Thursday, February 7, 2008

Critique of Obama Supporters

Via Chronicle's Footnoted blog. Jim Sleeper had a critique of Barack Obama's supporters up at TPM Cafe yesterday that I thought was interesting, even if a little incomplete. He worries that the big wins in Obama's support, the young cool kids, may not be as committed to class issues in reality as they are in love with Obama himself.

I fear that too many young whites with bright prospects have no really serious intention of redressing the growing inequities which the neoliberal world that employs them is spawning, not just between themselves and poor blacks on the Southside but, these days, between blacks and blacks, and women and women, let alone between cool young whites like themselves and the declasse, lumpy white and Latino workers all around them.

Not that my young friends defend wholeheartedly the system in which they're prospering. To their credit, it makes them uncomfortable. But they grasp at mostly symbolic gestures of a politics of moral posturing that relieves racial and class guilt and steadies their moral self-regard with smallish contributions to Obama, an Ivy alum whom they trust to help those people on the Southside without dragging them too deeply into it; without reconfiguring how we charter our corporations and re-construe the private and public investments that employ upscale young whites and well-behaved non-whites; and certainly without redistributing their own bright prospects and future prerogatives and second homes.

This is initially what made me cringe when I considered Obama as a serious candidate. There were so many elites that fell in love with him and his message of unity, but continued to work as corporate lawyers or high-powered consultants. It's a consistent problem among the left -- and probably one that gave victory to the right for so long -- liberal elites are all well and interested in caring about class issues in theory, but they also don't want to make real sacrifices for social change.

But, like Sleeper, I don't doubt Obama's commitment to the cause of ending inequality. He went to the streets of Chicago and worked as a community organizer. The question Sleeper poses is a good one, but it misses the point. If elites are willing to follow Obama's rhetoric, they may end up following the path to solving real inequality, even if that's not really why they're in the game. It doesn't really matter what the supporters think about inequality as long as they're willing to buy into a candidate that cares truly and deeply for ending it.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...