"This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper."
---The Hollow Men, T. S. Eliot
By MARC McDONALD
Many progressives are outraged over President Obama's caving on tax cuts for the rich. But I think this latest episode could signal something far more significant and disturbing in our society: no less than the death of the American Left.
Over the decades, the U.S. Left has suffered many thrashings, from the government's repression of the Wobblies nearly a century ago to Ronald Reagan's firing of 11,000 air traffic controllers in the 1981 PATCO strike.
But in the past, after each bruising setback, the Left always managed to pick itself up, dust itself off, and rally to fight another day.
Frankly, that's no longer the case in 2010. And Obama's habitual tendency to always yield to GOP demands shows that there really is no Left in America any more. Yes, there are individual progressives out there. But there is no real "Left" in the form of a significant national force that can counter the rabid Right.
Obama has stumbled on virtually all the important progressive issues during his presidency, from climate change, to the Employee Free Choice Act, to closing Gitmo, to ending George W. Bush's disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, he has even escalated the Afghanistan disaster.
Indeed, the only "progressive" victory Obama has to show for his time in office is his ridiculously wimpy health care bill---a convoluted mess that is so watered down, compromised and corporate-friendly that it's exactly the sort of thing that a Republican politician might have passed. (In fact, one did---and it's important to note that Obamacare is actually to the right of Mitt Romney's plan in Massachusetts).
Obama has had many chances to reverse the outrages of the Bush years---and time after time, he has failed, as he continues to cave in to GOP demands.
Reversing Bush's reckless and fiscally insane tax cuts for the rich was a golden opportunity for Obama to finally draw a line in the sand and stand up for what his supporters wanted him to do when they voted him into office.
The fact that Obama caved without even putting up a fight shows that there is no real Left in America any more. Even the corporate-friendly moderate Bill Clinton put up a fight to push through his modest tax hikes in 1993. And Clinton was no Liberal.
The worst part about all of this is that Obama's constant concessions to the GOP will, in the end, wind up pleasing no one. It certainly won't win him any allies in the upcoming new Congress, which is about to be stocked with a new crop of rabid, right-wing Tea Bagger fanatics who'll do everything in their power to undercut Obama.
And Obama's constant appeasement will only serve to further disillusion his shrinking base who invested such high hopes in him only two short years ago. Exactly, who does Obama think is going to be inspired to vote for him in 2012? Who among the progressives really wants another four years of his wishy-washy, bland, constant appeasement of the hard-care Right?
Yes, there are still fragments of a "Left" in America. There are a relatively small number of idealistic progressive politicians, like Bernie Sanders. But none of them has any real chance of ever wielding any significant levers of power in American society.
Make no mistake: the American Left is, for all practical purposes, dead. It has taken many beatings and brutal setbacks over the decades: from the slayings of JFK, MLK and RFK in the 1960s to the crushing of the unions in the 1980s to Reagan's ending of the Fairness Doctrine, to the Supreme Court's Democracy-demolishing "Citizens United" travesty.
It should be clear to everyone now that the Left is dead. After eight horrific years of Bush, the Democrats were handed the reigns of power with a simple mandate: to end the GOP's ongoing rape and pillaging of U.S. society.
Instead of responding, the Dems and Obama proceeded to give the GOP virtually everything it wanted on a silver platter. And instead of taking a principled stand on Bush's tax cuts for the rich, Obama merely caved yet again with a whimper---and showed just how impotent and irrelevant the Democrats are in 21st century U.S. politics.
One final note: to those who think I'm being too alarmist or pessimistic, I'd like to say that no one on earth will be happier than me if I'm proved to be wrong. In fact, I'll be happy to eat a very large serving of crow (literally)---and I'll Webcam it and put it on YouTube for all to see.
But frankly, I'm hardly alone in my pessimism for American society. In April, 2010, Noam Chomsky compared today's U.S. to Weimar Germany. He said that the "mood of the country is frightening" and that he'd "never seen anything like this" in his lifetime.
As Chomsky noted, in Nazi Germany: "...it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don't think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election."
Chomsky was right about the "crazed Republicans" sweeping the next election. Time will tell if the rest of his gloomy prognosis turns out to be true.
In the meantime, it's clear that the Left is dead in America. Granted, we never really had much of a "Left" in this country anyway, compared to the likes of Europe. But what we did have is pretty much dead now. And Obama's impotence demonstrates the Left's extinction as a force in American society.