Friend and blogger Becky sent me an E-Mail which linked to Sam Seder’s hosting on the Young Turks internet show. Sam Seder Show on Obama and the Demise of Air America.
In the first half, he interviews Chris Hayes of "The Nation" and in the second half he talks about the demise of Air America.
Sam highlights Chris’ piece in "The Nation" called "System Failure".
Chris sees two separate categories of problems. One is all our economic woes such as bad health care, carbon emissions poisoning the earth, lack of jobs, poverty, immigration limbo, etc. The other deeper problem is entrenched power and a broken system. But by trying to solve the economic problems through a corrupt system we further elevate the oligarchs and make the system even more entrenched than before.
Take the health care bill. Chris uses the example of you being a priest in a neighborhood where the merchants must pay thugs protection money. Some very small shop owners can’t pay and so are beaten up a lot. The merchants decide to pool their resources and pay the thugs what the small shop owners owe. Thus achieving some kind of peace. But the downside is channeling even more money to the thugs. What is really awful is that you, the priest, convince the shop owners that they have to pay the thugs. You participate in the shakedown.
Chris’ piece mentions Jane Hamsher and Firedoglake along with Glenn Greenwald as examples of those on the left who no longer want to pay the protection money and who want to redistribute the power by returning it to the people like it has been done several times before in our history.
Sam is discouraged by Obama’s capitulation to the oligarch thugs. He’s really dismayed that Obama is not even rhetorically talking populist. He is dismayed that Obama is not even considering using the power of the grass roots anger on the left. And so all that energy and anger has been ceded to the right and to the tea party people. And that is frightening to Sam because if all the anti-establishment anti-oligarch energy is in the right, it can lead to more nativisim and racism, not less. It is the opposite of what he hoped for by voting for Obama. He had not been an early supporter of Obama because Obama wasn’t liberal enough for him. But he thought that an Obama presidency might deal a death blow to the Southern Strategy of Nixon’s i.e. using racism to divide working people. Instead it looks like this ugliness may be getting a second life because the great populist left moment should have happened eight months ago, but the Obama administration chose to work with the thugs. Having said that, Sam, oddly still thinks he should support the flawed health care bill as does Chris in order to help the small shop owners from being beaten. I guess that is the definition of dilemma.
Chris Hayes is discouraged too. Chris mentions that Obama in the State of the Union said, "I’m not interested in punishing the banks." But Chris said, "I’m interested in punishing them." So are a lot of us and we see this as a fundamental betrayal of the very heart of liberalism which is fighting entrenched greed. And Sam said that he was discouraged that Obama not only won’t punish the banks, he won’t even talk about it.
Sam adds that we must all read Chris’ piece. At the end of the piece, Chris tells a parable in order to show why any of us leftists should keep on fighting. The parable is from a book called "Political Parties", written in 1911 by social democrat Robert Michels. He had come up with "the iron law of oligarchy".
In order for any kind of party or, indeed, any institution with a democratic base to exist, it must have an organization that delegates tasks. As this bureaucratic structure develops, it invests a small group of people with enough power that they can then subvert the very mechanisms by which they can be held to account: the party press, party conventions and delegate votes. "It is organization which gives birth tothe domination of the elected over the electors," he wrote, "of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators.Who says organization, says oligarchy."
So if either a left or a right organization will always succumb to oligarchy, why bother? Michels, in order to cheer up his fellow social democrats, tells the parable of the dying peasant.
In it, a dying peasant tells his sons that he has buried atreasure in their fields. "After the old man’s death the sons dig everywhere in order to discover the treasure. They do not find it. But their indefatigable labor improves the soil and secures for them a comparative well-being."
"The treasure in the fable may well symbolize democracy," Michels wrote."Democracy is a treasure which no one will ever discover by deliberate search. But in continuing our search, in laboring indefatigably to discover the undiscoverable, we shall perform a work which will have fertile results in the democratic sense."
So the thing that keeps Chris Hayes going is that the left always always no matter where or when…"The left is always fighting the powers that be, always trying to make the hardest changes, speaking for the most marginalized, and it’s never easy work and the odds are always stacked against you."
Chris said he didn’t want to wax philosophical but he concluded, "You have to almost have a spiritual commitment to it."
In the second half of Sam’s show, he explains why he felt Air America died. It sounds like they had a lot of Rahms in charge. In other words, they didn’t care about their base aka their audience. They thought they could play their inside game. Sam remains committed to liberal radio and more skeptical than Chris of working within this corrupt system. But what to do?
The opposite of despair is not HOPE, it is action. So keep digging seems to be the right action. But most of the digging should take place not in Washington or even in electoral politics. It should be done outside of this. It’s time to fertilize and nurture the base, not the politicians. It’s time to water the hard earth. It’s time for all the people at "The Nation" and other progressive groups to start playing their "outside game" not their "inside game".
And it won’t happen without a strong labor movement. Without working people, we will just be a bunch of middle aged middle class over educated reformers with no muscle. Let’s fight for the Employee Free Choice Act and immigration reform. Let’s take it to the streets with millions on May Day. Let’s not be afraid to call ourselves social democrats and fighters against Dr. King’s triple evils; militarism, racism, and economic injustice. We have no president who will "bust the trusts", so it is up to us to get justice for all working people. We will protect our own businesses. Stop paying the thugs.