Saturday, September 12, 2009

Being Right About the Right

Glenn Greenwald's latest column places some perspective around the latest clashes between liberals and conservatives. Although Greenwald acknowledges that "some people react with particular animus towards the first black president," he contends that "there is nothing new about the character of the American Right or their concerted efforts to destroy the legitimacy of Obama's presidency."

To support his claim, Greenwald chronicles some of the nasty, partisan attacks on Bill Clinton. The Monica Lewinsky drama is obvious, but some people may not remember many of the other unsubstantiated and totally lunatic allegations against Clinton. Visit Greenwald's page on Salon.Com (or see Dissenting Justice) for a list of some of these outrageous assertions.

Being Right About the Right
I completely agree with Greenwald. In fact, back in October 2008, I saw this happening already with respect to Obama. I used the moment to "school" some of the younger voters who mistakenly believed that Obama would unify the nation, the world, the parties, etc., but that Hillary Clinton was too divisive for the Democratic Party. I am probably understating things by saying that I found this argument utterly annoying, naive, and misguided.

Although I am modest, I love being right. Here's a snip from Dissenting Justice, 10/18/2008:

One of the things that perplexed me the most during the Democratic primaries was the portrayal of the Clintons as "divisive," a charge that made Hillary Clinton unfit for the presidency. Many of Obama's younger supporters, following his lead, said that Clinton represented "failed politics" of the past, that she would just bring "more of the same" and that all she knew how to do was fight. Obama, they said, offered a "fresh face" and practiced a new form of politics that would unify the country and the world. Recently, Obama himself said he would, in fact, change the world. . . .

[T]he notion that Obama could somehow escape Republican attacks and bring unity to the two parties seemed like a dubious claim. Some of my closest friends labeled me "too cynical" for making that argument, but in political analysis, I take the cynicism charge as a compliment rather than a slur. . . .

Many of Obama's supporters are voting and paying attention to politics for the very first time. . . .But I wonder whether these young and excited O-voters. . .know that division is a natural part of our two-party system? Have they come to grips with the reality that if Obama wins, the smearing will only get louder and the digging deeper? Do they now realize that political work is often messy -- even dirty -- and that meaningful, large scale change only comes through contestation and battle?
For the full read, check out: Look Who's "Divisive" Now: The Anti-Obama Attacks Similar to Republican Smearing of the Clintons.


Sue said...

Darren I was a Hillary supporter but voted for Obama because he was the nominee, yes I did. I was naive to think race relations would actually improve with Obama as president, now I'm seeing, hearing and reading the most hateful vile things I have ever experienced before in my life. It's sad and I honestly don't think it will stop.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hi, Sue. I think that race relations still can improve in the future, but there are some mean people who hate the idea of change. It usually takes a dramatic event to make Americans comfortable with the idea of change. The fact that so many are trying to resist it, indicates that maybe the economy is quietly stabilizing(?). Anyway, so many people believed the race relations would improve; they can. It just takes a lot of time and work.

Glenn said...

The older I get (40-mumble and counting) the more amused I get at how often it seems people desperately want to believe that their time is unique in human history. You see that on both sides of the Obama-as-Messiah/Antichrist debate (I don't mean to be overly snarky with that description, just looking for some shorthand). I think the only thing wrong with Glenn's excellent post is that he confined his historical recap to the Clinton years. But this country has always had crackpots and always had seemingly intractable animosity and incivility -- sometimes more than others, and sometimes more "mainstreamed" than others, sure, but it's always been there.

ktsnax said...

I did not expect miracles out of Obama myself -- his vote on FISA and talk against same sex marriage (apparently his religious opposition should matter here as to public policy) alone told me that -- so let's remember not everyone expected miraculous "change" from this guy. We also knew by October 2008 that there was a sizable Palinesque group out there. Ok?

I still thought that HC was more of the same, a voice from the past, a conservative one in various respects at that. This included, don't try the usual excuses, the "toss the drunk the car keys" vote she made in October 2002. I knew Obama was no radical. But, he did and does bring a new voice, one that does impress and bring forth respect.

The fact that some major subset will continue to denounce him with MSM assistance doesn't change this. It's all a matter of degree in real life. Some HC supporters still are on his case, still mad at true believers (who always are a part of a campaign) , as if many who voted against her did not have a more realistic view of things. Oh, as if she would have made things so much better.

jonathanseer said...

