By Jerry D. Rose
Common Dreams yesterday posted an article by Norman Solomon, one of a seemingly endless series of “Progressives for Obama” pieces that have urged the necessity of a grassroots progressive movement to keep pressure on Obama to carry forth a progressive agenda. Most of the comments posted on the article, including my own, were highly critical of this post, and I’m re-posting herewith my own comment posted at 10:35 am Tuesday, April 22.
Solomon: “When President Obama takes a progressive step, it has been made possible by progressive activism. When President Obama takes an anti-progressive step, it has been facilitated by progressives muting their criticism.”
Simple as that is it, Mr. Solomon? Every “step” Obama takes, right or wrong, was “facilitated” or “made possible” by progressives, either because they criticized or they muted their criticism. Wow, what a generous definition of our power, seems we’re the mouse that does or doesn’t roar, and the world spins or stands still in response. I know you intended it as a motivator of progressive criticism of Obama, but doesn’t the motivation need to be balanced by recognition that a great deal depends on other forces than our own actions or inactions? Otherwise, you get the “sick and tired” expressions of Obama critics (like that of Vern in a post above) that every thing “wrong” with his decisions (and by the way, you didn’t mention a single specific thing that he had done “right”) is our responsibility. That way lies a heavy burden of guilt that suggests the guilt-mongering of the stereotypical “Jewish mother,” not really a recipe for the most healthy upbringing of self-reliant and self-confident children.
I would prefer to come at the “preaching” to progressives more in the mold of existentialist philosophy as exemplified in Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” The stone which kept rolling down the mountain didn’t roll because of Sisyphus’ “muted criticism” of it, but because the gods had condemned him to keep rolling it up the mountain as a reflection of his human effort to pursue the “impossible dream,” which is worthy of doing precisely because it IS impossible. No amount of progressive stone-rolling is going to produce your postulated results in “moving” Obama left-ward. But, in the existentialist view, we as humans are not allowed any excuse-making about not trying the impossible because we are “condemned to freedom”; and our “I can’t do that” complaints are just instances of “bad faith” efforts to relief ourselves of the effort.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can get more mileage in my own motivation by a resigned recognition that I am not going to succeed in putting the progressive stone permanently on top of the mountain, than I can from your simplistic formula that tells me I am “responsible” when my efforts don’t succeed. Many’s the time I’ve had a student tell me that he/she can’t complete this academic task (like writing a term paper) because “it’s impossible” and I’ve told him/her: yeah it’s impossible, now do it. And the result is usually an acceptable if not perfect result.
By the same token, I have not and will not, like “Obama delegate” Solomon and many other Progressives for Obama, say I won’t support a third party candidate because he/she can’t win. I supported McKinney in the last election and have no reason to criticize myself or her other supporters because she didn’t win. I sleep really well of nights knowing I don’t have to “apologize” for my candidate or say that she will only do the “right” thing if I don’t mute my “criticism” of her. But I’ll stop before I start reciting more lines from Man of La Mancha.
Post-script. In one of several approving comments to this post, a commenter who posts under the name of Yr Obd’t Servant was inspired to compose the following song in my “honor”:
? And the world will be better for this:
Jerry Rose, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To prove Solomon is subpar! ?
And my response:
Thanks, Obedient Servant, but Don Quixote I ain’t and Rodgers and Hammerstein you ain’t, and it will never hit Broadway. But that’s OK, I can take it!
Jerry D. Rose – Editor, The Sun State Activist