Sunday, March 28, 2010

caretaking vs. transformation 

Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, on the prospects for transformational politics:

Perlstein is a student of liberal presidencies and right-wing backlashes and makes some pretty interesting observations. In spite of the title, the talk is quite sympathetic to Obama. Hilariously, he also notes that in the 60's in addition to the Birchers, whom I knew about, was the National Indignation Society, which I didn't. I wish they'd survived, if only for their name.

Basically Perlstein is noting some historical patterns of "transformational presidencies" and making suggestions about how Obama could conceivably have one. Unlike Reich, he doesn't see the healthcare bill as quite doing the job it needs to, mostly because it doesn't tell a clear story about liberalism vs. conservatism.

The Q&A is also worthwhile. It is noted that the New Deal and Great Society wouldn't have been possible without social movements like the CIO and civil-rights movement respectively. Perlstein is ambivalent on whether the netroots constitutes a sufficient movement to generate real change; on the one hand dismissing the idea that we need to get in the streets in order to have a social movement, but on the other noting how netrootsia has been boxed out by the Obama admin., and then on the third hand noting how they nearly scotched the health bill thus demonstrating their power...but not their lack of it...confusing.

As always with Obama, he concludes that it's still "up in the air" and the only thing to do is "wait and see" if BO initiates a more forceful phase II of his operation. While this is likely a proper attitude for an historian such as Perlstein, this posture is poison to social movements. If we don't get real change without movements, but can't get a movement underway because everyone is waiting to see how it turns out and hoping for the best, we're sunk.


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