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Twitter Reacts to Obama Cautioning Democrats Against Going 'Too Far Left'

By Petr Knava | Social Media | November 18, 2019 |

By Petr Knava | Social Media | November 18, 2019 |


Amidst ongoing campaigns for Democratic Presidential nominee for 2020 that are in many ways shining a spotlight not just on the tactics of the Democrats but also on the very purpose of the party, former President Barack Obama had this to say at a speech he delivered over the weekend:

‘Don’t veer too far left.’

There was obviously a bit more there outside of that quite inflammatory pull-quote, with a piece in NYMag describing Obama’s speech as a more measured, even somewhat progressive-ish affair:

And while he dismissed the debate between persuading voters and energizing base Democrats as “a false division,” he explained that he’d been thinking about how the candidates have been talking about him on the trail. “I think it is important for candidates to push past what I was able to achieve as president. I wouldn’t run the same campaign today, in this environment, as I ran in 2008, in part because we made enough progress since 2008, of which I am very proud, that it moved what’s possible. So I don’t want people to just revert to what’s safe, I want them to push out and try more, alright? So we got the Affordable Care Act. It was a really good starter home, as I say,” he said. “I don’t want people just standing pat, because we still have millions of people who are uninsured.”

“I don’t take it as a criticism when people say, ‘Hey, that’s great Obama did what he did, and now we want to do more.’ I hope so. That’s the whole point,” he said. “I think it is very important to all the candidates who are running, at every level, to pay some attention to where voters actually are, and how they think about their lives. And I don’t think we should be deluded into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven’t heard a bold enough proposal, and as soon as they hear a bold enough proposal that’s going to activate them. Because you know what? It turns out people are cautious, because they don’t have a margin for error.”

Look, I know that broadly speaking I’m somewhat on the left-ish side of the political spectrum here. And I understand that in the fraught and oft-hopeless American political sphere Obama could be seen—especially now in the Trump age—as at the very least the best of a bad bunch, and often even more so: As a genuinely decent politician, with charm and urbane progressivism to spare. But I speak here as an external observer, as a voice outside of the States and an international leftist, when I say that more often than not, Barack Obama was considered no friend of the global left.

Obama’s speech is emblematic of what many on the global left actually saw—and continue to see—him as: A representative of a vacuous, West Wing-style liberalism, all charm and rousing speeches, with no real interest in challenging a status quo that has brought the world to the brink. An articulate and handsome avatar of a ‘Third Way’ politics that calls itself ‘centrism but which never dares question the neoliberal orthodoxy of the market or of the moral right of the American empire.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the kind of bulls**t triangulation present in not just Obama’s speech but also in his presidency is the same one that ‘centrists’ the world over deploy constantly, and it’s a tactic that betrays their rightist ideological leanings, class loyalty, and a fear of genuine change. It is one of the tools deployed by a political elite at best completely out of touch with the needs of the vast majority and at worst actively complicit in the devastation of that majority.

Western neoliberalism has shown itself to be a complete sham, only serving the wealthiest few while hollowing out societies into dog-eat-dog wastelands. It has brought with it a capitalist climate crisis that threatens to eradicate vast swathes of our species. On top of all that there is a rising fascist international preying in response on people’s anger against the status quo and the mess it has gotten us into. The last thing that is needed now is faux-progressive politicians dampening the enthusiasm of genuine leftist movements, counseling people that are dying due to lack of healthcare or that are fleeing their homes due to wildfires that they should be ‘patient’.

The anger at the discrepancy between what we are told is politically acceptable and possible, and what is quite clearly politically and existentially necessary, was all over Twitter this weekend, as Obama’s comments became a lightning rod for this anger:

As a result of Obama’s speech, the hashtag #TooFarLeft also became a massive trend on Twitter.

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.

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