The anti-Obama moment
This is the moment for radical reform, for reform that cuts to the quick, that alters a society or one of its parts. Reform of this kind has become timely because the powerful, productive and secure America which emerged directly after the Second World War no longer exits and resurrecting this "golden age" entity must be counted as an unrealistic project. I say this because the "real economy" is now in crisis; Wall Street and the Fed continue to debauch the dollar; numerous individual states must manage severe fiscal crises and these undoubtedly will damage their capacity to govern effectively and legitimately; many Americans and their families have been forced by circumstances to watch while their life savings dwindle away and their children struggle to make a place for themselves in a country in economic and social decline; the federal government is bankrupt but gives the security-surveillance apparatus an enormous amount of money which the spook apparatchiks then waste by undermining the country's democratic institutions and culture along with its international standing and its economic capabilities. The upshot: The American dream has finished its run and Americans must now face a difficult world with their fantasies exposed for what they are.
To be sure, reform could mean the restoration of past practice, which is to say, a return to constitutional and economic fundamentals. These reforms allegedly were part of what the Reagan Revolution was all about. Radical reform today, on the other hand, can only take the form of a "new beginning" for the country. As a moment marked by the novelty of the reforms which mark it, these reforms must include a rejection of the conservatism inherent within the American political culture and its political institutions. They would thus entail a principled rejection of America's historical record since 1968 and beyond.
Chris Bowers of Open Left addresses the need for reform, doing so in light of the nature of party politics in the United States. His topic: Health care reform and the obstructionist Democrats! Bowers writes:
Here is a message that progressive organizations and media outlets need to start sending to all Democratic party committees and members of Congress:
We are done attacking Republicans until you pass a public option for health care.
Until a public option is passed, I don't want to hear about the latest hate and idiocy spewing from Limbaugh, or Tancredo, or Palin, or Gingrich, or whoever. And to tell you the truth, I don't want to attack them for it, either. Because, right now, Republicans are not the obstacle to progressive governance. Instead, Democrats who refuse to support a public option are the obstacle [emphasis in the original].
Why would the Democratic Party refuse to meet this sensible and popular demand? Why would the Party of the People undermine this popular reform? Why would it embrace an increasingly impossible reality? William Greider provides an answer:
The Democratic Party ignores its left-liberal-progressive base with some regularity because it knows it can. Politicians understand they will suffer no consequences afterward. The galaxy of mediating organizations, including organized labor, that surrounds and supports the party may stomp and holler, but they do not attempt any retribution that might alter their relationship with power. Reform organizations will not withdraw their support, either money or rank-and-file voters. Nor will they seek to punish any of the wayward Democrats who regularly vote against them with opposition at the next election. The "white hat" reformers are Washington insiders themselves, with a seat at the table and influence on the substance of the party's agenda. They do not want to put their status at risk. Politicians know this from long experience. So do the reformers.
For the outsider who would be an insider — that is, for the reformers who want to become effective in the here and now, who want have more than a tiny bit of influence over the government in power, who wish to have direct access to that government, to instituted political power — access seemingly comes attached to a stringent and unavoidable quid pro quo: The reform-minded liberal can have and even enjoy their seat at the big table but he or she will occupy this seat only so long as he or she does not pose a practical threat to the Washington-Wall Street way of governing the world. Once these reformers become insiders, once they "make it big" and turn into recognized 'players' and thus members of the elite, these arrivistes will have thereby gained a stake in the system they wanted to reform. Having this stake in their hand means they will confront circumstances and pressures that will compel them to reproduce the system such as it is. It means, in other words, rejecting reforms which would disturb the already-powerful, the entrenched interests and institutions that are enduring features of the polity.
For the moment, therefore, party politics must be considered a dead end sensible reformers would wisely avoid. Radical reform must spring from civil society itself. Common Americans must want to reform their government and society, for these needed reforms will not be gifted to them by the elite.