Bullshit Philosophy

Half-assed political and religious commentary from a cynical left-winger

Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Kucinich won’t challenge Obama in 2012 primaries

Posted by Kevin on August 13, 2010

“White House spokesman Robert Gibbs may have criticized attacks from what he called the “professional left,” but presumed member-in-good-standing Rep. Dennis Kucinich said today he won’t challenge President Obama in the 2012 Democratic primaries.” -David Jackson, USA Today

This is disappointing, but I can’t say I blame him, for the same reason I was willing to forgive his vote for the healthcare “reform” bill. It’s not fair to expect him to be a martyr when there’s not going to be a significant movement to back him up, and the fact is that liberals are still in love with Obama, and Kucinich would be persona non grata with them if he did mount a primary challenge. For this reason and others, it’s unlikely that anyone would be able to mount a serious primary challenge, at least from the Left.

Oh wait, I’m sorry, I can hear progressive Dems telling me already that they’re not “in love” with Obama, that instead they’re “disappointed” with him to varying degrees, but they still “support” him, want his agenda (which in theory they oppose on many counts) to “succeed,” won’t consider seriously opposing him, and wouldn’t dream of not voting to reelect him. Whenever this “loyal opposition” actually runs a serious risk of causing a bill or candidate to be defeated (in other words, of having an actual effect), they immediately pull back out of fear of “undermining” the Party. This happened at one point in the healthcare debate, and unfortunately included people like Howard Dean (and Kucinich, for that matter) whose courage I initially praised in my post on the cowardice of Bernie Sanders. They then shrug and say, “At least we beat the Republicans.”

So I really don’t see how the “loyal opposition” people are at all better than the people who say that Obama is the greatest President since FDR. I’m not trying to put words in people’s mouths, but to me, the two positions are indistinguishable because they have the same effect: an implicit declaration that they will never attempt to hold Obama accountable for his actions, and that he therefore has no reason to listen to them. I really can’t blame people like Robert Gibbs for telling the Left to fuck off (as administration officials have done several times before). Why should anyone take their whining seriously when they’re so scared by the prospect of Republicans returning to power that they’ll support Obama and the Democrats no matter what they do?

Getting back to Kucinich, while I understand his decision not to oppose Obama, I really don’t get his stated reason for doing so. From the article linked above: “What we have to do is focus on coming together for the purposes of getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan.” This makes no sense considering that the person Democrats, including Kucinich, will be rallying around radically expanded one war, maintained the status quo in another, bombed several other countries, and who knows, maybe we’ll be at war with Iran by the time he’s up for reelection. This is what Democrats will be “coming together” to support.

So it would seem that Kucinich’s role will be to give progressive cover to mass murder and keep opponents of the wars corralled in the Democratic Party. They wouldn’t want those psychopathic Republicans to win, after all. Sarah Palin is a crazy fascist and gets off on hurting people, unlike President Obama, who is a sensible centrist doing the best he can. He only blows up Afghan children with the best of intentions.


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Thoughts on the “public option”: bad policy and bad politics

Posted by Kevin on August 30, 2009

“I also understand the term used often by our hero Ted Kennedy, that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. However, in this case, I’d like to turn that spin around and say that, in the instance of the public option, half-assed and inadequate is the enemy of the necessary and the acceptable.” –Steve Steffens [article link]

In comments to my last post dealing with healthcare, I was criticized (rightly, as I’ll explain) for supporting a public option. I thought it would be a good idea to expand on my thoughts on the issue.

I’m definitely a single-payer supporter, and while I’ve never been one of those progressives who says “Single-payer isn’t going to happen right now, so lets not even bother talking about it,” at the time of that post I thought the public option was an acceptable compromise, at least better than doing nothing. But the more I’ve read about it, the less sure I’ve been.

These days, I’m of the opinion that it might be better to just hold out for single-payer, and that as terrible as the status quo is, the substantial risks associated with even a well-designed public option (let alone the crappy bill that will almost certainly come out of Washington) could make doing nothing the better choice. I wouldn’t say I’m opposed to the public option, more like ambivalent; I wouldn’t see it as a bad thing if a decent public plan passed, but I’m not really willing to expend any effort on its behalf.

It’s amazing to me how virtually everyone who believes in the basic concept of universal healthcare agrees that single-payer is the best way to achieve it, and yet even among very progressive people it’s seen as almost taboo. If they mention it at all, it’s almost always along the lines of, “Well yeah, in a perfect world we’d have single-payer, but…”

But what? But, as “progressive” Congressman Henry Waxman put it when asked why he removed his co-sponsorship of H.R. 676, the House single-payer bill, “It isn’t going to happen.” We see this often from politicians like Waxman, and Obama as well: they support single-payer when they’re out of power, but once they get any actual ability to implement it they suddenly start backtracking, talking about how “we need to be realistic”. Gosh, it’s almost as if they aren’t really serious about it and they’re just telling us what we want to hear!

Still, he’s absolutely right; I think we can be pretty certain that a single-payer bill, even if by some miracle it passed the House, stands little-to-no chance of surviving the Senate. But instead of insisting on what they know is right, many like Waxman are rallying around a “compromise” plan that’s far more complicated and expensive, and far less effective, even in the best case scenario.

I think progressives made a huge mistake in giving up on single-payer so easily, in not even putting it on the table. There is no “right” time to start talking about it. It might not pass today, but if we want it to pass in the future then we need to be laying the groundwork now, and at least keep the idea alive until then. This is the position of Dick McCormack, one of my state senators and primary sponsor of a single-payer bill here in Vermont. Even though by his own admission the bill is going nowhere, he says it’s important to keep people talking about it, and keep its failure from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. As I’ve said before, if nobody’s at least talking about a given position, that alone guarantees it will never happen.

Even if you disagree with me on the efficacy of the public option, I think it’s clear that by compromising so early, progressives ensured that they’d have trouble getting even that much, that the final plan would be watered down even further. Progressives have a long proud history of ignoring one of the basic rules of negotiation: asking for twice as much as what you want in the hope of bargaining down to something you can live with. Instead, we start from a compromise position, and then we’re surprised at being expected to tone things down further. As a result, instead of single-payer being the Left position and a strong public option being the compromise, the public option is the Left position and Blue Dog position is the compromise.

