Prevailing wisdom seems to be that Obama doesn’t need to garner the favor of his progressive base. Those of us on the left, it’s thought, will vote for the President regardless, as we know there aren’t viable alternatives that are any better. All he needs to worry about, according to those who study such things, is those independents who float back and forth between the two parties. If he wants a second term, all he has to do keep moving steadily right, up until the point that he senses that our wallets are getting ready to close, and then hold steady. (Clinton called the maneuver “triangulation.”) The only problem is, it would seem to me that he’s already overshot that point. By not fighting the Republicans on tax cuts for the super-wealthy, which he knows will, among other things, jeopardize the future of Social Security, he’s run a good mile past the point where a great many of us have drawn the line. If you didn’t catch it on Friday, Sam Graham-Felsen had an interesting piece on this in the Washington Post which is somewhat related. Here’s a clip:
…I worked as Obama’s chief blogger during his presidential campaign, and my primary focus was telling the stories of these supporters, many of whom had never been engaged in politics or were reengaging after years of disillusionment. There was a common thread in my conversations with the hundreds of people who gave time, sweat and small donations – that amounted to $500 million – to Obama’s campaign.
They were inspired by Obama’s promise to upend Washington by governing from the bottom up. “The change we need doesn’t come from Washington,” Obama told them. “It comes to Washington.”
Yet at seemingly every turn, Obama has chosen to play an inside game. Instead of actively engaging supporters in major legislative battles, Obama has told them to sit tight as he makes compromises behind closed doors.
During the battle over tax cuts, Obama’s grass-roots network, Organizing for America, was silent. An OFA spokesman said that the network would engage supporters when the time is “ripe.” But many people feel the time is ripe now – that tax cuts for millionaires in the midst of cuts in basic services and a spiraling deficit are unacceptable – and they don’t understand why Obama won’t let them fight…
If the White House wants to keep its grass-roots supporters at bay during major legislative fights, that’s its choice. But there’s a larger problem looming.
Obama needs this list in 2012 – and he needs its members to dig much deeper than in the last election. The Citizens United ruling has allowed campaigns to become an unprecedented corporate cash free-for-all – and Obama will likely need to raise far more than $500 million from the grass roots to be competitive.
While Obama’s political team intensely focuses on independents, the grass-roots list seems like an afterthought. Every time Obama chooses to compromise behind closed doors, and keeps OFA quiet, he might win over a few independents. But he’s also conveying a message that the grass roots doesn’t really matter, that the bottom-up ethos of his candidacy doesn’t apply to his presidency….
I think he’s absolutely right. While a lot of us will no doubt vote for Obama in 2012, I can’t see us investing the same amount of our money, or our time. Here, on that subject, is a comment that was left on the site a few days ago by Glen S.
I first got involved with politics going door-to-door for Mondale/Ferraro in 1984, when I was still just a kid. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours — and countless dollars — supporting the Democratic Party and dozens of Democratic candidates, including Jesse Jackson, Michael Dukakis, Bill Bradley, Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Barack Obama, etc. I did so because I believed that, in general, the Democratic Party genuinely represented the interests of poor and working people, and the middle class — and was willing to fight for what was right, and what was fair.
So, naturally, I was thrilled when Obama and the Democrats won the White House and big majorities in Congress in 2008, and very much looked forward to seeing them use the power of their mandate to enact real (and much-needed!) change.
Instead, however, almost from day one — Obama and the Democrats have allowed Republicans, conservatives, tea-baggers, and Wall Street and corporate lobbyists to set the agenda, define the nature of the debate, and move the ever-elusive political “middle” further and further to the right…
So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that we have now reached the point where President Obama has promoted, and a majority of Democrats in Congress have supported this disastrous “compromise” with Republicans — which will not only accelerate the massive upward transfer of wealth that has been going on in this country for decades, but also lays the groundwork for the eventual destruction of Social Security. For me, this turn of events represents not just another “vote,” not just another “compromise,” but rather, a dramatic turning point that makes mockery of “Democratic” values and the whole Democratic Party.
Going forward, I will likely continue to vote for individual candidates (like Senator Carl Levin) who continue to exhibit some degree of integrity, and who are willing to continue to stand up for what is right — but I will certainly no longer actively support the Party, nor consider myself a “Democrat” — whatever that even means anymore.
And, if I personally know a half dozen people like Glen, here, in the relatively small town of Ypsilanti, who don’t plan to support Obama at anywhere near the level that they did in 2008, I’ve got to think that there are millions across the country who feel the same way. And, I’d think that, at some point, it’s got to enter into Obama’s political calculus. The Republicans won’t be holding anything back in 2012, and Obama is going to need his base to be actively engaged, and financially contributing. Hopefully, for his sake, our memories are short.
Maybe a few progressive wins, like the one this weekend on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, will ameliorate those of us on the left. Maybe we’ll believe him when he comes back, telling us that he’s changed. Maybe we’ll forgive him for not keeping his word on Guantánamo Bay, caving on the public option, and agreeing to tax breaks for the wealthy without so much as throwing a single punch. I hope, though, that I know better. I hope that, at the very least, I’m able to stay strong during the primaries, backing someone that, if nothing else, I knew wouldn’t betray his principles. I can live with compromise. I cannot, however, fight for a President who doesn’t want to fight for the working men and women of America.
And, while we’re on the subject, I thought that you might enjoy this brilliant little video: