Why Liberals Are Lame: McCarthyite Identity Politics as Cover for Bankrupt Policies

The latest desperate strategy of Obama’s spin-meisters highlights the rot at the core of the Democratic party: the heavy handed use of identity politics as a cover for neoliberal policies that betray the very groups the party purports to represent.

As Obama’s poll ratings continue to deteriorate, Melissa Harris-Perry, professor of political science at Tulane, argued that the reason white liberals were abandoning him was racism. (Earth to Obama: trying to make your base feel guilty, particularly when YOU are the one who ought to feel guilty, is not going to do you any good).

She doesn’t even bother to make a real argument. She starts by citing some studies on voter bias which have no connection to Obama’s situation, and with a straight face tries to fob off this astonishing thesis:

I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation. His record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected.

Oh, come on. You call yourself a political scientist? When Clinton got in big time trouble in the polls, he took aggressive corrective action, firing staffers (including Hillary as co-president), changed many of his policies, and became fixated on job creation. The economy was beginning to boom in 1996 when he was up for reelection. Whether you attribute that to dumb luck of how Presidential elections mapped against economic cycles versus sound policy moves, Clinton faced voters when most had reason to think their personal prospects were on the rise.

By contrast, as Obama’s economic policies have failed to pull the economy out of its crisis-induced deep malaise, he has done nothing different save get more pissy and double down on his failed strategy of selling out the middle class. His recent, and no doubt desperation-induced effort to rekindle the support of his badly abused base via gestures like a millioniares’ tax, are likely to go the way of past promises of change: they will be watered down to thin gruel so as not to ruffle his moneyed backers. It is remarakbly disingenuous for Harris-Perry to contend that dissatisfaction with Obama results from racism, as opposed to (among other things) ineffective policy responses to substantial and widespread economic stress.

Although this article is not worth taking seriously on its (de)merits, it has nevertheless created a bit of a firestorm, proving that the scurrilous use of the race card is an attention-getter. A good drive-by kneecapping comes from Corey Robin:

[I]it occurred to me that there are five facts that Harris-Perry needs to establish that she nowhere establishes. I’d be satisfied if she could establish at least some of them, but she doesn’t establish any of them. These are the facts that need to be established:

1. White liberals are significantly less supportive of Obama than they used to be.
2. The drop in white liberal support for Obama at this point is significantly greater than it was for Clinton at a comparable point (or frankly at any point) prior to his reelection.
3. The drop in white liberal support for Obama is significantly greater than the drop in black or Latino liberal support for Obama.
4. The differential among liberals between white and black or Latino support for Obama is significantly larger than the differential, if it existed, between white and black or Latino support for Clinton.
5. That larger differential, if it exists, is a reflection of declining white support for Obama rather than increasing or persistent black or Latino support for Obama.

Again, I’m not asking that she establish all of these facts, but having failed to establish any of them, it’s hard to see whether or not there’s even a problem here that needs to be analyzed.

Jon Walker at FireDogLake gives a very good treatment of Robin’s point 3, which is everyone is unhappy with Obama. His poll numbers are flagging in every demographic. It might behoove Harris-Perry to explain why the Black Agenda Report has been a critic of Obama since 2007, or why Cornel West and Tavis Smiley have moved into open opposition more recently. Under increasing attack, Harris-Perry then issued an unsatifactory rebuttal, in which she argued that it difficult to prove the intent behind discriminatory behaviors. But she never established that any such behavior exists.

Noted political analyst Andy Borowitz offers this assessment:

According to a new poll of likely Democratic voters, if a primary contest were held today between the Barack Obama who ran for President in 2008 and the current Obama, the Old Obama would beat the New Obama by a margin of three to one.

While the numbers reflect the enduring popularity of the 2008 Obama, they spell big trouble for the 2011 Obama, who is seeking reelection in 2012.

Most troubling for the President, a significant number of voters — nearly twenty-five percent — no longer believe that the 2008 Obama and the current Obama are the same person.

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney attempted to silence the skepticism of the so-called “Differenters,” the growing movement of people who believe that the 2008 Obama and the current one are two completely different men.

“The President has said that he is willing to submit to a DNA test and he will be releasing a Certificate of Authenticity later this week,” Mr. Carney said. “Beyond that, we’re just going to have to take his word for it.”

If anything, the fact that it took his diehards this long to figure out the Obama bait and switch is a proof of white liberal guilt, not bias.

But let’s back up. Why was Harris-Perry’s obviously ridiculous assertion even allowed to see the light of day? The Nation included it in their print edition. Just because someone is one of your regular writers does not mean you give them a free pass when they submit junk.

The left is obsessed with what ought to be peripheral concerns, namely, political correctness and Puritanical moralizing, because it is actually deeply divided on the things that matter, namely money and the role of the state. The Democrats have been so deeply penetrated by the neoliberal/Robert Rubin/Hamilton Project types that they aren’t that different from the right on economic issues. Both want little regulation of banking and open trade and international capital flows. Both want to “reform” Medicare and Social Security. Both are leery of a welfare state, the Republicans openly so, the Rubinite Dems with all sorts of handwringing and clever schemes to incentivize private companies that generally subsidize what they would have done regardless (note that Americans have had a mixed record in providing good social safety nets, but a big reason is our American exceptionalism means we refuse to copy successful models from abroad).

The powerful influence of moneyed interests on the Democratic party has achieved the fondest aims of the right wing extremists of the 1970s: the party of FDR is now lukewarm at best in its support of the New Deal. Most Democrats are embarrassed to be in the same room with union types. They are often afraid to say that government can play a positive role. They were loath to discuss the costs of income inequality until it became so far advanced that it is now well nigh impossible to reverse it. After all, that sort of discussion might sound like class warfare, and God forbid anyone on the mainstream left risk sound like Marx.

The right has no such need to paper over yawning gaps in policy priorities. Its cohesiveness came out of a civil war between the Reagan Right and the old Rockefeller/Javits Republicans. Once the Republican Mensheviks were turfed out, it was possible to present a reasonably unified front and manage tensions. The right pretends to stand for as little government/taxes as possible, save for the military. In reality, it likes a government apparatus just fine so long as it transfers income and wealth to the top and there is not much dissent on the nature of the nominal game v. the real game.

So the Democratic party (and remember, our two party system makes the Democrats the home by default for the left) pretends to be a safe haven for all sorts of out groups: women, gays, Hispanics (on their way to being the dominant group but not there yet), blacks, the poor. But this is stands in stark contradiction to its policies of selling out the middle class to banks and big corporate interests, just on a slower and stealthier basis than the right. So its desperate need to maintain its increasingly phony “be nice to the rainbow coalition” branding places a huge premium on appearances. It thus uses identity politics as a cover for policy betrayals. It can motivate various groups on narrow, specific issues, opening the way for the moneyed faction to get what it wants.

It took most people far too long to get that Obama was a phony because the presumption that a black man would be sympathetic to the fate of the downtrodden is a deeply embedded but never voiced prejudice (and this bias is exploited successfully by the right in depicting Obama as a socialist). Other elements of traditional Democratic associations played into the Obama positioning: his Administration is chock full of technocratic Harvard wonks, and the last time an Administration was so dominated by technocrats was under Kennedy, the last Democratic Administration to have a strongly positive (indeed romanticized) image. (Yes, the Clintons also liked fancy resume types, but they also placed a very high premium on loyalty, and with the result that long-standing supporters often wound up in surprisingly senior roles).

These traditional iconic symbols of liberalism – secular urban elitism, blackness, technocratic skill, micro-issue identity based political organizing groups – have been fully subverted in the service of banking interests. Obama is the ultimate, but not the only, piece of evidence that these symbols are now used simply to con the Democratic base out of their support and money. The task of moving forward will require rebuilding the symbolic vocabulary of the defenders of the middle class. It will probably also require a similar intellectual civil war within the left, against people like Melissa Harris-Perry. Those engaged in that effort need to become skilled in dealing with these liberal McCarthyite identity smears.

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  1. Deb Schultz

    What I find most wrong-headed about MHP’s attack on white liberals is that she clearly is a die-hard Obama supporter. Does she think that this attack on liberals and white Obama voters will be helpful in the upcoming campaign? You must be very politically naive not to realize that such an essay will be fodder for the Limbaughs and Hannitys for months to come. When the Republican candidate says something apparently or potentially discriminatory or condescending toward minorities, any criticism from the Democrats and the left will be countered by the fury aroused by this essay to show that white liberal lefties are hypocrites.

    I think a better response to this sort of argument is to shrug and say okay, call me racist. So I voted for Obama and part of me did indeed hope that his minority status would give him more powerful stature when/if he chose to speak for those who have historically been unempowered and suffered subtle and not so subtle endemic societal barriers to advancement and economic security. I was wrong to stereotype in this way, just as many of those who voted for Bush in the hopes that he would actually prove to be a regular straight-talkin’ Joe who would stand up against the Eastern elites and the liberal media and help out the middle class etc etc were wrong. It would be better for the body politic if we all did not make that sort of mistake anymore, including Melissa Harris-Perry, who stereotypes white liberals.

    1. lambert strether

      Obama’s rump Ds care only about retaining their positions, as the Iron Law of Institutions would predict. Yves rightly calls for an “intellectual civil war within the left,” but and those of us who were thrown out of the D party in 2008, most of us after being smeared as racists by camp followers like MHB, have been fighting that war for some time, and with some success, I might add: D service providers like MHB are playing the racist card early because it’s all they’ve got.

      In 2008, Obama couldn’t run on his resume. Hence he smeared his opponents as racist. In 2012, Obama can’t run on his record. Hence, he smears his opponents as racist. Rot at the core of an institution that’s going the way of the Whigs.

      1. Peter T

        Obama can’t run successfully while his campaign is accusing others as racist, and he knows that – he has been careful to avoid the image of an angry black man. At the same time, he is probably fully aware that no Democrat can challenge him successfully due to his skin color, every Democrat would need the African-American voting block to have a chance. Let’s accuse Obama of what he is guilty of, not other stuff – I think Yves as made a good point that Obama doesn’t deserve to be reelected.

    2. jake chase

      Yves, this is the best thing you have written in recent memory.

      Clearly, the color BHO cares about most passionately is green. Expect to see him running a foundation established by his banker pals or his Chicago developer pals when his smoke blowing days are over. He was always an empty suit and only those not paying attention to the beginnings of his meteoric ascendancy were fooled.

    3. sgt_doom

      Glen Ford (a real activist and real liberal) over at BAR, blackagendareport.com, said it best:

      “Any Obama plan is the wrong plan.”

      The fact of the matter that anyone with two neurons to rub together, with this academic obviously doesn’t possess, fully comprehends that Obama is no liberal.

      Anyone who can read, was either aware, or has by this time read Matt Taibbi’s article on “Obama’s Wall Street Sellout” — detailing what self-aware people know, that Obama has a one hundred percent neocon, Wall Street lobbyist, pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, and insurance company lobbyist administration.

      And furthermore, there has been zero qualitative change in administrations since Carter: the same people in Reagan’s administration, the same names reappearing in Bush #1, Clinton, Bush #2 and now Obama’s administration.

      This pseudo-academic, Melissa Harris-Perry, is no authentic liberal or dem (how could she possibly be, with Obama’s extending and expanding the Bush neocon policies, continuing those “preemptive arrests” of activists, then arresting those activists protesting the previous arrests, ignoring the federal law repeatedly, and definitely in the case of Bradley Manning, who was long ago supposed to have had a speedy courts-martial, and too many other numerous transgressions to comment on today (does Obama know any frigging thing about the LAW, for chrissakes???), and she is certainly another fraudster.

      1. york

        Obama has a good grasp of the law, so the “stupid” defense that Bush pulled won’t fly as well.

        Not that any former American president has ever been tried for anything, much less war crimes.