But isn’t the public option at least a step in the right direction? I won’t get into the specifics of what I think its problems are, because others have done it a lot better than I could. Here is a great article from Physicians for a National Health Program explaining the problems with the public option and why we should insist on single-payer instead.

Generally, I think the public option is very hard to do right, and given the current Congress anything that could actually pass will almost certainly not be done right. In fact, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the final plan will even have a public option, or do much of anything other than funnel money to the insurance and drug companies. (Some, like Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, argue that Obama and the Dem leadership were never really serious about having a public option in the bill and planned from the beginning to bargain it away in order to placate the lobbies.)

In addition, as the PNHP article points out, there’s no reason to believe that incrementalism would somehow lead to single-payer, as some proponents of the public option argue. That hasn’t happened anywhere it’s been tried; I would argue that minuscule reform of this type just has the effect of delaying real reform. Democratic politicians are the experts at this: doing just enough to shut people up for a little while, without seriously challenging the interests of their corporate backers.

If the public option does fail, then in addition to creating an enormous, entirely deserved backlash against the Democrats it will probably sour the public on the basic idea of universal health care. This is already happening in regard to the stimulus and government intervention in the economy, as Chris Bowers argues at Open Left:

Whether or not the Democratic trifecta actually passes progressive legislation, the legislation that is passed and the policies that are followed will still be perceived as progressive. We simply can’t avoid that.

For example, right now the stimulus package pretty much equals left-wing economic philosophy in the eyes of the American people. If it doesn’t produce results, we are all going to see our ideas become discredited in the eyes of the American public, even if we thought policies of the Democratic trifecta did not go nearly far enough. The country is never going to say “well, that idea didn’t work, so let’s try a more extreme version of it.” People just don’t think that way in America.

Given the inadequacy of the public option and the improbability of passing single-payer on the national level in the near future, where do we go from here? I think we need to shift attention to the state level, where there’s often a much greater possibility of getting real reform. The main thing to do on the national level is to keep the federal government from standing in the way of state efforts to do the right thing. A key part of this is making sure the Kucinich amendment, which would make it easier for states to pass single-payer, makes it into the final healthcare reform bill.

We also need to work on reforming the Senate, which is obviously the main obstacle to real healthcare reform (and progressive reform in general) on the national level, pretty much no matter which party is in charge. David Sirota points out that it’s unresponsive by its very design, giving enormous weight to a group of Senators representing an extremely small number of Americans. As a result, Sirota says, the healthcare debate is being controlled by a small handful of legislators from small, rural states. The first step to reforming the Senate, Tom Geoghegan argues, is to get rid of the filibuster, the primary weapon of the opponents of reform. This entails a bloody battle, but it’s absolutely necessary.

And, of course, we need to ignore the false promise of bullshit “incremental” reform that just tinkers around the edges, and support policies that go to the root of our problems. In addition, we need to be suspicious of politicians like Obama who care more about ensuring a legislative victory for themselves than they do about actually doing something substantive.

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Were progressives duped by Obama?

Posted by Kevin on July 11, 2009

Lately, some progressives have been ceasing their rationalizations of President Obama’s blatant corporatism and militarism, and are starting to speak up about how little “change” the Obama administration really represents. However, this welcome transition also frequently comes attached to the problematic notion that they were somehow duped or mislead into supporting him, or that he betrayed the progressive movement.

This is essentially the argument made by Marie Marchand, executive director of the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center in Bellingham, WA, in an article at CommonDreams titled I Want My Money Back! (Pres. Obama!) From the article:

…I thought I was supporting change I could believe in, not more of the same bloodshed and war!

Betrayal is a part of life. After awhile, you just come to expect it. Yet, the initial shock always hits you as a surprise. Alas, the nature of betrayal. Humans are vulnerable to being betrayed because underneath our husky shells, our pain and hardened hearts, we are soft and trustful creatures. We want to believe in people.

I’m not that young, so I possess some cynicism. But I’m not that old either, so I manage some idealism. Sure, I am used to being betrayed by my government. But I thought my days of calling the White House in tears were over. To think that Barack Obama preyed on this naive hope in me and millions like me is unforgivable.

I expect the Republicans to throw money at the Military Industrial Complex. Yet, from the Democrats, I was promised a different direction (like OUT of the Middle East). Regrettably, there has been miniscule change. There is still nothing to believe in.

You know, it’s great that she’s saying this, that she’s seen the light. But I can’t help but feel frustrated when I hear arguments like this. In my opinion, there was ample evidence from the beginning, if you looked past the sunny rhetoric to what Obama actually proposed doing, to suggest that he was very “conventional” in his views. As Jeremy Scahill put it recently in an interview with Socialist Worker:

What people, I think, misunderstand about Barack Obama is that this is a man who is a brilliant supporter of empire–who has figured out a way to essentially trick a lot of people into believing they’re supporting radical change, when in effect what they’re doing is supporting a radical expansion of the U.S. empire.

I think that it’s a bit disingenuous for people to act as if though they were somehow hoodwinked by Barack Obama about this.

If people were playing close attention during the election–not just to the rhetoric of his canned speech that he gave repeatedly, and the commercials, and the perception of his supporters was that he somehow was this transformative figure in U.S. politics, but also to the documents being produced by the Obama campaign and the specific policies he outlined–you realized that Barack Obama was very much a part of the bipartisan war machine that has governed this country for many, many decades.

What we see with Obama’s policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Arab and Muslim world, as well as his global economic policies, are a continuation of the most devastating and violent policies of the Bush administration–while placing a face on it that makes it easier to expand the iron fist of U.S. militarism and the hidden hand of the free market in a way that Republicans, I think, would have been unable to do at this point in history.

A similar point could be made about Obama’s economic positions; how could anyone really think he was going to stand up for the downtrodden or radically restructure the system when he was surrounding himself with neoliberal economists like Larry Summers and had advisers privately tell people he didn’t really mean all that stuff he was saying about free trade? [A very telling anecdote: I remember how when news about the latter came out, the problem for my very pro-Obama in-laws was not Obama’s bullshitting, but how it would effect his chances of winning.]

There were some exceptions to this rule, areas where Obama supporters can legitimately claim to have been betrayed, such as Obama’s embrace once in office of Bush’s radical secrecy doctrines (which he had strongly campaigned against). As David Sirota notes, Obama hasn’t exactly been shy about blowing off campaign promises, and in fact expresses borderline surprise about actually being expected to follow through on the stuff he said to get elected. “It’s true that politicians have always broken promises, but rarely so proudly and with such impunity [as Obama]”, Sirota said. And even I have to admit to being surprised about the degree of Obama’s badness, of how totally Obama embraced Bush’s policies on some issues.

