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

 

More articles by:

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

November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Rick Baum
While Public Education is Being Attacked: An American Federation of Teachers Petition Focuses on Maintaining a Minor Tax Break
Paul C. Bermanzohn
The As-If Society
Cole A. Turner
Go Away, Kevin Spacey
Ramzy Baroud
70 Years of Broken Promises: The Untold Story of the Partition Plan
Binoy Kampmark
A New Movement of Rights and the Right in Australia
George Ochenski
Democratic Party: Discouraged, Disgusted, Dysfunctional
Nino Pagliccia
The Governorship Elections in Venezuela: an Interview With Arnold August
Christopher Ketcham
Spanksgiving Day Poem
November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail