberals, five points higher than in mid-May and six points higher than in early December of 2010. Among "liberal Democrats," probably a more reliable subcategory for capturing the sentiments of normally progressive voters, Gallup has Obama’s approval rating at 85 percent, roughly where it’s been on average throughout 2011. CNN also shows Obama’s approval rating among Democrats at "only" 80 percent, and his"renominate" number among Democrats at 77 percent, "relatively robust by historical standards but also down a bit since June." (The "historical standard" CNN supplies is a 1994 post-election poll showing Bill Clinton’s "renominate" number at 57 percent, which is indeed less robust than Obama’s). Finally, CNN’s latest survey shows that fully 13 percent of the electorate disapproves of Obama’s job performance on grounds that he is "not liberal enough," up from nine percent in a spring survey. But other survey findings (an all-time high percentage saying Obama’s not cooperating enough with congressional Republicans, and an all-time low approval rating for the direction offered by congressional Democratic leaders) call into question the idea that Obama’s in trouble because liberals are revolting against Obama for excessive cooperation with Republicans to gut Social Security and Medicare.

But the more important cautionary note to mention is that approval ratings are absolute, not comparative. Everything we know about Obama’s reelection strategy indicates that he hopes to make this a comparative rather than a "referendum" election, as he must unless economic conditions improve more than they are expected to prior to November 2012, or there is some incumbent-strengthening national security crisis. This strategy might fail, as it did for Jimmy Carter in 1980, or it might succeed, as it (arguably) did for Harry Truman in 1948 and for semi-incumbent George H.W. Bush in 1988. A Republican Party that is on a remarkable ideological bender is certainly doing everything possible to cooperate. But if a "comparative" strategy works at all, it will work most effectively with liberals, who are more acutely aware of the stakes for everything they care about -- from the survival of anything like a social safety net to the maintenance of constitutional guarantees on urgent priorities like abortion rights -- in an election that could give return Washington to united Republican control. Liberal voters are precisely the least likely Democratic-leaning segment of the electorate to sit on their hands in 2012, no matter how they feel about Obama.

And that reality, I suspect, is contributing significantly to the anger and despair expressed by progressive elites about Obama. They may now regret his nomination in 2008, or even (on strategic grounds) his election. But they know in their hearts they will be voting for him in 2012, and for the most part, speaking out for his re-election. Next time there is an open Democratic presidential nomination contest, the organized left will be almost certain to make far greater ideological demands on candidates, and make a far less speculative choice of a favorite, than it did in 2008. In the meantime, liberals will mostly have to bury a sense of cold fury that they have been "had" by a politician who in the course of less than three years has devolved from being the left’s great hope for a "transformative" presidency to a heresiarch over whom the Left has virtually no leverage.

Ed Kilgore is the managing editor of The Democratic Strategist, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, and an online columnist for The New Republic.

Barack Obama under fire as blame game follows US credit downgrade
by Paul Harris in Chicago
August 6, 2011

Left and right turn on president, raising questions over his chances of winning the White House again

Outside the Aragon ballroom in the north Chicago neighbourhood of Uptown, little sign remained of the president's 50th birthday party. The night before, 2,000 well-wishers had crammed inside the beautiful old building to mark Barack Obama's half-century. They had partied and danced as R&B singer Jennifer Hudson crooned "Happy Birthday".

But now, only one forlorn birthday banner still hung from a local bar. The party was truly over. As unwelcome late birthday presents go, the dramatic downgrading of America's debt rating by Standard & Poor's was hard to beat. The shock news sent reverberations through US politics, triggered an ugly blame game and plunged the economy into a fresh crisis that looks set to reverberate all the way to next year's presidential election.

On the streets of Uptown the mood was bleak. "The entire political culture has just stopped working. It feels like it is broken," said local IT worker Christian Lindemer, 30, as he strolled by the now empty Aragon.

His critics might say the same of the Obama White House. It has certainly become a place under siege. On the right it faces implacable foes in the shape of an ultra-conservative Republican party that has danced nimbly around Obama's efforts to work with it. Tea Party defenders shrug off the idea that its extremism helped to cause Standard & Poor's action and put the blame for the downgrade firmly on Obama's shoulders. "President Obama is destroying the foundations of our economy one beam at a time," said Tea Party-backed presidential candidate Michele Bachmann as the news broke.

On the left, meanwhile, Obama faces a liberal base depressed by what it sees as the president's continual concessions to Republicans. It blames the Tea Party's intransigence over the debt ceiling for the political deadlock that led to the downgrade. Republicans were "antediluvian" wrote online Slate magazine columnist Jacob Weisberg. Even vice-president Joe Biden, in private meetings with Democrat leaders, has reportedly said they "acted like terrorists" .

But now Obama's biggest enemy of all lies outside politics: it is the economy itself. The historic Standard & Poor's downgrade came after a week of terrifying market swings and amid the promise of vicious cuts to America's already shaky welfare state. It is now clear that the US economy is terribly sick. It is failing to create jobs and might double-dip back into recession. The stock market is tumbling. No wonder that Obama's birthday celebrations were so brief. He flew in and out of Chicago on the same day. Yet perhaps he got a little lift from being in a town where sympathy for its favourite political son remains relatively strong. "He's trying his best. Or at least I think he is," said Lindemer.

But in the wider landscape of American politics there is no denying the anger among some leading lights of the left at Obama, which the debt downgrade will only sharpen. After all, last week's debt deal – so hated by liberals – was meant to avoid precisely such a fiasco.

After having initially promised tax rises for the rich to go alongside deep spending cuts, Obama ended up signing a debt agreement with Republicans that contained no new revenues. Not a single cent would come from America's wealthiest people while a burden of hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts would be borne by some of the poorest.

It was billed as tough but necessary medicine in order to raise the debt ceiling and stave off disaster. But, having swallowed the pill, America got downgraded anyway and the markets still fell. It seemed Obama had given away everything for nothing. For people such as documentary-maker and activist Robert Greenwald there were only a few apt words to describe Obama's deal.

"I'm disgusted," he said "I think the day it was signed was a sad day: economically, morally and politically."

Yet the debt deal is now just one liberal complaint among many. Leftist Democrats decry the influence of the banking sector among Obama's economic staffers. They bemoan the toothlessness of his financial reforms. His promise to shut Guantánamo Bay remains unfulfilled. He preserved huge tax breaks for the wealthy. He has upped the war in Afghanistan and not delivered on climate change and immigration reform.

Obama looks like a somewhat downgraded president. He has become the butt of late-night comedians on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, where he is portrayed as naïve and weak.

Even some of Obama's once staunchest supporters have pulled no punches. Princeton professor Cornell West, a leading black intellectual, recently described Obama as "... a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs". He did not shy away from that incendiary opinion last week, telling a black media conference in Philadelphia: "I'm an angry brother. Barack Obama is not angry ... He's a different kind of brother."

There is huge envy among some progressives about the role of the Tea Party on the right. Even as they decry its aims they look longingly at its ability to influence politics. One progressive organisation, the Campaign for America's Future, is organising a conference in Washington in October aimed at founding such a movement on the left. "We have to be an ideological force that is as energetic as the Tea Party and pushes the Democrats to be more bold," co-director Roger Hickey told the Observer. Neither is CAF waiting until October to start action. This week , along with, another liberal activist group, it will hold rallies outside scores of politicians' offices.

But in some quarters, support for Obama remains strong. Bronzeville is a small neighbourhood on Chicago's South Side. It has a rich history and in the earlier half of the last century was known as "the black metropolis". It was the epitome of black pride in Chicago, thriving with black-owned businesses, homes and a rich cultural life. Those days have gone, replaced with the tough times of the modern urban black American experience. But support for Obama is high here. "I believe he has done a magnificent job. People forget what was left after [George W] Bush. They forget the state he found the country in," said plumber Terry Jones, 49. "I wish him a happy birthday and congratulate him on a job well done."

The same is true in nearby Hyde Park, a wealthy liberal enclave where the Obamas have their family home. On these leafy streets, lined by mansions and expensively maintained lawns, many people believe Obama still epitomises what is right about American politics. They see him as the "adult in the room", standing above the fights between Democrats and Republicans. "He's trying to do a good job. I like that he wants to negotiate with people on the other side," said graduate student Anne Rebull, 29.

That sentiment chimes with Obama's own aides' ideas about how best to win the election of 2012. They believe that fight will take place in the centre ground of American politics and staking out that territory is worth the sacrifices around protecting social security and benefits for the elderly and the ill. It assumes the extremism of the Republican party will put off independents, while progressives will have no choice but Obama.

"Liberals are unhappy, but the Republicans will scare them into coming out for Obama," said Larry Haas, a political commentator and former aide in the Clinton White House. Even Hickey admits there are no plans to run a liberal primary challenge to Obama: "Nobody is talking about a challenger. We are all terrified of an ultra-conservative Republican taking over government."

But the downgrade is a rude wake-up call. When Obama took office he won much praise for staving off a second Depression by huge stimulus spending in the first months of his presidency. Standard & Poor's has single-handedly made that look a little less impressive. Though the White House and Treasury have pushed back against the agency, pointing out a major maths error in its initial sums, the downgrade made clear what millions of Americans already understood: the state of the economy seems to be worsening again. The jobless rate is still above 9% and that headline fails to account for millions unemployed for so long they have stopped looking for work and dropped out of the official count.

Obama is set to embark on a bus tour of America's heartland, where he will attempt to put jobs at the centre of his political message. But it might not be enough. Even on the streets of Bronzeville there was an understanding that economic times were now very hard, no matter how much one supported the current occupant of the White House. Jones admitted that the collapse of the housing market meant plumbing jobs were few and far between: "Nobody needs a plumber these days. It's slow. I have had to cut back, tighten my belt."

What is true for Jones is true for wider America. As the nation tightens its belt and faces more stock market falls, a second round of recession and massive spending cuts, the chances of an Obama second term also begin to narrow.

• This article was amended on 9 August 2011 to remove a quote from New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

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