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David Sirota
David Sirota
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Our Dear Leader


Judging by the proliferation of capital letters in the e-mail correspondence I receive, many seem worried that Barack Obama may not deliver the promised "change we can believe in."

After voters rejected the mantra of free trade and deregulation, some contacting me say they are upset about Obama hiring so many free-trading deregulators who birthed today's economic mess.

With the president-elect having touted his opposition to the Iraq War, some are bothered "that Obama's national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views," as the Los Angeles Times reports.

Others recall Obama insisting that "change doesn't come from Washington, change comes to Washington," and say they are dismayed that his government will be run by Washington insiders. And still others are confused that Obama championed a progressive platform but, as The Nation's Chris Hayes notes, "not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive" has been floated for a major cabinet position.

To my fearful letter writers, I offer three responses.

First, I counsel not fretting too much yet. While there is truth to the notion that "personnel is policy," crises can make radicals out of former Establishmentarians, and the president-elect's initial declarations imply a boldly progressive agenda. "Remember, Franklin Roosevelt gave no evidence in his prior career that he would lead the dramatic sea change in American politics that he led," says historian Eric Rauchway.

Second, I tell e-mailers they are right to be somewhat distressed, right to ignore Obama loyalists who want them to shut up, and right to speak out. When President Clinton rammed George H. W. Bush's NAFTA through Congress after candidate Clinton pledged not to, he provided ample reason to now recollect the saying "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." And voicing concern is critical.

As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without demand."

Finally, I ask my pen pals if they are really shocked.

Despite the election's progressive mandate, Obama is not what Ronald Reagan was to conservatives — he is not as much the product of a movement as he is a movement unto himself. He figured out that because many "progressive" institutions are merely Democratic Party appendages and not ideological movement forces, he could build his own movement. He succeeded in that endeavor thanks to the nation's Bush-inspired desire for change, his own skills, and a celebrity-obsessed culture.

Though many Obama supporters feel strongly about particular issues, and though polling shows the country moving left, the Obama movement undeniably revolves around the president-elect's individual stardom — and specifically, the faith that he will make good decisions, whatever those decisions are. With that kind of following, Obama likely feels little obligation to hire staff intimately involved in non-Obama movements — especially those who might challenge a Washington ruling class he may not want to antagonize.

This is the mythic "independence" we're supposed to crave — a czar who doesn't owe anyone. It is the foreseeable result of a Dear Leader-ism prevalent in foreign autocracies, but never paramount in America until now — and it will have its benefits and drawbacks.

Wielding his campaign's massive e-mail list, the new president could mobilize supporters to press Congress for a new New Deal. Or, he could mobilize that army to blunt pressure on his government for a new New Deal. The point is that Obama alone gets to choose — that for all the talk of "bottom-up" politics, his movement's structure grants him a top-down power that no previous president had.

For better or worse, that leaves us relying more than ever on our Dear Leader's impulses. Sure, we should be thankful when Dear Leader's whims serve the people — but also unsurprised when they don't.

David Sirota is a bestselling author whose newest book, "The Uprising," was just released in June of 2008. He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network — both nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at



3 Comments | Post Comment
actually, the republicans and the democrats are not responsible for this mess.

This mess has been building since the 70's or sooner when we first closed down our first factory in favor of cheaper labor overseas.

The following is an article I wrote this morning titled "Why won't you open your eyes ? "


We see articles like this every day, on the internet and in the paper and on tv.

But they won't open their eyes and see what is really happening.

They all say the same thing.

That this time it is different.

But they won't take the time to understand why.

And the reason why is because of what we are doing to ourselves.

Fact 1 - The American consumer accounts for 70% OR MORE of all purchases made in America

Fact 2 - Our companies are offshoring our work faster and faster

Fact 3 - The people whose jobs have been offshored are only finding jobs paying less money which means they have less money to spend IF they can find work at all

Fact 4 - Less money to go around, means less to spend at the mall, means less retailers, means less employees, means less tax revenue to run your town, county, state and country

Fact 5 - Offshoring has to stop immediately in order to reverse this trend

Question - Why can you not see what is so obvious ?

Is it because I am not an economic expert ?

Is it because of the forest for the trees syndrome ?

