The Professional Left is NOT Your Friend — Example: Glenn Greenwald

Sometimes, you have to wonder what side some of the Professional Lefties are on. There are two clear sides to the politics at the moment, and to deny that just defies simple logic. There is no doubt the Republican Party has been taken over by extremists, and we have to get rid of them. I don’t mean we just have to defeat them and get a majority; I mean we have to annihilate them in the voting booth. This is no longer a horserace between two political parties with different views of where the United States should go. This is a contest between one political party that is perhaps wrongheaded at times but means well, and one that truly wants to tear apart the fabric of this country and go against everything we supposedly stand for.

But take a look at this post from Salon this morning, written by the self-absorbed Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald is so incredibly anti-Obama and anti-Democrat that it’s simply not possible to think he’s actually a progressive. (Once more, the root word of progressive is “progress”. Keep that in mind as you read this tripe.) Though the article is entitled “Here’s what attempted co-opting of OWS looks like,” He starts off with his standard rip of Obama. But he doubles down this time, and ends up looking ridiculous. (Red emphasis added)

The 2012 election is almost a full year away and nobody knows who is running against President Obama, but that didn’t stop Mary Kay Henry, the D.C.-based National President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), from announcing last week that her organization endorses President Obama for re-election. That’s not surprising — while many unions have exhibited political independence, SEIU officials have long been among Obama’s closest and most loyal allies in Washington — but what was notable here was how brazenly Henry exploited the language of the Occupy movement to justify her endorsement of the Democratic Party leader: “We need a leader willing to fight for the needs of the 99 percent . . . .Our economy and democracy have been taken over by the wealthiest one percent.”

But now SEIU’s effort to convert and degrade the Occupy movement into what SEIU’s national leadership is — a loyal arm of the DNC and the Obama White House — has become even more overt (…)

Seriously, Glenn? You’re SHOCKED that a LABOR UNION might actually already endorse President Obama for a second term, even though there’s a WHOLE YEAR before the election? Gee, I wonder why that might be? Might it be because the entire Republican Party leadership has pretty much declared war on the labor movement? Have you even been paying attention? Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Michigan, among others, have faced the attempted destruction of their collective bargaining rights, and the Republican Party has been trying to break the unions that represent federal employees for years. Do you think their natural tendency might be to lean Democratic right now, given those realities? And in what alternate universe is NOT endorsing a candidate considered “exhibit(ing) political independence”? Seems to me, if NO ONE ELSE has endorsed Obama as yet, SEIU is actually demonstrating “political independence” by endorsing Obama, don’t you think?

Who does the political genius Greenwald imagine might win the Republican nomination and turn SEIU’s political head between now and next year? The only one of the current GOP Klown Kar of presidential candidates who isn’t odious is Jon Huntsman, and he has zero chance of getting the nomination. The only two candidates with a chance of winning the nomination are Romney and Gingrich; which one of those two do you imagine will be union-friendly whilst they try to shore up the Republican base?

But that’s not the dumbest thing Greenwald said. Check out the segment I reddened. SEIU is trying to “convert and degrade” the movement? Is that why they were among the first to join Occupy Wall Street in the early days? They have been very active in most of the occupy protests, with very high visibility in the nasty events in Oakland. In fact, Mary Kay Henry herself (mentioned above) was among those arrested during the “Day of Action” protests just two days ago. That sounds like participation to me, not “co-opting.”

Getting back to the article:

Having SEIU officials — fresh off endorsing the Obama re-election campaign — shape, fund, dictate and decree an anti-GOP, pro-Obama march is about as antithetical as one can imagine to what the Occupy movement has been. And pretending that the ongoing protests are grounded in the belief that the GOP is the party of the rich while the Democrats are the party of the working class is likely to fool just about nobody other than those fooled by that already. The strength and genius of OWS has been its steadfast refusal to (a) fall into the trap that ensarned (sic) the Tea Party of being exploited as a partisan tool and (b) integrate itself into the very political institutions which it’s scorning and protesting.

The above is just crap. By ANY measure, the GOP IS the party of the rich. It’s all they represent. In the last 30 years, everything they have done has been to benefit the rich. Everything. And the Democratic Party IS the party of the working class. MOST working class people ARE Democrats. Not independents, not third party, not Republicans, but DEMOCRATS. Glenn is the “fool” if he doesn't get that. Are some Democrats a little too conservative? Sure. But EVERY progressive in government is either a Democrat or caucuses with them.