        1. chris

          Just because he went to law school does not mean he has a good handle on the law. Just as graduating from Harvard doesn’t guarantee the graduate is intelligent.

          1. miguel

            He didn’t just graduate from Law School. He was editor of the Harvard Law Review, the most prestigous law review in the country, and then went on to become a professor of law at the University of Chicago, a top ranked law school. He actually taught the laws he violated.

    4. Jonas the Bold

      The violins fiddle while the listing ship swallows its lethal dose of seawater.

      This is from the party that gave America it’s last contribution to post-war politics: what does “is” really mean?

      Please. Don’t insult your readers intelligence.

    5. ug123

      It’s funny how she assumes “racial preference” is a huge factor when trying to explain the volatile swings in his approval ratings when the unemployment rate now is clearly higher than it was during Clinton’s era. Not only that; China (and the emerging markets) has never before been this economically powerful, and this is creating an inferiority complex amongst our leaders, which is then passed on to our citizens.

        1. compass rose

          I’m an old Rust Belt punk who was a charter member of Michael Harrington’s Democratic Socialists of America…but I think sort of the opposite:

          If Obama had been a sort of TR or La Follette Republican, I could have supported him….maybe (if he were pro gun and pro abortion).

          You know, a Republican like my grandfather and dad, rather than like the slavering fundie coots of the Rovian MSM era. (Fundamentalist ranting rabies which has now also infected the Democrats.)

          But that whole rockstar thing that he was appointed the Gunga Din for–carrying the water of the globalizer/speculative corporate “philanthropic”/”non profit” Democratic elite and their fulminations–was just sickening. And insulting. No skin off my ass. I was always an independent.

          Then again us old Rust Belt punks aren’t as exercised about Depression 2.0 as a lot of other people seem to be. We’re old hands at it by now. We went through it all in the 1960s and 1970s, while the rest of America turned to Reagan and the brave new world of Greenspanomics. A lot of people are facting today where we were back then. To me, any day that a toxic waste dump fire isn’t breaking out within a mile of my house is a day of miracles.

    1. bmeisen

      From the progressive side, in 2008 there was only one reason to vote for Obama. He had come out clearly to the right of Clinton and Edwards. His positions were all watered down Teddy Kennedy which virtually excluded him from consideration. The only non-negative reason was becasue he was black.

      In case you were wondering, the color of a person’s skin is not a reason to vote for him or her.

      Except maybe in America where Christie will likely win because his obesity is cute.

      1. neo-realist

        Other reasons to vote for Obama: The most left candidate in the primary, John Edwards had been marginalized in the media and not treated as a realistic possibility for the presidency, which is what can happen when you forcefully speak out against corporate greed. I also believe that right wing smears against Hillary during the Clinton presidency potentially made her less electable in the purple states in a presidential campaign than Obama; Furthermore, Obama grew the base, at least temporarily, with large youth support which enhanced his electability in spite of race.

        Some of us didn’t love Obama, we just didn’t want the country crushed by another republican president and wanted the most electable.

        1. bmeisen

          There was also a double negative reason for voting for him: he didn’t vote to authorize Bush to pursue a war of agression, the type of war prosecution for which several Nazis were hung (see Yves’ link today to the interview with Chomsky). It wasn’t the Clinton association that ruined Hilary’s chances – it was her vote.

          Soft critics of the 2-party system see themselves as realists who acknowledge the futility of voting for 3rd party candidates, alternatively who recognize the mortal danger involved in doing so.

          As a hard critic I ask, how much longer do you intend to choose the easier softer way.

          1. catlady

            gee, the fact that he didn’t vote for the war wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that he wasn’t in the senate until 2004, long after the war had started, would it? that famed 2002 anti-war speech he made in chicago was unrecorded, they had to make a fake one, to show his anti-war position. so how well did that work out? any abatement in war?

          2. gmanedit

            “It wasn’t the Clinton association that ruined Hilary’s chances – it was her vote.”

            Hillary got more primary votes than Obama. It was the May 31 RBC theft of her delegates and the aborted roll call in Denver that ruined her chances. The fix was in.

        2. montanamaven

          The Obama campaign in Iowa played the caucus game very successfully. I was there. There were a lot of big boots on the ground there. I was shocked at how loud and strong they were everywhere you went. It didn’t work for Dean in 2004 to have loud and strong because the young in orange hats scared the locals. (I was there too having worked for Edwards in my first every election campaign). So Axelrod learned to have the outside campaign workers look like Iowans. And there were lots of “former Republicans” working for Obama that I met. It was a very strange place, Iowa 2008. Nobody yet has written about it and I didn’t keep notes.

        3. Ganryu

          I think Mr Edwards being a cheating slimeball did him in faster than anything else. For being a smart lawyer, he sure was stupid on that.

          1. york

            It’s really funny how Gary Hart and Edwards were just thrown out of consideration because an affair of theirs was discovered. Voters ended up cutting off their noses to spite their face, and they still don’t regret it.

          2. neo-realist

            But the slime ball behavior didn’t come out till after his candidacy ended. It was his preaching against corporate plunder that caused the plutocrats to tune him out via corporate media coverage to make him look like a unrealistic choice for the presidency.

          3. montanamaven

            It has fascinated me how the people that take an anti Wall Street/corporate greed stance are “exposed” while someone like a Bill Clinton can make it through. Presidential candidates have always had affairs, mistresses, etc. So why do some make it and others don’t? Why is Puritanical finger wagging appear more on the left than the right? I assume the powers that be have something on everybody and strategically use that info when it suits them. That’s why I would like to declare a moratorium on all those potential white knights like Spitzer, etc who have “transgressed”. But then again, we don’t need any of them if we reject electoral politics for more direct democracy such as is taking place with Occupy Wall Street.

        4. tdraicer

          Actually Hillary ran to the left of Obama (not that that is saying all that much) as her voters and Paul Krugman (almost alone among the MSM) noted.

      2. Jane Doe

        Clinton and Obama had the exact same policies. One of the thing that really gets my goat is when someone types with no sense of how much they are captured by the Democratic identity politics that one pol is better than another pol. To me, anyone still thinking there is any Democratic pol in DC today who is better than any of the rest of the lot really fails to understand the problem. They are all bad. Just like the GOP.

          1. JTFaraday

            LOL! I watched the D-Party primaries very carefully in 2008.

            The way it worked was, Edwards would come up with some nice liberal sounding idea out of his “Two Americas” campaign.

            Hillary would triangulate it a tad to make it (momentarily) palatable to the (neo)liberal pundit class.

            Obama: “Me too.”

            It was a very eloquent “me too,” but that about sums it up.

            Voila! Winning D-Party platform.

          2. Jane Doe

            I supported Edwards, which in hindsight was a mistake because he was a part of the Democratic machine. A guy like that does not get as far as he did without being a lying, and I should have realized that,but on the policies he at least made sense.

            Clinton and Obama supporters went back and forth during the primary claiming each other was worse, but when I looked at the policies, which unlike the person above I don’t attribute to them individually, it was clear they were neoliberals.

            Obama’s policies sound like Clinton. The reason why is not because Obama was aping Clinton. It was because they are both neoliberals. The only people who are delusional, and who engage in cognitive dissonance about our choices this point, are those who can’t handle the reality. We were given heads, a neoliberal wins, or tails, a neoliberal wins, but because they said Democrat v Republican or Obama v. Clinton, we thought we were voting for differences.

            All these arguments I am having with Obama supporters are the arguments I had with Clinton supporters. The exact same shit. The only difference is that Clinton-bots can still pretend Clinton would have been better. Here’s a clue: Obama picked the same people that would have likely have been Clinton’s staff. Bill Clinton’s policies involved deregulating Wall Street, which along with Bush’s policies, lead to 2008.

            At some point people will either deal with the reality or not, but I am no longer interested in pretending Coke is really all that different from Pepsi.

        1. SidFinster

          IIRC, the 2008 Democratic primary campaign was basically a battle between identity groups.

          Particularly amusing was watching Hillary Rodham morph into a “blue-collar populist,” meaning she was aggressively courting the support of blue-collar whites, mostly by not being black.

          This was rich, considering that the same blue collar whites probably hated Hillary more than any other person in the land during her husband’s first term.

          While the 24-hour news cycle breathlessly talked up the battle between Rodham and Obama, I could not find much serious difference between the two, especially outside of campaign rhetoric.

    1. york

      How dare you suggest she has tried to use reverse racism to try to further her career! It’s only because you can’t get past your own racial bias that you say this. If she were a white person playing the black race card, you wouldn’t even mention it.

      1. Jane Doe

        Its not reverse racism. That’s what white conservatives say to each other. What it is is something that actually has something to do with racism. There are black professional or those who involve themselves in racial issues (regardless of race who come to be the “experts” on the subject, and therefore, they fight to protect that territory no matter what. You can see that kind of thing in academia, where I am sure she is very well known because the turf is often involving very few positions for black academics. So, in order to please whites, they develop this space as being the go-to expert. Even if its absurd, it is reinforced because of a very racist race- you can’t have too many black professionals around or else the quality of the organization is thought to be of less quality than without them. Unfortunately, this also breeds the idea that everything is about this. That when looking at obama that this is the calculus that everyone is using because that’s what they see in their professional lives. I know this because I bother to talk to black professionals who in the academic arena.

  2. kkmmmmkay

    i hate obama because hes black. hes a race traitor, neglecting his own people in the us to bail out rich white dudes, and starting a war in africa that has resulted in –not stopped– ethnic cleansing against blacks. he was supposed to know what it meant to be on the receivingo end of white power. thats why when i look at his chocolate face i want to puke.

    i remember a girl weeping when he gave his acceptance speech. bring cynical i just sat and stared. everyone thought it meant something to elect a black man. it meant nothing. obama is a world class disappointment. nobel peace prize winner! theres a reason they invented hari kari… he should save us the trouble of his narcistic run for second term. maybe ron paul could run for the dems if tge repubs dont want him lol!

    1. Jaundist

      MHP seems cut from the same piece of media-savvy cloth as Obama but in her obviously self-curated Wikipedia page she probably says more than she intends with
      “Melissa Victoria Harris was born in Seattle and grew up in the Virginia cities of Charlottesville and Chester, where she attended Thomas Dale High School. She was the youngest of five children of a black father, William M. Harris Sr., the dean of Afro-American affairs at the University of Virginia, and a white mother, Diana Gray, who taught at a community college and worked for nonprofits that helped poor communities.[3][4] “I’ve never thought of myself as biracial,” Harris-Perry says. “I’m black.”[5]”

      1. sgt_doom

        “Thomas Dale Highschool” ?????

        I wonder if that was named for John D. Rockefeller’s Thomas Dale, who created the holding company financial construct for him to hide corporate ownership?

        1. Bill

          Sir Thomas Dale (died 19 August 1619) was an English naval commander and … he was knighted by King James to become “Sir Thomas Dale of Surry”

          I went to TDHS as well, and have never seen it
          mentioned in print before outside of the Chester

  3. John Emerson

    I’ve been trying to convince people for some time that the decline of the Democratic Party began in 1948, with the purge of the left and of the militant unions. This was different than McCarthyism, and earlier. McCarthy was a crazy; he ended up suggesting that Eisenhower and Marshall were Communists.

    The new post-progressive Democrats (people like Hofstadter, Schlesinger, and Daniel Bell) wanted to drop the anti-corporate populism or radicalism and replace it with a technocratic, top down government distributing benefits to client groups. Client groups were organized separately so they could be played off against one another. This gave the party bureaucracy a lot of leeway, and created internal struggles for favors.

    This worked as long as the corporations were willing to play, basically 1948-70. But when the corporations decided to break the already-weakened unions that they’d been cooperating with since 1940, the Democrats started their long slow decline.

    For one example, in the 1950s specifically black issues were enormous — voting rights and an end to lynching. Since 1968 or so, the biggest black issues have been labor issues. But the Democrats still work through ethnically-defined groups to the extent they can.