Is it because to admit that we are causing this problem would force you to make less money by paying American wages for American jobs ?

Comment: #1
Posted by: Virgil Bierschwale
Fri Nov 28, 2008 3:24 AM
Re: Virgil Bierschwale;...Sir, .. don't be retarded in public... The parties have sliced and diced this country to keep progress from happening.. If the blame is not all theirs, then they have had things their own way, and have done nothing to fix the flaws in our representative democracy, our republic... Republics have weaknesses and strengths that direct democracies do not, and the same is true of direct democracies, that they have strengths and weaknesses... But the part of our government which was designed to be most democratic was tampered with from the beginning, and this was a party choice... We started this country with one representative for every thirty thousand and now have one representative for something like every 600,000.... Compare this situation to the Greeks, who in their highest representative body had over a thousand men representing 150000... Now, consider the numbers... There were 400K inhabitants of Attica, of whom 250k were slaves having no civil rights...Yet this small number existing without technology as we know it , and only by their own labor or the excess labor of slaves could in their smallest and highest office, their Dikasteria, have a ratio of 1 representative to 150 citizens ... Now, with our early government, much hampered by distance and poor communication we could afford a better democracy than what we now have by miles.... When this change was made, it was to make the house more manage-able.... Manageable for whom??? For the parties and the powers that controlled it??? How did that help us??? You see where it has helped us... It has helped us not at all... And the proof is that no one of us would vote for the situation we suffer because we were never allowed any vote except on party personalities....Between them, the government and the rich have helped themselves to the national treasure, our public lands, our minerals, our labor, our invention, our money, our liberty, and our military... They could not do this without the destruction of our democracy... The contempt of Socrates and Plato for democracy have come down through the ages to our time, and as in Greece, these oligarchs have sold out the democracy to foreign powers... It is treason, but if this treason were not allowed, and built into the constitution when it set no limits to free association, or firm limits on the ratio of the governed to representatives; then, it would not be possible, and all would not now have to be destroyed... But do not say the parties are not responsible... They are not exactly constitutional, and are only unofficially constitutional... But they are accepted, and they define the nature and limits of government on their own, and they have had their day, and should be made illegal, and outlawed...Let us see their progress now, because my bet is, that to have power the republicans will work against any solution, but this is not 1932, and the problems are far worse, and more difficult to fix, and we might see all go to hell in short order... Let it bleed... There is not a part of this government, or this economy that I would risk a finger to save... It was a born abortion... It should have died long ago... WE can do better... Begin writing your own constitution... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Nov 28, 2008 8:05 PM
We have a case of "Damn if you do.. Damn if you don't"

Barack is in an awkward position and we must respect that. If the financial situation was not as grave as it is, I sincerely think he would take more chances on placing fresh faces aka unknowns in his cabinet. But giving the volatile and sensitive time we are in where one false move could cause an absolute crash and burn effect, he had to make a choice - go with his revolutionary vision or yield to a conservative caution.

If hiring known faces helped calm the fears and anxieties of wall-street, news pundits, and the like, then it was an unfortunate tough call to make, but I'm glad he had the balls to "do the right thing" and not foresake us just because of some "campaign rhetoric"

Barack can not make governing decisons based on "change we can believe in." He has to make govern based on "change that will secure our anxieties"

But let's consider his campaign pledge of "Change" - That's a little word that now has over 100 different interpretations. Not to belabor the the point (smiles), I'm just going to wrap this up by saying the on change that I think he has kept his word at so far - is CHANGE in Washington were the leader is actually trying to do something for the people. CHANGE is in Washington were we actually know there is one leader, the Preseident, calling the shots and he will not be a "yes man" to his #2. CHANGE is having a President that has actually studied Goverment and American History.

Another thing we have to consider, is that historically, african american politicians are often taken for granted. Obama has to be firm with some cabinet selections to send a message, that he means business and he is not a flyweight - don't let his size full you. And don't let his selections full you. He did not achieve his past victories on the message of hope! He actually tapped into the psyche of a lot of intellectual professionals. Don't forget, working with A-listers is a two-way street. They have to agree to work under his lead. So if they trust and believe in his cabinet, why can't we?

Comment: #3
Posted by: NaturalSmile
Sat Nov 29, 2008 5:43 AM
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