The Audacity of Blame: The Politics of Put-down By Robert Becker

by Robert S. Becker
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
October 6, 2010

Well, exxccuusse us doubters. Mr. President, for assessing real-world results of your major decisions (or non-decisions). Is the left responsible for the jobless recovery, too?  Afghan quagmire?  Oil spill fiasco?   It’s bad enough to distort our scrutiny into “inexcusable” liberal “lethargy,” even worse to blame liberals for alone squandering Democratic majorities.

Is this how cornered politicians win friends and influence people, fulfilling the new, if vacuous Obama motto, “Changing the Guard, Guarding the Change”?  What WH adviser pitched condemning friends with language fit only for the enemy camp of Angle, Palin, O’Donnell, Miller, Paul, and Gingrich?

The president talks like prominent progressives are rushing around, urging an election boycott. Who? More to the point, which D.C. power brokers quake when disgruntled progressives speak? The vaunted left may not even re-elect the best Democratic senator, Russ Feingold. As with your regressive politics, even civilian-killing predator drones, you target the wrong enemy at the wrong time in the wrong way.

Should we fake our enthusiasm when you undercut your own signature propaganda, “change comes not from the top down but from the bottom up”? Right, from the bottom of Manhattan called Wall Street? Or the bottom of the Gulf, now layering decades of oil sludge and dispersant? Or the bottom of Gitmo, or the bottom-line bigotry of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

The Efficacy of Guilt-tripping?

Is your cranky Rolling Stone interview designed to scold us, release frustration or ignominiously indict others for the looming GOP deluge?

It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election . . . The idea that we’ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible . . . If we want the kind of country that respects civil rights and civil liberties, we’d better fight in this election . . . People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up . . . if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.

If these absurdities were true, or this language justified, we would be “fucking retarded.” Actually, what popped up for me was an old Sinatra ditty, Call me irresponsible – call me unreliable, throw in undependable too. Do my foolish alibis bore you, well I’m not too clever . . . Call me irresponsible – yes I’m unreliable. We’re awash in “foolish alibis,” but from a shifty White House that sprays fault like a garden hose, everywhere but the source.

Beyond rude scapegoating, your White House remains blind why the left is estranged, even irate. In a nutshell, Mr. President: you mouth, but don’t fight for principles, you compromise way too early, your taste in establishment advisers stinks, and your post-bill passage “follow-through” (punt and run) is abysmal, ceding the field to the frenzied fringe.

What’s inexcusable, and throw in undependable, is the Grand Canyon gap between your splashy promises for systemic reform and a torrent of cosmetic, corporate-friendly glosses. What if leftwingers nail who you are: a bright, garden-variety politician good at speeches and with unusual flesh tones?  For the record, the left didn’t set your campaign tone, nor pledges, nor cause you to cave to the whims of Washington. Your bad.  Entitled princes must still ask for, nay earn voter support, not presume our fervor as if divine Hawaiian birthright. By commanding obedience with guilt, shame, and denunciation, you invoke the king mystified why his subjects don’t love him more.

Here’s the deal: you work for us, not the other way around. Politics 101: candidates present their case, goals, talents and winners get power, and then activists, pundits and lobbyists fight for what they want, overcome stasis, and score victories. No progressive expected most of what you promised, not even half, but where’s one unequivocal progressive triumph? Any one will do.  Instead, for our cash and trouble, we are insulted by your administration’s lame mockery, joking we’re pissed for expecting either world peace or no Pentagon . When only 42% endorses your presidency, you’ve got far bigger problems than bizarre projections about what progressives don’t even believe.

Divisive, Dis-organizer-in-Chief

Of course, overwhelmed, self-important elites throw tantrums now and again, you in your controlled way. Remember Harry Truman: “want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” How could millions upon millions, profoundly pissed at the Bush-Cheney hijacking of America, overlook your extension of that theft 80% of the time, and on the biggest issues? “Just Say No to Bushism,” restore the Constitution, show us wars end, promote green values as do or die – and the left and the center will cheer loudly. More of your same surrender means more outrage and worse numbers.

Why your interview infuriates goes beyond confirmation that “screw-your-base” tactics are White House policy. Or the derangement that shaming your base will motivate loyalty. Beyond even that progressives are demonized. Most galling is final proof you don’t get what leadership means, at least in today’s messy, toxic brew. Doing right may indeed mean failure now and again, so why not fail honorably, with guts and commitment, even honesty?

That you don’t acknowledge what millions consider OUR diminishing options is YOUR telling issue. Trapped in your Washington bubble makes you appear deluded or in deep, deep denial, that you don’t know how to escape. Perhaps no one can govern this crazed country, but you miss the pre-election “no confidence” vote when 50% disapprove of your time in office.

Progressive Manifesto

We’re way beyond your few “warts,” as you put it, but how your agenda injures the bottom 80% time and again. Those of us pissed at Obama-Bush III now get a colossal guilt trip that blames the left and punishes us for having memories, principles and sticking to our guns.  Say what?

If you ever become an effective, national “community organizer,” rather than divisive presidential complainer, count us in. When you begin to hold Bushies and the fringe in sharp contempt, not us, count us in. When you assail reactionaries who want America to fail, not leftists who love America (but despair over what it’s become), count us in. When you make convincing moves towards any systemic reform, however distant the achievement, count us in. When you become half the president that candidate Obama articulated, count us in.

Otherwise, the only “reform” now in your power is a redemptive public apology for the politics of put-down, for debasing your base. Call me irresponsible, but I struggle to recall any president who succeeded by disowning his own.


Dissent in the age of Obama by Cindy Sheehan

March to Nowhere by Chris Hedges

2 thoughts on “The Audacity of Blame: The Politics of Put-down By Robert Becker

  1. Pingback: The Audacity of Blame: The Politics of Put-down By Robert Becker (via Dandelion Salad) « OntheWilderSide

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