Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How Worried Should the Left Be?

By Ben Trott

Both the New York Times and the Politico website yesterday ran lengthy stories on the disappointment and frustration felt by some liberals and the left as to the way the Obama transition has so far been panning out. Both articles contain numerous quotes from critics (primarily bloggers and newspaper and magazine commentators), as well as those still reserving their judgement. Guardian America's editor, Michael Tomasky reacted to the Politico article with an excited defense of Obama's moves so far.

Most insightful, in my opinion, are those comments which have noted that while the appointment of - for instance - earlier strong advocates of neoliberalism is certainly cause for concern, the changed political and economic situation today makes their likely policy prescriptions this time around less predictable than one might at first assume. The Times, for instance, cite Nation editor Vanden Heuvel as remarking, 'The Larry Summers of 2008 is not the Larry Summers of 1993 or 1998.' More to the point, the end of neoliberalism's ideological hegemony and the catastrophic state of the global economy after almost three decades of financialisation, deregulation and privatisation mean the situation in which Obama's senior staff will be operating is a very much changed reality. This is not of course to say that Summers, Volker and co. may have become friends of the left, but it does mean that what we can expect from them might not be as obvious as some seem to think.

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