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Obama & American Politics


[Interview by Alex Doherty in early January of 2010 for New Left Project, a new UK-based left-internationalist Web site: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/interview_paul_street

 

 

Paul Street is an independent radical-democratic policy researcher, journalist, historian, and speaker. He is the author of several books, including "Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11" and most recently "Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics".

 

Alex Doherty (AD): How would you characterize Barack Obama’s first year in power? Some of his leftist supporters view his first year in office as a disappointment – others are simply happy to have someone other than Bush in charge. What is your view?

 

Paul Street (PS): Here’s a little story to start with. It was around 9 PM, on the night of January 3, 2008, a chilly and snowy night in Iowa. As I expected, Barack Obama had just won the pivotal Iowa Democratic Party presidential Caucus. Standing in the cafeteria of Iowa City’s east side City High, where Obama has just decisively captured my heavily academic 24th precinct, a "progressive" John Edwards Caucuser – a thirty-something mother of two small children – looked me in the eyes and said with alarm,  "but he [Obama, that is] can’t win." 

 

"Sure he can," I responded.  "In fact, I expect him to. The problem," I said, "is that when he does and he’s president, it’s going to look a lot like the Republicans are still in charge.  Get ready for a whole lot of warmed-over Bush and Cheney." 

 

Except, I added, much of the Democrats’ "progressive base" will, thinking they had won, remain all too silent and inactive as Obama went forth with policies that would more visibly anger them if conducted by a Republican administration.

 

The Edwards supporter gave me a look that combined pity and fear. I had the distinct impression that she thought I was out of my mind. 

 

More than two years after Obama’s historic night in Iowa, the president of "hope" and "change" (major campaign keywords also in the equally centrist corporate-neoliberal Democrat Bill Clinton’s successful 1991-92 campaign) president has become (as I’d been expecting since 2006) the ultimate living symbol and agent of bipartisan corporate and imperial continuity in the real world of power. He is a picture-perfect study in the deep conservatism that lay at the heart of America’s elite-managed political tradition. He is a monument to the art of re-packaging, to the pouring of old wine into new bottles, and to what a still-left Christopher Hitchens called in 1999 (in a study of Bill and Hillary Clinton) "the essence of American politics": "the manipulation of populism by elitism" [1]. Beneath stirring rhetoric and imagery that might seem to reflect and put him in touch with "progressive" and popular concerns, president Obama’s real-life actions and deeds carry over and pick up the ball of numerous core corporate, financial, and military-imperial policies from the Bush-Cheney era and indeed from earlier administrations headed by Democrats and Republicans alike. "As far as policy is concerned," Noam Chomsky told Amy Goodman on the left-liberal television show "Democracy Now" last April, "unless [Obama] is under a lot of pressure from [progressive] activist sectors, he’s not going to go beyond what he’s presented himself as in actual policy statements or cabinet choices and so on: a centrist Democrat who’s going to basically continue Bush’s polices in a more modulated way" [2]. It was a typically perceptive and accurate Chomsky judgment, richly consistent with the "Obama phenomenon" portrayed in my earlier "Obama book" (Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics [2008]) and with Obama’s presidential performance depicted in my next volume (The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power [July 2010]).  Of course, in South Asia, Obama has been dramatically escalating the level of imperial violence and he has expanded Bush’s terror war in Yemen and Somalia, so its’ accurate to say (as Glen Greenwald did recently) that he’s fighting a five-front terror war (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia) on the Muslim world, not to mention that the warrant-less surveillance and tracking war against "homeland" residents continues under Obama.

 

I’ve lost track of how many "mainstream" accounts can now be found of how Obama has re-packaged and re-produced critical policy aspects of the George W. Bush administration. I saw three such items between the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times in just the last few days. I’ve been giving the details on ZNet and at Black Agenda Report all the last year and won’t repeat them here. The next book will go into the painful record – not a pretty story.

 

In some ways it’s been worse than Bush. The American "so-called radical left" (John Pilger’s excellent phrase) has for most of the last year been exceedingly reluctant to challenge "their" supposedly "progressive" president, the first black president in the land of slavery. Unjust wars and occupation, mega-bankers’ bailouts and other regressive policies that were seen as intolerable under the perceived rule of a boorish moron from Texas (George W. Bush) have been all too acceptable for many "progressives" when carried out by an eloquent and urbane black man from Chicago (Barack Obama).