But for the most part, I don’t think it’s right to speak of Obama as having “betrayed” progressives. It’s not betrayal if he didn’t agree with you in the first place. He was pretty clear about where he intended to lead the country; the idea of him being this great progressive was almost entirely wishful thinking on the part of his supporters. That’s what’s so frustrating: the preponderance of evidence pointed to Obama being a kinder, gentler face for American Empire, but supporters like Marchand chose to tune that out in favor of hopenchange.

Also, at the risk of sounding bitter, my sympathy is dampened somewhat when I think back to how, as a Green Party supporter, I was treated like a buffoon by people like Marchand when I questioned whether Obama was really the closet lefty that many seemed to think he was. When they weren’t rationalizing his positions, the best defenses I would get were along the lines of: “Come on, he can’t be that bad!” “Yeah, [insert position here] is horrible, but he doesn’t really mean that; he has to say that to get elected.” “You’re being such a Naderite purist; wouldn’t anyone make you happy?” “Don’t you understand, we can’t let McCain win! It doesn’t matter how horrible the other guy is!” It’s hard not to take the asshole route and say, “I told you so!” An acknowledgment of wrongdoing on their part would be nice, but probably too much to expect from people trying to justify why they supported Obama in the first place. It’s just easier for them to say, “No one could have seen this coming!”

I know some will say it’s too early to be talking about 2012, but is Marchand’s realization about how shitty Obama is going to translate into a vote against his reelection? Or is she going to blow off her concerns and fall for the hype again (or at best hold her nose and vote for him anyway)? How long until we start hearing that Obama can’t really start getting things done until his second term?

My point in all this is that I don’t think progressives were tricked or duped by Obama (just as I don’t think they themselves were stupid or uninformed); rather, they fell for him because they wanted to believe.

[Certainly, there are other progressives who knew exactly what they were voting for with Obama, but did it anyway for various reasons. I disagree with them too, but this post isn’t about them.]

That said, it’s important that we try to understand why people like Marchand wanted to believe if we ever want them to drop their support for the Democrats. There are possibly a lot of people out there like her who are becoming disillusioned with Obama (although as The Nation‘s Eyal Press argues, it’s not clear how much of the Left this represents; there’s still a lot of people out there, like Press, for whom nothing can seem to shake their support for Obama). Sounding smug and superior, putting them on the defensive, isn’t going to win their support for an independent progressive movement that won’t allow itself to be an arm of the Democratic Party. We need to recognize that some of the reasons they wanted to believe are legitimate, if unfortunate, and work from there.

The most important thing to realize is that none of us are perfectly rational, coolly and calmly weighing the pros and cons of candidates/positions. People choose candidates in large part based on how those candidates make them feel and then justify that gut decision after the fact. For people desperate to believe that change within the two-party oligopoly is possible, Obama made them feel pretty good. Marchand says as much in her article:

I knew I was naïve; yet like millions of Americans, I had no choice but to believe. Our hearts were desperate for hope. We saw Barack Obama as an oasis in the desert. To think that he may be just a mirage is heartbreaking.

At least Marchand has the guts to look within and admit that the object of her hope is just a mirage, even if she can’t go all the way to realizing that she should have known that in the first place. It’s good that it’s happening this soon into Obama’s term. As for the numerous progressives for whom it seems Obama can do no wrong (or who like Press blow off that wrongdoing by talking about how we need to be “pragmatic”), bear in mind that it took six years after Bush was elected for conservatives to turn against him. I’m not holding my breath waiting for the Obama lovers to wake up.

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Does Barack Obama actually believe in anything?

Posted by Kevin on May 28, 2009

“But I have a sickeningly familiar feeling in my stomach, and the feeling deepens with every interaction with the Obama team on [LGBT] issues. They want them to go away. They want us to go away. …

…the overwhelming sense – apart from a terror of saying anything about gay people on the record – is that we are in the same spot as in every Democratic administration: the well-paid leaders of the established groups get jobs and invites, and that’s about it.” –Andrew Sullivan

It’s pretty hard to defend Obama’s inaction on gay rights issues, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. Reader tiradefaction recently sent me this article on the subject by Emma Ruby-Sachs entitled Obama’s Public Opinion on Gay Marriage Doesn’t Matter. From the article:

“I would love to see Obama stand up and say that LGBT Americans deserve equal rights in all areas of the law – something he stated publicly many times before he was President and a sentiment he has now retracted. After all the time spent campaigning for Obama, my own little heartbreak would be mended if Obama would tell the entire country that people like me are worthy of full rights.

But as a political junkie not only do I know that won’t happen, but I don’t care if it does.

I believe that Obama’s public opinion on gay marriage is particularly irrelevant. As well, any public statements made by his office, while comforting, will not translate into actual gains for our movement.

So excuse me for adhering to real politik here, but our focus should not be on whether or not Obama is commenting on Iowa marriage decisions or making public statements about UAFA. They are not the kind of actions that will win this fight.”

Instead, Ruby-Sachs says, we should “pressure members of Congress to stand up and publicly support gay rights issues. Those votes, those individuals, are the ones that matter. They can attain critical mass, can change the accepted discourse in the U.S. and lead to easy votes on equal rights legislation.”

She’s right to an extent. The president isn’t singularly important, and we do need to be pressuring Congress (leaving aside the issue of whether certain segments of the LGBT movement are actually willing to pressure any Democrat, let alone the president). But I still have serious reservations about the article.

First of all, she’s trying to have it both ways. Obama’s cool if he stands up for gay rights, but even if he doesn’t that’s still okay. One frequently sees this among Obama lovers: there’s no way he can possibly screw up in their eyes. Taken to extremes, it can become a quasi-religious “Obama works in mysterious ways” argument, wherein every disappointing action is taken to be part of some super-secret plan to do the exact opposite of what he appears to be doing – like the claim from some quarters that the real reason Obama has embraced many of Bush’s legal justifications for state secrecy is because he’s actually hoping the courts rule against him.

