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The Morning After With Michael Moore

In his recent post-election interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! activist film-maker Michael Moore, in tones of mourning more than anger, expressed his frustration with the Democratic Party and Barack Obama for (yet again!) naively falling into the Republican trap of offering “bipartisanship” and “compromise” rather than any sort of bold progressive change. Anticipating Obama’s post-election speech, Moore likened the leadership of the Democratic Party to the “abused” partner who over and over again submits to an “abuser.” How many times, he pondered, are the Democrats going to extend the hand of “compromise and bipartisanship” to a Republican Party that smacks that hand down, or worse, uses that extended hand to pull the Dems down prone to the ground? How many times, he asked, do we have to witness this spectacle of pointless conciliation (and the abandonment of bold fights for progressive reform that such centrist conciliation entails) before the Democrats learn their lesson? How long until the victim stops submitting to the abuse and stands up for him/herself, and, say… ends the relationship?

This of course not the first time, Michael Moore has made such a public lament. Nor is he alone in (again and again) voicing such sentiments. Independent and “progressive” media is full of this stuff.

But it is long past time to turn Moore’s analogy back upon him and other would-be left-wing supporters of the Democratic Party. Aren’t you, Michael, and those who share your (pro-worker, anti-war, anti-corporate) sensibilities yourselves like the abused victim, continually (even cynically, knowingly) submitting to the abuse of a Democratic Party that ignores (or pays only lip-service) to your concerns, priorities, and prescriptions? (Except of course when your contagious lack of “enthusiasm” for a corporate centrist can be blamed for a lag at the polls.)

And yet, like the abused victim, you keep trying to make the relationship work. Turning out the vote for a Party that turns you out the door (that is, if you dare to raise a single subversive idea). All the while you do your bit to keep others from bolting ahead of you.

You fantasize that the party leadership is merely temporarily under the spell of a bad influence, or a losing political strategy. Poor advice is the problem. You repeat again and again, despite all the sell-outs and false promises and continued abuse (not to mention the bombs raining down on civilians abroad), that Barack is still “really a nice guy,” that he has a “good heart,” and that he “means well.” (No doubt Bush and Cheney and many war-criminals before them have loved their families and friends too, though this is not an argument against their criminality.) You continue to convince yourself (and others) that it is possible –if not necessarily likely—that your abusers will change their ways and suddenly start listening to you. No matter that they have ignored you , barred you from their table, and stomped all over your hopes and proposals time and time again…This time it could be different. This time they can change. This time Obama just might bring the left in as policy advisors and political strategists. This time he may listen to what we have been saying all along…

Thus, you say engage in fantasies:

“If Barack Obama got on the TV/radio tomorrow and said X…”

“If he would only tell the American people Z…”

And on and on…Until pigs fly…

The sick farce here is not only that such fantasies of hypothetically acting as the advisors to the president rest on false assumptions about the rulers’ attitudes towards the politics of people like you, Michael. (Have you forgotten how much Barack’s ears resemble Bush’s?) Or that such fantasies suppress the fact that the Democratic Party answers to the same corporate, financial, and imperialist interests as the Republicans. What is really pathetic about such delusions is that by keeping us focused on what “they” (the rulers) should or could do, you keep us from thinking about what we can and should be doing today, tomorrow, the next day, to bring about the kind of world that we would like to see.

Don’t mourn for abusers. Organize independently of them, you might say. Organize to get rid of them altogether. Or better, to get rid of the system that makes them possible (and necessary).

But so long as people are stuck in seeing the world through Barack’s eyes—and speaking for Barack’s ears!—they cannot but fail to grasp the situation that they are in: how late the hour is; how badly radical change is needed. Nor can people in such a trance see the freedom of action that does still exist within our dire situation, including avenues for transformation of the situation itself through action that can occur despite, against, and behind the backs of these so-called “leaders.” Moore and his ilk would lead us to fantasize that the only real power lies within the halls of those slave-built buildings in Washington. Yet in fantasizing us into advisors to the President, Moore is turning himself—and worse others—into timid spectators instead of courageous actors. This is no way to build the consciousness, nor the courage in people that is necessary for us to challenge the established powers and create new power bases outside the halls of government.

Thus, even as Moore ponders the possibility of a wide open 4-way race for President in 2012 (in which the Tea-Party run their own candidate, and the angry neglected left follows suit), even here, he does not call boldly for this left campaign to start today but rather “hopes” that the Obama administration and the Democrats are thinking about this possibility and modulating their strategy in light of it…that is, to head off the possibility of a situation emerging where a strong left candidacy becomes possible! But for God’s sake Michael, if even an “anti-capitalist” progressive like you is not willing to boldly launch (or plausibly threaten to join if not to lead) such a left bloc, then why in the hell would Obama and company feel the need to “move left” to head off such a “possibility” in the first place?!

With “left opposition” like this, who needs supporters!

Moreover, the fact that Moore’s first instinct is to “look ahead” to the next election (!) rather than towards what we should be doing outside and beyond electoral politics—and certainly outside and beyond Democratic Party politics!—is itself a sign of the problem.

Instead of advising “them,” which is to say, pretending to be one of “them,” why not speak to US, Michael? Why not speak with us, your viewers, your fans, the workers, the teachers, the critical thinkers, the struggling people that actually value the films that you have made? Why not speak to and with the left, including to the mass base of the Democratic Party that is so taken for granted, used, abused, and ignored by the Party leadership? Why not turn away from the murdering bastards in power and come join the people?

Which side are you anyway, on Michael?

This revolution could use some good film-makers.

JOSEPH G. RAMSEY is a writer, teacher, and activist in the Boston area. He is a participant in the Kasama Project. Some of his recent writings can be found at www.joeramsey.wordpress.com and www.ramseythewriter.wordpress.com.

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Joseph G. Ramsey is an activist and writer living in Boston. He is a contributing editor at Red Wedge, a co-editor at Cultural Logic: an electronic journal of Marxist theory and practice, and a contributing board member at Socialism and Democracy.

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