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Speak No Evil: Rebecca Solnit and the “Rancid Left”

Shut Up and Vote Obama

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

It’s election time again and that brings on the national pastime of analytical blather from all sides. (Yours truly, like so many others, certainly feels compelled to write more during this season.) Most are “rah rah, my team rocks” missives; many mainstream media ones are Imperial “look at the grouse” deflections; some, like those found on Counterpunch are serious analyses and, then again, some are absolute partisan rubbish like Rebecca Solnit’s “Letter to my Dismal Allies”  that was posted to TomDispatch a “project of The Nation Institute” complete with Tom’s “simple (minded) warning: Reader beware; rile up Rebecca Solnit at your peril.”

Solnit starts her long-winded, paid-by-the-word-esque, piece out by setting up a straw man – a “grousing,” “poisonous,” “rancid sector of the far left” – a subdivision that might, at best, comprise about 1/10th of 1% of the electorate. She then proceeds to knock her straw man down with more name-calling – critics of self-serving, pro-corporate politicians are not only “rancid, etc.,” anyone who points out any inconsistency or, heaven forbid, an actual blatant anti-democratic contradiction from any of her heroes isn’t thoughtful or insightful, or even wrong,  for noting such they are dismissed as merely, “snarky.”

Speak Not About Evil

At its core, Solnit piece is a blatant attempt to impose “No-Talk Rules” about Obama’s very real outrages, dismissing such things as drone murders, Indefinite Detention and the loss of Habeas Corpus, Permanent War, increased deportations, failure to act on the Climate or Banksters, crackdowns on whistle-blowers and Medical Marijuana…ad naseum, as mere “dimples on the imperial derriere by now, and there are other things worth discussing.”

Solnit goes so far as to dismiss her own obvious call for voting for the Lesser of Two Evils as a “tired cliché.” She wildly dubs even noting that the choice is one of lesser evils, a type of “Left Wing Voter Suppression;” as if mere mention of the state of the Emperor’s clothing will cause vast numbers to sit home on Election Day.

Setting up another straw man, she proceeds to ask, “Can you imagine how far the Civil Rights Movement would have gotten, had it been run entirely by complainers for whom nothing was ever good enough?”

Aside from the fact that no movement is “run entirely by” anything close to that (though they’d likely yield better results if they were), one doesn’t have to imagine how far the “non-complainers” have gotten:  black incarceration up; black unemployment up; black poverty up; black education stagnant; black health down; voting rights restricted…but, no worries, “integrating the Montgomery transit system” was what mattered, the ultimate prize the non-complainers did get, according to Solnit’s calculus.

Solnit’s drivel couldn’t be any more loaded with Projections, including this monumental one: “This kind of response often has an air of punishing those who are less radical and it is exactly the opposite of movement building – or alliance building.” Substitute the one word “more” for “less” and you have a perfect description of what she is performing here.

She follows up with: “Dismissiveness is a way of disengaging from both the facts on the ground and the obligation those facts bring to bear on your life,” as she clearly does just that.

Of course, anyone who thinks that 350.org is anything but a Democrat/Industry/Big Green deflection and that Occupy is our savior has analytical skills inferior to the typical Tea Partier – as if the time for wishy-washy liberal reform hasn’t long passed, if it ever even had any relevance in the first place.

So, What’s a Grousing Leftist to Do?

Vote for the candidate who best matches up with your views, as one should always do.

There are other choices: I recently had a short interaction with Jill Stein, presidential candidate for the Green Party.  While I found her to be a bit of the uptight middle-aged white person, her positions and those of her - which has never recovered from the undemocratic Cobb/Bobier/Glick putsch of 2004 - party are far superior to those of the two Corporate/Imperial candidates. If the anti-Empire/pro-individual rights Libertarian Party could just figure out that The Commons have immeasurable value, they could also have some relevance.

Of course, Romney is atrocious. But, let’s get real here. The Lesser of Two Evils is far from a cliché – it’s the standard operating system of the Empire.

While, unlike Solnit, I sure don’t see it as some noble, practical compromise; I have no problem with people admitting Obama’s the Lesser Evil, holding their noses and voting for him.  Just spare me the smug outrage at some phantom far left.   Eastwood’s chair has more substance than Solnit’s canard-filled claptrap.

MICHAEL DONNELLY lives in Salem, OR. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com