Or, in many other cases people just change what they think to be in line with who they’re supporting – as Ruby-Sachs is possibly doing with Obama on LGBT issues. An example of this line of thought can be found in the response of the Obama lovers to his flip-flop on releasing torture photos, for which they’re now scrambling to provide excuses. Glenn Greenwald had an important question for these people:

“…if you actually want to argue that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do, then you must have been criticizing Obama when, two weeks ago, he announced that he would release them. Otherwise, it’s pretty clear that you don’t have any actual beliefs other than: “I support what Obama does because it’s Obama who does it.” So for those arguing today that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do: were you criticizing Obama two weeks ago for announcing he would release these photographs?”

Likewise, Ruby-Sachs says she “would love to see Obama stand up and say that LGBT Americans deserve equal rights in all areas of the law,” and then promptly turns right around and says it’s fine that he hasn’t. Does anyone really think that if Obama did start publicly supporting gay rights, she’d say, “Maybe it’d be better if he stayed quiet on the issue”? There are much worse offenders than her (she at least recognizes the need to apply pressure to Obama), but still, cognitive dissonance anyone?

As to the main point of her article, that Obama’s opinions and actions are “irrelevant” and “will not translate into actual gains for our movement,” I totally disagree. While the president may not be able to push legislation though by himself, there’s still quite a bit he could be doing. For one thing, Ruby-Sachs rightly alludes to backroom arm-twisting Obama could be doing to advance legislation, although she makes no apparent attempt to explain why he isn’t doing that already.

Presidents play a major role in framing the debate and defining the “conventional wisdom.” If the president isn’t engaged in an issue, much of the media will take that as a sign that it’s not important, and many Democrats in Congress will be less willing to stick their necks out for fear no one will be there to keep their heads from getting chopped off. Frank Rich of the New York Times commented recently on a significant factor holding back the Democrats on LGBT issues:

“As [Freedom to Marry executive director Evan] Wolfson said to me last week, they lack ‘a towering national figure to make the moral case’ for full gay civil rights. There’s no one of that stature in Congress now that Ted Kennedy has been sidelined by illness, and the president shows no signs so far of following the example of L.B.J., who championed black civil rights even though he knew it would cost his own party the South…

‘This is a civil rights moment,’ Wolfson said, ‘and Obama has not yet risen to it.’ Worse, Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage is now giving cover to every hard-core opponent of gay rights, from the Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean to the former Washington mayor Marion Barry, each of whom can claim with nominal justification to share the president’s views.”

LGBT-friendly legislation is much more likely to pass if a president, especially one as (inexplicably) popular as Obama, keeps it from being moved to the back burner. This is especially the case on the issue of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. It’s clear that at best repeal of DADT is a low priority for the Obama administration, and as Kerry Eleveld reported in The Advocate, there are signs that they might not follow through with it. This is a problem, because as Eleveld notes:

“Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of SLDN, indicated that a bill was unlikely to be introduced without support from the president. ‘Congress will likely not act without a nod from the commander in chief. Congress often defers military personnel matters to him. And Obama is the ultimate enforcer of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’’ he said.

A Democratic strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity pressed the point a little harder: ‘No one wants to push this without the backing of the White House,’ he said.”

DADT is also one of the few areas of LGBT policy where Obama could take concrete action himself, without waiting for legislation from Congress. Granted, a repeal from Congress would be necessary in the long-term. But Aaron Belkin argues at The Huffington Post that Obama could de facto kill DADT with an executive order. So… why doesn’t he? Instead, he’s choosing to fire Arab linguists, while writing notes to the fired soldiers about how upset he is with doing it, even though he hasn’t done anything to stop it.

And this brings me to my last issue with Ruby-Sachs’ article. Even if I were to concede her point that public statements from Obama “will not translate into actual gains for our movement,” I’d still argue that it would be nice to know for once that Obama actually believes strongly in something, actually has a backbone and is willing to take a stand for something or someone. I’m not being hyperbolic; I’m really not sure. You have to admit that Obama isn’t exactly the most courageous politician out there (although that’s probably something a good chunk of his supporters like about him; it would seem that one person’s doublespeak is another person’s political realism).

On the contrary, there doesn’t seem to be much that he isn’t willing to sacrifice for the sake of political expediency. He appears completely opposed to radically restructuring the system, and definitely isn’t willing to take risks to do so. In fact, one of the few things he’s showed any degree of backbone on is handing the treasury over to Wall Street in the form of bailouts, standing up for neoliberal economic policies in the face of widespread public opposition.

On issue after issue, including LGBT issues, Obama has taken mostly symbolic steps to appear slightly less monstrous than his Republican opponents even while doing little to substantively alter the status quo. This is especially true on civil liberties/national security issues. He is admittedly showing real courage on closing Guantanamo in the face of an absurd fearmongering campaign (to which all too many other Democrats gave in)… but is pretty much just using it as a cover for embracing slightly modified Bush/Cheney policies, like abuse of state secrets, “preventive detention,” and a “kinder, gentler” form of military commissions. Not to mention, he wants to keep the prisoners at Bagram Air Base, a place every bit as bad as Guantanamo, stripped of their rights. Even Jon Stewart joked recently, in the context of poking fun at Dick Cheney’s hysteria over Obama’s positions, that there’s really only a 3-5% difference between the two.

Obama frequently utilizes one of the oldest tricks in politics, saying that he “supports” a given policy or position, and then doing nothing to advance it. David Sirota argued that this was the case with “cramdown” (allowing bankruptcy judges to modify home loans to prevent foreclosure, which subsequently failed in the Senate), and increasingly seems the case with the Employee Free Choice Act. He campaigned on EFCA to get union support, but his financial backers and many of his advisers are completely opposed to it, and he doesn’t seem willing to expend any “political capital” to see it through. “The motive for the two-step is obvious,” Sirota said. “Obama aims to get public credit for populist positions, while wink-and-nodding his way to moneyed-interest appeasement”.

So I reiterate: is there anything Obama is strongly committed to aside from the path of least resistance? It would be nice to know that he sees the LGBT community as something other than a source of votes and money; for a self-described “fierce advocate” for gay rights, he seems awfully willing to throw gays under the bus.

