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Ed Driscoll

Potemkin Protest

April 7th, 2013 - 2:20 pm

In the middle of a photo-laden essay on protesters greeting Obama on San Francisco’s Billionaires’ Row, filled with loads of shots of all of the Bay Area moonbattery you can imagine, Zombie stops to make a brilliant observation:

It all culminated in this one sign, which of all the signs at the protest disturbed me the most. Yes, Obama really did say “Show me the movement. Make me do it.” (At least according to Michael Pollan, who quoted Obama while speaking at an environmental event in 2009.) In fact, a more extended quote from that speech might explain the motivation behind this entire protest:

Now, this agenda that I’m talking about, your own agenda, is not gonna happen just because we have a President and a First Lady who are sympathetic. That’s not how change comes. Change is much, much harder than that. Presidents cannot flip the switch and make things happen…. A friend of mine had occasion to have dinner with him and Michelle, and Obama made it clear that he got it, that he really did understand the issue, but he also said he didn’t think the time was right to push hard. He understood the forces arrayed on the other side and the great amount of political capital it would take to defeat them. … He challenged my friend, he said, “Show me the movement. Make me do it. Make me do it.”

…Now, that language, that language, “Make me do it,” is very interesting. Presidents have uttered that word – those words before. Roosevelt used them when he was being lobbied about certain issues. There’s a very interesting scene when Martin Luther King came to Lyndon Johnson and said, “We need this Voting Rights Act. You know, we need your help,” and Johnson turned to him and said, “I wanna do it. Make me do it.” He wasn’t just gonna do it. He needed to be made. He was telling Martin Luther King to get out in the street and make it happen.

Another example, President Clinton in 1993, he had a very difficult budget negotiation in Congress. He lost a lot. He moved way to the right and gave up a lot of his campaign promises to get this 1993, his first budget. And, at the signing of this budget, Bernie Sanders, the member of his caucus furthest to his left was there, and he came over to Bernie Sanders and he started pounding on his chest like this and he said, “Why weren’t you screaming at me? I needed you to be screaming at me, because then I could have brought you something.” So, as kindly as you feel towards Michelle and Barack, keep those lessons in mind.

Vilsack said something similar to a group of activists he met with just last month, “I need your help. Build a movement.” And he understands. Because the farm lobby is already organizing against him. So, we need to get organized. We need to flex our muscles. …

Now is not the time to savor the moment or rest. Now is the time to make Obama do it. Let’s show him the movement.

This explains how people who voted for Obama can be out in the street seemingly to protest “against” him. Turns out this whole protest was nothing more play-acting for the cameras, a group of faux protesters colluding with Obama to create a Potemkin “movement” which he can then cite as justification for making an unpopular decision he already wanted to make anyway. “I had no choice — there’s a mass movement against this pipeline! I must bow to the will of the people.”

The more I thought about this sign and its implications, the more disturbed I became. This explains not just today’s anti-Keystone pipeline protest, but also much of what has gone on in politics since 2008. It explains the media’s otherwise inexplicable glorification and attempted legitimization of the Occupy Wall Street movement; it explains the media’s desperate demonization of the Tea Party (so as to prevent the impression that it was a mass movement); it explains all sorts of outrages and protests and petitions and marches by the American far-left “against” a president whose agenda is identical to theirs. Every time the left erupted over some issue, I used to wonder, “Why are you complaining to Obama? He agrees with you!” Turns out that of course they all know full well that he agrees with them, that he and they are all on the same side. The purpose is not to change Obama’s mind, the purpose is to provide him with political cover to make bad or unpopular decisions, by fabricating hollow “popular uprisings” which he can then point to as indicative of overall public opinion.

My speculations were confirmed the following day when I read the only report of what was said inside the fundraisers, as quoted by the only “pool reporter” allowed into the events:

Steyer, who is a vociferous opponent of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and a strong supporter of climate-change legislation, appeared to try to ease concerns that Obama wouldn’t keep the issue at the top of his agenda, as he has promised.

He is doing everything he can on the issues that we care about,” Steyer told the group in his home. “He has political limitations…so we really have an obligation to help him.”

Obama for his part, addressed climate change repeatedly in his remarks, which lasted 19 minutes, but never specifically mentioned the pipeline.

So it was just as I suspected: The protesters and Obama and his billionaire backers are all enmeshed, working in conjunction to achieve specific political goals — goals that would otherwise be unpopular with the general public. I realized that we out on the street were not protesting against the president’s agenda: We were part of the president’s agenda.

It really is “Potemkin villages all the way down,” isn’t it? (When it’s not Kabuki, of course.)