By Matthew Rothschild on August 01, 2011

The debt ceiling agreement is a disaster.

The Republicans won.

The tea partiers won.

The Democrats lost.

Progressives lost.

The American people lost.

And Obama lost.

Obama has largely himself to blame for this rout.

For way too long, he tilted at bipartisanship instead of rallying his own troops.

He woefully underestimated his political enemies, who have now proven that they will do anything—including threatening to wreck the economy—to get their way and to make him fail.

The only way to fight against such rightwing reaction is to name it and to mobilize against it.

But instead Obama played nice with his enemies and adopted a course of capitulation.

Time and again, he signaled his willingness to cave in to the captive takers and to pay most of their ransom, whether on taxes or Medicare or Social Security.

And he never galvanized the progressive base to rally behind him. Instead, he scorned this base and sold it out.

From day one, he needed to recognize the ideological battle he was in.

But he pretended otherwise, and assumed that the safe course was down the center right.

Well, he just got run over on the center right.

And neither he nor the economy may recover by Election Day.

While this may be a political tragedy for Obama, the far greater tragedy is for the American people, millions of whom are now going to suffer as unemployment remains high and crucial social programs get slashed.

All because of the far right’s recklessness and callousness—and Obama’s miscalculations and cowardice.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "In Praise of Tim DeChristopher."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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