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“Common Purpose” and the co-optation of the progressive movement

Posted by Kevin on April 22, 2009

Probably the thing that disgusted me the most about the 2008 election cycle was how many so-called “progressive” organizations seemed to be basically just appendages of the Democratic Party. It’s not a new phenomenon, of course, but I hadn’t realized the extent previously. Even now, many of the campaigns of groups like MoveOn are framed around “supporting President Obama’s agenda.” There really isn’t much of an independent progressive movement in this country, which is why we’re having so much trouble gaining traction on any number of issues.

If you doubt that all too many “progressive” organizations are slaves to Obama and his corporatist agenda, this article from Ben Smith at Politico should dispel any illusions you had. It describes a group called “Common Purpose,” which brings together “the top officials from a range of left-leaning organizations, from labor groups like Change to Win to activists like MoveOn.org” and White House officials. The purpose is message coordination, which is not something to which I’m inherently opposed, but it’s evident that in the present instance it’s a mechanism for keeping “progressive” groups toeing the White House line.

It’s not hard to tell how successful Common Purpose and similar groups have been in stifling progressive criticism of Obama. The major “progressive” organizations (to my knowledge at least) have largely ceded anger over the increasingly kleptocratic bank bailout to conservative teabaggers. And Jeremy Scahill reminds us that they’ve similarly sold out on Iraq and Afghanistan:

“…groups like the Center for American Progress and MoveOn, which portrayed themselves as anti-war during the Bush-era, are now supporting the escalation and continuation of wars because their guy is now commander-in-chief. CAP has been actively pounding the pavement in support of the escalation in Afghanistan, the rebranding of the Iraq occupation and, more recently, Obama’s bloated military budget, which the group said was “on target.” MoveOn has been silent on the escalation in Afghanistan and has devoted substantial resources to promoting a federal budget that includes a $21 billion increase in military spending from the Bush-era.

As another example, Smith’s article describes how several groups – including the Campaign for America’s Future and USAction – backed off from a campaign against the Blue Dog Democrats and the Evan Bayh faction in part at the urging of the White House: “The White House, however, was in the midst of discussions with members of the congressional Blue Dog caucus, and objected to the slogan, which was promptly changed, and the page describing the drive is gone from CAF’s website.”

“What is clear here is that CAP and MoveOn are now basically psuedo-official PR flaks targeting ‘liberals’ to support the White House agenda,” says Scahill. Why are the “progressive” groups doing this? As Jane Hamsher argues, they enjoy the illusion of having the ear of the President and they fear retribution if they don’t go along:

There’s a big problem right now with the traditional liberal interest groups sitting on the sidelines around major issues because they don’t want to buck the White House for fear of getting cut out of the dialogue, or having their funding slashed. Someone picks up a phone, calls a big donor, and the next thing you know…the money is gone. It’s already happened. Because that’s the way Rahm plays.

So what should we do about it? I don’t exactly know. I suppose some could argue that we need people like them working inside the system, but I’m not really convinced that it’s actually accomplishing anything in the current environment besides tarnishing ourselves by propping up the kleptocrats and giving their ideas a veneer of respectability. It would seem to me that one thing we need to seriously consider is whether to stop supporting the organizations involved with Common Purpose and similar groups who are selling us out to Obama and other Establishment Dems – i.e. stop donating money to them, unsubscribe from their email lists, stay away from events organized by them. I’ve already done that with several groups, such as MoveOn and Democracy for America, that I became disgusted with during the campaign because of their cheerleading for the Dems.

These “progressive” groups’ coziness with the Obama administration is the exact opposite of what needs to happen if we want to bring about real change. Currently, the pressure only seems to be coming from one direction, with Obama having every incentive to avoid radically restructuring the system. Instead of providing a fig leaf for status quo Democrats, we need to as Naomi Klein argues, “stop hoping and start demanding.” There needs to be an independent progressive movement focused not on electing Democrats, but on creating conditions under which whoever is in office has to implement progressive policies if they want to stay there.

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The differences between the parties are greatly exaggerated

Posted by Kevin on March 4, 2009

During the last election season many people talked about a supposed vast chasm of difference between Barack Obama and John McCain. This framing of national politics is ubiquitous in political commentary, and true in a number of areas, but also greatly exaggerated.

The media plays a large role in the creation of the frame, magnifying the contrast between the candidates to make the election more exciting so you’ll tune into their coverage, and also to distract attention from the issues that aren’t discussed because there’s no substantive difference between the candidates. Israel/Palestine, the Wall Street bailout, the drug war, American imperialism, etc. It also helps justify their exclusion of third-party and independent candidates from election coverage – who needs them when we’ve already got such a vigorous debate going with just the two main ones?

The two establishment parties, of course, have every incentive to make the other look like the Antichrist. People wouldn’t be very motivated to vote if they thought the election was just a choice between the right- and left-hand sock puppets, or they might consider supporting a third-party or independent candidate, and we wouldn’t want that.

In addition, progressive Obama supporters often justified their support for the candidate on these grounds – “Sure, he’s far from perfect, but there’s soooo much difference between him and McPain!” They could get borderline apocalyptic talking about the consequences of a McCain victory. The same argument is used by conservatives talking about Obama, both then and now (how many times have we heard Obama referred to as a socialist?).

All too typical in this regard from the progressive side is this statement from Greta Christina (in a post I’ve quoted previously):

This isn’t a “There’s no difference between the two candidates” situation. There is a massive difference between the candidates. On the war. On the regulation of the financial industry. On abortion. On gay rights. On health care. On the environment. On virtually every issue that matters to most progressives.

While that’s undoubtedly true on many (but not all, in my opinion) of the issues she cites, there were other issues where you practically needed a microscope to tell the candidates apart, where the disagreements are more rhetorical than substantive. Given Obama’s stacking of his administration with neoliberal economists and his backsliding on civil liberties, a more honest slogan for his campaign might have been “Continuity We Can Believe In.”

A good example of this is the occupation of Iraq. Admittedly, even I believed during the campaign that, while Obama’s position wasn’t nearly good enough, it was certainly an improvement over that of John “100 Years” McCain. And yet, according to the Huffington Post, McCain has now embraced Obama’s Iraq plan and says he would’ve done roughly the same thing. I guess the sky wouldn’t be falling after all if McCain had won, at least in regard to the Iraq issue.

Likewise, the rosy picture painted of Obama’s position, both then and now, by his supporters, including much of the “antiwar” movement – “He’s going to end the war!” – is a huge exaggeration. At least, depending on how you define “ending the war.” The latest reports indicate that Obama wants to leave as many as 50,000 troops in Iraq, he’s just not going to call them “combat troops.” This is what the Washington establishment calls “ending the war.”

