Gary Younge writes: As a community organiser in Chicago’s south side, Barack Obama once managed to secure an event with the city’s first and only black mayor, Harold Washington. He primed the women he was working with to press the mayor to attend their forthcoming rally to improve conditions in the run-down area.
But instead they fawned and got their picture taken with him. Afterwards he asked if they had extracted a promise about the rally. “What rally?” said one. Obama stormed off in frustration. “Here we are with a chance to show the mayor that we’re real players in the city,” he told a colleague. “A group he needs to take seriously. So what do we do? We act like a bunch of starstruck children.”
As a community organiser Obama was well aware that it was only by making demands on the powerful that the powerless could further their interests. As president he must be delighted to realise that all too few of his progressive supporters have grasped that reality.
The last week has felt very familiar. Just like four years ago, black people in Chicago have been swapping knowing smiles, liberals are watching Fox News to gloat and Democrats have been revelling in the charisma, eloquence and intelligence of their candidate. Their affection for him is rooted in politics but their assessment of him owes more to psychoanalysis. At the celebrations in Chicago on Tuesday most believed he would be more radical in the second term. Ask them what that expectation is based on and they shrug. Ask them what they will do to make sure he meets it and they shrug again. If the devotion is not blind then, at the very best, it is not clear-sighted. [Continue reading…]