    Labor is not a special interest. When you take the changing composition of the work force into account, labor issues are majority issues. But the 1948 Democrats, and Democrats since, have had a terrible fear of majoritarian politics.

    Interest group pluralist politics no longer works for the Democrats, except for the center-right mercenaries and the big Democratic donors.

    1. armchair

      Wow, that is some cool history. Your points are worth repeating because they explain why the party is the way it is. It isn’t all mysterious. I need to read more about it.

    2. Billy Bob

      John Emerson and I are on the same crusade. What is called McCarthyism was Trumanism long before anyone outside of Wisconsin knew who McCarthy was, with the loyalty oaths and purges.

      And Yves is right too: many Democrats are simply embarrassed by unions; they take their money and support at election time; but when reactionaries attack unions, big time Democrats are nowhere to be found. Obama should have been in Madison the week that Walker made his attack on the public employees’ unions. It might have helped make up for shitcanning EFCA the second he was sworn in after promising to make it a top priority. Without a strong union movement as its base, the Democratic Party has no organized base and is just another me-too party of the rich.

      Micro-identity politics excludes as much as it includes, especially when it is conducted with self-righteousness. On election day, I am looking for as many votes as I can get, from as many people as I can get them from. I am not merely looking for the votes of the saved and the righteous.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        I went further back than that. The Republicans first emerged in 1854. From then, to their defeat by FDR in ’32, they were one-note fanatics. From 1861 to 1933 they had a virtual monopoly on power.

        Over 72 years Republicans ran the country into the ground, whereupon Franklin Roosevelt rescued them and everyone else.

        Democrats, for their part, are feckless. Always have been. Always will be. Where were the Dems in 1850? In 1860? In 1890? Why do you suppose there was ever a Populist Party?

        In reality, FDR destroyed the Republicans. It took Ronald Reagan and New Gingrich to bring them back from the dead in 1980. Meanwhile the Democrats merely basked in FDR’s glow.

        But that glow is now gone. The Republicans are back to what they always used to be: Mean, selfish and nasty. And so are the Dems: Feckless, useless, stupid time servers.

        And that’s our two party system. It is just that grim. So far as Democrats are concerned, Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt were the exceptions. On the Republican side, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. One of which was an accidental president, the other a war hero looking for a job.

        1. montanamaven

          Well reasoned. Woodrow Wilson was one of the worst presidents ever and no friend to labor although we were encouraged in school to laud him. The Espionage Act threw dozens of people in jail here in Montana for singing German hymns in church or just being German. Union leaders were jailed or killed like Frank Little, hung off a railroad trestle in Butte. It would have been far better to elect the believer in “the square deal”, Teddy Roosevelt.

          The Democrats, by and large, have been Bourbon Democrats and “The Nation” has been a veal pen for dissent that disappears at election time when everyone is herded into the voting booths with instructions to vote “D”. Places like “Media Matters” rail about Fox News 24/7, but rarely does criticism of the corporate left on NPR or MSNBC make the front page, if at all. We need to find common cause with workers on the right, not bash them all the time for watching Fox News.
          I dropped by subscription to “The Nation” in 2008 when it was clear they would not support the labor candidates Edwards or Kucinich. Sorry I had been naive and gone to those “Take Back America” conventions too. But how else are you going to discover the deep do do unless you enter the cesspool of D.C? Ugh.

          1. Externality

            The Espionage Act threw dozens of people in jail here in Montana for singing German hymns in church or just being German. Union leaders were jailed or killed like Frank Little, hung off a railroad trestle in Butte. It would have been far better to elect the believer in “the square deal”, Teddy Roosevelt.

            Woodrow Wilson also gave speeches that incited violence against Americans of Eastern and Central European ancestry (the Austro-Hungarian Empire was Germany’s ally), and, after the Russians pulled out of the war, Americans belonging to ethnic groups common in the former Russian Empire. Government-sponsored vigilante groups such as the American Protective League often supplied mobs with weapons and “confidential” government documents showing the location of Eastern and Central Europeans and their institutions.
            Since most Americans could not (and often cannot) tell the difference between the various peoples of Eastern and Central Europe, the result of Wilson’s speeches was indiscriminate violence against people of Eastern and Central European ancestry.

            Wilson also incited violence against Americans, especially trade unionists and the above groups, who refused to buy war bonds or who questioned the immense profits Wall Street was making from acting as an intermediary for the government. (Wall Street banks would buy them, in bulk, for a fraction of the face value of the bonds, and resell them to Americans for full price.) Wikipedia has pictures of an American, John Meints, who was literally tarred and feathered for refusing to buy War Bonds. Later, in the so-called Tulsa Outrage, American authorities arrested 12 members of the IWW labor union for the “crime of not owning a war bond.” In a show trial, the judge convicted all twelve, plus five non-defendants who testified as defense witnesses. The court then turned all 17 over to a vigilante group which tied them to trees, beat them, and tarred and feathered them.

          2. j m kochevar

            i dropped my 25 year subscription to The Nation in 2008, too. i frequent ‘progressive’/kinda lefty websites, but fairly recently, i find myself gravitating over to NC. this straight talkin’ post from ms. smith just re-enforces that tendency.

        2. John Emerson

          The Democrats and the Republicans were about equally conservative before FDR, and the Democrats were fully committed to white supremacy after about 1900. There were regional and ethnic issues (just like today): Southern white Protestants and urban Northern Catholics against Northern White Protestants. Both were business parties, though the Democrats tended to be more agriculturally oriented and Republicans more manufacturing oriented.

          Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were both fundamentally conservative, but they were responding to external pressure from populists and other reformers. Both had a good side and a bad side.

          Conservative Democrats were always there, and not just in the South. Al Smith supported Landon in 1936 when no one else in the country did.

          FDR was a more genuine progressive than Wilson or TR, but he also had wealthy connections and wealthy support. By that time third parties were becoming a factor and a lot of Republican and Democratic Senators were functioning independently of the national party, and the militant CIO unions functioned independently.

        3. Billy Bob

          There is some truth in what you say – especially that Democrats have been living off FDR – but the history of our two-party system is a little more nuanced than that. As one example, you missed a Republican President who ought to be on your list – Abraham Lincoln. In truth, the Republican Party between 1856 and 1876 had many radicals in its ranks, not only on the issue of rights for African-Americans, but on economics. As Lincoln himself said, “Remember, it is not we who ride upon the railroads, but the railroads which ride upon us.” The election of 1876 was doubly ugly: it saw the birth of the coalition of Southern Democrats and Big Whigs – i.e. pro-business Republicans – at the expense of Reform Northern Democrats, the entire Southern Republican Party and the Radical Republicans in the North. In 1917, otherwise progressive but deeply racist Woodrow Wilson told Col. House that he knew that going to war would end their hopes for progressivism – and it did, until a former employee of Wilson’s, FDR, rekindled them. The Republican Party still had radicals in the Party for the first half of the 20th century. In your own state, Dave, Republican Spiro Agnew won in 1966 because he was by far the more liberal candidate than his Democratic opponent, who was an old-school Southern racist Democrat. The Reaganite consensus and Bush Daddy’s decision to replace college-educated Republican women with Pat Robertson’s drones as the foot soldiers of the Republican Party killed the bits of liberalism in the GOP. The struggle – the last struggle? – for the soul of the Democratic Party is taking place right now. And the good guys ain’t winning.

          1. John Emerson

            The most radical state government in American history was North Dakota’s in 1916. They established a state bank which still functions, the only one in the US, and did a lot of other things to protect the commonfolk against the power of money.

            Technically they were Republicans. They took office by sweeping the Republican primaries. The Democrats were not a factor in ND (partly because of their Confederate tinge) so the Republican primary was the election. At one point the regular Republicans and the Democrats joined into a coalition to form a new party called something like the Citizen’s Good Government League.

          2. Dave of Maryland

            Regret to inform that I am a transplanted Kansan with ties in New York and California, but you wouldn’t know that from my handle.

            I left Lincoln off for reason. I’m rethinking him. Up to 1863 – two years into the war – his stated policy was to resettle freed slaves in Haiti or Central America. Union commanders who issued their own Emancipation Proclamations (starting in 1861) were sacked.

            Had he lived, Lincoln would presumably have continued his earlier efforts, of removing blacks from the country. When, in 1865, he talked about “binding up wounds”, he was presumably referring to appeasement of former slave owners. As I say, I’m not yet ready for a final conclusion, but it looks very much as if Lincoln’s post-war efforts would have consisted of resettling blacks elsewhere. So I have questions.

        4. Paul Tioxon

          The Democratic Party from the end of the Civil War was little more than ex confederate officers and plantation capitalists who struck a deal with the Northern Industrial capitalists to withdraw troops from the South and abandon any political support for freed slaves in exchange for whatever support they wanted or needed for labor unrest and other problems up North. The Democratic Party was owned lock stock and cracker barrel by the racist white southern elites. They have almost completely migrated to the republican party, which explains why almost nothing got done except during a perfect storm of a few mutually beneficial cross political coalitions of moderate conservative industrialists (who are frequently viewed as liberals due to their broad minded acceptance that violent suppression of labor has an alternative in collective bargaining), labor organizers, populist and progressive reformers who came to be know as New Dealers or Liberals.

          The Dems, other than FDR and LBJ, and those that uphold their political programs from being carved up into mince meat, have contributed something, but the rest have been totally worthless on a national level. Trying to get the Northeast Liberal Dems, like H Humphrey to pass a bill in the Senate, which had a geriatric Southern Chairman as committee head on almost everything and even in the house as well, was impossible. The Dixiecrats, the Southern Democrats have completely decamped the Dems, leaving them wide open to a new group to take them in another direction, but the middle class is so full of suburban cupcakes, with pantywaist weepy concerns for truth justice and their special brand of high minded American propriety , they would not know how to take power if it was Fedex’d from Amazon and delivered directly into their waiting hands.

      2. Ignim Brites

        An equally interesting candidate for a major turning point in the history of the Democratic Party was the assassination attempt against George Wallace in 1972. But for that it is likely that Wallace rather than McGovern would have won the Dem nomination in 1972. Had that happened the links between the DP and the labor unions would have remained much stronger if the DP had survived.

    3. Phoenix Woman

      That’s why real wages peaked in the early 1970s and have been falling ever since: That’s when the anti-union efforts of Corporate America started to bear their first rotten fruits.


      This was masked for over a decade, ironically, by the rise of women and thus two-income families, but wages have now dropped so far even two incomes can’t match what our parents could do on one. They didn’t have iPods, but they didn’t have $50,000 in credit card debt, $200,000 in student loan debt, and $300,000 in mortgages to pay off with total household incomes of $75,000 or less.

    4. chris

      Indeed, and that goes hand in hand with Truman’s National Security agenda, codified in NSC-68 (I think that’s right, I’m working off the top of my head). Truman may have had some problems with the agenda to escalate the military machine – especially regards the USSR – but he kept pushing it around the intelligence circles anyway and when Korea exploded it became a certainty. Needless to say it fully established the MIC and no discussion of the bankrupt politics of BOTH parties, including and particularly regarding the economy, is complete without it.

    5. sgt_doom

      “I’ve been trying to convince people for some time that the decline of the Democratic Party began in 1948, with the purge of the left and of the militant unions.”

      Outstanding points, Mr. Emerson. That was when the so-called “progressive magazine” The Nation, fired those types from their staff, and the same with the ACLU, thus formed the Lawyers Guild.

      Well said…..