This isn’t exactly a surprise; Obama was pretty clear during the campaign that he wanted to leave a “residual force” in the country and had enormous “conditions on the ground” caveats even for his meager plan. So we’re still dealing with a large indefinite American presence in the country. And the troops that he does withdraw will likely just end up in a ramped-up war in Afghanistan. I’d really like to know what progressives think they’ve gained on this issue by electing Obama, and why they let him run as the “antiwar” candidate.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying there are no meaningful differences between the establishment parties. Just that on may issues the contrast is not as huge as some would like you to believe. My position is that, as Glenn Greenwald argued, “Critical political debates are at least as often driven not by the GOP/Democrat dichotomy, but by the split between the Beltway political establishment and the rest of the country.” Or, as David Sirota memorably put it, the real division isn’t between red and blue but between the Money Party and the People Party, with all too many Democrats winding up in the former.

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“Cynical Obama hater”?

Posted by Kevin on January 26, 2009

The title for this post comes from an email I received a few days ago, presumably from a reader, who had the following to say:

You should really stop being such a cynical Obama hater, you know, the best way to make sure nothing good happens is to keep telling yourself only bad things are going to happen under Obama. Why don’t you try to make things better, have some optimism already!

I didn’t really want to respond at first because I thought it was kind of a ridiculous assertion and I wasn’t sure it was worth taking the time to respond to, but on further reflection I realized that a reply might help to clarify a few things and keep him and others from misunderstanding my frequent criticism of Obama and the Democratic Party.

So, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a cynical Obama hater. I guess I can’t really reject the cynical part; it’s right in the name of the blog after all! I guess I am pretty cynical in the sense that I’m suspicious of the motives of Obama and the Democratic Party, and think Obama’s reputation in some quarters as a great progressive champion is almost entirely undeserved, but I’d say my cynicism is with good reason. The last time I was somewhat optimistic about the Dems was in 2006, when they took back Congress; a fat lot of good that did me. They couldn’t manage to stop or even slow down many of the Bush administrations crimes, and in many cases were complicit in them – this includes Obama. So you’ll have to forgive me for not taking them at their word that things are going to be different now, that Obama isn’t just another mushy-middle centrist politician. I’ll believe it when I see it.

As for being an Obama hater, that to me would be someone who criticizes Obama more or less no matter what he does, and I don’t really think that applies to me. I’m definitely an Obama critic, but I won’t deny that there have been encouraging signs from Obama in his first few days in office. The question is whether he’ll keep it up, or if he’ll come under the sway of the neoliberal and/or hawkish advisers he’s surrounded himself with as time goes on.

[That’s already pretty much happened on economic policy, as Obama’s top priority seems to be handing another $350 billion to Wall Street. Because that worked out so well the last time!]

For instance, it’s undeniably good that Obama issued an order on day one to close Guantanamo (and while we’re on the subject, that Obama’s appointed a number of people to the Justice Department and especially to the Office of Legal Council who oppose torture as well as the Bush admin’s monarchical view of executive power), but it’s still unclear what system the detainees will be tried under. What have we really gained if, as some are advising him, he just ends up trying the detainees in “national security courts” where “tainted” evidence (i.e. stuff gained through torture) can be used?

Likewise, I don’t know enough about the guy one way or the other to say for sure, but it seems encouraging that Obama picked George Mitchell for his Mideast envoy, showing that he might be more evenhanded in his approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict than his predecessors. And he just remarked in a speech today that the Gaza blockade should be ended. Still, this is Obama’s only concrete statements on the issue so far, and it’s still an open question as to what he’s actually going to do about any of it. Given both Obama’s past hostility to the Palestinians and that of many of the people around him (i.e. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emmanuel), once again, I’ll believe it when I see it.

That said, I certainly do tend to come down pretty hard on the Dems on this blog, probably harder than I do on Republicans/conservatives, but it’s not because I’m implacably opposed to the Dems or something. Rather, I’m just frustrated at the fact that they’re frequently in a position to implement progressive policies, or to stop conservative ones, but choose not to. You don’t bring about change in that fact by being a groupie, you do it by criticizing them and/or withdrawing support when they do bad things and only praising them when they deserve it.

It also has to do with my desire to offer something in my writing that other people aren’t already saying, and let’s face it, there’s no shortage of groups and blogs to cheerlead for the Dems.

I will say that, as a Green Party supporter, there’s a danger for us in being perceived as too close to being “Obama haters.” One Democratic criticism I heard during the 2008 election campaign went something along the lines of, “Greens aren’t going to vote for a Democrat anyway, so there’s no point in courting them.” Being perceived as too knee-jerk critical could make it easier to write us off.

However, I think Obama lovers pose a much bigger threat to the progressive movement than the Obama haters. An Obama lover is the opposite of our earlier definition: this is someone who supports Obama and the Dems pretty much no matter what they do. These are the people like my father-in-law who, when faced with Obama’s vote for the FISA bill, immediately did a 180 in their position on warrantless wiretapping, or at least stopped seeing it as such a big deal.

This faction of progressives, the Cult of Obama Worship as I call it, has been the main source of my frustration in recent months. Obama is going to be under enormous pressure to maintain the status quo, and no change is going to happen if the pressure is only coming from the establishment forces. If you really want him to do good things, then the best thing you can do for him is to hold his feet to the fire and create conditions under which he has to implement progressive policies if he wants to stay in office.

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Progressive excuses for Democratic complicity in Israeli brutality

Posted by Kevin on January 19, 2009

I have to say that so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the American mainstream media’s handling of the Israel/Gaza conflict. It’s nowhere near perfect, of course, but there’s still a slightly greater willingness to question Israeli claims than in past conflicts. It’s too bad that that new found openness doesn’t extend to our political system, where overwhelming majorities of both parties in Congress still express lockstep support for Israel no matter what it does, and only peripheral actors like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul are willing to speak out for the people of Gaza. Meanwhile Obama continues to hide behind his “only one President at a time” bullshit (as many others have noted, why doesn’t this extend to economic policy?).

[I was particularly disappointed by the silent complicity of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the issue, as he’s one of my Senators and he’s supposed to be this great progressive crusader. Not one Senator, not even Bernie, was willing to publicly oppose the resolution supporting Israel’s attack.]

