Successful social movements never fixate upon political power as its ultimate goal. Insofar that it champions an exploited class or a disenfranchised group, these movements seeks to pressure those in power to do the right thing. Politics then, is little more than a game of balances and pressures.
This is why activism and political power do not mix.
Example: When Barack Obama spoke of “change”, he was too good a politician to define its specific ramifications and manifestations. He simply evoked its sentimentality as a reasonable campaign tool in a post-Bush America. Real social/political change cannot be so easily evoked throughout history. They are never gifts from a savior that rewards the public for electing him/her. I say that as a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit, as such change never happens without sacrifices by ordinary people who do not make the history books.
These movements seek political change, not political power. Thus, I believe, it is vital for activists today to refuse to follow the instructions of political figures who call for an activism that unconditionally cooperates with power, thus never engaging in criticism of it.
It is glamorous and popular to follow high profile figures within politics and pretend that by “engaging” with them, change will follow. I believe that activism speaks for those who are disenfranchised, mistreated, oppressed, or exploited. These deficiencies within society often accumulate with the preservation of the status quo by those in power. The reasons may vary from maintaining party solidarity, to lack of vision, or to securing funds for an electoral campaign. It is imperative that people look beyond the façade of, for example, “Obamamania”, and realize that those who work diligently at social and political change receive ridicule and ignorance much more often than accolades, camera time, or praise. If history is any guide, the wheels of justice turn slowly, and victories are few.
Here is an example of the courtiers and courtesans of the 21st century, those who help politicians achieve increasing political power without questioning their motives and circumstances: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsV2O4fCgjk. It is clear that in this day-and-age, such courtesans can only exist and function within celebrity culture (as is their goal sometimes). They are not politicians, and while they may seem well-intentioned enough, their method is to be one of assistance to power rather than challenging power. This disease is mainly present within the corporate media, but I see it seeping into the young activist communities too, as more and more media-induced tendencies work their way into our homes.
This type of passivity and appeasement will ultimately end in failure at achieving the political and social changes that activists really want (with respect to Obama for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T16vCwf2ooc). Anger from frustrated citizens will increase, and the failure of progressive movements to reach and champion the causes of such populations will end in the rise of opposite-movements, who are itching to fill the vacuum left by the progressives who are too busy championing the latest “hot candidate”. Case-in-point: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/us/politics/16teaparty.html?em=&pagewanted=all
My point is not to ridicule, condemn, or belittle politicians, but simply to remind them of their mandates and priorities. It is a noble thing to represent a people or a constituency, and those who live within those constituencies have the duty to hold their elected officials to the highest degrees of honesty and decency.