I supported Hillary, but was happy to vote for Obama, because I knew then that they were ideological clones with the only difference being style not substance or opinions or beliefs. The reason I opted to support her rather than Obama initially was my fear that race would cost him the election.

That proved to be false, but race has hobbled his ability to counterstrike effectively against the Southern Party.

Any attempt he makes is immediately labeled as anti-white, and our American Corporate News Establishment (ACNE) just picks it up without any questions and spreads this idiocy far and wide.

The only way to counter these calls of "Obama is a racist" is to forcefully attack the accusers in a direct point counterpoint, using the Presidential bully pulpit to maximum advantage to drown them out.

Obama hasn't yet realized (despite being extremely intelligent) the full scope of the "office of the President of the USA's" ability to engender respect among everyday people.

By not trying he seemingly gives truth to the lie that there is no such power in holding the office of President.

But we had one big proof there is, and that's Joe Wilson's outburst which immediately produced an outpooring of support for his opponent, and put him down at 2nd in a recent opinion poll after he was way ahead, and this is in an extremely conservative district.

Another is the pretty big swing in his favor after his speech. It wasn't just his soaring oratory, it was the fact that the President spoke that made the difference to many.

Because the high risk and the aggressive nature needed to win fighting this way seems antithetical to his beliefs, Obama so far hasn't seen fit to engage his opposition this way.

Should they keep their "win at all costs" tactics up however, I think we will see in short order exactly what President Obama was so keen on keeping some of the Commandante Bush era terrorism and security laws in place.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Ktsnax: The point of this essay and the earlier one is not to accuse "everyone" of thinking Obama could deliver all of the flowery promises. Also, my doubts were always there. I never felt this way. The October essay gave me a chance to offer some evidence, rather than simply using history as a guide.

Furthermore, there is nothing in Clinton's record that demonstrates (now or in the past) that she is more conservative than Obama. That was just a campaign narrative invented to distinguish two close and popular candidates. What has Obama done in the White House that is more progressive than other Democrats in recent memory? Nada.

Finally, this essay does not argue that Clinton would have made everything better. On the contrary -- it argues that both candidates would have provoked the wrath of the right. This is not a Clinton promo. It is political analysis. Note: I do not believe Clinton would have snoozed on healthcare during August.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Glenn (not Greenwald): Excellent point!

Jonathanseer: I think Obama needs to continue speaking about healthcare. It will have the effect of countering conservatives and stealing attention from them.

I agree that the president is a powerful public figure and that Obama could use this to push his agenda. He has to avoid appearing too combatant, however, because it would legitimize conservatives (as a serious voice) and could backfire (race is tricky).

I ABSOLUTELY agree that the media has been beyond incompetent. Merely reporting conservative lies without any analysis is inexcusable and constitutes journalistic malpractice.

michaelmastro said...

What a pile of rubbish. Does this guy forget that more Republicans voted for Civil Rights than Democrats? Al Gore's dad stayed home so he wouldn't have to vote.

Anonymous said...

While you are absolutely right, your apparent glee in dancing on the corpse of the admittedly naive hope that we could transcend divisions really lowers my opinion of you. A great many of us were as skeptical about the claims of young Obama die-hards as you were, but you're doing an incredible disservice to those "annoying" O-voters by posting this. You speak too lightly of young Obama supporters "voting and paying attention for the very first time." Political savvy aside, the fact that an entire generation of voters has sprung into action, misguided though they may be, is an incredible leap forward for our country. I would think that someone as accomplished and clearly intelligent as you would show some sort of restraint in posting an "I told you so" article, but I guess I was wrong. You've lost a reader. Furthermore, If you persist with posts like this, you stand to turn all those newly politically aware individuals away from politics forever, or worse yet, to the right.

Paul said...

The whole idea that Obama was going to usher in an era of bi-partisanship was always ridiculous to me. You can't unilaterally impose bi-partisanship, especially when the other party has always been obstructionist. The problem has never been the Democrats not willing to be bi-partisan - they have always bent over backwards (or forwards!) to a fault to give the Republican administrations what they were looking for. There is also not anything inherently good about bi-partisanship and it support's Nader's contention that there is little difference between the parties. It's time for Obama to jettison the bi-partisan approach and fight for what he believes (whatever that is!)