    1. rotter

      For the “bus” analogy to work here people need to remeber the ACORN wasnt anywhere near the edge of the highway. ACORN first had to be hit over the head, then dragged pleading for its life, then dems and reps got on each end at gave the ol heave ho under the bus. Andrew Breitbart, and his liable operation should be in prison yes, but they couldnt have done what they did without CNN. CNN seems to be the link between the fabrication of these smear attacks in the fevered minds of payed republican operatives, and the dead minds of the MSMistas-to every TV in trhe world, for a 24-7 ‘news” cycle,

    2. sgt_doom

      Good point, Rjrss, but I think it’s even more clearer when one compares the people Obama has fired compared to those fired when John F. Kennedy was president:

      Obama’s fires:

      Vann Jones (the green jobs advocate)

      Susan Crawford (the network neutrality advocate)

      Shirly Sherrod (the small farmer advocate who wasn’t even an Obama appointee, but in the USDA and was fired because the Obamabots were scared of Glenn Beckerhead).

      JFK’s fires:

      Top three guys at CIA (Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell and Gen. Cabell), and a bunch of generals including Lemnitzer and LeMay.

      BTW, Richard Bissell was the grand-uncle of the rightwinger Obama reappointed from the Bush administration, FBI Director Robert Mueller.

      1. Phoenix Woman

        “Bombs Away” LeMay was half-seriously considering leading a coup against Kennedy, which is why JFK did his damndest to ensure Seven Days in May got turned into a movie. He made the Pentagon give Frankenheimer everything he wanted for the film.

  4. Capo Regime


    Here begins an expose of the lameness and utter uselessness of “political science”. Where have these clowns been as freedoms have disappeared and crony capitalism and corruption have flourished. Political scientists make economists look uttterly prncipled. Really they are nothing more than activists for the liberal wing of the democratic party. Check out the american political science association web site to see total inanity.

    1. John Emerson

      All the Political Science PhDs are Democrats. Karl Rove had one year as an undergrad at a second or third rank school, and he whipped their asses.

      On some of the liberal sites (Yglesias, Crooks and Liars) you have a lot of bright young Pol Sci majors. They talk all these stale insider ideas they just learned, and they’re loser ideas. “The president can’t influence public opinion” and “The President can’t influence Congress” are two recent ones.

      1. Billy Bob

        One of the things that I thought Rove had taught all of us in 2002 and 2004 is that, in a closely-divided electorate, a party runs to its base the first two years and back toward the center in presidential elections years. Off-year elections are about getting your base to turn out. Presidential years are about appealing to as broad a base as possible. Of course, Obama’s people have done the exact opposite: they tried to prove how centrist they were leading up to 2010, which utterly de-motivated his base, and now are trying to recapture his base by sounding as if he were a Democrat, which is pissing everyone off. In political calculation, it is the Republicans who live in the reality-based world, and Democrats who try to invent reality.

        1. rotter

          Neither party “live in reality” . They both exist in the tiny but ultimately influetntial world of American Finance capitalism, while the world burns down around them. They will burn with it eventualy and probably sooner than later.

      2. Susan the other

        But Karl himself is a weapon of mass destruction. I’ve never understood what his end goal even is besides destruction. He is almost a killer without a cause. And really, Karl is only kicking us when we are already down because the die was cast in 1970 when the working classes were systematically strangled. Had it gone the other way, had the wealth been evenly shared, the country would be healthy today. (Today’s lesson for Germany.)

        About Woodrow Wilson: He actually thought we were going to step in and appropriate the Russian revolution in 1917 with the likes of Kerensky.

        About Harry Truman. Harry was a smart guy. But he got propagandized by the then neo-liberals of the day led by our dearly departed Winny Churchill. If Harry axed the unions (haven’t read the history here) he did it because he feared Communism a little irrationally. But he tried to keep a lid on it by sending Churchill off to a podunk town in Missouri to give his famous “Iron Curtain” speech. Truman was more worried about recession than commmunism.

        About Obama: The thing that closed my door was one of Obama’s latest attempts at rabble rousing. He spoke to a crown of mostly young listeners and advised them to write their senators and reps to support Obama’s jobs bill among other things. And he said something like he couldn’t do anything without their active political support. What about the 2008 election support? How long is the populace going to rally idiotically like a bunch of freshmen?

        Here’s my choice. Let us not do anything we are asked to do by any politician. Let us not vote. Let us not consume. Let us form coops and live our lives in defiance of the sham that is the United States of America.

        1. Susan the other

          One more thought. I’m conflating the articles again today. As usual. Sorry. But it just occurred to me I’m not giving all the Europeans an even shot at fairness. It is certainly possible that my comment above to the Germans about our lesson is unnecessary IF our banks took advantage of an incomplete social pact in Europe. That would be that each sovereign country could borrow from US banks without going thru the ECB. Thereby incurring debt that could not be repaid and putting Germany on the spot. Like blacklmail. Either the Germans must foot the bill or the EU fails. And should we assume that our banks knew exactly what they were doing all along?

          1. Fried Eggs

            And should we assume that our banks knew exactly what they were doing all along?

            Yes. And the neoliberals in government surely knew it too, which accounts for much of the widespread wink-nudge behavior of regulators throughout the bubble; the way the bubble Hoovered up and burned East Asia’s “excess savings” and buoyed the domestic economy through the Iraq War years surely gladdened the cockles of their hearts as well.

        2. Justicia

          My prescription for progressives in 2012: forget Obama; work for a veto proof progressive Congress (and I would include sane, principled Republicans in that mix).

    2. montanamaven

      Political science is an oxymoron. There is nothing the least bit “scientific” about politics. Attempting to take philosophical discussions of morality and ethics and quantify them is stupid. Putting a management kind of veneer over looting is just evil. Yes, as John states below, they come up with cliches, weasel words, and management speak to come up with loser ideas like “the President can influence public opinion”.

      1. Neo-Realist

        Some of us poly sci majors weren’t all about simplistic moralizing and ethics. Some of us took public policy courses that involved utilizing empirical data to evaluate the impact of policy choices in addition to non empirical case studies that revealed the impact of those choices.

        There appears to be a lot of simplistic and somewhat wrong headed assumptions about who liberals/progressives are in this thread.

        1. John Emerson

          Neo-realist, you said so little there that I’m not dure how to respond. But a remarkably high proportion of what I read from poli sci experts is excuses for failure and expalnations that nothing much is possible.

          Karl Rove was a make-reality guy, not a describe-reality guy. He was not a nice person, and he was horrible on the issues, but he understood that politics is about finding out ways to make things happen, not to give correct answers to questions about the past. I never find any understanding of that in Pol Sci PhDs.

          It might even be true that academic scholars should NOT try to make things happen, but if that’s the case, they should refrain from advising political parties.

          1. John Emerson

            Pol Sci types are also very very good about explaining that they know what’s going on because they’ve studied the science, and everyone else is an ignorant amateur. I wish they’d explain that to Karl Rove.

          2. chad

            “high proportion of what I read from poli sci experts is excuses for failure and expalnations that nothing much is possible.”

            Interestingly, i would say the same thing about economic experts.

          3. neo-realist

            Rove, the Lee Atwater disciple, struck me as a bit of a one trick pony: The smear–and using the smear against a candidate’s best attribute or attributes. Too bad many Americans don’t believe in critical thinking nor pay attention to ideas and politics and allow themselves to be manipulated into voting against their best interests.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          You’ve drunk the Kool Aid of your professors. Congrats.

          The analytical methods used in policy sci, such as they are, have been copied from economics. I’ve debunked the methodologies used in both theoretical and empirical work in economics. It’s rubbish, and I’m pretty confident in saying (based on input, from among other, some poly sci profs) that the overwhelming majority of analytical work in poly sci is also piss poor.

          And you offer an empty drive by attack of the discussion of liberals and progressives. Since we have a pretty clear idea on this site by what we mean by progressives (as in we have a clear and consistent set of policy positions they represent), I’m skeptical of your claim. There are a lot of people in politics who are neoliberals wearing progressive clothing.

          1. neo-realist

            Here’s a drive with the gas pedal pushed down a bit more.

            I did not attack the discussion per se, but attacked what I perceived to be over-generalizations about all liberals and progressives. I do agree that many who front themselves as such are neo-cons in reality. However, there are many of them who are all about fighting for good living wage jobs and a strong safety net for Main Street Americans and free market capitalism with regulation and oversight-I guess I’m referring to and supporting primarily progressives by your definition. It’s just that I don’t believe a broad brush is applicable to these groups.

            For what it’s worth, the Harris-Perry piece sounds like she’s using a convenient scapegoat for a President that hasn’t delivered the goods to working and non-working people.

        3. MontanaMaven

          I would suggest some good books on this like Yves book “Econned”. Doug Henwood wrote a visionary book in 1997 called “Wall Street” that debunks much of these lame economic “theories” which are just flim flam excuses for looting. And I’m reading David Graeber’s “Debt; the First 5000 Years” right now. Societies are not markets. The language of consumerism makes us small. We must take back our name of Citizen. We are John and Jean Q. Public not Jean and Joe Six Pack. And above all read Shakespeare and Homer.

          1. neo-realist

            I’ve got a pdf of Henwood’s book on the desk top and Yves book–will get to them in the (hopefully) near future.

      2. Praedor

        There is a simple rule to avoid confusion. ANY area of “study” or endeavor that tacks “science” onto it is most assuredly NOT a science. Political science, christian science, computer science, creation science, etc. It is an attempt to borrow/leech the legitimacy of real science into a totally nonscientific area of interest.

        Of course, it is not a fully transitive rule. Just because you do NOT tack the word “science” onto your area of interest does not make it science by default. See “economics” for instance. They strain and struggle to present themselves as scientific but in reality, it is merely a branch of “political science” melded to religious studies. One starts from a position of politico-religious belief and then coerces one’s economic “results” and models into a form that conforms to that a priori politico-religious belief.

        1. compass rose

          You forgot “social” “science,” which conflates an empty term (“social”–just what the hell does that mean other than “aggregates of whatever phenomena we feel like looking at”) with a lie.

          First year grad studies in “social” “science” are often marked by an exposure to something called “quasi-experimentation.” The claim is that we can’t do REAL experiments on people for ethical reasons. But the truth is, the “social” part of “social” science is as slippery as an eel and as empty as a syllogism with a missing middle term.

  5. Richard Kline

    Identity activism has deep, real value, is necessary. Consider: “We will not accept brutality or slurs against we Xs.” And: “We expect equitable treatment before the law and in society for Xs as for anyone.” Or: “We Xs have a distinct experience in society—and fact is have taken some serious shit—so if you’re going to talk about us make the effort to know us first.” It doesn’t matter what your reading of the ‘X’ is there, I think most reasonable folks would understand those statements, and see them as valid whether they were saying them or hearing them.

    But consider: “If O doesn’t win/happen, it’ll be bad for Xs.” And worse: “If you’re not with O, you’re not X enough.” And heading for bottom: “If you’re not for Xery, I haven’t got time for it.” And all the way down: “If you’re not an X, you’re a Y.” How many of us would be happy making statements of the latter kind?

    We experience life as Xs if we are one, but society is about A-Z. If some O is only about X when he want’s his beak wet, he’s a real zero and not worth that much. And faux liberals who can’t read those alpha-numerics aren’t worth listening to.

  6. Dan Duncan

    Hilarious. Libbos whining over race-baiting and identity politics.

    The White Libs gnashing their teeth over the Harris-Perry article, might as well just come out and say it: “Criticisms of Obama are only racist if they come from the Right.”

    The Great Leftist Schism:

    “Elite” White Leftist Progressives vs Minority Democrats.

    The irony, of course, is that it is Progressives who will always be in the minority.

    If, for example, the masses were delusional enough to join with Progressives…The minute that Progressives got enough people into the Lofty Circle of Telling Everyone Else What To Do With Their Lives, the core group of white, Leftist academics would immediately separate to ensure their elite status, thereby establishing a new group of Progressives.

    Progressives don’t stand a chance.

    You know, you might consider pretending that there is no such thing as Progressives. This way, you can re-assimilate back into the fold of traditional Libbos, wielding your influence without having to go through this painful Lefty Mitosis.

