‘Rotten fruit of Obamaism’

John Heilmann has a really good piece in New York magazine about parallels between 1968 and 2012 re: the Occupy movement. It’s long, but worth reading the whole thing:

What Obama may not understand so well is the degree of frustration inspired by him specifically among the protesters and their prime movers. Or the extent to which OWS and its energy is, as one liberal strategist puts it, is “the rotten fruit of Obamaism”—an army of young people, many of them inspired and mobilized by his campaign in 2008, who feel betrayed by his performance since he has, er, occupied the Oval Office.

“He cheated,” says Husain, who volunteered for the campaign on the belief that Obama could be a transformative president. “He ran on a platform he never intended to push. He made promises he never intended to keep. I was just amazed in his inaugural speech how little transformative there was. And then Tim Geithner—what the hell was that? And then the bailouts. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what was going on. It was a continuation of the same bullshit.”

Then there are others who never put any faith in Obama in the first place. “The new boss is ever the same as the old boss,” says Sandy Nurse. “I think if either political party or politician thinks they have any credibility to come down here and tap into this energy, they’re gravely misinformed.”

The last point is one I heard again and again from OWSers about Team Obama’s talk of channeling the movement. “They don’t have a fucking clue what they are talking about,” says Berger. “These [protesters] aren’t out here because they’re offended that they haven’t been spoken to nicely. They’re out here because they owe shitloads of money in student-loan debt and can’t find a job. Or they can’t afford their mortgage. And if Obama thinks that they’re gonna be able to divert this energy by talking about doing something, he’s got another think coming.”

[…] Fourth and finally, OWS will need to navigate the fork in the road between radicalism and reformism. “I don’t think it’s an either-or,” says Marom. “People who only want reforms are probably just handicapped by cynicism. And if you don’t want reforms as a revolutionary, then you’re not a revolutionary, because people need the foundations on top of which to survive. And people need to win things, to feel like it’s possible to win.”

Of course, the sense of possibility that progressives might win was what fueled the election of Obama. And their frustration is what has created the context for OWS—and raises the specter that it might alter the landscape the president must traverse next year in dramatic and unpredictable ways.

“Obama didn’t build a movement, he built an electoral machine,” says Marom. “If he had built a movement, he would not be where he is right now. But the fact that he was elected, that so many people came out in the streets for him, that people cried when he won, was an expression of the fact that they wanted what they thought he was, which is an alternative. He wasn’t it. He can’t deliver it. This political system can’t deliver it. This economy can’t deliver it. But there are millions of people who genuinely want it. That’s amazing and inspiring to people like us, who are just, like, ‘Okay. This is for real.’ ”