I follow a number of lefty/progressive news feeds on Facebook and am as often annoyed by them as I am impressed by them. Tonight I read a blurb that brought me to new levels of annoyance, and being the kind of guy I am, I thought I’d share the information with the rest of you, so you can be as annoyed as I was.
Well, perhaps you will find this as annoying as I do, anyway. The blurb from my lefty/progressive news feed was about how Obama is ready to sacrifice Social Security and Medicare to the gods of deficit reduction and it said “THIRD WAY: Obama has ‘repeatedly endorsed a deal to …. make Social Security and Medicare stable’. Note: 3rd Way is a ‘Republican Lite’ group staffed with Clinton/Obama types. Note: when they say they’re going to make SS/Medicare ‘stable’, that means they’re going to cut the shit out of it.”
That was a way to phrase things which was guaranteed to send me through the roof. “Clinton/Obama types”?!?! I’ve spent far too long on the attack against Clinton Democrats and defending Obama’s version of the Democratic Party’s philosophy, against the eight years of nothing for which Clinton stood, to let that pass. I responded indignantly to the assertion these posters were making that Obama’s willingness to come to arrangements with Republicans about Social Security or Medicare constituted willingness to “cut the shit” out of those programs, pointing out that the main reason I thought this argument was being raised was that Obama was about to make a big show of standing firm about raising taxes on the rich…pretty much as purist Lefties insisted he wouldn’t do ever since the budget debates in late 2010…and this meant the hardcore types would have to find some other way to prove the president opposes all that is holy and no one can save us except Saint Bernie.
But it’s interesting that this typically hamhanded attempt to divide left-wingers between ideological Saints and sell-the-farm Obamabots has finally referenced the “Third Way”, and that is a reason to bring this otherwise merely irritating blurb to everyone’s attention. It may be that this reference is an indication we may be witnessing a shift in tactics of the sanctimonious lefty purist.
From 2009 through early 2012, those on the Left who hate the President didn’t have even the slightest interest in remembering the horrible record of the Clintons (both of them) in office. I spent most of those years trying to remind people about that, and about how Clinton’s inaction from 1993-2001 was part of a wider retreat from liberalism and social democracy in which many other world politicians participated, most notably the UK’s Tony Blair. But the crusading Glenn Greenwald Left yawned. All that stuff was ancient history, they seemed to imply. If anything, this bunch liked Clinton, because he wasn’t Obama. Obama the warmonger, Obama the caver to right-wing special interest, Obama the Bush Clone…but Bill Clinton the guy who was president back in that wondrous time B. W. (“before W.”) There wasn’t the slightest reason to criticise _him_.
Well, along comes the 2012 election, and Obama has managed to convince Bill Clinton to sign on as a big campaign booster. This is remarkable because Obama and the Clintons were considerably at odds after a bruising 2008 primary season (gee, remember that?), but no one seems to think so, and start to conflate the two. Obama gets the benefit of appearing Clintonian and centrist, while Clinton gets the benefit of appearing Obaman and hopey-changey liberal (something he hasn’t been in decades). At the Democratic convention, in moments that caused me to bite my lip so hard it still hasn’t healed, I watched as Clinton portrayed himself as a hardcore liberal/populist barnburner standing with the people against plutocracy, while Obama gave a dull speech that studiously avoided all controversy.
Both politicians were playing against type.
It was Clinton who, from 1993 to 2001, did his best to jam his head in the ground rather than confront Republican obstruction. It was Clinton who gave deregulating Republicans their greatest victory by declaring the “era of big government” to be “over” (and of course, later everyone was to enjoy how much deregulation, particularly of the financial sector, was to add to their lives). It was the two Clintons who, when tasked with the responsibility of fundamental health care reform, proposed something Congress wouldn’t pass, watched the measure die instead of fighting for any of it, and then dropped the issue for six years.
It was Obama who, ever since coming into office in 2009, has found ways around Republican obstruction. It was Obama who insisted in his first inaugural address that “[t]he question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works” – as effective of a rejoinder to caving Clintonism as it was possible to offer. It was Obama who spent the majority of his political capital his first years in office accomplishing what Clinton either couldn’t or wouldn’t – substantive health care reform.
The difference between Clinton and Obama, to anyone who has actually looked at their respective accomplishments, is striking. It was for that reason that the hardcore purists of the extreme Left did their best not to bring the matter up from 2009 to early 2012.
But the Obama-Clinton alliance during Election 2012 changed how that purist Left now deals with that. In the old days, it was possible to ignore Bill Clinton’s record, because Clinton wasn’t helping Obama in any way (indeed, he was busy telling Ted Kennedy about how a guy like that Obama would have been serving them coffee back in the old days). But now, since everyone could see that Clinton is on board the Obama bus, and Obama is, after all, The Antichrist…well now, it’s time to finally discover the Clintonian Third Way, and to invent the myth that there is something called “Clinton/Obama types” who are ready to sell you out at a moment’s notice.
The switch is pretty breathtaking in its speed. I challenge you, for example, to find references, before Election 2012, to either “caving” behaviour on Clinton’s part or “warmongering” Clinton acts (even though he caved repeatedly to the Republicans and bombed foreign countries repeatedly as president, usually with far less justification than Obama has). It now looks like you’re going to start to see that, though, because Clinton’s very public backing of the president means he is an “Obamabot”, and there’s nothing worse than that, I guess.
Anyway, one positive thing to come from my reading this otherwise supremely aggravating blurb on Facebook was the link the blurb offered to a document provided by the Clintonian (but not Obaman) activist group called “Third Way”, which is a group that pretty faithfully continues the ugly tradition of Clinton/Blair triangulation masquerading as “pragmatism” and “centrism”. It is somewhat useful to have a group to point to that embodies everything you’re criticising, to provide as a point of reference when you want to show people the dangers of “Third Way” thinking. The Third Way is not ancient 1990s history – it lives and it continues to poison our response to today’s political issues. I imagine I will cite the actions of this group a fair bit in the future as reflecting the way we absolutely should not be going.
I also imagine I will be able to demonstrate, in pretty clear terms, how Obama policies remain far different from the compromised vision of deregulation and market fundamentalism that this group continues to represent…and that the coming narrative of how those “Clinton-Obama types” are ruining us is divisive as well as factually challenged.