    You’re on an island now. The Progressive Dream is coming apart. You’re slowly awakening to the reality that you need the masses more than they need you.

    You need a miracle. You need an anti-Messiah. You need G.W. Bush. Only W. can unite the Left and through blind hatred, keep the Dream alive.

    1. Tom g

      “If, for example, the masses were delusional enough to join with Progressives…The minute that Progressives got enough people into the Lofty Circle of Telling Everyone Else What To Do With Their Lives, the core group of white, Leftist academics would immediately separate to ensure their elite status, thereby establishing a new group of Progressives.”


      Can’t describe the situation any more plainly than this.

      1. YankeeFrank

        Really? Both of you sound nuts. Anyone can be a racist. Limousine liberals tend to be mildly racist, but they are more classist than racist, and hate working class whites more than working class blacks, who are “cool”.

        Republicans are racist when they say racist shit about minorities/Obama. All that Kenyan and birther bullshit was racist. All that “he’s an alien” shit is racist. Calling Obama a socialist is just dumb because he’s a corporatist fascist scumbag. If he was a white republican and spouted white republican rhetoric, he would be mostly loved by the republicans for his policies: endless war, support for monopolistic corporations, passing Romney’s corporatist healthcare law, huge tax cuts for the “job creators” and federal government budget cuts, gutted environmental and corporate regulation, passing a healthcare law that takes away federal money for abortions, and on and on.

        Republicans are dumb for the most part. They ignore half of the problems with the country (corporate monopolies and financial criminals), pretend they hate intrusive government but really love it as long as its used as a weapon against minorities and liberal social values, and to attack working people and destroy the environment.

        Republicans are generally stupid, and stupidly general, and don’t have the mental capacity for complex thought. But its human nature for idiots to stick together so they don’t feel so dumb all the time.

        1. Max424

          “If [Obama] was a white republican and spouted white republican rhetoric, he would be mostly loved by the republicans for his policies: endless war, support for monopolistic corporations, passing Romney’s corporatist healthcare law, huge tax cuts for the “job creators” and federal government budget cuts, gutted environmental and corporate regulation, passing a healthcare law that takes away federal money for abortions, and on and on.”

          That sums things up nicely.

          Yves Smith: “Most Democrats are embarrassed to be in the same room with union types. They are often afraid to say that government can play a positive role. They were loath to discuss the costs of income inequality until it became so far advanced that it is now well nigh impossible to reverse it. After all, that sort of discussion might sound like class warfare, and God forbid anyone on the mainstream left risk sound like Marx.”


          Great post, Yves.

        2. bluntobj

          “If, for example, the masses were delusional enough to join with Progressives…The minute that Progressives got enough people into the Lofty Circle of Telling Everyone Else What To Do With Their Lives, the core group of white, Leftist academics would immediately separate to ensure their elite status, thereby establishing a new group of Progressives.”

          And naturally any elite progressive group would consider themselves smarter than anyone else in the room, resulting in the position that everyone not within the new elite group or under their control is “dumb,” “stupid,” and “racist.”

        3. rotter

          Right Wingers are dumb, but its a wilfull stupidity. They “believe” in those things and ideas that support the opionions already formed in their gut, and thier brain stems. They are impervious to Empirical arguments.

      1. Praedor

        I believe what you meant to say was:

        “Everyone knows you don’t go full retard.”

        “You went full retard, man. Never go full retard.”

  7. Jessica

    “The task of moving forward will require rebuilding the symbolic vocabulary of the defenders of the middle class. It will probably also require a similar intellectual civil war within the left, against people like Melissa Harris-Perry. Those engaged in that effort need to become skilled in dealing with these liberal McCarthyite identity smears.”

    Wow and thank you for this. I am en-couraged that people are unleashing their strengths rather than be confined by rigged rules of politeness.

    1. montanamaven

      Nobody says it better than the great Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report. He is the chief reason why I was not an Obama supporter in 2008. He told me then (when I still had a radio show) that Obama was a Trojan horse. I wish Glen had a wider platform. He or Bruce Dixon are on every Wednesday at 8PM Eastern on Sirius Left’s Mark Thompson’s show. Mark’s show has become increasingly a part of Sirius Democrat rather than the Left, but he does continue to have on Bruce and Glen on Wednesdays and the always impressive Sam Smith of Progressive Review on Mondays, also in the last hour. Check it out today. And Glen knows world economics better than almost anybody I have heard or read. Brilliant man.

  8. ArkansasAngie


    Though honestly today … I hope I get to vote for Ron Paul.

    This indepepdent is focused on voting out all incumbents … no matter what they claim to be.

    I’m tired of being thrown under the bus. I am tired of wedgies. I’m tired of being lied to.

    I am especially tired of my money going to the banksters.

    1. Tom g

      Yep, at this point the “issues” of the day are all but irrelevant. We just need honesty more than anything. We need to be able to go a week without some kind of scam coming out. We need a hard stop. I don’t see anyone harder than ron paul.

      As a pie in the sky aside, think of if every blog that makes its hay bitching about corruption this and injustice that on a daily basis came out and supported the honest to a fault paul… well that would be a pretty powerful movement.

      1. Jane Doe

        Ron Paul isn’t better because he’s “honest” if his “honesty” is crazy policies that are just as self destructive as all other politicians. Rather than searching around for pols that are being presented to you as “better” or “worse” why not begin to realize the problem is our system is broken and corrupt?

        1. Tom g

          Ok, I’ve realized the problem, now what shall I do? I don’t have any cyanide handy nor do i own a gun.

          I think instead of doing those things i’ll vote for the biblical flood to wash away all of this rot and garbage infesting our system right now. Make no mistake, i know what a paul presidency means. It means a 30% drop in our phony baloney gdp (see deningers favorite chart for clarification). It means a huge culture shock to those people not playing with their own money, and there are quite a few at this point in our nations history. It means those pontificating on whats best for everyone else will suddenly have to think about where their next meal is going to come from (which will be much more productive).

          In fact, the realization that you claim i don’t have is precisely why i gravitate towards paul, strange how those things work. Judging by some of your other posts it doesn’t seem that perception is a strength of yours.

          1. Jane Doe

            If you realized the system is broken, you wouldn’t be advocating for someone who is more of the same problem.

      2. rotter

        Paul is not as grotesque as some in Washington but he IS NOT,”honest to a fault”. That you would even say that out loud among the better informed points out your, at best, naivete.

        1. Tom g

          Can you note any time where paul has played coy the issues or said one thing and done another? I’m not being churlish, i’m genuinely interested. I’ve read quite a bit on the subject and for my money it doesn’t get any better than him.

          1. JTFaraday

            Yeah, but he’s just a lowly free-range congress critter. He’s not in the bowels of the People’s House with Jamie and Timmy and the Treasury Boyz from Goldman Sachs workin’ him over everyday now is he?

    2. Jane Doe

      Love the, “I am going to cut my own head off” to demonstrate that “cutting my own head off” approach to electoral voting in the U.S.

      Why don’t you spend more time admitting that the entire system is corrupt than wasting time trying to prop up the next savior? Ron Paul is a nutty libetarian, who in effect will pass the same policies as Obama. They are both bad. Stop trying to pretend they aren’t.

      1. citalopram

        Yes Jane, but what people like you can’t seem to understand is that Ron Paul would push for a rollback of the security state, and he would bring the troops home. Those are two HUGE issues in my mind. He’s also anti-corporatism as well. There’s another reason why he’s better than any other mainstream candidates.

        I strongly disagree with him on his 19th Century economic theories, but none of that is going to get passed the rotting carcass of Congress anyway. As Commander in Chief, he can end the wars which no other candidate is going to do. That alone is worth it to me.

          1. ArkansasAngie

            Doing the same thing over and over again is crazy.

            Keep voting Democrat (or Republican) and you get what you get … corruption from both sides.

          2. Jane Doe

            You are making false choice arguments. I never said I was going to vote Democratic or Republican, which Ron Paul is a Republican, by the way. I simply said voting Ron Paul is delusional. The choice is not either I vote R/d or Ron Paul. that’s the false choice you want to limit me to.

    3. Tatiana

      ArkansaAngie…sorry wRong Paul is all about Constitution and individual rights yet he is a well known racist and worst, totally AGAINST women’s rights.

  9. chris

    The Left better distance itself really fast from bags of shit like Governor Beverly Perdue (proposing suspending elections to let Congress have its way) and Peter Orszag (proposing that we need less democratic institutions).

    That slippery slope ends in the tree of liberty being watered!

    1. aet

      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful advice; but I think that, instead of doing what you suggest, it would be better to entirely avoid those people who refer to other people as “bags of shit” and then go on to threaten violence – and that it is indeed best to ignore everything – but everything – that such may say or advise.

  10. Carlos

    This is why I was SO relieved to see the commenters in The Nation weren’t buying it for a second.

    Everything you describe is epitomized by the MSNBC lineup of harmless liberal pundits, which now includes Harris-Perry. They are presented to us as supposedly being “our side”.

    You can’t tell with TV, so it’s hard to know who’s buying their nonsense. Although I do remember being happy at seeing a very strong negative response to a really silly Lawrence O’Donnell piece, where he celebrated Obama’s “brilliant rope-a-dope” during the debt ceiling fiasco.

  11. justanotherobserver

    the left is obsessed with puritanical moralizing ?

    really ?

    maybe your definition of puritannical moralizing is different from mine.

    And yes MHP column was really disappointing.

  12. F. Beard

    The right pretends to stand for as little government/taxes as possible, save for the military. In reality, it likes a government apparatus just fine so long as it transfers income and wealth to the top and there is not much dissent on the nature of the nominal game v. the real game. Yves Smith [bold added]

    Bingo! And the Left, to its shame, rather than eliminate the mechanism for the theft – government support for banking – has allowed it so long as it gets a cut of the loot.

    It really is, as so many famous men have said before, the banks against the rest of us:

    Famous banking quotes.

    1. chris

      F. Beard,

      The Left is too blind too grasp that they are part of the problem due to the vile personages they elect. And they, like the right, take great joy in the murder of women and children (if that is not true then why doesn’t the Left push for indicting Barack as a torturer and war criminal with the same vigor that they push for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Blair)?

      1. F. Beard

        Thieves to the Right of US,
        thieves to the Left,
        here we are
        stuck in the middle
        and screwed.
        apologies to Bob Dylan

      2. aet

        Gee you really don’t like anybody, do you?

        I think the “politics of anger” goes no place good, and goes there quickly.

        Tell us, who do you love?

        1. york

          Remember when Obama was elected and he said that we should all look forward, put aside our anger at Bush and what he did, and just forget it?

    2. bluntobj

      With respect, the Left is not “allowing” the looting to take place.

      There is no Left or Right in the Great Game, merely those few who have power and the great many more who have ideology. Power merely uses ideology to cloak the looting.

      Previously, the share of loot was expanding for all players. Now it’s not just a zero sum game, but a declining share game.
      We will see many examples in the coming years of various power groups being crushed as their shares of loot are consumed by those with greater power and influence. Unions, corporations, banks, and minority interest groups understand this. The question is which one will come out on top.

  13. Jane Doe

    I will start my saying that I am African-American, of the Black Agenda Report readership. I mostly agree with you, with some minor suggestions, and on big one.

    First the big one: The problem is not that people latched just onto Obama as a Black President as a way to deflect from his policies, it is that identity politics is the largest reason all voters vote at this point with little policy behind it. Whether it would have been a Democrat or Republican, themselves, are battles over identity politics rather than substantive policy. The fact that the policies are so out of whack on economic issues coming out DC with the views of the public of what should happen should be a warning sign that there is something deeply wrong with our electoral process. So, my suggestion is to link the two. Yes, they are devoid of ideas, but why? That why is related to our electoral politics.

    Second some smaller ones:

    (a) Your article feels dismissive of racial issues, but the reason why is that you don’t link back to how the economic policies, not enough for me, are harming People of color. There’s a long history to that, and it needs to be discussed more by White Liberals:


    It is not that racial issues are not important, but that how it is being discussed often does not indicate why its important.