 

And of course, that’s part of what those who rule America hoped to see happen under Obama, who was vetted in advance – and found to be anything but a radical reformer and left-progressive – by the rich and powerful. They knew it was time for a significant brand change in the White House after the popular anger and alienation spread by Bush and Cheney at home and abroad and the fresh new nonwhite face and silver tongue of the dashing young Obama phenomenon was made for the job.

 

With much of what passes for a left in this country muted, the messianic-militarist, arch-authoritarian, and hyper-plutocratic Republican right wing and its still-potent "noise machine" is left to soak up and express much of the legitimate rage that ordinary Americans feel over Washington’s continuing captivity to concentrated wealth, corporate-direction, and the military-industrial complex in the Age of Obama. It’s starting to change a little bit – there’s been a progressive rebellion of sorts over health care and Afghanistan mainly since before Christmas – but not that much. Not enough.

 

In my case and that of some other U.S. radicals, there’s no surprise or disappointment. I started warning people about "Empire’s New Clothes" in late July 2004 [3], two days after he became an overnight celebrity with his Keynote Address to the Democratic National Convention. This is the United States’ fake-democratic corporate-imperial political culture under what Edward S. Herman and David Peterson call "the unelected dictatorship of money," which "vets the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties, reducing the options available to U.S. citizens to two candidates, neither of whom can change the foreign or domestic priorities of the imperial U.S. regime" [4]. Serious U.S. radicals have known about that dictatorship for a long time

Political "brand" names and in-power party labels may change from one election to the next but the business-run nature and related militaristic nature of the society and its politics remains the same whatever the election outcomes under the U.S. and its profits system. "Corporate-managed democracy" persists whichever party rules in the U.S. where "politics," as the American philosopher John Dewey noted more than a century ago "is the shadow cast on society by big business."

 

Here’s a nice contextualizing quote from the right wing editors of The Wall Street Journal last spring: "One benefit of the Obama Presidency is that it is validating much of George W. Bush’s security agenda and foreign policy merely by dint of autobiographical rebranding [and with] ….artfully repackaged versions of themes President Bush sounded with his freedom agenda. We mean that as a compliment…" The Op-Ed was titled "Barack Hussein Bush" [5].

 

"Autobiographical re-branding" – that says it all. As Chomsky says, it "gives the game away."

 

AD: Most leftists are agreed that however poor a president he is – it is still an anti-racist victory to see a black man in the white house. However you have suggested that in some ways his election has been a defeat for ethnic minorities in the United States. Can you explain what you meant?

 

PS: While Obama’s election was arguably a grand symbolic victory over white racial prejudice at one obvious level, it has reinforced the longstanding majority white belief that racism no longer poses any significant barrier to black advancement and equality in what candidate Obama called "this magical place"(the U.S.). Obama has not lifted a finger or taken one serious risk to challenge that grossly inaccurate belief or to address the specific forms of deepening combined race and class oppression being experienced by tens of millions of working-, lower-, and middle- class black Americans and other minorities. As Glen Ford, the Executive Director of Black Agenda Report, noted early in the presidential sweepstakes, Obama’s success in winning Caucasian votes was contingent on a "relentlessly" sent message to white America: that "a vote for Barack Obama, an Obama presidency, would signal the beginning of the end of black-specific agitation, that it would take race discourse off of the table. Barack Obama," Ford explained, "does not carry [black peoples’] burden, in addition to other burdens. He in fact promises to lift white-people-as-a-whole’s burden, the burden of having to listen to these very specific and historical black complaints, to deal with the legacies of slavery. That is his promise to them." I should add that most black Americans I know are fully aware of the critical difference between symbolic representation in high political office and substantive change in the daily lived experience and harsh institutional and social reality of race in America. 

 

AD: Amongst the more conspiratorially minded there have been claims that Obama is being deflected from pursuing his agenda by the forces that "really control the United States." What do you make of such claims?

 

PS: It wouldn’t be a "conspiracy theory" to say that a "progressive [U.S.] president" had been pushed to the center and right by the nation’s dominant domestic and imperial hierarchies – by the elite financial firms and multinational corporations along with the intimately related corporate media and the military-industrial-educational complexes.  That would be a reasonable conclusion derived from realistic "power elite" scrutiny in accord with the empirical and common- sense observations of such exemplary radical-democratic thinkers as C Wright Mills, Chomsky, G. William Domhoff, John Pilger, and others. That’s Institutional Power Analysis 101, situating the president in the world of "power as it is, not as many of us wish it to be" (Pilger).

