Two weeks ago, I explored the problem of why President Obama's administration has so little concern for the problems of working Americans, in The Obama administration as “managed democracy". I used Thorstein Veblen's insights into the Leisure Class to extend Sheldon Wolin's analysis of "managed democracy" (a new form of authoritarianism developed in the past two or three decades, which most of us would also call corporatism). The fundamental point I was trying to make is that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the education or life experiences of someone like Barack Obama or Larry Summers that would provide them an understanding of industrial economics or empathy for the working class. (Let me qualify that, because I had hoped, and still cling to a hope, that Obama's experience as a community organizer might have given him a reservoir, not yet drawn upon, of support for industrial economics, or at least enmity for, or the very least suspicion of, financial economics.)
From a report filed yesterday by Stirling Newberry from the America’s Future Now! conference, Dispatch: The Eye of the Needle at America's Future:
What lies beneath the festivities here, is that the older activists are angry, they voted for Change, with a capital "C," and they know that it did not happen, and the younger activists, who live in change, and are disappointed at the changes that have occurred. It is the eye of the needle to be threaded, an older base that has a historical ruler to measure against, and a younger group that has not yet lived through a political cycle. It does not feel the same sting, because it has not seen the flurry of activity that a crisis can bring. . . .
. . . While Obama is indisputably the President, and indisputably the head of the party, his leadership of the party and the country is being challenged, and most specifically, by labor.
This is not surprising. It is labor that has born the brunt of the down turn, it is labor that did not get EFCA, it is labor that saw little from health care reform – and even more so labor unions. It is labor that is being told, again, to wait their turn. It is labor that has a channel, however, of money and muscle, to challenge the political operation of Obama. . . .Unlike most of Newberry's posts on the tubez, this one is short and well worth reading in its entirety.
Labor's political positioning problem is the conference's raison d'etre. On one hand labor will not get far by antagonizing Obama. Nor will it recruit new young people by frontally attacking a man who is, or in many cases was, their icon. On the other hand, the undercurrent is a very real anger at the failure of the Administration to directly attack the legacy political economy of the neo-liberal era.