    (b) This point is linked to the big suggestion. You do not fully link the discuss corruption. The problem is not merely localized to Obama, which others, with their own identity politics along the thread, or favored pol, are latching onto, but instead, an issue of a corrupt system where legitimate concerns over race are used as Trojan horses to advance the corruption. Because the corruption is the norm, the range of legitimate issues narrows down to identity.

    There is nothing new to this issue you are facing with Obama. Clinton used Southern white identity, the GOP uses Christian white identity, etc. The issue is that its all a matter of ‘What’s the Matter With Kansas.” The problem with that book was that the author was blind to the fact that he was describing American politics across the board- we are all used for the purpose of convincing us to vote against interest.

    1. Foppe

      So, my suggestion is to link the two. Yes, they are devoid of ideas, but why? That why is related to our electoral politics.

      I think that has been covered already: both parties are basically the same when it comes to economic ‘policy’. And considering economic policy choices are what mattered most historically to progressives (along with equality of opportunity and treatment), this immediately tells you that politicians have to find something else to talk about that can distract people from those fundamental similarities — and culture war is the only thing that affects people deeply enough to do so.
      Anyway, there are (it seems to me) two rough things you need to solve that issue: publicly funded elections, and abolishing the gerrymandered district voting system (which doesn’t really do anything for people anyway, since all the pols are bought).. Once you have proportional representation, there is a chance that a more useful 3+ party system will develop, though even then ideological capture will remain a threat.

      1. rotter

        The fact that there are so many words to describe varying degrees of blackness, should tell you something. It should tell you that the whole point of creating this taxonomy of darkies was to classify them as non white. To suggest Obama is not black is to ignore the entire history of Black in American. Of course Obama is a black man. Any assertions that hes ‘only half black” shows you up as ignorant at best, ignorant and bigotted at worst.

  14. Jerome Armstrong

    I love the last line of the rebuttal:

    “In many ways the angry reaction about even the suggestion of racial bias is a kind of racial progress.”

    She’s sorta come to the realization that she’s a flat earther.

  15. Anonymous Comment

    The problem is not that the current president is held to a higher standard. It’s that he is held to a different standard. He got us believing in change, then reinstated all the same white-guys [with few exceptions] that got us exactly where we were when he came along. So rather than upset at him for being ‘other’ we are upset that, despite his skin color, he is exactly the same.

    1. Anonymous Comment

      Well, maybe not ‘exactly’ the same. But close enough for a cigar.

      Bottom line lesson: We cannot pin our hopes to one person, but rather to the energy of the movement. Whatever will be, shall be.

  16. SD

    There is no primary challenger to Obama which left me with only one option – I changed my voter registration.

    Voted for Obama in 2008. But he crossed the line by not pursuing torture allegations and by not closing Guantanamo. Both are affronts to the very heart of the Constitution and what’s supposed to be core underpinnings of our legal system.

    I don’t care what religion he is, what color his skin is, what sex he is, if he has sex or who he has sex with. I just want him to give a crap about the Constitution.

    1. b.

      “There is no primary challenger to Obama which left me with only one option – I changed my voter registration.”

      There is a thought. Per Dixon again, if more effective evil is the greater evil, then it really makes sense for liberals, progressives, or just plain decent people to register as Republicans, and either vote for the sanest of the lot, or for the most ineffective and incompetent tool they can find.

      For reference:

      1. york

        Yeah, because if you want to punish the lesser evil, then vote for the greater evil. In any event, get out and vote for an evil! Sounds like a plan.

        1. Jane Doe

          This it he point in the conversation where one must wonder if the misunderstanding is deliberate.

          The thesis isn’t to vote a greater evil. The thesis is to not vote for evil at all.

  17. b.

    It appears to be the opposite of racism to call a war criminal, torturer, liar and and fraud just that, regardless of his or her skin color. It applies to Powell, Rice, and it applies to Obama. Whether or not some people view Obama “unfavorable” for the wrong reasons is rather besides the point, given the body count, the violation of constitutional principles and rule of law, or even just the economic damage done.

    The US managed to elect its first African-American President – Go Team! – with some people having seen Obama “favorable” for all the wrong reasons? Maybe we can discuss racism and salvific voting after The People manage to unelect one of the worst Presidents ever – for their own salvation, and to save the lives of many non-white non-citizens that have no vote at all while the machine drones on and on. That will require black voters to realize and admit that – like Bruce Dixon expressed so well – they have been had.

  18. steelhead23

    The unfortunate truth is that in a system in which money is power, lefties are powerless. Let’s be honest – until we can get money out of politics, the left will continue to be powerless – the downtrodden and unemployed do not make political contributions. No one of any potential stature like Kucinich, Edwards, or even Elizabeth Warren will be willing to distance themselves from the money spigot provided by alignment with the mainstream by taking on Obama in either the Democratic Party primary or in the general election as a third party candidate. It isn’t the fear of being labeled racist that keeps these champions on the sideline – its money and the lack thereof.

    1. york

      It costs nothing to vote. Lefties are powerless because they are pathologically incapable of voting for a left winger.

      1. steelhead23

        Bull. Look, Obama has the advantage of incumbency and a silver tongue capable of conning everyone, and yet it is estimated that he will need $1 billion to beat whatever moron the Republicans stand against him. So, let’s look around at the pantheon of lefties running for office. Hello? There freakin aren’t any. Are there no lefties in the U.S.? Yes, there are a few – and yes, one or two have recently picked up the flag and run for office, even president – they simply cannot develop the traction needed to be competitive. Also, and this is a tad sad, lefties are as corruptible as the next guy. In a way, I’m glad the banksters don’t open their checkbooks for them – it may be better to remain a cogent minority than a corrupted majority. The root of the U.S.’s political problems is money.

        1. york

          Who voted for McKinney in 08? For Nader?

          They didn’t want to vote for the spoiler, you know the one who would spoil all the fun we’re having with ObaMcCain.

          Morons. All of them.

  19. tomk

    Criticisms of Obama are only racist when they are racist. Sometimes I appreciate your contributions, even when I don’t agree with their thrust, but this one really makes no sense.

  20. rotter

    I’d like to be able to say that, based on the nearly universal reactions of contempt to this Nation Piece, that weve seen the end of this angle. But knowing 0 thats not likely.

  21. craazyman

    There should be a human zoo where every form of moron is on display in their natural setting. It would be fun, every once and a while on a sunny Saturday, to go out and feed the morons. I could see tossing this one some granola or maybe a glass of white wine and brie along with some inflammatory race-baiting screed that reinforces every vault raised in support of her moron mind.

    But I guess there already is a moron zoo. It’s called TV. ha ha. But these days it costs like $50 per month which is way to high, except during football season.

    I wonder if this woman has ever been on TV? Wouldn’t know, myself, unless she’s an NFL cheerleader, and then I probably wouldn’t realize that she is who she is. And I wouldn’t care.

    I wonder if she’s ever been out of a classroom or library and had to work for a living. I doubt it. Nobody could be this stupid if they ever got out of their own fantasy world. But then, I’m prone to quick judgments myself. I may even have my own room in the moron zoo. I hope there’s a TV there, and somebody tosses me some Doritoes and Salsa, at least on Sundays. ah ahahaha aHAHAH.

    1. craazyman

      I actually just Googled her, taking a brief break from work, and she does look pretty good actually.

      She probably could be an NFL cheerleader! Kind of looks like the voodoo woman, Tia Dalma, in Pirates of the Carribean and I thought Tia was really really hot. Couldn’t believe the way she could channel up the spirit world. I was impressed and very attracted to her karma vibe and general hotness.

      I bet if Ms. Harris-Perry put down the books and started channeling she’d straighten herself out. There should be an auto-da-fe of all those books that have bent her mind. It would make a good barbeque pit for Sunday football dogs and burgers. LOL.

      It’s never too late to get a clue.

  22. ScottS

    Wait, Obama is black? WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL ME?!?!

    Seriously, the argument doesn’t even make sense on its face.

    People don’t like Obama because he hasn’t done a damn thing to fix the mess we’re in. The only support I ever hear is “hey, he’s [new | only one guy], give him time.”

    He’s so far to the right of Reagan it’s disturbing. At least Reagan raised taxes when it made sense to.

  23. Phichibe


    This may be the best post on the topic of Obama you’ve ever written. I’ve nothing but admiration for your fearlessness in taking on the moneyed classes when you could so easily have been co-opted by them.

    For me, Harry Truman was the last great president. When a supporter told him to give the Republicans hell, Truman said “I just tell ’em the truth and they think it’s Hell”. I think Truman would have been pleased by your words today.

    Best wishes,


  24. Tao Jonesing

    I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation.

    Sounds like she’s accusing white folk of buyer’s remorse. She not only plays the race card but raises the specter of slavery. Nice.

    His record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected.

    First, Obama is overseeing the third Dubya administration in almost every particular. His rhetoric is different than Bush’s, but his actions are the same.

    Second, inviting a comparison between Obama and Clinton does not rehabilitate Obama but demands a deeper scrutiny of Clinton and what he “accomplished” on his watch.

    What I’ve found odd about Obamabots since the 2008 primary season is that they imbue the man with all sorts of history that he doesn’t have because of the color of his skin. Yes, he is technically “African American” because his father was from Africa, and if you look at racist vitriol that some Tea Partiers aim at him, you cannot deny that he has experienced forms of racism, but such experiences cannot transform his privileged existence into anything remotely resembling the typical African American experience. He simply is not part of that sub-culture, which may explain why he does not seem to care about it except when he is trying to convince African Americans to vote against their own economic interests.

    1. nobody

      Um, “the TYPICAL African American experience”? “THAT sub-culture”?

      You mean like Melissa Harris-Perry, daughter of the dean of Afro-American affairs at the University of Virginia?

      1. Tao Jonesing

        You got me. I’m a bigot for looking beyond Obama’s skin color and considering the cultural values that inform the content of his character. Thank you for setting me straight, MLK Jr.

        Being an American of African descent is not necessarily the same thing as being an African American. Harris-Perry is an African American. Obama is an American of African descent.

        While Harris-Perry’s experience isn’t TYPICAL of the African-American sub-culture (aka “THAT sub-culture,” as it is one of many sub-cultures in the United States), at least she can claim to be part of it because her father was an African American and a part of her life, i.e., he presumably taught her his values, which were based on his life experiences as an African American.

        Obama’s father was an African and not a part of his life. He was raised by his white grandparents. Big difference.

        It is misguided to assume that Obama has the same cultural values as Harris-Perry simply because of the similar skin.

        Again, I’m talking about culture here, not race.

      2. Jane Doe

        To add the previous excellent comment, let me point out that trying to place all blacks as having the same experiences merely because of skin color is exactly what got us into this mess. President Obama’s experience, even if he were African-American- are more aligned with the elite than with the vast bulk of African -Americans. Trying to understand the vast difference in racial experience- let’s put it this way- my experiences as a African American (which means I am black) in no way provides me insight to being a Haitian American or someone from the Carribean who moves here and is black. They don’t understand the black experience in the US either.

    2. SidFinster

      This is doubtless racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., but I think Clinton got re-elected in 1996 because:

      1. The Oklahoma City Bombing stopped Republican momentum dead (Remember, Clinton was seen as dead in the water until then, however Clinton used that even masterfully);
      2. The economy was picking up;
      3. The Republicans nominated Bob Dole, a candidate who was acceptable to all Republican factions, but probably nobody’s first choice. Dole also had less charisma than Spock.

      Had nothing to do with Clinton being white.

    1. James Winchester Crumwall III

      The right wing infiltrates and disrupts the left, but the left doesn’t do the same thing to the right. Why? The left is a bunch of wimps.

