And understand this, if American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America.
It isn’t the first time I’ve referenced this line from Barrack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Where was Obama when Wisconsin workers’ “right to organize and collectively bargain” was under attack? Where was he when Republicans were gutting democracy in multiple Michigan cities through an “emergency manager” privatization scheme, resulting (most visibly) in the Flint water crisis? Where was he when Occupy Wall Street was being forcibly and systematically suppressed all over the country? Where was he when the people were demanding justice in Ferguson?
I marched with 40,000 people in DC to tell Obama to say NO! to Keystone XL Pipeline, even though I had no faith in Obama’s resolve to move away from his “all of the above” (“clean” coal, fracked gas, new nuclear plants!) energy strategy. Now that KXL has shell game shape shifted into DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline), where’s Obama? A private corporation is essentially invading the sovereign land of the Sioux Nation with the assistance of local law enforcement and the National Guard – where’s Obama?
Jill Stein stands with the Standing Rock water protectors. Bernie Sanders has come out vocally against DAPL. And Clinton? A popular meme answers “crickets.”
For almost eight years, any critique of the current administration has been countered with the polarization narrative. Essentially, Obama was a progressive that simply did not anticipate the resistance he would receive as president. Furthermore, it is amazing that he has been able to accomplish all that he has in the face of such overwhelming Republican opposition and obstruction. The problem with this narrative is that it assumes that Obama was actually a progressive to begin with, that he was actually a man of the people, and not a product of Chicago school free market ideology.
Here’s the thing: Obama’s strategy of pragmatic across the aisle compromise is not really about change, it’s about getting you to believe that the only reasonable course of action is to accept the inevitable, to make the best deal you can under the circumstances, rather than mobilize for something you actually want.
A “progressive that gets things done” Clinton administration will likely rely even more heavily on the polarization narrative, to explain away why they can’t enact progressive policy proposals that currently enjoy wide popular support. If only we had the majority in the House, if only we had 60 votes in the Senate, if only we weren’t spending all our time defending the President against these outrageous Republican attacks...
And this is why, as much as I can recognize the potential of the President standing up to stop the oppression of the Standing Rock water protectors, as much as I recognize the potential of Obama and Clinton showing true leadership at this historic moment, I understand why they cannot. Put simply, neoliberals have no interest in supporting a popular people’s movement whose success would undermine their authority, disrupting their carefully balanced polarization narrative.
I know you’ve heard this song from Washington before. I know you’ve often heard grand promises that sound good but rarely materialize. And each time, you’re told this time will be different. But over the last few years, I’ve had a chance to speak with Native American leaders across the country about the challenges you face, and those conversations have been deeply important to me.
I get it. I’m on your side. I understand what it means to be an outsider. I was born to a teenage mother. My father left when I was two years old, leaving her -- my mother and my grandparents to raise me. We didn’t have much. We moved around a lot. So even though our experiences are different, I understand what it means to be on the outside looking in. I know what it means to feel ignored and forgotten, and what it means to struggle. So you will not be forgotten as long as I’m in this White House.
Prove me wrong Obama. Put on those comfortable shoes and make history.
How to Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective – Kelly Hayes
“A Shameful Moment for This Country”: Report Back on Militarized Police Raid of DAPL Resistance Camp – Democracy Now!
Indigenous Youth Occupy Hillary Clinton Campaign Headquarters to Demand She Take Stand on #DAPL – Democracy Now!