You have to wonder about this lame-ass attempt to push the “both parties are the same” meme. He can’t be dumb enough to believe that, can he? I mean, the guy's a lawyer; he's no dummy. And the way he phrases it is too clever for him to be written off as “ignorant” or “stupid.” So, he must assume his readers are stupid enough to believe both parties are the same. Isn't this what Fox News does with its ignorant minions? 

Here’s an exercise for all who truly believe both parties are the same.Make a list of all the progressives from both parties in Congress. Then I want you to list the moderates (by voting record) of both parties. Finally, make a third list of right wing nut jobs from both parties. (Again, use voting records). If you can look at those lists, you can't possibly believe “both parties are the same.” 

Greenwald then devolves into whining about pretty much any group that expresses support for the Occupy movement, which seems naturally limiting to a movement that supposedly represents 99% of the population. But it's when he goes into a typical fake-progressive rant about “working outside the system” that he really loses his own argument. (again, red emphasis added):

I disagree with the prevailing wisdom that OWS should begin formulating specific legislative demands and working to elect specific candidates. I have no doubt that many OWS protesters will ultimately vote and even work for certain candidates — and that makes sense — but the U.S. desperately needs a citizen movement devoted to working outside of political and legal institutions and that is designed to be a place of dissent against it. Integrating it into that system is a way of narrowing its appeal and, worse, sapping it of its unique attributes and fear-generating potency.

Gosh, Glenn. What a great idea! No one’s ever thought of having progressives work outside the system before!

Seriously? Is Glenn unaware that the loudest, most obnoxious portion of the “progressive movement” has been doing exactly what he suggests for a half century? They’ve ALWAYS worked outside the system. And how’s that been working out for us? We’ve had 32 years of political domination by an increasingly radicalized Republican Party, while progressives have become an endangered species. There are progressives in their 70s now who are still imagining the public rising up with them and overcoming the political system in a magical tsunami of 'progressivism." Meanwhile, just about every socially progressive program this country has ever implemented is slowly being taken apart. You know why? 

Glenn, you might want to attend that third grade civics course you recommend so highly to others. The ONLY people who get to make any changes in this political system are those who actually win elections. People who win elections make laws, change policies, appoint Cabinet members, appoint federal court judges and Supreme Court Justices, and pretty much everything else. If you hate the mechanics of the system and want to change them, you have to amend the Constitution. There are only two ways to amend the Constitution, and neither of them bypasses “the system,” since either Congress and state legislatures have to approve the amendments or, in the unproven method, a convention can be called by the “states," which means either approval by state governments or passing referenda in 37 states, which means working within the system.

There are no shortcuts. There are no magic solutions. There are no unicorns or little ponies who fart glitter. There is the system. A system, might I remind you, that RIGHT wingnuts are using to great effect. They haven't been standing outside the system, screaming at it, and look at what they've been able to do. 

Where DO people get the idea that change can just happen spontaneously in a country that isn’t experiencing very much overt repression, and where pretty much 90% of the population gets pissed off if you say anything bad about this country. A country where two of the greatest outrages of the past year were the Netflix price increase, and the proposal by Bank of America to charge $5 a month to use its debit cards (not to mention the Kardashian debacle and the Ashton-Demi split) is NOT “ripe for revolution.” We’re the richest country in the world; the biggest problem we have is that too much of that money is going upward. We need more regulation of markets, tax increases and infrastructure investment. We need to get off oil, and convert to renewable energy sources, and we have to stop raping the environment. But all of that can ONLY be accomplished within the system.

Nothing in politics happens spontaneously. Everything in politics takes strategy. Screaming at a problem doesn’t make it go away. Right wingnuts haven’t been screaming from outside the system. They’ve taken over a major political party, and they’re getting what they want. Why wouldn’t that work for us?

The answer is, of course, it would. I’ll get into this more in another column, but that’s a winning strategy. True reformers know this. You don’t reform any system from the outside. If your heating system is blowing cold air, will shouting at it and smacking the furnace work, or might someone have to get inside and repair it? 

So, the question is, why are Professional Lefties like Greenwald encouraging people to NOT participate in the system? Why do they bash Obama and the Democrats mercilessly, when there is a toxic political movement that has taken over the Republican Party? Knowing for a fact that the election next year will between Obama and one of the GOP Klown Kar Kandidates currently running, and that there is a clear choice between the two parties, why pretend the choices are two sides of the same coin, and why would you encourage people to stay outside the system?

