Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


Can We Talk?

When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008, it opened up a new dialogue on race in this country. Suddenly, something had happened  that many thought was impossible. An African-American had been elected to the highest office in the country. Many Americans felt a sense of pride in their country on the day Obama took the oath of office. There was even talk of a new post-racial America. Now, only two and a half years later, those feelings seem foolish and utopian. Americans are now wondering if, instead of a step forward, the election was actually a step backwards.

There is no doubt that President Obama has faced a racial backlash. He has even had to deal with that backlash from within his own party, as clearly shown during the DNC Rules Committee meeting in May, 2008. That backlash did not come as a surprise for those who had paid attention to racial tensions in this country, although the ferocity of that backlash has shocked just about everyone.

The 2008 Democratic Party campaign was historic in that the two front-runners were a woman and an African-American male. Both candidacies inspired passionate supporters. A rift developed between the two camps. That rift was never fully healed and has led to strident opposition to the winner that is rarely seen within a victorious party. That opposition continues to play out in the online world of political blogging. Subtle and not so subtle racism and sexism finds its way into online discussions. When added to the overt racism from the right, this in-party opposition creates a toxic environment for any discussion about race in America.

Change is not a spectator sport

The past twenty months, since January 20, 2008, have been a very traumatic experience for those who follow politics. The polarization of the American political process has never been greater. Raw hatred spews from Right and Left on a daily minute-by-minute basis. It looks like things are only going to get worse before they get better.

One of Barack Obama’s campaign slogans was, “Change we can believe in.” In retrospect, that may have been a very poor choice for a slogan. Any change that didn’t go far enough was only going to anger some on the Left. Those on the Left that are mad at the President have turned this anger into a feedback loop where any change is bad, because it can never go far enough to satisfy them.

It’s worse on the Right. There is one thing all conservatives have in common and that is a fear of change. They cling to the status quo or pine for a time that change has passed by. That is the essence of conservatism. Talk of change to a conservative is like a waving a red flag in front of a bull. Trumpeting your intention to bring change is guaranteed to bring them running to man the ramparts of status quo.

What Does Progressive Mean Now?

Like many since the election, I’ve been somewhat silent in the blogosphere. This is partly because I had to get my life back, and rid myself of late night blogging addictions, but also because I could see the big blogs reverting to type. The necessary unity of the campaign then fell into the predictable outpourings of repressed dissent, much of it a reversion to past battles.  But a provocative piece in UK’s prospect Magazine by Michael Lind has got me thinking about where we go from here.

The American centre-left has gone through several phases in the last century, some more successful than others: the Progressive and Populist movements in the early 1900s; the bold and successful New Deal synthesis of 1932-68; the defensive, cautious neoliberalism of the late 20th century. The next reinvention of the centre-left may begin during Obama’s term in office.

Is this true? And if the centre left needs to reinvent itself, where do we go for inspiration?