Strange Fruit

I would prefer that Obama win the election—not so much because he’d be so much better than Romney on policy but because he will disappoint so many of his loyalists that it would be good for radical politics. Instead of people bellyaching about McCain’s awfulness, as they would have had he won in 2008, we got Occupy. Occupy faded, in part because attention was turned to the presidential campaign… Presidential politics, given the power of money and all our constitutional structures that nurture orthodoxy, is the natural terrain of the big boys. It would be much more fruitful to organize around specific issues, like single-payer health insurance and living-wage bills; to develop better institutions, like livelier unions and third and fourth parties; and if one must work in the electoral realm, to build from the bottom up, where the likes of us could actually make a difference.

Why Should the Left Support Obama? Doug Henwood”

At some level, I agree with Mr. Henwood– I usually agree with him— but at the same time I have some real misgivings. It’s true that lots of us have been so worried about the far right that we are willing to be, in effect, leftist yellow dog Democrats, willing to vote for any Democrat, even if he’s a yellow dog, figuratively or literally. I’m not sure that this is more than anecdote, but Facebook has made this election seem terrifying.

We’re all busy with families and jobs and to one extent or the other we are all low-information voters. On Facebook, though, I’ve discovered how deeply the right-wing has penetrated my family and friends back in Louisiana and Texas. I know conservatism well; I was raised by a man who joined the Republican effort to elect Reagan in 1976. I suspect Dad was Republican because he thought the chaotic Democratic party couldn’t run the country.

He shot himself in the foot. A few years into the Reagan era, when Dad died, the Republican administration had already succeeded in its efforts to eliminate Social Security’s once generous survivor’s benefits program. That made it much more difficult (among other things) for my little sister to go to college. Dad mistakenly thought Reagan would help him and the middle class. I see my family members and childhood friends making the same mistake.

Reagan’s election in 1980 was a landmark event, signalling more than three decades of erosion of power and affluence for everyone but the very rich. Reagan seemed like a bozo at the time and maybe he did no more than articulate the program already well underway. Romney seems like a very similar sort of clown, and maybe he too is doing nothing more than articulating the plan, but his ideas are worse than Reagan’s. We all need Obama to win.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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