This issue is been bugging me since the US presidential campaign heated up, oh two years ago.
Why is it that so-called “left-liberals” (including venerable liberal publcations like The Nation) think that Obama and his policies are progressive?
Is it that the notion of progressivism has lost all meaning; has become detached from progressive liberalism of the early 20th century that focused on issues of social justice and social democracy? I think so.
The vague, meaningless slogans of Obama the campaign (“Change” and “Hope”) offered no indication of the actual substance of how societal (or governmental) conditions might be improved. The lack of substance in the campaign allowed, no, encouraged people to project their own meanings onto Obama’s slogans and campaign promises.
But what really amazes me is how so many left-liberals ignored or did not believe Obama meant what he said when it comes to war and Wall Street.
How do peace activists and the anti-war movement in general back Obama when he balances his promise to end the war in Iraq with a promise to intensify the war in Afghanistan? I just don’t get the logic and apparently there is none, these folks are just hoping for Obama to be something different from what he says he is.
But if you take a look at Obama’s team there is really no doubt about where he’s coming from or where he’s headed. His cabinet appointments are—as Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair at CounterPunch put it, “a slap in the face to Obama’s base”—ex-Harvard, pro-business, and pro-war.
Even Karl Rove praised Obama’s economic team in a Wall Street Journal column!
Here are some of the heavy hitters in the Pro-War line up: Rahm Emanuel (the only Illinois Congressman to vote Yes to the war in Iraq); Hillary (another yes vote for the Iraq war); Robert Gates (Bush’s Pentagon chief!)
The Pro-Business line up is populated by Wall Streeters and Clinton-era appointees who help create the current economic crisis: Lawrence Summers (head of the National Economic Council and Clinton’s Treasury Secretary); Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (Summers’ former deputy at the Clinton Treasury, who has also worked for Kissinger and Associates and as head of the NY Fed decided to bailout Bear Stearns and AIG and let Lehman Bros go bankrupt); Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has proven his loyalty to ranchers and the coal industry; Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is a lobbyist for genetically engineered biocrops (“Monsanto pinup boy,” according to Cockburn, who “comes factory guaranteed as a will-do guy for the agro-chemical complex.”)
And perhaps most disappointingly for “progressive” (whatever that means) educators, Obama’s man at the Education Department is the former “CEO” of Chicago Public Schools (and one of Obama’s Hyde Park basketball buddies), Arne Duncan.
Duncan is an “education reformer”, which is today’s media nomenclature means he aims to reshape schools to better serve the interests of capital through privatization and militarization of public schools and the commodification of childhood. See for example Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 project.
I actually harbored some of that Obama hopefulness when Linda Darling-Hammond was advising O’s campaign on education issues and headed the his transition team on education. Darling-Hammond is a Stanford education professor, who is no political radical, but is certainly one of the most highly respected scholars in the world on issues of teacher education; school redesign; educational equity; instruction of diverse learners; and education policy.
Instead of a thoughtful, educational researcher in the ED—who understands much about what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind and has ideas about how to right federal education policy so that works in the interests of student learning—we have a tool of the Business Roundtable who offers no hope for change from Bush’s Education Secretaries Margaret Spellings and Rod Paige (who famously called the National Education Association a “terrorist organization” because it criticized NCLB.)
Over at the huffingtonpost.com, Jerry Bracey describes the “hatchet job” on Darling-Hammond that paved the way for Duncan to be appointed to the ED slot.
If you want to read about the trail of dead that Duncan leaves behind in the public schools of Chicago, check out Substance News, edited by long-time Chicago teacher and journalist George Schmidt. You can start your reading with this article:
“Duncan leaves to continue attacks on public education from Obama cabinet post as U.S. Secretary of Education”