’”Effective Evil” or Progressives’ Best Hope? Glen Ford vs. Michael Eric Dyson on Obama Presidency’
This was the question that was raised about President Obama on a broadcast segment that featured on DemocracyNow!
”As President Obama accepts the Democratic nomination to seek four more years in the White House, we host a debate on his presidency with Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and Michael Eric Dyson, professor at Georgetown University and author of numerous books. Ford calls Obama the ”more effective evil” for embracing right-wing policies and neutralizing effective opposition, while Dyson argues Obama provides the best and obvious choice for progressive change within the confines of the U.S. political system…”
I’m going to add some of my own commentary here to what these two African-American intellectuals have to say about Obama. Personally I see Professor Dyson as an apologist for Barack Obama and is quick to point out how ’we all have blood on our hands’ but hey, Obama was great on health care…
”…Let’s talk about the fact that the—you talk about an effective evil, what about the effective political practice of the left that is not always talking about ideals as opposed to the realities? When you said to me that, look, our job is to tell the truth, not talk about getting in the game—but I’m saying if we’re not going to be involved in the political process either to reform it, to restructure it, to revolutionarily intervene on it, or to anarchically destroy it, then the option is that we’re on the sidelines. We have highfalutin discourse and revolutionary rhetoric, but we don’t have the possibility of making a difference in people’s lives…”
Basically I see Dyson saying that one has to ”get in the game” and not merely engage in conversation, point fingers, and complain about the realities as they exist. My argument would have been that American mainstream views are locked out of the process, anyone left of center-right, cannot even be heard. Speaking truth to power has its limits to be sure, but if the mainstream media, the political pundits, apologists and the lobbyists with clout (money) are further right in their views than the majority of Americans, then those who may actually represent average Americans and our views on civil liberties, peace and justice, labor etc; and are effectively shut out of the process, how can one ”get in the game?” When push comes to shove, and the majority of us are marginalized by the very government that pretends to represent mainstream America, then you have movements like the Tea Party and Occupy come into being to address the grievances that the majority of Americans shut out of the political process have.
”…So, I’m saying, in the real world of actually existing political practices in which the left has any hope of participating, you can’t just stand on the sideline throwing mud. If a Glen Ford was down here in Charlotte, North Carolina, engaging in talking to people, engaging in the brilliant analysis he does, maybe the nuances of existential angst of people who are tired of idealism on either side, but engage in the actual politics that we can engage in, that might make a difference in your own analysis…”
Dyson turns his attack personally on the man he carried on a debate with. This is disingenuous and obfuscates the point. Dyson fully knows that there were plenty of people who represent left of center movements there in Charlotte expressing themselves, getting their message out and attempting to be a part of the political process they were effectively locked out of. I’m sure that Mr. Ford’s analysis on line or in print has been helpful to people with the interest and intellect to follow along. I don’t see this as ’throwing mud,’ because again, Ford is speaking truth to power.
”…What is not good are ideals and rhetorics that don’t have the practice—don’t have the possibility of changing the condition that you analyze. Otherwise, you’re engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation that has no consequence on the material conditions of actually existing poor people…”
This statement by Dyson is perhaps the most disingenuous he made during the broadcast. One must have analysis before synthesis and effective action. Dyson would refer to the conversation in the article https://shannynmoore.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/john-cusack-jonathan-turley-on-obamas-constitution/ between John Cusack and Johnathan Turley as ’rhetorical narcissism.’ He drags the ’existing poor’ into the discussion by claiming that thoughtful commentary is merely ’ideological self-preoccupation that has no consequence on the material conditions of actually existing poor people.’ It seems that he would rather have a rosy narrative that doesn’t give political ammunition to the opposition, so it’s better just to sweep any criticism under the rug. This is what Dyson means when he refers to ”the political realpolitik that—the realpolitik that’s on the ground…” To me that’s just another way of saying that if the other side is nasty and evil we have to show them we can be just as nasty and evil as they are. This is where I think Dyson’s whole position and argument as apologist for Obama falls completely apart.
Yes, Obama is no superman, but he doesn’t have to stoop down to the lowest level and tear up the Constitution because its more convenient to be a Mafia Don. As Mario Cuomo said, ”the law is supposed to be better than us.” As John Cusack says in his conversation with Constitutional Law Professor Johnathan Turley;
”…The Constitution is not meant to be convenient…”
”…The principles are what separate us from the beasts…”
”…The only thing that’s been hurt here has been us and the Constitution and any moral high ground we used to have. Because Obama and Holder are good guys, it’s okay. But what happens when the not-so-good guys come in, does MSNBC really want to cede and grandfather these powers to Gingrich or Romney or Ryan or Santorum or whomever — and then we’re sitting around looking at each other, like how did this happen? — the same way we look around now and say, “How the hell did the middle of America lose the American dream? How is all of this stuff happening at the same time?” And it gets back to lack of principle…”
This is what our government looks like, win at any cost lacking in any principles.
Turley describes a line or rule that he teaches about, its called the bright line rule;
”…One of the things I teach in my constitutional class is that there is a need for what’s called a bright-line rule. That is, the value for bright-line rules is that they structure relations between the branches, between the government and citizens. Bright-line rules protect freedom and liberty. Those people that try to eliminate bright-line rules quickly find themselves on a slippery slope. The Obama administration, with the Bush administration, began by denying rights to people at Guantanamo Bay.
And then they started to deny rights of foreigners who they accused of being terrorists. And eventually, just recently, they started denying rights to citizens and saying that they could kill citizens without any court order or review. It is the fulfillment of what is the nightmare of civil liberties. They crossed that bright line. Now they’re bringing these same abuses to U.S. citizens and changing how we relate to our government. In the end, we have this huge apparatus of the legal system, this huge court system, and all of it has become discretionary because the president can go ahead and kill U.S. citizens if he feels that it’s simply inconvenient or impractical to bring them to justice…”
As much as I hate ending a thread or thought with a quote, I will do it here because it is a thoughtful one made by Cusack at the very end of his conversation…
”…We used to have some lines we wouldn’t cross–some people who said this is not what this country does …we don’t do this shit, you had to do the right thing. So it’s going to be a tough process getting our rights back, but you know Frankie’s Law? Whoever stops fighting first – loses…”
Right you are John!