I’m as exuberant as anybody about Barack Obama winning the election, of course, but I have issues from my standpoint as a genuine progressive. I share Naomi Klein’s doubts about what Obama actually means for social progressivism, and whether or not he will actually bring about the positive changes he says he will. More than that, I think Klein raises a great point in this feature on her in the New Yorker: if Obama fails to deliver, the young voters he galvanized may fall away from public life.

I share the same concern. The starry-eyed idealism of this election is, of course, sort of anomalous, but at the same time, it is possible to preserve some of the good faith with which Obama was elected. The likelihood of his doing so is doubtful, in my opinion At the end of the day, change or no change, Obama still has to navigate the murky waters of Capitol Hill. There’s a common sentiment I’ve heard ever since I first became politically aware: spending any kind of time in the halls of power really screws up your political outlook. While I’d be overjoyed to be proven wrong, I’m worried that our exuberance will crash and burn in two or three years (six or seven, maybe?).

At the same time other things are looking up. There’s been a lot of outcry about the rotten bailout bill. This is, as Klein says, “a progressive moment.” I think we’re standing on the cusp of something — people are tired of being scared into submission, people are tired of being hoodwinked, and people are feeling emboldened by Obama’s victory. If there were ever a time, now is the time to do something, but what?

I think one of the things I respect about Klein is that she doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. She just has the answers to the questions she’s asked herself. I think that’s sort of unusual, especially for someone in her line of work. It would be awfully easy to figure out what this world needs and say so from her standpoint, but she doesn’t.

My challenge, though, is: will she ever? I think that she’s established herself as someone who, in large part, knows what she’s talking about and is willing to tell the truth. Yet we cannot be merely critical of a system forever. If this is indeed our progressive moment, we stand a 100% chance of dropping the ball if we do nothing, but significantly better odds of success if we pick it up and carry it down the field. Sure, maybe it’s not Klein’s job to tell us what to do, but for all of those young people out there (myself included) who are enamored of her writing, shouldn’t we be figuring out what to do with ourselves?

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