A recent Times profile of Adolph Reed includes what is now understood to be his oracular characterization of Barack Obama “as a man of ‘vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics.’”
A few of us will recall making strenuous efforts to lodge that now undeniable truth within the left consciousness but few listened in a climate then dominated by what was called Obamamania. So potent were the effects of Obamamania that it was heretical to think such thoughts let alone express them.
Obamamania, the product of an award winning public relations campaign financed by massive Wall Street donations, succeeded in its goal of electing Barack Obama. Its most profoundly tragic consequence would come shortly after when what should have been a huge protest movement opposing the continuous stream of right wing cabinet appointments, bank bailouts, get out of jail free cards for Wall Street felons and grotesque violations of international law never emerged.
Because we sat on our hands at best or at worst genuflected before the altar of the first African American president, the neoliberal juggernaut pushed on unimpeded by us.
Reed warned us. We didn’t listen and we should have.
And so some of the blame for the eight years of neoliberalism leading inevitably to the rise of Donald Trump needs to be on ourselves.
A Habit of Being Right
Reed’s habit of being right is a source of considerable annoyance to his many detractors. Another notable instance not mentioned in the Times piece was his 2016 attempt to convince leftists that it was “important” to “vote for the lying neoliberal warmonger” Ms. Clinton.
With global temperatures spiking and covid statistics accosting us with death every morning-if we are lucky enough not to be one of them, it is now grimly obvious to all but the most delusional why this was important.
Those who read Reed’s piece will recall not only the common sense recommendation issued there but also the intense hostility it provoked from much of the left.
In contrast to the suppressed history of Obamamania, on this point the facts are not so easily obscured. Clicking on the link will reveal more than 500 comments almost universal in their disparagement of Reed’s view.
Drearily familiar both in their high dudgeon as well as their logical incoherence, they are characteristic of what the late Michael Brooks referred to as the “dum-dum left.”
Reed has a more decorous description of this element in the Times piece, defining them with respect to their “militant objection to thinking analytically.”
The Dum Dum Left Lives
That brings up the proximate subject of the Times piece, Reed having become the latest victim of what has finally been understood as the left’s variant of cancel culture.
Those who engineered Reed’s cancellation have objected, noting that it was Reed’s decision not to move forward with the planned event.
But Reed’s decision was comparable to that of a mugging victim’s decision to “donate” her wallet, made necessary by the demands for the event format to be converted to a “debate.”
As anyone who has advocated positions similar those Reed has been associated with can attest, this would almost certainly degenerate into a circus dominated by smears and innuendos denouncing Reed as an apologist for racism and white supremacy.
Given the widespread opposition to free speech rights on the left, many of Reed’s opponents will chalk this up as a victory in their efforts to “no platform” views they do not believe should be heard at all.
But this episode only constitutes a victory for sectarianism. It is a defeat for those understanding that the only chance to advance socialism and defeat barbarism hinges on mobilizing all victims of capitalist system in the 99%.
Reed’s long history of being right about the strategies deployed by elites to divide and undermine working class solidarity lead to one of two conclusions:
We either listen to him or continue down the path of failure.