They’re trying to undermine, not fix, the system, folks. Here’s the conclusion of that article:

… If one wants to argue that the GOP is more opposed to progressive economic policies than Democrats, that’s certainly reasonable. If one wants to argue that, on balance, voting for Democrats is more likely to bring about marginally more of those policies than abstaining, I think that, too, is reasonable. But to try to cast the Democratic Party and the Obama administration as the vessel for the values and objectives of the Occupy movement is just dishonest in the extreme: in fact, it’s so extreme that it’s very unlikely to work. Those who believe that further empowerment of the Democratic Party is what is most urgently needed can make their case and should pursue that goal — they should try to generate as much citizen enthusiasm as possible behind them — but they should stop trying to depict and exploit the Occupy movement as an instrument for their agenda.

Read that sophistry carefully. Glenn's actually telling you he DOESN’T think “the GOP is more opposed to progressive economic policies than Democrats.” He’s also telling you he DOESN’T really think “voting for Democrats is more likely to bring about marginally more of those policies than abstaining.” In other words, he is arguing, albeit backhandedly, that non-participation in the political process is a net good thing. Talk about playing into the hands of the GOP. Always remember; the main strategy in Republican politics is to get people to not show up at the polls, and the above dovetails with that strategy nicely.

But more than that, what is the purpose of a movement – any movement – if no one else joins? Isn’t the purpose of the Occupy movement — which supposedly represents 99% of us — to bring more and more people on board? During the first weeks, when the unions joined them, everyone was joyous. The more people attach themselves to a movement, the bigger and bolder it can get. The whole POINT of a movement is to encourage people to “exploit” it. There is no purpose to a movement if no one joins in and helps.

Basically, as has been the case with every progressive “cause” in about the last half century, certain progressives like Greenwald want to make such a protest “theirs,” and they want it to be insular and “special.” If that’s the case, than it won’t represent 99% of anything. Unions are part of the 99%, as are most Democrats, and most working class people, even if they're technically Republicans by registration. For that matter, most doctors and lawyers are also part of the 99%, as are most teabaggers and gun nuts. The most compelling stories the Occupy movement needs may actually come from people who are NOT neo-liberals like Glenn Greenwald. 

In other words, if you restrict participation in the movement to those who align themselves with Glenn Greenwald’s vision, you represent about 3-5%, not 99%. That will KILL the Occupy movement. 

It's either about 99% of us, or it's about Glenn Greenwald's apparent "vision." It can't be both. 

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  1. Which is rather frightening, if you think about it.
    More seriously, there’s a difference between “book smart” and “smart.” Over the years I’ve met quite a few people who were the former, but not the latter. Another term that we used to use was “educated fools.”

  2. I would not label Greenwald as ‘libertarian’, as some do, perhaps simply because he happens to work for Cato. (My view on that is ‘So what?’)
    What I am thinking of labeling him as is a ‘professional curmudgeon’. By this I do not mean a humorist like Andy Rooney, but a type of yellow journalist or other writer who instills in readers antipathy towards fellow human beings who do not deserve it, and in general a negative attitude. Examples include Gore Vidal and Alexander Cockburn.
    It is so easy to be such a curmudgeon that I figure it is mostly an easy profession rather than a sincere attitude. Greenwald is simply dog-whistling, even if he has convinced himself otherwise. I keep thinking back to a minor thing, which is when the name ‘Caroline Kennedy’ was being tossed about for political office, and Greenwald wrote a ridiculous blog post about nepotism being a dangerous new trend in American politics. Even an elementary schoolchild could have torn the post to pieces; but thinking about it is not part of a curmudgeon’s job. A curmudgeon is tasked simply with presenting factoids so that they will cause readers to feel ill will and hopelessness. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

  3. Greenwald is just insufferable. He’s selling this notion that some progressive fantasy candidate is going to rise up and be ushered into the white house; his comment section is rife with gullible people who are buying it. The only President that Greenwald would be happy with is one who resigns in protest at his inauguration. The only thing that will hurt the OWS movement is arrogant idiots like him trying the make it some exclusionary clique that only the progressive “cool kids” can be a part of. I caught the article in salon that tried to deride Russell Simmons as an OWS poser. Simmons is wealthy, but from an economic background that most of the OWS gatekeepers at Salon couldn’t even imagine. I guess Michael Moore and Bill Maher are the only rich celebs that get the Salon OWS seal of approval.

  4. Glenn Greenwald’s first book was about the Manichean tendencies (the reduction of everything to a Good vs. Evil frame) of the Bush administration. He did a masterful job supplying several examples of this and also explaining how this simplistic view of the world explains so much about how the Bushies fucked up.
    It took me a couple of years to realize that Greenwald is as much a Manichean as the Bushies were. He just has a different idea of who the good people are and who the bad people are. And if he thinks you are one of the bad people then everything you do must be bad.
    I think it is clear where he places himself in that equation.

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