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A Polemic Devoid of Politics


Last week Michael Moore published an ardent declaration of support for Barack Obama. In case you missed it, you can read it here.

I was astonished at the political vacuity of this declaration–even knowing that Moore, since 2004, has proudly brandished the Air-America-Nation-magazine-Progressive-Democrats-of-America-DNC seal of approval. I sent Moore the following open letter. So far, it has elicited no response. Perhaps its appearance on the CounterPunch Web site will prompt him to explain his position more coherently than he did last week:

Mr. Moore:

I just read your long and impassioned plea of support for Barack Obama. I am open to hearing convincing reasons that voting for Obama–whether in the primaries or the general election–is the right thing to do. But I am troubled by several aspects of your letter:

1. First and foremost, it does not mention a single political issue. Not the war, not health care, not poverty, not the economy–nothing. (Okay–you make a couple of token references to the war, but only to shore up your perverse plea that antiwar activists should cast their votes for the Democratic enablers of the war!) So you do not seriously examine a single political issue. My conjecture on the reason for this omission is that once you begin to list the issues that are of greatest concern to you, you will be forced to acknowledge that Obama does not agree with you on even one of them. For example: you made a brilliant film about the need for a national, single-payer health-care plan in this country, yet there’s not a word about the lack of support for such a plan from any of the major candidates–much less about their continued support for the war in Iraq (Obama has voted for all the funding appropriations, as you somehow fail to note), their unwillingness to cut even one penny from the monstrous military budget to fund social needs, their willingness to sell themselves to all the big corporate interests at the trough of big-money donations, etc. Your failure to mention even one such issue means that your letter is essentially apolitical–devoid of a discussion of any of the dire political issues that confront the country–which is passing strange in a presidential election year for a man of your political acumen.

2. You do hint at a political point–you claim that there is a “movement” behind Obama. I wonder if you would be so kind as to specify the shape, form, and identity of this movement. As far as I can tell, there is an amorphous wave of support for Obama based on his personal charisma, but no clear sense of a mass movement based on any real political agenda. The only clearly identifiable “movement’ of this sort that I can discern in Obama’s camp is made up of the major corporate interests that have flooded his campaign with big bucks, and whose interests he faithfully promotes in his political program–right down to the private insurance companies who take center stage in his awful health-care plan–the very insurance companies your skewer so effectively in your film–but to whom you give a free pass in your support for their captive, Barack Obama.

3. You state that you just want to see any candidate of the Democratic Party installed in the White House. But we had eight years during Clinton time to weigh the “benefits” of this kind of Donkey-symbol regime for the nation, and what we got was welfare “reform,” rampant deregulation, WTO/NAFTA, 500,000 Iraqi children starved from sanctions, etc., etc.–an essentially Republican record so repugnant that you were impelled to disown it in your support for the Green Party and Ralph Nader in the 2000 election.

So–in your letter we have a polemic that is devoid of politics and heedless of history–really a personal love letter to Obama rather than a political analysis of any sort. Curiously enough, when you make a film, you slash away brilliantly at the issues; but when you talk about whom to vote for, you suddenly turn into an apolitical spinmeister for the sexiest Democrat du jour. The many admirers of your work and your history of progressive activism can and should expect better of you.

Bill Kaufman

WILLIAM KAUFMAN can be reached at:






William Kaufman is a writer and editor who lives in New York City. He can be reached at

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