 

But Obama had and has no genuine progressive agenda and isn’t a "progressive President." He has long known who rules America, who holds the keys to high political office and the conditions (including the prohibition of anything close to the level of radical reform that the populace requires) they impose on those who wish to be seen as successful in major elections and policy.  Again and again during the first year of his presidency, so-called "hard left" critiques of the Barack Obama administration have been met by a standard "left-liberal" objection. Obama, many of his "left" and "liberal" apologists have told me, is doing all he can for "progressive" values under the existing system of business and military power and in a context where the right-wing Republicans still exercise a great degree of power. Obama is imprisoned by the system he claimed in the name of democratic "change." Corporate and military Washington, the argument goes, leaves little room for progressive maneuver.  Poor "progressive" Obama, victim of those nasty plutocrats, the military industrial complex and those terrible Republicans!

 

This is an unimpressive defense on two levels.  First, it misses the fact that the "deeply conservative" Obama isn’t actually a progressive, something he himself has indicated to those willing to look.  At a certain point, one has to wonder about the intellectual and/or moral competence of those who claim to be "left" and yet continue to cling to the brand over the reality when it comes to "understanding" Obama in the real world of power. The comforting, self-pacifying notion that Obama – a president who often goes farther than required to appease corporate and military masters – really wants to transform America in genuinely "progressive" ways is simply unsupportable in light of what can easily found and shown about his political career and world view [6].

 

Second, while it is certainly true that Washington policymakers are captive to the interlocking directorates and revolving doors of wealth, money, power, and empire, that captivity raises an obvious point: Even if he was the progressive populist and peace champion so many of his left and liberal supporters have wanted to believe, Obama would still be detained and directed by the power elite and the corporate-managed fake democracy. So, maybe it isn’t about running for president and getting behind presidential candidates.  Maybe it isn’t about scaling to the top of the authoritarian American system and helping that system re-brand and re-legitimize itself as a "democracy" where "anything is possible." (I’m quoting Obama from his 2008 election night speech in Chicago). Maybe citizens and activists who are serious about democracy and progressive change should heed an all-too forgotten pearl of wisdom from The Bible: "Do not put your trust in princes." Or, we might add, in the United States’ narrow-spectrum big-money/big-media electoral process, subjected as it is to the "hidden primary of the ruling class" (Laurence Shoup) and the "unelected dictatorship of money"

 

AD: What do you make of the extremely enthusiastic reaction to Obama’s election in Europe?

 

PS: From the European e-mails I’ve gotten over the years, my sense is that many "sophisticated" Europeans’ level of understanding of U.S. history, politics, society and culture is about on par with my grasp of Dutch history, politics, society, and culture….in other words, not very impressive. (I think they often tend to underestimate how reactionary and business- and empire-captive the U.S. Democratic Party is, in part because they tend to falsely assume that it is our version of their more genuinely social-democratic "left" parties).

 

Still, their lack of background and comprehension in regard to U.S History (not very widely taught in Europe, by the way) and politics doesn’t seem to deter them from having passionately held opinions about those topics. I suppose this is because of the power of the United States and the ubiquity of U.S-related developments and policy in their media and also about the longstanding strong cultural connection and affinity between Europe and the U.S. as the two wings of "the West" (or global "North"). I don’t get very curious or exercised about Dutch politics because that subject doesn’t seem have all that much visibility and apparent impact on me and the world I inhabit

 

George W. Bush was a great symbol of Texas-style, stereotypical "ugly American" cultural chauvinism and boorishness. He was greatly resented in Europe (for very good reasons) for his actions on Kyoto and Iraq and widely disliked there for his abject stupidity and messianic militarism. Obama looked like a sophisticated, elegant, and urbane cool breeze – a thoughtful and eloquent, democratic un-Bush – to Europe.  The facts that he is racially mixed, has a technically Muslim name and technically opposed (as did Europe) the initial invasion of Iraq must have seemed suggestive of promising progressive transformation and multilateralism in the States.

 

One aspect of U.S, history that Europeans seem to know pretty well is that we have this terrible racist/racial history related to more than 250 years of black chattel slavery and subsequent black segregation and ghetto-ization. The election of a black president probably blew a lot of European minds. Okay fine. Get over it. As John Pilger explained in San Francisco last spring:

 

"The clever young man who recently made it to the White House is a very fine hypnotist, partly because it is indeed exciting to see an African American at the pinnacle of power in the land of slavery.  However, this is the 21st century, and race together with gender and even class can be very seductive tools of propaganda.  For what is so often overlooked and what matters, I believe, above all, is the class one serves. George W. Bush’s inner circle from the State Department to the Supreme Court was perhaps the most multiracial in presidential history. It was PC par excellence. Think Condoleezza Rice, Colin

Powell. It was also the most reactionary."

