Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The making of a mature President


Recently I wrote thousands of words about the history and problems of the U.S. peace movement. (See sidebar) Booman summarized his description how the peace movement stalled in a few sentences.

...we've won the argument over the war. We won the argument but we didn't win enough political power to end the war. And that means we all just have to sit in a holding pattern, waiting for a new president. ...

I can kind of mark the day that the antiwar movement died. It was the day that MoveOn.org ran their strategically moronic BetrayUs advertisement in the New York Times. That was the day that the Democratic Party (which is, after all, one of the two Establishment parties in this country) had to divorce itself from the movement to end the war. MoveOn.org showed a profound misunderstanding of the power structures that govern Washington. The Democratic Party, as an institution, was never going to countenance the vilification of our most important general in the field. Nor will they ever fully come to grips with the profound moral horrors they have been complicit in allowing. The Democratic Party is merely a vehicle for change. It can only be moved slowly and it will always gravitate back to the center.

He thinks the most important work that people who wanted peace have done in the last eight years has been to begin to take hold of some of the levers of power within the Democratic party, thereby moving part of the establishment a little to the left.

I don't disagree with him. The current political season will test how enduring those accomplishments may be. Will there be a President Obama? Will a President Obama seek to centralize all "progressive" tendencies within the Democratic Party under his leadership? We've seen his campaign discouraging donations to para-campaign organizations around the margins of the party. If he wins, will that mean that he'll try to subsume all the energies of his supporters in what will be his party?

One the hardest truths for people in power to remember is that having a noisy, demanding, outsider grassroots constituency helps them govern. This is so even when they are getting jacked up and called names.. This is something Obama should understand from his days as an organizer. Pushy people give cover to a progressive politician to get things done.

But this is tough to remember when being lionized as a President Obama certainly will be if he ends the long Republican ascendancy. I'll judge his maturity, which his opponent so questions, as much on how he responds his annoying, impolitic base as on any other criteria.

1 comment:

anotherinsanfran said...

"Pushy people give cover to a progressive politician to get things done." True, if there are enough of them. If they are too few, then they just become an embarassment who hurt their own cause.

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