Statehouse Days: The Myth of Barack Obama’s “True Progressive” Past

Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary.  Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them.


- Ryan Lizza, July 21 2008



In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices: one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable credentials and vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program – the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle class reform in favoring form over substances. 


- Adolph Reed, Jr., 1996




The extent to which many “liberal left” Democrats and hard-right Republicans will go to convince themselves and/or others that Barack Obama is really a left progressive is quite remarkable. “Oh sure,” they say when you point out that Obama is a corporate-sponsored centrist and cite any of number of facts from his U.S. Senate career and presidential campaign to support that elementary observation. “But that’s just a façade he has to put on to get elected. He’s really a left-leaning political actor” – what some liberal leftists will call “a true progressive” and what Obama’s hard-right critics call “a dangerous leftist” and even a “social

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