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Tikkun Rabbi Michael Lerner, the one-time “politics of meaning” guru to the pre-presidential Clintons until he became politically inexpedient, is now blasting away at the Obama Administration. Lerner recently convened his Network of Spiritual Progressives in Washington, D.C. for a Religious Left gabfest. And much of it was gripping about President Obama’s spiritual failure to remain ideologically pure, in the eyes of leftist clerics and activists.
Lerner’s D.C. visitation included a protest in Lafayette Park imploring the President “To Be the Obama Americans Thought They Were Voting For.” Whatever enthusiasm the Religious Left rally may have cherished for Obama seems to be dissolving into anxiety, disappointment and betrayal.
“One thing Obama has not done: tell the truth. Tell us what’s going on!” a “shattered” Lerner demanded to presumably nodding heads at the rally, according to an on-site report by my assistant Connor Ewing. Lerner’s Washington jamboree for about 500 followers was called “Strategies for Liberals and Progressives in the Obama Years,” and subtitled “Creating ‘The Caring Society’: A Progressive Alternative to Tea Party Extremism and Corporate Domination of American Politics and Culture.”
Lacking neither color nor verbosity, Lerner’s angry and politically dense convention purposed to
explore strategies appropriate for the complexities of a period in which the failures of the Democrats to present a coherent progressive vision and program has created the space for the rise of a quasi-fascist and racist movement on the Right that threatens to move all of American political discourse in violent and destructive ways, and simultaneously to strengthen corporate dominance.
Lerner fondly recalled better, more hopeful days several years ago when a then still idealistic Senator Obama remained “connected very deeply to spiritual progressive things. He told me when I met with him in 2006 that he was regularly reading Tikkun magazine…that he had come to meetings of Tikkun in Chicago…[and] that he had come to a conference in 1996 and asked to speak.”
Perhaps not willing to abandon hope in Obama altogether, Lerner seemed to blame much of the administration’s lack of progressive fidelity on a Svengali-like Rahm Emanuel, whose Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pushed congressional Democrats towards displeasing ideological compromises. “These people were chosen by Rahm Emanuel,” Lerner complained about a Congress unable to approve a health care public option or to ratify cap and trade, while giving the okay to bank bailouts and military escalation in Afghanistan.“These are the people that Rahm Emanuel recruited in 2006 to run when there were more liberal and anti-corporation people,” he bemoaned. In the wake of failure and disappointment, Lerner insisted it was up to spiritual progressives “to articulate for the president and for the Democrats a clear vision.”
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