Tag Archives: Michelle Goldberg

Stand with Ilhan Omar and Win: It’s not Complicated

That the New York Times  is somewhat less of a sewer than it has been is primarily due to the presence of the two Michelles, Alexander and Goldberg, both whom reliably and effectively articulate a left/liberal perspective on its op-ed page.

Though they represent an improvement, a significant point of continuity should be mentioned: the Times remains a Bernie free zone. Neither endorsed Sanders in 2016. Their having failed to do so is an indication of their maintaining the “this far and no further” tradition of Times liberals of years past.

This was personified most notably by Anthony Lewis who famously referred to our genocidal conduct in Southeast Asia as “blundering efforts to do good” thereby distancing himself from irresponsible radicals of the new left who regarded the war as “an obscenity, a depraved act by weak and miserable men.”

Goldberg’s recent column on Ilhan Omar can be seen as more of the same pox on both houses philosophy. Thus, Goldberg correctly savages the right’s cynical weaponizing of the anti-semitism smear.  But at the same time, she accepts the fundamental basis of their charge that Omar’s remarks were indeed anti-semitic.

That they were nothing of the kind should be apparent to anyone capable of minimal objectivity. Furthermore, by now we have decades of experience with the consequences of deploying this well worn triangulatory gambit.

A surefire way of losing to the right is to criticize their positions while conceding their underlying factual premises on which they are based. Whether on crime, austerity, the environment, health care, or education, every time we have done so, we have lost.

Sometimes politics isn’t complicated. In fact, it almost never is.

The only thing that needs to be said about this affair is very simple: #IstandwithIlhan.

Back with a Vengeance: The Left Blue Wave Advances

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been waiting (literally) decades for the unambiguous celebration of the Democratic Party left which Michelle Goldberg delivered in her Times op-ed column last week.

It’s been many years since anything like it could be found there or anywhere else in the so-called agenda setting media.  So it’s easy to forget that traditional liberal/left positions (opposition to military aggression, increased social welfare spending, environmental stewardship etc.) used to be routinely encountered in not only in major and minor newspapers but on numerous talk radio outlets and in nationally syndicated columns in mass circulation news weeklies.
As we now know, they were erased, first, by the victories of the neoliberal Clintonite wing of the party in the 1980s and 90s and then dispatched to what seemed to be permanent oblivion by the “hope and change” presidency of Barack Obama. (1)

But, as Chomsky has pointed out for years, polling results routinely attest to the massive popularity of New Deal programs. So it is no surprise that a politics based on them is making a reappearance in almost exactly the form which they were presented by the figures in the pictures above and who I vividly remember from my childhood. The basic substance is unchanged.  All that’s different is the presentation: it’s now brushed off and served up by fresh faced activists in the Sanders successor organizations (Our Revolution and Justice Democrats) and the Democratic Socialists of America (of which I am a member) rather than dour boomers like me.

Two quick comments on Goldberg’s piece beginning with a sour grape provoked by Goldberg’s remark that “there’s nothing surprising about left-wing candidates losing their primaries. The happy surprise is how many are winning.”

Now wait a minute. Just a few months ago, Goldberg was actively campaigning against and denouncing the “left wing candidate” Bernie Sanders. But now she’s celebrating the left’s victories? 

Whatever. We will need to learn to accept that of those who change their minds only a fraction will admit that they are doing so. (Those who get payed to produce opinion pieces will never do so-an iron law of political punditry, as I’ve noted in the past).

That said, Goldberg is right about pretty much everything here including her observation that there is no “evidence that the Green Party’s habit of running doomed third-party campaigns has ever done anything to further its ostensible values.”

“Greens will sometimes justify these runs as movement-building tools, but they never seem to actually build a movement.” This is, unfortunately, accurate, and, as a former Green elected official, I could fill in the details providing an explanation for why that’s so but that’s of mainly historical interest at this point. (2)

We should be looking forward, not back, with the focus on “The new generation of left-wing activists.” This is in contrast to the Greens and other dysfunctional elements on the left who congratulate themselves for their self-marginalization. In contrast, (thank God) the new pragmatic left is “good at self-multiplication”, as Goldberg puts it.

They are taking the lead. As they damn well should be.

