Saturday, April 09, 2011

Fading promise

I am currently reading Jefferson Cowie's Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, a recounting of how democracy, Democrats and the labor movement went off the rails in the 1970s. It's a not-entirely-comfortable sensation to read about the events of my lifetime as history, but that's what I get for being still around. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this book later.

But for now, I just wanted to share Cowie's sad description of a leader during that epoch.

... [The] story was, in many ways, a human tragedy...his early potential seemed limitless, but his limits were real, the obstacles large, and the complexities overwhelming. ... "And here he let it all get away just because he didn't want to stand up and be counted."

Any guesses? If you didn't live that time, his name is probably unfamiliar: this is about insurgent United Mine Workers president Arnold Miller whose election was expected to herald a new day for some of the most mistreated labor union stalwarts in the country. Several years later, not so much so ...

In view of our President's latest failure to invent, or even look for, a way to fight off crackpot Republican budget demands, this description of a promising leader who was not up to leading seems too apt. We're not likely to forget Obama's name, but we may well wish we could blank out the memory of this guy's failed promise.

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