So lately I’ve been trying to figure out why the Democratic Party keeps granting knee-jerk support to Israeli war crimes and ethnic cleansing, and why the party rank and file, which overwhelmingly opposes the attack on Gaza, is largely unwilling to challenge them on the issue, often choosing instead to rationalize their party’s continuing attachment to the Israeli far right. The answers to both of these questions are closely linked, so forgive me for segueing back and forth between the two.

The primary response of many progressives when faced with Democratic intransigence on Israel/Palestine is a collective throwing up of the hands, claiming “There’s nothing we can do about it; AIPAC is just too powerful. Might as well live with it.” But the so-called “Israel lobby” isn’t some unstoppable force of nature. Groups like AIPAC are so disproportionately influential for a reason.

The main reason in this case is because, as Glenn Greenwald notes, “one side of the debate (the AIPAC faction) is strong and aggressive in its criticisms and pressure tactics and the other side (the faction wanting an even-handed U.S. approach) is not.” I highly recommend reading his post in full, as well as this one from Juan Cole on roughly the same subject.

Democratic politicians have everything to gain and nothing to lose by supporting the attack on Gaza as well as the broader Israeli occupation: they get the support of and contributions from AIPAC and its followers, knowing that the vast majority of the people on the other side might grumble about it but won’t turn against them. From Greenwald again:

Just as Congressional Democrats have known for the last eight years, Obama will know that there is only a price to pay when he acts contrary to the Republican and Beltway “centrist” agenda, but no price to pay when he acts contrary to the agenda of his most ardent supporters (because they won’t criticize him, because to do is to “tear him down,” “help Republicans,” act like a Naderite purist, etc. etc. etc.). That meek and deferential attitude — aside from being a wildly inappropriate and even dangerous way to treat a political leader — also ensures that one is irrelevant and taken for granted and one’s views easily ignored.

The solution, as he notes and as should be patently obvious, is to be willing to apply pressure to Democrats when their actions warrant it. We’ve already seen several instances in the transition where Obama was pulled to the left by progressive criticism. And, in my opinion, it involves a willingness to deny them our votes if they continue to support Israeli brutality.

But, all too many progressives are unwilling to do either of those things. Instead, they find some bullshit way to explain how the party had no other choice, or even how it’s really not so bad that the party frequently aligns itself with the Israeli far right.

A great article on this subject is “The Pragmatism of Ethnic Cleansing” by Steven Salaita. From the article:

I have seen countless times on the Internet and have heard even more frequently some variation of the following argument: “Obama had to court the Israel lobby in order to be elected; it’s part of presidential politics in the United States.” Bolder commentators suggest that it would be foolish to expect otherwise… Other liberals smugly accuse Obama’s skeptics of purism, which they say has no business in serious political conversations.

For one reason or another, many progressives see the Palestinian cause as a reasonable sacrifice in order to have a Democratic president. But as Salaita argues, “This concession may be something they’re prepared to live with, but we should remember that the Afghans and Palestinians have no choice.” American progressives aren’t the ones who have to live with the consequences of the Israeli occupation (not directly, anyway), which might explain why they are often unwilling to make much of a fuss over Democratic complicity in it. (Salaita again: “I doubt Obama’s pragmatists would have been such staunch advocates of electoral realism if they, like the Palestinians, were being removed from their homes and confined to bounded ghettos.”)

In the case of Obama, whenever the issue came up during the campaign I would hear from his supporters some variation of “He doesn’t really believe that, he’s just saying it because he has to to get elected,” and/or “Once he’s in office he’ll be fair to the Palestinians.” I certainly hope that’s true, but I don’t know what they’re basing those statements on, other than faith. Some who make this argument, like Lisa Gans at the Huffington Post, claim that the reason the Israelis invaded Gaza when they did was because they wanted to get it out of the way before Obama took office, presumably because they were worried about how he might react. I’ll admit this does look slightly more plausible in light of the fact that it was announced today that Israeli troops will be out of Gaza by the time Obama’s inaugurated, but I ultimately find this argument unpersuasive. At best it’s a minor factor in Israel’s reasoning. Much more important is the upcoming Israeli elections, with both Kadima and Labor depending on the invasion to bump up their sagging poll numbers.

In any case, even if Obama doesn’t really believe what he’s plainly saying on the issue, I’d say that makes it worse, not better. As Arthur Silber points out, by making this argument his supporters are admitting that he’s a liar who isn’t willing to take a stand for what he believes in. Either that, or he’s a borderline sociopath who just doesn’t give a shit about Palestinian lives.

Given that, why should I believe he’ll be a good president? And why is it so hard for progressives to accept that maybe Obama just doesn’t care, that he’s not a closet progressive, and that perhaps he’s just another politician whose only concern is getting and holding onto power?

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BLAST FROM THE PAST: Post-election Blues

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 12/13/08]

So once again I find myself having to apologize for not posting. I’d hoped to say more about the election before the election, but this whole campaign season (and the aftermath) has gotten me so down that I’ve had trouble just getting myself to read about politics (as my small pile of unread or barely read issues of Newsweek and The Nation should tell you), let alone write about it.

As far as the presidential race went, there weren’t many positions lonelier than that of a Green Party supporter in the 2008 elections. Criticizing Obama doesn’t exactly make you the most popular person in the room among progressives. The most frequent vibe I got was, “Hey, can’t you be happy just this once? And even if you can’t, can you please not ruin it for me?” I finally ended up writing in Cynthia McKinney, and though I already knew how little energy there was in any sort of third-party or independent movement this time around, it was still a huge letdown that no such candidate, on either side of the aisle, even broke 1%.

More generally, pretty much every candidate I cared about lost massively. There were some bright spots, of course: I’m glad Elizabeth Dole’s campaign of blatant anti-atheist bigotry ended up losing, there’s still hope at this point for Al Franken, Prop 2 won in California (which mandates more humane standards for farm animals), and various anti-abortion referenda lost, among other things.

But then there’s Prop 8 (maybe not a massive loss but still a major buzzkill), and the reelection of Jim Douglas here in Vermont, and the Green congressional candidates I was following in Illinois. Particularly saddening was the Vermont House race. Having written about this race before, I had no doubt that many Vermonters would turn down a solid progressive over a guy with a D next to his name, but goddamn, it’s pretty depressing that Peter Welch got 83% of the vote, and that Tom Hermann barely got more votes than a fucking anti-Semitic pothead (by which I mean Cris Ericson, one of the independents)!