 

Obama has been what Pilger calls "a marketing dream" for the U.S. corporate-imperial establishment. He is an agent of domestic and global hierarchy who came to office masquerading in rebel’s clothes provided in no small part by his racial identity – a critical aspect of the "autobiographical re-branding" that the Wall Street Journal’s editors praised last June.

 

 

AD: You were active in the John Edwards campaign. Given your broad critique of the Democrats, why did you think his campaign was worth supporting?

 

PS: I did some canvassing for Edwards at first in part for two less-than inspiring reasons. First, my son got hired as a full time field manager for Edwards in Muscatine, Iowa, in mid 2007. He asked me to help him out on occasion and I had some skills that I figured could be useful for him. I canvassed door-to-door for a state-level public action citizen’s group (Illinois Public Action Council) back in the early 1990s and I was pretty comfortable with that sort of work. 

 

Second, being new to Iowa, I wanted to learn more (and maybe write) about the presidential political process in the much ballyhooed nationally significant Iowa Caucus. I figured that being active would be useful in an "experiential observation" sort of way. It was. As time went on, I realized I was probably going to do a book on the Obama phenomenon, which I’d already been writing about. The volunteer role provided a lot of face-to-face and phone contact with voters, including Obama supporters. That ended up being very valuable for my 2008 book.

 

I could have tried to help Dennis Kucinich, the most truly progressive candidate in the Democratic field, but he had few resources and did not make a commitment to Iowa. I figured I’d probably Caucus (vote) for him in January 2008 but working for him wasn’t really an option; there was basically no Kucinich operation in the state.

 

Now in fact, Edwards was the least objectionable and most outwardly "progressive" of the viable Democratic candidates (Kucinich and another progressive candidate Mike Gravel were not remotely viable) at the time. Edwards could be counted on, I thought, to spout many of the same terrible core foreign policy ideas – the standard imperial language – as other leading Democratic and Republican candidates. (As a U.S. Senator [D-North Carolina] in the fall of 2002, Edwards did not merely join Hillary in voting to give George W. Bush the right to use military force as he pleased in Iraq. He (quite despicably) helped draft the ill-fated congressional war authorization document! In contrast to Senator Clinton, Edwards would apologize again and again for his former pro-war position, but his regrets came too late in the wake of the abject imperial fiasco that was "Operation Iraqi Freedom" – a richly bipartisan affair, like the equally illegal Afghanistan invasion and U.S. torture practices before and after 9/11.)

 

But Edwards, the son of Piedmont mill worker, was staking out an unusually advanced (for a major party candidate) position of "fighting" for the poor and the working class against concentrated wealth and power. Edwards’ rhetoric suggested that he would campaign against poverty, economic inequality, and corporate power and on behalf of union rights to a remarkable degree.

 

Edwards ended up being surprisingly easy to work for in Iowa. He had a lot of union backing; I would go out and canvass with working class activists from United Steelworkers, UNITE-HERE, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). It was a lot of fun working with those people. It was also highly enjoyable to talk to hundreds of voters and citizens – not just about the election (subjects shifted to concrete policy issues beneath and beyond and candidates in my experience) – in my part of the state. Like Ralph Nader (who endorsed Edwards for the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries), I came to be somewhat surprised and impressed by the extent to which Edwards was wiling to run to the aggressively "fighting" economic-populist left of the "corporate Democrats" (as Edwards and Nader both called them) Clinton and Obama. Repeatedly referring to the labor movement as "the greatest anti-poverty program in American history" and proclaiming (in a paraphrase of Franklin Roosevelt’s 1935-36 campaign rhetoric) that he sought and welcomed the hatred of the rich, Edwards rightly (in my opinion) mocked Obama’s "Kumbaya" notion that meaningful progressive policy change could be attained by conciliating and "finding the middle ground" with corporate interests and the Republican Party. Edwards in 2007 and early 2008 mounted what the excellent American Marxist author and political analyst Mike Davis rightly calls "the most chemically pure pro-labor candidacy in a generation." According to Davis in The New Left Review last spring: 