    2. gmanedit

      A commentator at that Black Agenda Report article discusses “left gatekeepers” and links to discussions of “left” institutions, foundations, and the CIA. The National Security State at work. There’s a lot more once you start researching it.

      You have to know who your friends are, and aren’t.

  25. Louis Proyect

    Hi, Yves

    I rode up the elevator with you for the press screening of Charles Ferguson’s “Inside Job”. I wish I knew that you were you at the time so I could tell you how much I admire your writing, especially this superlative article.

    The Unrepentant Marxist.

  26. orionATL

    it is possible, even probable, that the target of harris-perry’s complaint was not white dems, but rather black supporters of obama.

    if obama loses any substantial number of black supporters, he really does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of being re-elected.

    obama pygmalion, david axelrod, is very good at using surrogate blacks to raise fake racism charges, as the obama campaign did repeatedly during the dem primary campaign in 2008.

  27. Eric Patton

    “It will probably also require a similar intellectual civil war within the left, against people like Melissa Harris-Perry. Those engaged in that effort need to become skilled in dealing with these liberal McCarthyite identity smears.”

    This is an excellent point.

  28. Doug Terpstra

    Nicely done, Yves. Using “identity politics as a cover for policy betrayals” is indeed lame. Perry’s tribal agitprop shows they are bankrupt and out of ammunition; throwing stones is all they have left.

    They really should’ve recruited a white guy to do Melissa’s tribal screed. Her offensive charge is spurious on its face — and so transparently dishonest and overwhelmed by naked facts that she pointlessly ruined her own credibility and integrity.

    David Sirota also did a fair job of shredding her whining: “Why white liberals are (really) ditching Obama: Racism isn’t responsible for the president’s drop in popularity. His right-wing policies are.”


    If anything Obama is a standout beneficiary of ingrained affirmative action and reverse discrimination. As Yves writes: “It took most people far too long to get that Obama was a phony because the presumption that a black man would be sympathetic to the fate of the downtrodden is a deeply embedded but never voiced prejudice.”

    Many of us also now realize in hindsight that we suffered color-blind blindness precisely because we yearned for a post-racial society, willfully overlooking the ominous signs of Obama’s elitist conservatism (pre-election FISA, TARP 1, Rev. Wright, Chicago mob property purchase, etc.) choosing to believe his words over our own lying eyes. We wanted Biden’s “clean-cut, articulate” candidate to make us proud. Instead, he lied and dissed us all in the worst way in choosing to serve the plantation economy as warmonger and war criminal. The fact that it has taken this long for his support to fall is in fact testament to remarkable liberal forbearance . . . I would argue largely because of his color.

    Ms. Perry should study in detail the 270-plus scandals and betrayals of this administration (posted by Hugh) before she hurls spurious charges of racism. She knows better. Obama’s policies and actions are grounds for impeachment and prosecution for war crimes, certainly not reelection. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with race.


    1. ohmyheck

      Thanks for the Sirota link, Doug. I was going to post that link, if no one else did. Sirota did an excellent job of taking on MHP. I hope Yves reads it. This is some of his best work. Oh, and I am usually only a mild fan of Sirota’s.

    2. gmanedit

      “They really should’ve recruited a white guy to do Melissa’s tribal screed.” I’m sure Tim “all you racist white women” Wise will be happy to pick up the flag. “Her offensive charge is spurious on its face — and so transparently dishonest and overwhelmed by naked facts that she pointlessly ruined her own credibility and integrity.” What credibility and integrity? Pretending to be a disinterested observer, she went on “progressive” radio and TV after she had become an Obama supporter. The Third Estate Sunday Review has covered this several times.

  29. orionATL

    a quick trip in der google time machine and this pops right up:


    summary: support for obama among blacks has dropped from 83% to 58% in a few months.

    surprise, surprise. we are ALL in the same boat when it comes to jobs and income (except for those few of us with lots of money).

    hard economic times do not discriminate.

    you may consider harris-perry a race-baiting obama operative; i do.

  30. Hugh

    This looks like flailing. MHP is reacting to the inability of the veal pen to reliably control liberals and progressives inside and outside the Democratic party and deliver up support, votes, enthusiasm from them.

    From a class war perspective, this is distraction. Who cares if a Democratic kleptocratic corporatist or a Republican kleptocratic corporatist is the next President?

    Even from a small d democratic view point, this is hokum. Your vote is your own. No one else owns it or has a call on it. If Democrats and Republicans can’t give you positive substantive reasons to vote for them, don’t vote for them.

  31. Glen

    As you pointed out, support for Obama is dropping across ALL groups. If you want to call them all racists, I suppose you can, but you probably won’t win their vote with that argument.

    I voted for Obama in 2008, he was not the candidate I initially supported, but I will not vote for him in 2012 as I do not support his actions since elected.

  32. chris

    MHP embarrasses herself again and the Nation continues its long tradition as faux critic of status quo politics while ultimately shilling for this exact political agenda come election time. That the “lesser evil” is still evil does not seem to register despite abundant evidence over decades that the Democratic Party is a fraud. Indeed, Obama, through his actions (as opposed to the “inability to cat as he wants because of Congress” bullshit), has all but announced it, chanelling Ronald Reagan, and yet The Nation and folk like MHP willfully ignore this truth.

    And now Al Sharpton has his hour on MSNBC to add to the blather. Unbelievable.

    As Yves writes, identity politics has served as cover to the chosen neoliberalism in Democratic politics that will ultimately deliver those identity slaves to the same corporate overlords as everyone else.

    As a gay man I am particularly appalled that so many would cheer the fact that now gay people are “free” to kill and be killed in our wars of choice and aggression. I mean, I don’t begrudge anyone a job – afterall, the military was the only “jobs” initiative that Obama stoked and many ended up enlisting out of desperation. But “Yay, I’m gay and I can now kill, directly or indirectly, Muslims too!” can only be accompanied by an enormous amount of cognitive dissonance unless one is inherently belligerent, gay or straight.

    Then there’s the problem of the Democrats and Israel, but I won’t go there. Suffice it to say that Israel has just announced more “facts on the ground” activity in East Jerusalem, right on the heels of Obama’s desperate failure at the UN, and you can bet not a single Democrat will say a word about it.

    I won’t be voting for Obama.

    Obama and the National Democratic party are FRAUDS.

    Sometimes I think that a loss in 2012 would force the Democrats to stand for something but that seems naive at best.

    The truth is, alas, it’s over. The bad guys won, both parties. There will be no victories for the working class. Only slave wages and a “safety net” in name only ( see: Affordable Care Act).

    We’re fucked.

  33. Robert Windsor

    See, this is why I’m becoming skeptical that someone with such cartoonish views on politics deserves to be taken seriously when she addresses financial issues. The ravings of some fringe academic are assumed to represent not only Administration policy, but opinions espoused by every liberal in the country? Really? I look forward to your follow up post explaining that Alessio Rastani was really channeling the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

    1. James Winchester Crumwall III

      You need to work on your reading comprehension skills. She didn’t say half of what you thought you read.

    2. Foppe

      Ah, you are becoming skeptical, and you worry that it is “unjustified” that Yves is taken Seriously. Oh, the horrors that come with not being judged sufficiently Serious by Robert Windsor..

      (If you were expecting a substantive response, you should’ve actually said something — such as what you base your judgment of cartoonishness on — rather than simply sharing with us your feelings.)

  34. Herman Sniffles

    “It took most people far too long to get that Obama was a phony because the presumption that a black man would be sympathetic to the fate of the downtrodden is a deeply embedded but never voiced prejudice…”

    I think it goes even further than that. I think non-color people ASSUMED that a black guy would be more honest, have more integrity, and possess a more developed intuitive understanding of our class struggle than your average cracker. I think that’s part of why I voted for the guy. My father (a top level state employee in Cal) told me right befor he died that Colin Powell was “the only honest man in government.” And I don’t think it’s wrong to generalize that a group of people who have been picked on and oppressed might have a better understanding of the more wicked aspects of human nature. But I think we all made a mistake with this clown. And I keep noticing his posturing. What’s that all about? What does intense, non-stop posturing indicate on a psychological level? I’m going to have to blow the dust of my psych 101 text book I guess.

    1. gmanedit

      Colin Powell the Bush family bag man? The My Lai coverup artist? The presenter of cartoons and vials at the U.N.? That Colin Powell?

  35. york

    Obama’s base are gluttons for punishment. The more he betrays and attacks them, the more they vote for him. The poll numbers are just temporary. Once he starts talking about “hope” and “change” again, they won’t even notice he’s stabbing them in the back.

      1. york

        It doesn’t matter if I’m fooled or not. My state can’t swing.
        Only approximately 1% of the voters in two states get to decide.

    1. york

      With all the anti-democracy activism in American politics now, how much longer do you think the pretense of democracy can hold up?

    2. LifelongLib

      Parsing her somewhat murky statements, it sounded like she believes that under our current system politicians are forever in campaign mode. Well, when it costs as much as it does to get elected that’s inevitable.

      Rather than suspending elections it would make more sense to get the money out of politics so election campaigns would last a couple of months rather than entire terms.

    1. york

      That was 2008 Obama. 2011 Obama talks like he’s reading from a teleprompter and thinks like the replaceable airhead anchorpeople on FOX.

  36. Jim

    “The Left is obsessed with what ought to be peripheral concerns, namely political correctness and puritanical moralizing, because it is actually deeply divided over things that matter, namely money and the role of the state.”


    In the hope of beginning a closer examination/debate on the role of the state in a future politics–here are a few opening thoughts:

    The development of capitalism in the U.S. yielded an enormous concentrations of economic power. In recoil against such a private concentration of power many shifted their attention from building a democratic society to a new objective: harnessing the state as an instrument of ameliorating social inequities. Political debate then contracted over the course of the 20th century to a narrow argument over the merits and useful extent of state participation in the economy.

    I will be arguing that this shift by the left/populists/ and progressives to a reliance on the state was a strategic disaster then( beginning in the late 19th early 20th century) and this strategic disaster is now being advocated again, as the solution to the now disembedded liberalism of the early 21st century.

    What we need now, in the era of market-state collusion, is more radical democratic experiments in social self-activity as well as political and economic self-management–not more Big State, Big Corporate and Big Bank dependency.


    1. JTFaraday

      “Big State, Big Corporate and Big Bank dependency.”

      Well, it does make us a totally and purely administered society that is, at the same time, in the process of undoing that administration under the aegis of austerity.

      This leaves the disenfranchised client public at a loss because it lacks the political skills citizens might develop in a true participatory democracy.

      Even worse, the administrative apparatus is more totalitarian than ever before because those three administrative strands are all working *in concert* and at odds with the public it is disenfranchising.

      If I understand Hannah Arendt correctly, this makes up ripe for totalitarianism, and I think that’s exactly where we are. It is true, however, that much of our evil has been perpretrated abroad where we can better disregard it.

    2. JTFaraday

      In which case, if that is the case, then I don’t see how we can just go off in our local bunkers and ignore the actions of a totalitarian Federal Government.

      1. rotter

        Hes a Libertarian, just hand him the bong lighter and say “thank you, I find your ideas intriuging, and id like to subscribe to your newsletter”.

  37. JTFaraday

    “But let’s back up. Why was Harris-Perry’s obviously ridiculous assertion even allowed to see the light of day? The Nation included it in their print edition. Just because someone is one of your regular writers does not mean you give them a free pass when they submit junk.”

    Academics majoring in identity politics have long maintained that since no one else knows what they go through, no one else is qualified to criticize them. (I don’t know how this is supposed to work in the education and scholarship space, but there you have it).

    This is the simplified, but still essentially accurate, practical content of the “epistemology” of race talk referenced in Harris-Perry’s lame response in the Nation.

    Perhaps it is the case that the editors at the Nation simply aren’t permitted to offer editorial guidance.