What’s still got me down is the whole Cult of Obama Worship, which has been making me fucking sick for some time. Some progressives are unwilling to make even the slightest criticism of Obama as he drifts ever further to the right, instead choosing to rationalize everything he does, ignoring or minimizing the importance of the many conservative statements or appointments Obama has made while trumpeting the few token progressive ones as loud as they can. Before the election, people like me were constantly chided to just wait until after the election to attack Obama because we couldn’t afford to weaken him; now they’re saying to wait longer still. “He’s not even in office yet, give the guy a chance!” Is it ever going to be the right time?

Others are shocked and appalled at Obama’s rightward drift, apparently not having heard anything he said during the campaign. As Glenn Greenwald and others have noted, there were plenty of signs from the beginning that this is exactly where Obama intended to go as President; he’s just being more blatant now. Progressives didn’t demand a thing of Obama during the campaign, and now some of them are surprised that he clearly doesn’t feel he owes anything to them. I just don’t get it.

That said, I do of course admit that there are positives about Obama’s victory. It should be obvious, and yet I keep having to explain it to progressive Democrats: yes, Obama will almost certainly be a better president than McCain. It’s great that we’re going to have our first black president, and that Americans turned down a blatant campaign of fearmongering and race-baiting. That doesn’t mean I have to like the guy. So far on both economic and foreign policy it’s looking like Obama’s administration is going to be a rerun of the Clinton years, which I think are a huge mistake to look back on as the “good ol’ days.”

I really do hope I’m proven wrong, that he really is a progressive deep down, that all those conservative and/or neoliberal appointments are just there to provide establishment credibility for progressive policies as some have suggested. But basing your support for him on that hope is no different than blind faith. [On the subject of Obama’s appointments, personnel may not absolutely determine policy, but do you really think he’s going to surround himself with neoliberal economists like Larry Summers and foreign policy hawks like Gates and Clinton… and then just completely blow off all their advice?]

So, because of this case of post-election blues, I just haven’t felt like doing much of anything political, including on this blog. I’m getting sick of feeling like the grumpy old man at the party. I’m growing more and more cynical, less convinced that real, systemic change is possible. And less convinced of my ability to have an effect on anything. A question keeps nagging at me: why bother? I really don’t have a satisfactory answer yet.

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Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 10/9/08]

It saddens me to see people I highly respect spouting nonsense. That’s unfortunately the case with Howard Zinn and Greta Christina, who’ve both embraced the memes (“Wait until after the election to pressure the Dems” and “This is the most important election ever”) I discussed in my post Why the hell are progressives enthusiastic about Obama?

Here’s Zinn:

So, yes, I will vote for Obama, because the corrupt political system offers me no choice, but only for the moment I pull down the lever in the voting booth.

Before and after that moment I want to use whatever energy I have to push him toward a recognition that he must defy the traditional thinkers and corporate interests surrounding him, and pay homage to the millions of Americans who want real change.

And here’s Greta (who I’ll address more fully in a separate post):
If you disagree with Obama about one or more issues, then — once he’s elected — by all means, make your voice heard. Scream and shout. Hold his feet to the fire. As a citizen, that’s more than just your right — that’s your job. And if you think we should have a strong third party, then by all means, work to build it from a local level up.

But this election is way too important to screw around with.

Please don’t fail to act because you can’t act perfectly.

I think I addressed these arguments pretty fully in my previous post, but I do have one thing to add to the part about how we should wait until after the election to put pressure on the Democrats.

My problem with this argument, and the reason why I think it’s the same as doing nothing, is that the only leverage we really have over politicians is at election time. It doesn’t take a political science degree to know that getting elected is their foremost concern, and justifiably so. But if you signal that you’ll vote for them pretty much no matter what they do, that tells them that they can safely blow you off. They know that they only have to be a tiny bit better than the other guy to get your support.

And there’s no need to speculate about that, by the way, because the Democratic party comes right out and says it. As Stanford professor (and Obama supporter) Lawrence Lessig remarked a few months back about Obama’s support for the FISA bill:

When you talk to people close to the campaign about this, they say stuff like: “Come on, who really cares about that issue? Does anyone think the left is going to vote for McCain rather than Obama? This was a hard question. We tried to get it right. And anyway, the FISA compromise in the bill was a good one.”

It’s instructive to compare this with how the Republicans treat their base. Look at how McCain’s rhetoric constantly vacillates between moderate and hard-right conservative. He’s engaged in a delicate balancing act where he tries to keep the far-right base happy without making the rest of the country think he’s crazy. Why does he feel the need to do that, whereas Democrats seem completely comfortable taking the left for granted? Because McCain know he has to keep the base happy, or they might stay home on election day. Or even if they do hold their noses and vote for him, they won’t be very enthusiastic about it, won’t donate time or money, won’t convert their friends/family/coworkers, etc. Many conservatives, for some odd reason, see McCain as a closet moderate, and if he does anything to reinforce that notion then they might not turn out for him. Why do you think he took on Palin as his running mate? There were multiple reasons, but one of them was certainly to reassure the religious right, a group that was until then pretty tepid toward McCain.

I’m not saying don’t go out and protest for single-payer health care, or an end to the war, or anything else. I’m just asking, even if progressives do actually try to push Obama in a more progressive direction after the election (which I still highly doubt), what good will it do? He already knows he can pretty much ignore you, because you’ll have given up any leverage you had over him, any means of punishing him for doing the wrong thing. In fact, it’s entirely within reason that Obama would just use progressives a a rhetorical punching bag to show how “serious” and “independent-minded” he is, as he has already done on issues like telecom immunity.

So, my response to people like Greta who say that “This is not the time to be taking a principled stand” is that this is precisely the time to do it, in fact the only time it matters. Withholding our votes is really the only way to show the Democratic Party that there will be negative consequences for ignoring us. I’m not saying we should hold out for perfect candidates (in fact I think the suggestion that Greens and others do insist on perfection from candidates is a straw man), but that’s no reason to set the bar as low as we all to often do. It’s far from a perfect solution, but I have yet to see anything else proposed that doesn’t perpetuate the status quo indefinitely due to more or less relying on Democratic politicians to doing the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts, which will probably never happen.

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