Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Barack Obama: Progressive Messiah or Johnny-on-the-spot Benefactor?

Naomi Klein: does Obama have progressive street cred?

Coming once again via The Real News Network, Naomi Klein asks an important question about Barack Obama:

Is he the best benefactor for the collective energies of the American progressive movement? Or is he merely being embraced as the last, best hope of an alternative to ongoing Republican rule?

According to Klein, the gatekeepers of the "progressive infrastructure" in the United States have "suspended their critical thinking skills" in order to prevent John McCain from coming to power. In Klein's mind, the progressive movement is risking its honesty and integrity in singlemindedly becoming cogs in the "Obama machine".

"War mode" thinking has arguably led progressives -- not just in the United States, but in fact worldwide -- to embrace Obama as an anti-Bush figure.

Many of the organizations backing Obama -- such as MoveOn -- have campaigned for Obama relentlessly despite the fact that his policies don't necessarily match their expressed interests.

Unfortunately, this isn't such a big trick for many so-called progressives. Despite the fact that the actual behaviour of such regimes entirely contradicts their expressed beliefs, many so-called progressives will rush to the defense of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vladimir Putin and the Taliban.

They'll conveniently overlook the fact that in Ahmadinejad's Iran homosexuals are brutally whipped (even as he denies the very existence of Iranian homosexuals on the world stage), in Putin's Russia opposition parties are ruthlessly squeezed out of politics, and women were brutally oppressed in Afghanistan.

The effect is even more profound when they rush to defend individuals who belong to their own movement. Consider the slavish defenses of individuals like Canadian Cynic -- individuals who, through their own behaviour prove themselves antithetical to what the progressive movement is actually supposed to stand for.

The rationale for this is actually quite simple -- and fickle -- indeed:

Anybody who conservatives dislike must automatically be good.

Many of these so-called progressives will immediately ignore the fact that progressives and conservatives often have many interests in common -- so much so that many people embrace socially progressive views while espousing fiscally conservative beliefs.

There are many things that, in fact, conservatives and progressives believe in common: beliefs such as the importance of human rights.

Yet as soon as a conservative politician condemns human rights abuses in Iran, many progressives feel obligated to rush to object. Iran isn't so bad, they insist, the brutal beatings, by Iranian police, of women lobbying in favour of women's rights to the contrary.

If conservatives say that Iran is bad, then Iran must somehow be good.

According to Naomi Klein, the same logic seems to apply to the Barack Obama candidacy: if Obama is running against John McCain, then Barack Obama must automatically be good -- regardless of whether or not he actually embodies the beliefs the progressive movement espouses.

There is no question Barack Obama will be a far more liberal President than John McCain.

But Naomi Klein just may be right: progressive voters may want to be very careful when deciding whether to cast their vote for Barack Obama or Ralph Nader. A vote for Obama may bring them less than they bargained for.

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