    Reinforcing this interpretation, of course, is Harris-Perry’s parallel insistence that Obama be permitted to do, without criticism, whatever HE wants, regardless of how pernicious it is.

    Frankly, if it is not possible to critique a President due to their identity profile (or anything else), then that is the single most significant reason NOT TO ELECT THEM.

    The US President is not a tyrannos.

    OTOH, it could be that The Nation, which should be on (neo)liberal media death watch, along with outlets like The American Prospect and Talking Points Memo, just sat back and is waiting to see if the leading Obama 2012 campaign theme will actually float.

    After all, in 2008 the (neo)liberal media (including the 3 above, along with NYT, the WaPo, DailyKos, and countless lesser lights) published DAILY screeds attacking the residents of swing states like PA and Ohio for their racist refusal to go 100% for Obama at all points of the primary and general campaigns.

    It must have worked, right?

    1. JTFaraday

      And, of not least importance, the neo-liberal and neo-conservative gangster state certainly knew all about this pernicious “epistemology” of identity politics, “don’t criticize me or I’ll call you sexist, racist, anti-semite, etc” dynamic when it tapped Hillary and Obama– and only Hillary and Obama– to run in 2008.

      Deep in the bowels of The People’s House, I’m sure Obama is probably some of those things himself by now too.

      1. rotter

        Conservatives ARE Neoliberals. There is no reciprocal usage of Neo Conservative and Neoliberal, Neoliberalism generally defines the economic gansterism of The Neo conservatives. There was, once upon a time in the mid 20th century, a ‘New Left”, but even the autheticity of that label was/is disputed.

  38. Glenn Condell

    ‘The Democrats have been so deeply penetrated by the neoliberal/Robert Rubin/Hamilton Project types that they aren’t that different from the right on economic issues.’

    It’s not just economics. The 3 big interests (FIRE, Empire/MI complex and Israel) all have operatives manning the ramparts of the US ‘left’ to ensure compliance.

  39. JTFaraday

    “The task of moving forward will require rebuilding the symbolic vocabulary of the defenders of the middle class. It will probably also require a similar intellectual civil war within the left, against people like Melissa Harris-Perry. Those engaged in that effort need to become skilled in dealing with these liberal McCarthyite identity smears.”

    I don’t think that rebuilding the symbolic vocabulary of the defenders of the middle class is going to be enough. This is why I didn’t (and don’t) think a primary challenge by Elizabeth “Suze Orman” Warren, “defending middle class families,” is enough.

    Ultimately, I am (even) more concerned about the rule of law–and about the whole IDEA of the rule of law–because its suspension is at the center of ALL our national tragedies and those we inflict on others.

    I think Obama needs to be impeached.

    In this, as in many other things, it is too bad that Obama is getting hit with that which should have been delivered to Bush in the first place.

    However, the D-Party and Obama himself held out the hope of ELECTORAL regime change, and then DIDN’T DELIVER. The illegalities of the old Bush regime continued into the new regime, and were made progressively worse by Obama.

    IMPEACHMENT is an opportunity to make another attempt at *peaceful* regime change. An election, in which we select Obama or another Republican, is not going to do it.

    If we don’t get some form of peaceful regime change, soon, things are going to have to get really ugly.

    Glenn Greenwald, Ralph Nader, and assorted civil libertarians, Ron Paulistas amongst them, have detailed a number of possible grounds for an impeachment of Obama, up to and including the War in Libya. Enough is enough.

    I am CERTAIN that grounds can be found on the financial side as well. Bill Black has frequently spoken of the requirement to clean up the banks and not merely bail them out while leaving criminal management intact.

    I am so DONE with this Government. I don’t care *who* is sitting on the Throne.

    And I am sure that the D-Party will be up in arms about how they will lose African American voters forever if Obama is impeached. But I don’t care, because I am so DONE with the D-Party. And, frankly, African Americans should be too.

  40. The lives of others

    On election day, if you do not vote for Obama( if he us the nominee), no matter what you think of him, then you are worse than Obama.
    The poor and underprivileged and lower middle class will be worse off under any Republican. If you do not vote for Obama, you are punishing those whom you think that Obama should have helped more (even though some of them vote Republican, against their interest).
    As an animal rights person, although I want “empty cages” I will take “better cages” until then, especially since I am not the one in a bad cage.

      1. JTFaraday

        oops! Sorry! That should have been a stand alone response and not a response to the lives of others.

        My bad.

  41. gmanedit

    Wow—John Emerson, Phoenix Woman . . . Jerome Armstrong! Long time no see! Is this your new home? May we exect the pleasure of Chris Bowers’s company?

  42. rotter

    Who is the author defining as “Liberal”? That word doesnt really have any relavant and applicable meaning anymore. “Liberals” were those 20th century weak-tea Leftist sympathizers who wanted Capitalism to be nicer. To their credit, they forced it to be nicer for 50 or 60 years. The only thing that remains of the political Institutions they constructed is the Democratic party and thats merely a branding job. Maybe “Democratic Party Operatives” would be a more apt label.Its longer than “liberal” but much more to the point and accurate.

  43. Economic Maverick

    Fantastic Post

    Epic! This could be the opening volley in the Intra-party civil war the US Center-left/ left needs to have, akin to the Reagan/Goldwater vs Rockefeller/Javitz/Eisenhower Civil War the Republicans had several decades ago

  44. Justicia

    Yves you have ascended to my Pantheon of brilliant women, in the company of Rosa and Emma.

    My only quibble: we need a political party to defend the interests of the working class, or people who live from earned income not from rents extracted from working people.

  45. Paul Tioxon

    The Democratic party is ripe for the picking. You have seen the right wing push Arlen Specter out the door. The dixcrats of the south are all republicans and the bible belt is too. The Democratic Party is full of soft, confused people that will go away if you start entering in mass, just like the tea baggers. IT’S A POWER VACUUM WAITING FOR PEOPLE TO COME IN AND TAKE OVER THE MECHANISM OF STATE AND RUN THE GOVERNMENT AS A PUBLIC UTILITY, NOT JUST THE BANKS.
    MMT is the key.

  46. MRW

    Why the insistence on re-characterizing the Dems and Repubs? Why not concentrate on what they and the president have been doing since January 2009.

    To this white person, the rise of the Tea Party within three weeks of Obama taking office had an absolute ‘there’s a black guy maybe even a Muslim in the white house’ tinge to it. Any fool could see that. The placards outside the White House lawn even said so. (Google it) You don’t remember the three monkeys photo with Obama and Michelle’s heads superimposed on them. Or Limbaugh’s remarks dumping on Obama within eight weeks of his inauguration because Superman hadn’t solved it all already. The Republican Jewish Coalition paying $38 million (through Israeli based Clarion Funds) to distribute the DVD “Obsession” to 125 million household (see jewsonfirst.org for their brilliant investigative expose) to scare up some Muslim fear and tie that to Obama…during the election cycle? It was all there before he got elected and the Tea Partiers, who included our finest political brains, were primed to keep it going under the respectability of some Republican party backlash against the devastating economic times (which they caused, mind you) as if it were a surprise to them.

    But be that as it may, what’s happened in the congressional cycles since Obama got elected, each session only lasting 127-129 days. Spend some time pouring over it at Thomas.gov. Our elected officials have spent one-quarter of those sessions arguing or passing laws for or about Israel. At all times unanimously. The issue that will not speak its name.

    There’s a great big gigantic elephant trunk in the room, and we waste time tripping over it (because to discuss it is a big bad taboo) and describing it according to historical myths of the parties. As if whatever the effing unions did in 1949 has a direct consequence on now, as if these distinctions matter at this point in time. The domestic US is in crisis. Look at the presidential and congressional time wasted in the last six weeks over Palestinian statehood and Israel’s ferkaktah security whine. I don’t care if it were the Venezuelan elections, the point is SIX WEEKS lost. Winter is coming for all the homeless and 45 million without full-time jobs and Chicago’s Joe Walsh is advancing House bills about maintaining the purity if the West Bank ???

    The economy demands 400% attention and our congress and Prez are distracted by issues that are the President’s responsibility as Head Of State alone to deal with; that coupled with the campaign dollars Israeli issues bring in. But the US isn’t Israel. It’s the USA. Congress’ number one responsibility is to domestic issues. NUMBER ONE. The media won’t deal with it. They have six-to-eight-figure jobs to protect. A few brave ones know what the problem is and are going after it, Dylan Ratigan being chief among them.

    Bankrupt policies are the result of insufficient effort to fix them. Period. The question to ask is why aren’t they putting the sufficient attention on them? You have to start at the beginning: what they hell are they doing?

    1. MRW

      CORRECTION: “against the devastating economic times (which they caused, mind you) as if it were a surprise to them.”

      Should read “against the devastating economic times (which BOTH PARTIES caused, mind you) as if it were a surprise to them.

    2. different clue

      I suspect the bankrupt policies are the result of a sufficient effort to break them on purpose. Mass bankruptcy and mass jobicide are the goal of mass jobicidal policies such as Free Trade. The desired endpoint is to engineer a collapse for America resembling the collapse of the Soviet Union so as to “yeltsinize” the wreckage.

      Deliberately, on purpose, and with carefully thought out malice aforethought.

  47. patrick

    The Republican and Democratic parties are two brands of the same political ideology; the way Ford and Mercury are different brands of the Ford Corporation. Same models, just different finishes and color schemes.

    Liberals of all colors have given this president the benefit of the doubt for far too long. We have muted our anger too much, in part because we did not want the first black president to fail. Well events have moved us beyond that stage of rationalization. Wrong policies are bad no matter which party or person articulates them.

    Obama’s only hope is that the Republican pick Rick Perry or Sarah Palin. If they select Romney or Huntsman then he will be remembered as the 21st century Jimmy Carter.

  48. Jonus

    I dont always agree with Obamas economics, nor the way he has basically given the Republicans everything they’ve extorted, but I give him credit for practicing safe policy. These are rocky, unbalanced economic times made extremely hazardous due to the partisan politics of the cons and baggers. One wrong move and we could have real economic and social unrest.

    In the old days a big deal would have been made in the back rooms of Congress and the oval. That deal would have included parts or all of what was squeezed from Obama in the debt limit crisis. Instead, Obama got pinched. Nothing was given in return. Now the Republicans will sit on their hands and continue the mantra “No No No” and await November 2012.

    1. Jorge

      You seem to have a “safe” job trolling for Obama. When they next guy takes office, you can include this post in your portfolio and get another “safe” job.

  49. mac

    I still think that many voted for Obama in order to prove to themselves that they were “modern” and NOT prejudiced.
    Often fooling one’s self goes bad.

  50. RobM

    I agree w/ you that the President policies when it comes to the economy are very corporate and consequently wrong for the Amreican middle class and the lower class. I disagree w/ you when it comes to Melissa Hartwell Lace’s analysis of white liberals and their racism towards the President. they are condescending in their speech and attitudes. To refer to him as Obama as opposed to President Obama is too mimic the deliberate racism of the right wing(See O’Reilly interview). It does mark him as not the legitimate President of the USA, as though he did not win the election.
    Whether you chose to recognize it or not it pisses off damn near every African American. Being pissed off does not make the President immune to criticism but it does not mean every criticism is legitimate let alone accurate but it should be given w/ respect. You did this in your analysis of the President’s problem w/ respect to getting re-elected.
    I am forwarding your criticism of Ms Hartwell-Lace’s to JJP where it will receive further analysis. Ms Hartwell-Lace may even answer your questions.

    1. roscoe

      That’s just wrong. Every president has been called by last name or diminuative since at least WWII when I started checking. They encourage familiarity because it makes them seem less aloof.

  51. Robert Ladd

    I’m very disappointed with Obama. He told us on election night 2008 that his election did not in itself mean change — it meant there was an opportunity for change. How right he was. It was a rare opportunity that was squandered.

    I really don’t care whether he is black, white, green, blue or orange. My decision to vote for him had nothing to do with that.

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