As President Obama returns to Hollywood in search of campaign dough from the "Hollywood progressives," it is a moment to praise Matt Damon, who speaks with clarity and conviction about his disappointment with President Obama.
Let me state my conclusion at the beginning. For those who seek my advice (and some have) I say it's perfectly fine for Hollywood liberals to give money to Obama, so long as it is understood that this is only the beginning of a great bloodbath battle for the future of America, supremely financed by far-right millionaires and special interest fortunes, who so far (sadly) have shown far more commitment with their money, energy and time than many "Hollywood liberals."
Most Democratic insiders (of whom I am a dissenting insider) will say that Obama's "compromises" come from "realistic" needs imposed by the "realities of politics." Of course, most Democratic insiders who say this are paid by higher level Democratic insiders to say this, and the fact that they dominate the progressive voice in the mainstream media does not make their talk even remotely true.
The problem that Obama has with depression among many progressives has nothing to do with the "realities of politics," and everything to do with the fact that Obama has governed to accommodate and submit to those realities, not change them as he campaigned in 2008 as a champion to do.
When Matt Damon says that Obama has misinterpreted his mandate, he is absolutely right not only in the moral sense, but in the most politically practical sense. What is astounding and incomprehensible is the degree that Obama and too many Democrats have surrendered on first principle policies where the majority of voters agree with the progressives.
The retrograde attacks by the right that now seeks total power against programs vital to women, and the poor, and unions, and the earth itself, are outside the boundaries of traditional American politics. We should be mobilizing the majority that opposes these attacks to defeat them, not systematically negotiate the terms of our incremental but repeated surrenders, capitulations and retreats.
This should be said because it is true:
When various White House aides spent two years demeaning progressives calling them names such as "the professional left" and "the left of the left" (for doing things such as supporting the public option that the president said he supported, which was also supported by a solid majority of voters) the White House was insulting many of the people the president now asks to donate money to his campaign.
The "professional left" insult is most grating because so many of the people who surround Obama have used his presidency as a revolving door to make vast sums of money from such sources as Citi, Bank of America, General Electric, Boeing and so forth.
This is perfectly fine and fair to do, for those who choose this course, but it is not the change that Obama promised. It is the insiderism and status quo that Obama promised to change
It is inconceivable that the people John Kennedy inspired to come to Washington would have done this. It is inconceivable that advisers around Kennedy would have demeaned those who fought for Kennedy in 1960 the way many advisers to Obama have demeaned those who fought for Obama in 2008. It is glorious that young people who flocked to Kennedy in 1960 remain inspired to this day, and indescribably sad that so many young people who flocked to Obama in 2008 have become disillusioned by the result.
Matt Damon is absolutely right when he criticizes Obama for failing to fight for first principles that Damon (and I, and many progressives, and many of his young champions in 2008) thought we were fighting for, and believed we had won, in 2008.
So, as Obama hits Hollywood for the dough, my advice is: go ahead and give to Obama. But understand: a long list of great historic achievements by great Democratic presidents, and the very notion of progressivism itself, are under attack by aggressive, powerfully financed, and (by historical standards) extremist forces of right-wing radicalism and special interest greed.
In this battle Obama is our ally but not our champion. In 2008 he had won the mandate to lead these battles, but as Damon says he has misinterpreted his mandate. He has foresaken this role, and left the leadership of the great historical battles for progressivism to others while he maneuvers around the political center and center right, and raises funds from the special interests.
Jack Kennedy said: life is unfair. It is. We thought we had won in 2008, but much of what we thought we had won has been lost, surrendered, or violated. That is sad and unfair. But what is, is.
It is fine, and even desirable, for Hollywood progressives to give money to Obama. But there are huge battles underway for the future of America, with enormous consequences for America and the world.
Matt Damon is right, and for Damon, and Hollywood progressives, and young people, and liberals, and women, and workers, and those who would defend the planet from the fierce attack now being launched by those who pollute it, the bottom line is this:
Supporting Obama is only a modest beginning of a much larger political war that those of us who call ourselves progressives must fight like hell to win.