 

"However one feels about Edwards’ character (as exposed in yet another bedroom scandal uncovered by right-wing bloggers), he was the only major primary candidate [to run as]…an insurgent with an ideologically distinctive platform – in his case, angry economic populism. The former senator from North Carolina (the son of a Piedmont mil-lworker turned into a millionaire lawyer) staked out a programmatic space that had been vacant since Jesse Jackson’s mobilization in the 1980s: the priority of economic justice for poor people and workers. Discarding the banal euphemisms of his 2004 vice-presidential campaign, he spoke directly of exploitation and the urgency of unionization, proposed a new war on poverty, denounced ‘Benedict Arnold CEOs’ who exported jobs, and, in a debate with Obama and Clinton in Iowa, argued that it was a ‘complete fantasy to believe that a progressive agenda could be advanced by negotiation with Republicans and corporate lobbies.’ Only an ‘epic fight’ could ensure healthcare reform and living wages. (Obama’s response was typical eloquent evasion: ‘We don’t need more heat. We need more light.’)."

 

Edwards’s "fighting" campaign rhetoric may have disqualified him (well before the exposure of his marital infidelity from serious presidential consideration) at the elite level but it was enough for me lend his campaign hours of real support in the late summer and fall of 2007. Quite predictably in America’s corporate-managed dollar democracy, Edwards’ "angry populist" campaign – notable for occasionally stunning platform oratory and detailed policy prescriptions (many considerably less progressive than Edwards’ fiery rhetoric, it should be noted) was predictably mocked and marginalized by the dominant corporate communications and funding authorities. He was rendered officially "unviable" (along with the often eccentric and quirky Kucinich, who absurdly threw his supporters to Obama) by the middle of January 2008, well before Edwards’ bedroom shenanigans were exposed.

 

I told people I knew who cared about the Caucus to work for Edwards without any illusion as to how truly progressive he really was or about his chances of securing the nomination. (I naturally had no idea in mid 2007 that Edwards would later be discovered having undertaken a scandalous extra-marital affair with Rielle Hunter).

 

Part of my motivation was defensive – to block Obama. With his unmatched capacity to de-fang popular resistance to American Empire and Inequality at home and abroad, a properly elite-vetted Obama struck me as something of a ruling class dream in the post-Bush environment – a marvelous vehicle for wrapping core conservative, system-maintaining policy continuities in the deceptive flag of progressive "change." Maybe, I thought, Edwards could stop the Obama ascendancy or at least slow him down.

 

Also, while I harbored little faith that Edwards could win the nomination, I felt that a strong labor-backed Edwards showing in the primaries might help unions and other progressive, anti-poverty forces attain more policy and platform leverage in what could turn out to be a brokered Democratic convention, torn between the giant Wall Street-bankrolled machines of Clinton Inc. and Obama Inc., in August of 2008.

 

Edwards’ warnings about Obama’s "complete fantasy" and the need for an "epic fight" with the big corporations seem pretty relevant as Obama’s lame corporate-captive health reform collapses on itself. The pathetic refusal of not-so liberal in power-Democrats to use their 2008 electoral mandate to pursue progressive change or to fight the corporations and the Republicans has quite predictably sparked a revival of the right wing as seen most dramatically in the remarkable victory of the reactionary Republican Scott Brown in the recent special election to fill the former U.S. Senate seat of the late Teddy Kennedy.

But of course nobody remembers those warnings as we consume the latest news on Edwards’ sexual behavior, finding out just the other day that Edwards has finally acknowledged that he is the father of Ms. Hunter’s two-year-old daughter. Pretty pathetic. Welcome to U.S. political culture.

 

AD: You frequently point out that the American public is well to the left of both the Democrats and the Republicans on a range of issues. What can the American public do to make democracy more meaningful in the United States?

 

PS: We have to embrace and undertake the difficult and painstaking and day-to-day work of re-building and building and then expanding rank-and-file grassroots organization and capacity on key issues beneath and beyond the corporate-crafted candidate-centered narrow-spectrum biennial and quadrennial electoral extravaganzas the masters stages for us, telling us that these rigged contests are the sum total of "politics." As Lance Selfa writes in the latest issue of the U.S.-based International Socialist Review:

 

"Waiting for Obama to do the right thing is a fool’s errand. Politics has to be conceived as something that goes far beyond electoral calculations. What’s needed more than anything is activism and mobilization that blows open the narrow political space where anything progressive is associated with Obama and opposition falls to right-wingers."