(1)  Obama liberal defenders tend to forget that his senate mentor was Trump supporter Joseph Lieberman, his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and his press secretary Robert Gibbs the former who referred to the liberal wing of the party as “retards” and the latter as in need of “drug testing.”

(2) These matters are dealt with in some detail in this memoir from 2001 documenting my experience working on the Nader campaign and subsequent attempts to develop the New Haven Green Party.

(Lightly edited for clarity: 4/7/2019)

On Personality Politics, Fandom and the Sheepdogs of 2016


A commenter posting on this Facebook discussion is wary of describing me as a fan of Ocasio-Cortez about whom I have been frequently posting.

He thinks he might take it as an insult.

He’s right. I would and here’s the reason:

Being a fan implies an emotional investment in a politician. To personalize politics is a recipe for disaster since it fundamentally misconceives how politics works and the role of politicians within the process.

That is, they are to be regarded not as personalities, as “friends” or “enemies” but as tools to achieve concrete goals. Insofar as they are useful to achieving them, they should be supported. Insofar as they are not, they need to be dropped. One’s personal feelings about them as individuals have nothing to do with this and are in fact a distraction from the kind of objective, cold blooded determination which needs to be made.

To prevent that from happening is, of course, why millions are invested in political campaigns. The billionaire donors behind George W. Bush knew that they could never sell his policies to a public certain to be overwhelmingly disadvantaged by them. What they relied on was enough votes being acquired from those who (famously) thought he would be a great guy to have a beer with.

An identical logic applied to Barack Obama his award winning branding exercise (masquerading as a campaign) targeting a urban, college educated demographic who no doubt imagined themselves discussing Beyoncé, basketball or Urdu poetry over single malt scotch with our first African American president.

To capitulate to either marketing strategy-to become a fan of any politician-is to become a chump or a fool. I would like to think I am neither, and I’m glad that he didn’t insult me by suggesting that I am.


That said, there are plenty on the left who believe that we should relate to politicians and politics as fans. In fact, as it turns out, the commenter himself is one of these. We know this because, in his capacity as Georgia Green Party co-chair he has routinely promoted Green Party candidates, this despite, as Michelle Goldberg recently observed, the decades of evidence “that the Green Party’s habit of running doomed third-party campaigns has (never) done anything to further its ostensible values.”

In short, he meets the precise definition for a “fan” advanced in the above.

This awareness casts a different light on his suggestion that I might be one. Specifically it is an instance of what is referred to as projection-defined as denying the existence of tendencies in one’s self while attributing them to others.

Furthermore, the commenter, in his capacity as a Green is perhaps best known for his having created a viral meme, namely, the characterization of Bernie Sanders as a “sheepdog” candidate, one who would lead activists into the “graveyard of social movements” which is, so the story goes, the Democratic Party.

But, as we can now see, this is projection too. For it was Sanders who, in demonstrating that a major national campaign could be run without financing from corporate sources, was the most promising story of  2016 campaign and probably of the decade. And it is the Sanders campaign and its successor organizations providing the foundation for the current mobilization, one which, for the first time, is showing real potential to seriously challenge the dominance of neoliberal elites.

Conversely, it was the Greens in alliance with an equally cynical and opportunistic ultra left  who recognized the viable, functional left which the Sanders campaign represented as an existential threat to what remains of their dysfunctional sects. The sheepdog meme is probably the most effective smear which has emerged from them. But by now it has become clear to whom it should be applied. For in attempting to lead activists down the dead end of national third party politics, precisely at the moment when victories within Democratic Party primaries were being fought for and won that it was Sanders’s opponents on the left who were the sheepdogs of 2016.

And it was the Sanders successor organizations which are tangibly and unmistakeably “advancing the left and its values” through candidacies like that of the extraordinarily charismatic, photogenic and personable Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, not to mention Sanders himself who is none of these.

They have their fans, but their core supporters are those who know that their success means our success, which is to say major improvements in the quality of life of the 99% and in the future viability of the planet. The commenter, whose work, I should say, I have admired over the years and favorably discussed on more than a few ocassions in the past probably knows this is so.

Now is the time to admit he put his money on the wrong horse and find a way to invest his impressive talents in building up the movement rather than tearing it down.