The late left-wing historian Howard Zinn was one of America's best-known public intellectuals. His 1980 opus A People's History of the United States is widely used as a high-school and college textbook, and he had plenty of fans in the entertainment world, among them Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (A People's History got a shout-out in Good Will Hunting) as well as Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder.
Not long before Zinn died in January 2010, he told The Nation, regarding President Obama's first year in office, "I've been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama's rhetoric; I don't see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies."
Zinn went on: "As far as disappointments, I wasn't terribly disappointed because I didn't expect that much. I expected him to be a traditional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that's hardly any different from a Republican--as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike. So in that sense, there's no expectation and no disappointment. On domestic policy, traditionally Democratic presidents are more reformist, closer to the labor movement, more willing to pass legislation on behalf of ordinary people--and that's been true of Obama. But Democratic reforms have also been limited, cautious. Obama's no exception."
OK, we get it: Obama wasn't far left enough for Zinn. But now Daily Kos blogger Barbwire has invoked Zinn's name to bolster his argument that Obama's supposed non-partisanship has carried him perilously close to "territory...bordering on fascism":
...Progressive sage Howard Zinn once said you can't be neutral on a moving train. In this case, Obama can't be neutral and nonpartisan on a train that's speeding so far to the right, to the crazy and ridiculous tea party way of seeing government, that there is no Democratic turf left to fight on. By clinging to his pose of wise man in the middle -- a feint that is no doubt much beloved by his corporate and Wall Street donors -- he has been dragged into territory that only a few years ago was considered corrupt, anti-Democratic and bordering on fascism...
...Obama has been pivotal in moving the dialogue into right-wing territory as the primary frame, as the place where the pseudo-battles take place, as the turf where the two corporate-funded parties will now conduct their kabuki...
Obama has now come out -- at least to observers willing to emerge from denial -- as One of Them. He is now firmly in the privatizer-deficit hawk-eternal war-Wall Street pinball machine pusher camp, and there is no going back. And he has the perfect reptilian-brain scare tactic excuse to convince people he's out to snooker to vote for him again. After all, he's not as crazy as those other candidates, is he?...
Barbwire also praises a living lefty polemicist's call for revolution:
More and more, I have to admit that I agree with a lot of what Chris Hedges has to say. As in,
"We must view the corporate capitalists who have seized control of our money, our food, our energy, our education, our press, our health care system and our governance as mortal enemies to be vanquished ... Only a revolution can save us now."