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Michalmastro: I hate people who make ahistorical arguments. Apparently, the Southern Democrats were so incensed about that Civil Rights vote that they fled to the Republican Party. Now, the GOP is virtually nonexistent in the Northeast, but flourishes in the South. The original "Massachusetts liberals" were Republicans; now they are Democrats. This is an inversion of history. So far, you have provided the only rubbish in this thread.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Marcus: Sorry you feel so disappointed, but I do not apologize for my post. First, reality is very important for social change. If you -- or the voters you are defending -- are so bothered by reality that you would discontinue reading a blog that presents an honest picture of the entrenched nature of racial hierarchy, then I am not sure how much of a contribution you could make to an equality project. From where I stand, the process of making progressive change on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, poverty, etc. is not for the faint of heart. It certainly was not that way historically.

The reason why I was so forceful criticizing the younger voters (and their defenders) is because they had no historical reference point in their arguments about the prospect of change surrounding Obama. They criticized older people who tried to remind them about history and the difficulty of making change as being "stuck in the past" or unfamiliar with someone as "great" and "different" as Obama. Many of them simply refused to listen. Now that they are able to "see" reality, then they should take my arguments -- and Glenn's -- as an educational moment. If they were truly interested in progressive politics -- rather than Obama -- they would try to learn from this situation -- not run away from it.

I am not "dancing" with joy as a result of this. Instead, because I never expected anything revolutionary absent social movement activity, I am using this moment to encourage enlivened politics over particular issues -- not over Obama and all that he supposedly represented.

I encourage you to use the search function (top left) of this blog and look for the words "social movements." I have written extensively on why I believe that the Obama movement primarily supported a candidate (Obama) and opposed a legacy (Bush). The participants were united most strongly on these two things. Beyond that, there were only pockets of unity. That's why glbt rights, healthcare and other issues remain difficult to achieve.

Meanwhile, the O-generation is making only a fraction of the noise it made to get Obama elected. I, on the other hand, am even louder and more prolific about these issues than before (even though I doubted his candidacy). I hope you continue reading, as as the title implies, my opinions will provoke people at times. But I believe that dissent is extremely valuable, and that it is important to stress reality -- even when it hurts.

Todd said...

If you encountered people who thought that Obama was going to sprinkle pixie-dust on the nation, causing everyone to sing in harmony, then okay - you were right to criticize them.

However, that's not the viewpoint I hold. One reason I supported Obama over Hillary was the degree to which Hillary is a divisive figure. The Right have spent years defining her negatively. I find it highly unlikely she would have been able to do as well in the general election as Obama did, and I suspect her presence on the ticket would have motivated Republican base voters to get out and cast ballots (the anti-Hillary vote would have been more motivating to them than the pro-McCain vote), which could have had an impact on downticket races.

If you're going to tackle this issue, you need to work a little harder at it. For you to simply say "People thought Obama would be magical, but he's not, so I was right" is overly simplistic.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Oh, Todd, give me a break. Your description of my articles on this issue is beyond being overly simplistic. It's a distortion.

Also, according to polls taken on election night, Clinton would have equaled or done better, but THIS POST IS NOT AN ARGUMENT ABOUT CLINTON'S SUPERIORITY. A few defensive Obama suporters have offered the same misinterpretation.

Instead, I am arguing that the rightwing is consistently evil towards liberals - not that Obama is attracting more venom than others would have engendered.

I always believed (and argued) that the longer Obama remained in office, the more dirt the conservatives would sling his way and the more the media would help with the script. All of this is rooted in historical analysis -- not a drive to beat up Obama supporters. Honestly, I think I have written more in support of Obama's policies than many of his loudest cheeleaders.

Peter Attwood said...

I don't understand all the excitement. Obama is just Bush with a nicer smile, a better suntan, and a smoother patter. When you look at policy, where's the difference? Feed the bankers at everyone else's expense, and without oversight? Torture and disappear people, often completely innocent, with no due process? Bomb and invade others without a cause, except to maintain imperial domination wherever possible?

All these things that were suuposed to be so bad when Bush was doing them are now just fine with many now that Obama is doing them with equal enthusiasm.

Could someone explain why these things are all different just because Obama is doing them instead of Bush?

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