FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Behind the Political Curtain

by DAVID MACARAY

Philip Levine has just been named the new U.S. Poet Laureate.  How should we interpret that?  Did President Obama, who’s been a profound disappointment to organized labor, believe he could partially redeem himself in labor’s eyes by naming Levine, long celebrated as America’s “working class poet” (Levine once belonged to the UAW and worked in Detroit’s auto plants) to the prestigious post?

No one’s suggesting that move this rises to the level of a national security concern or is part of a sinister conspiracy cloaked in intrigue, but it is fair to ask if old-fashioned “identity” politics played a part in it.  Alas, even to the non-cynical, the appointment wreaks of calculation.

For the record, it’s not the president who appoints the Poet Laureate; technically, it’s the Library of Congress.  Still, a hands-on, media-hip president is going to be calling the shots.  Nor is this accusation in any way meant to demean the character or body of work of Philip Levine.  Indeed, if anyone deserves being named to the post, it is he.  I’ve read Levine’s verse for years, and have always admired him.  His “What Work Is” is one of my favorite poems.

Unless we’re badly misreading this, the motivation behind the appointment seems clear.  A president doesn’t do anything without a plan.  He doesn’t give a speech, return a phone call, visit a city, or answer a policy question without a full work-up and without his advisors’ approval.  There is precious little spontaneity in the Oval Office.  Accordingly, there’s no way Obama is going to let the Poet Laureate position go to some pilgrim who can’t help him in any way, even if it is only symbolically.

Let’s not forget that this is the same savvy, image-minded president whomade a splashy public display of inviting key Republican leaders to the White House in February, 2009, to watch the Super Bowl with him, believing that this generous display of camaraderie and fraternalism would usher in a new era of bipartisan cooperation.  (So how’d that work out for you, Mr. President?)

As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has repeatedly noted, if President Obama truly wanted to get labor in his corner and keep it there, he would go on television and talk about nothing except jobs—creating jobs, maintaining jobs, expanding jobs.  Jobs are the one thing working people genuinely care about.  If the president truly wanted to reach the average American, he would have made his message personal and direct.

But instead of making it personal and direct, he chose to make it abstract and fuzzy.  Instead of dominating the conversation with talk of jobs, jobs and more jobs, Obama has allowed the Republicans to seize control and shift the national conversation to the topic of deficit reduction, something about which most of us know little and care even less.

If Obama honestly believes he can kiss up to the unions—that he can get organized labor to embrace him after all the betrayals, sleights of hand, and false promises—by elevating an acknowledged “working class” figure to Poet Laureate, he’s even more out of touch than anyone previously thought.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Woman’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail