Monday, August 24, 2009

Looks like we're bifurcating here--Obama backlash, Progressives disappointed yet again

That Obama would disappoint Progressives is something that many people, many smart people, like myself, predicted long before the election. However, so far he hasn't moved as far enough away from his original positions as I thought in my more cynical moments that he would, so that's good. What's not quite so good is that it looks like the inevitable backlash against a president who is both not Bush and black has started. I'm talking about the health care town hall fake rioting and gun toting.

Unlike some folks I believe that health care is just the surface level of a much deeper wave going on. The Hitler comparisons, the whole "death panels" business, all convince me that what's really going on is a basic Republican/conservative reaction against a liberal and non-Bush president. The riots, whatever you want to call them, look like a convenient excuse for the Bush loyal to regroup and press their case once again.

These folks weren't going to go away, not after over seven years of post-9/11 supremacy. Especially with a black president. For me, the gun toting aspect is particularly racist because it brings to mind decades upon decades of klan intimidation of blacks in the segregated south, where the threat of violence was used to keep blacks in line and 'in their place'. I wonder how direct the path would be between people who literally intimidated civil rights workers in the South and the people who are carrying guns at the town halls. So it appears that the interregnum is over.

There's been a really strange dynamic going on since the inauguration. Initially, there was a wonderful outpouring of happiness and hope that Bush was finally gone and someone who was actually intelligent and sane was in the driver's seat. Then, there was a weird sort of ambiguous period that turned up after the initial glow subsided, a sort of long waiting period to see what would happen next, driven in part possibly because progressive and liberals didn't believe that Bush would ever get out of office and because right wingers most likely didn't believe that their precious post-9/11 worldview would be challenged and go the way of the dinosaurs. The dialectical tension, the tension between forces and interest groups in society that define how exactly politics precedes wasn't at all apparent. Now it is.

The only thing that I really hope for now is that centrism doesn't come back. Because that would really suck. Otherwise, there can be work and progress, which will open up room for pressing for Progressive change even if Obama doesn't stay on a strictly Progressive agenda. If he deviates too much from it, on the other hand, and somehow becomes Clinton II, we'll really be fucked, but I don't see that happening.

*on edit: dialectical tension in the way that I'm describing doesn't refer to just economic struggle, rich versus poor, workers versus owners and bosses. Instead, it refers as well to the political and social movements that embody different class, economic, and power interests. These expressions of the underlying reality often fight each other as proxies for the interests of their ultimate source. So, with the Obama gun toters, white conservative free market interests that are ultimately based on white privilege and the wages of whiteness gotten through that structural advantage, that they don't want to see infringed by socialized medicine, which puts these folks on the same side as the insurance companies and the large corporations.

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