Keep Hope Alive?

Yes, we can!

From an article that just moved over to the Permanent Webstand, Change Is Possible, I highlighted this part:
I've studied organizing and social movements from the view of a scholar in the ivory tower and the perspective of a participant on the ground, and I have come to one key conclusion -- positive emotions motivate action.

Hope in the future, a belief you can make a difference, the understanding that change is possible, these are the essential ingredients in moving people to act for change. Apathy, fear and self-doubt keep us from acting. Organizers foster the faith in ourselves we need to make sacrifices and persist in the face of obstacles.

In other words: without hope there can be no change.
The context was a speech President Obama, the former organizer, gave just after signing health insurance reform into law on March 23, 2010. Immediately before this quote, the writer said the speech was directed to:
Organizing for America volunteer leaders from across the country, and others who had done long hard work organizing for healthcare for the Democratic party. He said a lot of wonderful things as he recognized and thanked the many people who fought this fight with him. But one part of the call stood out for me.

A volunteer who does the hard work of rural organizing in a red state asked "what have we learned" from the last year that will help us win the many battles ahead? The President gave an answer that revealed how much he is still, in his heart, an organizer. He told us that this legislation becoming law is living proof we can make a difference.

He said we learned that "change is possible."
"Change is possible." Well, yes it is. But that statement isn't very meaningful. It doesn't say anything about how to achieve change or if it is even likely. But we should have known during the campaign and these last two years that change is very hard. After the jump, Glenn Greenwald has a great passage from a post on the British Petroleum deep-water oil drilling catastrophe:
At his Press Conference, Obama blamed the Bush administration for what he called the "cozy relationship" between MMS and the oil industry, but was then asked by CBS' Chip Reid: "you knew as soon as you came in, and Secretary Salazar did, about this cozy relationship. But you continued to give permits -- some of them under questionable circumstances. Is it fair to blame the Bush administration? Don't you deserve some of that?" In reply, Obama acknowledged:
Well -- well, let -- let me just make the point that I made earlier, which is, Salazar came in and started cleaning house, but the culture had not fully changed in MMS. And absolutely, I take responsibility for that. There -- there wasn't sufficient urgency in terms of the pace of how those changes needed to take place.
Was hiring a BP executive [as deputy administrator for land and minerals management] one of the ways that Salazar was trying to end the "cozy relationship" between Interior and the oil industry? Was automatically issuing exemptions from NEPA's Environmental Impact Study requirement a way of doing so? Of course "there wasn't sufficient urgency" in cleaning up MMS. What happened here was obvious: Obama chose one of the most industry-pleasing, industry-subservient Democrats to head the Interior Department despite what everyone knew was the pervasive corruption at that Department and its serving as an industry rubber stamp for years. And Obama got exactly what was obvious he would get by making that choice. [my emphasis]

Of course, back in late 2008, objections to Salazar from environmental groups were dismissed as the obsolete, left-wing purity obsessions of ideologues. We were in a Post-Partisan, Pragmatic Age where such concerns were no longer valid. In fact, note how the industry representatives invoked classic Obama jargon to heap praise on Salazar: "'Nothing in his record suggests he’s an ideologue,' said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association. . . . industry officials praised his moderation. . . . oil and mining interests praised Mr. Salazar’s performance as a state official and as a senator, saying that he was not doctrinaire about the use of public lands."

In Obama's Washington, "centrism" and "pragmatism" mean allegiance to the corporate interests that run the government, and anyone who objects to any of that is an "ideologue" or a purist or too "doctrinaire." And, of course, as is true for every issue -- from gay rights to judicial selections, from reproductive rights to economic policy -- there were a handful of D.C. environment groups (such as the Sierra Club) who masquerade as progressive organizations but whose overriding mission was to blindly validate whatever the Democratic Party and the White House do, and they defended the Salazar pick (numerous environmental groups are now calling for Salazar's resignation).

Most amazingly, even as BP continues to spew oil in unfathomable quantities into the Gulf, this all continues now: "The Obama administration waived environmental reviews for 26 new offshore drilling projects even as the BP oil disaster spewed hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico." And just this week: MMS "approved a new drilling permit for an offshore well in the Gulf of Mexico."

In this episode one thus finds virtually every harmful dynamic of the Obama era. Indeed, this story is found in virtually every realm. Ken Salazar and Sylvia Vaca [the former BP executive who is now a Deputy Administrator at the Interior Department] are to the Interior Department what the countless Goldman, Sachs officials are to Treasury and other financial regulatory arms of the Obama administration. The administration has taken some commendable steps to at least create the appearance of limiting lobbying influence, but the corporate ownership of the Federal Government is as strong as ever. Ken Salazar, the BP exemptions, and the very dubious excuses being offered to justify them illustrate that as much as anything.
Go to the source to get all the links he embeds.

Let's think back to those seem-so-long-ago days of the Democratic primaries. Barack Obama was a centrist Democrat, a former organizer, a terrific speaker and could evoke plenty of positive feelings without even breaking a sweat. Got it? Okay, back to now: President Obama is a centrist Democrat. That's it. His grass- and net-roots organization is a website that is a donations-enabling click-to-take-action joke. He has given only a handful of major speeches, including the two State of the Union required speeches. I can google one on health care in September and one on foreign policy in Cairo in April, that's it. He hasn't given a news conference in ten months. Hard lefties have abandoned him, loyalists are apologizing for him, and everybody to the right of David Broder hates him. Positive feelings are harder to come by than a sane statement by Glenn Beck.*

[I had somewhere to go with this, but I can't remember now and it doesn't really matter now. November 10, 2010.]

* This is possible, too.

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