Since Barack Obama's ascent to the presidency, I've heard countless progressives and members of the American Left talk about how we got "tricked".
These progressives fall in three broad camps.
1. Progressives without a systemic analysis who genuinely are disappointed with the pace of "change" in our society and who thought Obama would fundamentally change our country;
2. Progressives who didn't think Obama would change anything, and are working hard to push people further to the Left; and,
3. Progressives who didn't think Obama would change anything and are revelling in the opportunity to say "I Told You So."
The third group is where the biggest problems lie.
The bottom line is that Obama has changed some things, the most significant among them being the shift away from the openly homophobic, nativist, misogynistic, and nationalistic rhetoric of the past 8 years. That by itself should be welcomed and labelled significant.
But beyond that, the Left should know better. Our problems don't stem from individuals (Obama, Bush) but rather systems: both institutional- ("representative"[sic] government, market economics, the nuclear family) and thought-systems (neoliberalism, fascism, white supremacy, patriarchy, neoconservatism, Liberalism).
Obama is a Liberal: he believes that the market can solve many of our problems, but that the government needs to step in and correct where the market has failed; he believes that a strong national security state is necessary for "America's interests", he believes that some social programs are necessary, etc…
But Obama isn't going to change things, even if he wanted to (which he might genuinely like to do on some issues). Only an organized progressive bloc, and a growing Left offering alternatives, all taking action to raise the social costs of elite policies which negatively affect ordinary people, can force Obama – or any other force we're pushing – to give us what we want, can do that.
What the new adminstration represents most is an opportunity. An opportunity to educate on why our problems will be solved by organized groups forcing elites to give us what we want, and that our problems come from systems and not individuals.
In particular, genuine progressives should call those who are being self-righteous (and who know better) out on their shit. If you understand the problem is systems, stop reenforcing individualism by saying "I told you so". Being self-righteous doesn't make you "radical". Being compassionate and meeting people where they are at – and pushing them further – does.
The Left should know better.
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