 

That is very nicely stated! In fact, here’s more from Selfa, who notes some of the small but important ways in which people are in fact acting on issues beneath and beyond the big electoral fake-democracy: 

 

"Here, there is some good news to report. The National Equality March in October marked the emergence of a new generation of activists who are unwilling to hear lip service from Democratic politicians and unwilling to wait for their rights. The thousands of students up and down California who are protesting the state’s draconian cuts are laying the basis of a network to defend public education. Grad student employees at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana struck and won a victory from an administration determined to impose concessions on them. The Ford workers who voted down a concessionary contract the company and union wanted to foist on them showed that workers don’t just have to take anything despite the recession."

 

"Many of these struggles are fragile, fledgling, and still by-and-large defensive. But they provide the foundations for further organization to pressure the government to respond to the progressive majority instead of to a loud, right- wing minority."

 

"Along with the revival of real resistance comes the urgent need for new politics. Without a political alternative that is independent, and to the left of, the Democratic Party—that is, from both parties of big business—anger at Democrats in office will always mean turning them out for Republicans, and vice versa. Such an alternative to the two-party shuffle won’t be built soon, but it must be built."

 

I concur on the whole, though I would add that we’re running out of ecological and repressive-technological time to build serious grassroots movements and independent left political alternatives in what is still the world’s most powerful (and dangerous) country. The alternative has to be built soon. I presume that I don’t need to elaborate on the ecological issue. By "repressive-technological time," I mean that the power elite enjoys ever-deepening technological and related institutional and informational capacities to liquidate the rights of free speech, privacy, public assembly, and the like. The specter of corporate-imperial totalitarianism within and beyond the U.S. "homeland" (a lovely phrase that Obama uses now) is not to be taken lightly in my opinion.

 

A final reflection and memory. Nearly a month after Obama was elected and more than a month before he was inaugurated, a militant, largely immigrant-based union local in Chicago occupied the door and window factory of an absconding employer to demand the compensation that was due them. The union and its supporters mounted a highly effective public relations campaign highlighting the harsh disconnect between the massive federal bailouts that were being made to parasitic "too big to fail" banks and the economic misery being imposed on ordinary working Americans who did enjoy government protection. "They Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out" was the (very effective) slogan. This quintessentially working class and unapologetically populist struggle quickly became a highly popular cause celebre not just in Chicago but across the country and internationally. It even held the U.S. corporate media’s news cycle for a couple days. I know because the strike knocked me off Amy Goodman’s "Democracy Now" television show in Manhattan and I had to fly back to the Midwest from New York City and was stuck for hours in front of airport televisions covering the event. Support for workers who had technically broken the law by staging an occupation of their workplace was widespread. (The President-Elect felt compelled to endorse their action – probably his shining progressive moment; it’s been all downhill ever since). The Republic Door and Window workers really struck a chord of populist dissent that resonated across the country. They didn’t wait to get the okay from Obama or the Democratic Party or any other politicians or elected officials or with electoral considerations in mind. They had developed and utilized the rank and file institutional capacity to undertake a morally righteous direct action at the immediate shop-floor and community level and thereby forced events from the bottom, compelling media and politicians to follow in their wake. We need hundreds and then thousands of little and big and then merging epic fights like the one fought in Chicago two Decembers ago. That’s where the real and relevant Hope for Change can be found, not in the masters’ elections and candidates and all the rest of that citizen-marginalizing rubbish. Iowa 2007 was my first and last foray into electoral politics, for what that’s worth.

 

 

Paul Street can be reached at [email protected] His next book The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Paradigm, 2010) will be released next summer.

 

Selected Endnotes

 

1. Christopher Hitchens, No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family (New York: Verso, 2000), 17-18.

 

2. "Noam Chomsky on the Global Economic Crisis, Healthcare, U.S. Foreign Policy and Resistance to American Empire," Democracy Now (April 13, 2009), read transcript at http://www.democracynow.org/2009/4/13/noam_chomsky_on_the_global_economic

 

3. Paul Street, "Keynote Reflections," (Featured Article), ZNet Magazine (July 29th, 2004), available online at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=41&ItemID=5951.

 

4.  Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "Riding the ‘Green Wave’ at the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and Beyond," Electric Politics, July 22, 2009.

 

5.  Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2009, read at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124416109792287285.html

 

6.  For am I hope useful account, see Paul Street, Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008).

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