Increasingly, progressives I talk with admit they are starting to get a little disgusted with the antics of Barack Obama, that great agent of change. It wasn’t too long ago when these same folks were overly optimistic that Obama would deliver on his varied promises, beckoning a new era of Washington politics. Nonetheless, they all plan on voting for the Democrat regardless of how dismayed they have become with him and his campaign.
I tend to think ‘progressive’ (at least as it is used today) is a brand. It’s what the liberals have run to so they don’t have to call themselves liberals. The sad part is that many centrists have flocked to the brand, also. No thinking person of the center or center-left wants to call themselves anything to brand themselves as such. But, if one looks at the facts, the Democratic Party nationally is a centrist party.
Of course this isn’t the lofty hope their candidate has been talking about. After eight long years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it’s been a logical reaction, one that the Obama camp has done their best to exploit. But as Obama shows his constituents that he is far from progressive, the less likely he is to walk away with an electoral victory come November, and the more doubtful it is that he will make any real progress if elected.
He’s solid in the camp of the bosses. Period. And I would posit that he always has been (at least in his political career). Remember, Boston wasn’t a progressive convention. Kerry wasn’t a progressive candidate. The Dems, at the time, weren’t a progressive party. Why, then, was Barack Obama presented as a rising star in the party at the convention? Bingo! He was a rising star of the centrist Democratic Party, not a progressive one.
It’s a pretty straight forward equation: centrist Democrats don’t have a great track record of winning national elections. Voters want simple, common sense approaches to handling the problems our country faces today, not posturing and political maneuvering for the sake of manipulation. For what it’s worth, John McCain shoots it straight. He supports more war and doesn’t know much about economics. Voters know exactly what they are getting if they punch the card for the old Arizona senator.
That McCain’s within striking distance says something about what’s going on with Obama’s candidacy. Yeah, he’s gained much in the last week, but the extraordinary events in the financial sector have shown the bankruptcy of the Republican brand. Well, to be honest, it’s shown the bankruptcy of the Democratic brand as well, but since the country seems to see things in black and white….).
That’s not the case with Obama who says he wants an end to the war but has voted for its continuation and will leave troops and private mercenaries in the country to deal with the so-called insurgents – even threatening to shift US forces to Afghanistan and Iran, where he’s promised to bully our enemies into submission.
If you’re anti-war, Obama’s not your man. We know this from his speeches. We’re in for a long set of wars if Obama’s elected. Hmmm…sorta like we’re in for a long set of wars if McCain’s elected.
Obama says he supports our civil liberties but voted to reaffirm the PATRIOT Act and FISA. He says he will expand the Pentagon budget, and on Israel he promises to do whatever it takes to protect the country from “terrorists,” paying little to no attention to the plight of Palestinians and their suffering in Gaza.
To be honest, FISA should have nailed the coffin shut as far as progressives were concenred vis-a-vis Obama. It wasn’t, and isn’t. It’s a shame.
The good senator also wants to put Americans to work with a neo-Keynesian economic plan, producing millions of “green jobs” across the country. Our addiction to foreign crude surely needs to be dealt with, but Obama’s call for diversified energy sources includes some not so great alternatives, such as nuclear power, clean coal, and more domestic oil production.
I like the push of neo attached to Keynesian. It blackens Keynesian economics by associating it with those twin horrors of neoliberalism and neoconservativsm. I happen to think we need to reindustrialize, and the bosses aren’t going to do it, so it’s going to take something like a WPA to do it. On the other hand, clean coal, food for fuel and nuclear fission energy should be at the bottom of our lists as far as renewable/sustainable energy goes.
Obama also claims to speak for the underprivileged but has refused to support a cap on credit card interest rates and has spoken little about the ruthless prison industry, the war on drugs or the death penalty – all of which unfairly affect the poor.
Add to that his continuing call for ‘responsibility’ in the black community without making the same request of the society as a whole. Barack doesn’t want to scare the power structure in this country because he is part and parcel one with that power structure. It’s likely the only change we’ll see from an Obama administration is a draconian disembowelment of the social safety net in the name of fiscal prudence.
I would call all of these postures a huge betrayal. But they aren’t. Obama has never been a true progressive. He’s another centrist Democrat that has done his best to appease all sides of the political spectrum; giving the corporate wing the hard evidence they need to trust he’ll protect their interests, and the left-wing, rhetoric and political bravado to ensure they won’t flee from the stifling confines of the Democratic Party.
Progressives have allowed themselves to be played, again (and I tend to think JE was playing them as well). There was only one candidate running on the Democratic side who has the bona fides to call himself a progressive in the grandest sense of the term. Thank the Gods it looks like his congressional district knows what they have in him.
Nevertheless, many Obama supporters know well of his pitfalls, and no matter how disastrous they may seem, they’ll still vote for him. As respected columnist Norman Solomon recently claimed,
“To some, who evidently see voting as an act of moral witness rather than pragmatic choice (even in a general election), forces such as corporate power or militarism are binary – like a toggle switch – either totally on or totally off. This outlook says: either we reject entirely or we’re complicit … Such analysis tends to see Obama as just a little bit slower on the march to the same disasters that John McCain would lead us to. That analysis takes a long view – but fails to see the profound importance of the crossroads right in front of us, where either Obama or McCain will be propelled into the White House.”
“I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it, than for what I don’t want and get it.” – Eugene V. Debbs, a Hoosier and a true progressive.
Solomon, who served as an Obama delegate at the convention in Denver and sits on the board of Progressive Democrats of America, has an agenda: to usher Barack Obama into the White House because he sees John McCain as leading our country closer to the sacrificial ledge. “Save the Country (read Empire) Vote Democrat” has become a common refrain among a certain segment of the left, one that echoes through progressive and even radical circles every four years like clockwork. Go ahead and acknowledge their faults, they sing from on high, just don’t you dare ditch the Democrats come Election Day, for the rapture will ensue.
Vote for the duoparty and you get a member of the duoparty. Progressives should have learned this by now. Apparently, they haven’t.
Barack Obama will not address progressive issues because he knows quite well he’ll have this segment of the voting block shored up no matter how far right he may turn. If one follows the Solomon line of logic, we will all just have to wait until Obama’s inauguration to pester him to the left. If you do it now, they assert, it will only embolden John McCain.
This line of thinking is why the Democratic party is a centrist party, instead of a progressive one. Of course, there actually might not really be that many progressives out there. The US might actually be a centrist or center-right country. What there is of the left in the US may just be paddling upstream with only their hands.
Such a political philosophy (bigotry) is void of historic truths. One need look no further than Cintontime to grasp the amount of abuse the Democrats are allowed to commit because they are not Republicans. It’s the political version of the battered wife syndrome. Once Democrats are elected and things don’t change, progressives are still silent. And Clinton’s legacy is a long, ugly list of betrayal indeed: NAFTA, Welfare Reform, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty and Iraq Liberation Acts, the Salvage Rider, and the shattering of Glass-Steagal, which is greatly responsible for the current market meltdown.
So don’t fear standing up and voting for what you believe in, no matter how fringe or foolish you are made out to be by others who claim to know better than you. Our democracy is in peril. War rages on. Jobs are scarce and the environment is being destroyed at an exponential rate. Voting on the likelihood of perceived social gains in the short-term is not only erroneous; it is without a true understanding of what it is going to take to bring about real change in this country.
Keep this in mind as you head toward the ballot box this November. There are alternatives available. There is even one man running who’s fought against the parasites his entire career.