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Aldous Tyler: Where Is Obama’s Money Going?

The following was posted on Daily Kos today, calling on Obama to reveal where his campaign funds are deposited, and demanding that those funds be transferred from the megabanks to community-based credit unions:

My campaign to challenge Barack Obama in the Democratic primary season is moving swiftly now.  This week, the focus is on raising the last $300+ to be able to file for the New Hampshire primary by October 24.

At the same time, President Obama’s flood of emails tout that his campaign is approaching one million small donors:  “None of us can do this alone. We’ve always relied on each other, not Washington lobbyists or corporate interests, to build our campaign.”  See, he wants us to believe that he’s running a “people” campaign, unlike those nasty corporate-supported Republicans.

But while the media reports on the fundraising horse race (Obama has raised about $100 million) and Obama’s fundraising on Wall Street (whether it’s more or less than he raised in 2008, or more from Wall Street than Romney has raked in, etc), one story is shockingly unreported: not where Obama’s money is coming from, but where is it going?

Aldous Tyler for President: Obama will be primaried

Wouldn’t it be nice if Russ Feingold challenged Obama in the Democratic primaries?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Bernie Sanders challenged Obama in the Democratic primaries?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Elizabeth Warren challenged Obama in the Democratic primaries?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Howard Dean challenged Obama in the Democratic primaries?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Dennis Kucinich challenged Obama in the Democratic primaries?

Well, they aren’t.  Aldous Tyler is.  He describes himself thus:

I am what I am – a 39 year old longtime activist, husband, father, who has lived almost his whole life in the Great Lakes region of America, from Detroit to Minneapolis to Madison. Professionally speaking, I’m a worker who is fortunate enough to have two paying jobs (on top of my volunteer radio program) to work in this economy. I’ve worked most of my time in the copy and print industry, with additional forays into web design, database management, technical support and industrial equipment resale.

Tyler has announced.  He is raising the $5,000 to file with the FEC and launch his ballot access effort, and he has begun to campaign.  Now progressives have to deal with it.

Do you want to help organize a jailbreak?

In the last couple diaries I’ve written on FireDogLake, I’ve tried to create a framework for radical action.  How to Destroy the Democratic Party sets up a broad approach for taking on, if not over, the Democratic Party base organizations, and Say You Want a Revolution tries to outline the scale of organization required for serious structural change.  Ambitious indeed!

But how about tomorrow?  What’s the bridge between our small, disorganized condition now and the large tasks I’ve recently delineated?  I throw this in everyone else’s face, so it’s only fair it be thrown in mine.

I was once tutored by an old friend who had been a machinist in his younger days.  He talked about tool-making, that most of this high-precision work entailed building tools.  Tools to build other tools.  To build yet more tools.  On and on until it call came together for the tools building the myriad parts that we drive down the street or heat and cool our homes or watch bad movies and lying news shows on.

So you say you want a revolution …

… well, we all want to change the world.  In How to Destroy the Democratic Party … I explored an approach that could lead to an independent party with more than symbolic strength.  But recalling the dog who finally caught the car he’d been chasing all these years, it would raise the question of what we would do when we finally catch it, i.e., had some serious parliamentary strength backed by an energized mass base.  In that light, I’ve been mulling over the various 3rd party platforms, in terms of serious power politics.

I’ve noticed that some writers on FDL seem quite moderate, while others are flaming revolutionaries ready to take to the streets and launch general strikes and have 5 million people seize the halls of Congress and smash the two-party system (and indulge in a strange nostalgia for “saver of capitalism” Franklin Roosevelt).  But if one takes a closer look, what they are fighting FOR is often quite vague (end control of our elections by the rich) or quite moderate (some version of European social democracy — which seems to be doing so well these days), and sometimes radical indeed.  Furthermore, while some advocate socialism, the collective understanding of socialism is utterly muddled, with some progressives actually arguing that ANY government regulation of business is socialism.

How to Destroy the Democratic Party …

… and build a viable independent alternative.  Over the past few months, I’ve put out various comments stressing the critical need for organization, that the growing cries for action post Egypt/Wisconsin (we must take to the streets, general strike!, vote them out) remain at a level of abstraction, or calls to individuals, calls for morality, calls for courage.

But the masses are not rising up. The Obama/Boehner onslaught continues.  The only ones to pretend the left is more than a disorganized rabble are those hardcore Dems who pump this up to make it seem that THEIR fantasy of taking over the Democratic Party is the only game in town.  The strongest resistance to Obama/Boehner has been led by the unions in Wisconsin and neighboring states, and that is — at least for the time being — contained in the shelter of the Democratic Party.  Repeal, recall, roll the clock back to a couple years ago.  But the obvious fact that this resistance comes from organized forces seems to have had little impact on people’s need to address organizational issues.

I could say that the lack of response to my comments shows a lack of understanding on the part of the masses.  But while that may be comforting late at night, it might be better to develop the idea further and render it at least a little bit less abstract.

Psychology of Activism: 2011

There is a general consensus that the left is not in good shape.  Indeed, we are outspent, outgunned, out-broadcast, outvoted, at every turn.  We can easily point to vast corporate wealth, unfair election laws, sellout leaders, and a hostile media, to explain our plight.  Indeed, there is truth to all this.  So what else is new?  Some go further and blame it on an ignorant and brainwashed public.  But frankly, that’s a shuck, even if it contains grains of truth.  After all, how did WE let it get that way.

Certainly there is comfort in blaming the masses for being too stupid to realize the wisdom of our solutions.  But such is cold comfort.  Better to examine ourselves, work out what it is that WE need to do, to mobilize those benighted masses.  But I believe that self-examination has to go beyond our programs, our battle cries, our bold solutions.  I believe it requires examining HOW we think, HOW we plan, HOW we understand our world,  It requires examining some of our most basic assumptions.

Dump Obama: we who have nothing to lose

Battle lines are being drawn. Finally. The Obama tax cut deal was a betrayal too far. And now Dump Obama has become part of the national dialogue big time. First there were a few squeaks. Then columns by Michael Lerner Save Obama’s presidency by challenging him on the left, and Clarence Jones Time to Think the Unthinkable: A Democratic Primary Challenge To Obama’s Reelection, among others. On the New York Times front page, Matt Bai of the Times wrote a skeptical piece Murmurs of Primary Challenge to Obama (demoted from its original title Talk on the Left of a Primary Challenge), in which he tellingly concludes:

should the president’s progressive critics warm to the idea, it might not take a particularly credible primary challenge to weaken Mr. Obama’s chances for re-election. It might only take a challenge designed to do exactly that.

This was followed by the inevitable counter-attack, from the likes of Ed Kilgore and David Broder, plus any number of lesser lights, touting three points:

(1) The tax cut deal was a masterful stroke – stimulating the economy and ensuring Obama’s re-election in 2012; and

(2) No “serious” challenger would dare risk their credibility and prestige by entering the primaries, the ultimate proof being that they haven’t done so yet.

(3) A primary challenge would only serve to harm the very Democratic Party that we all hold so dear.

Dump Obama: time for a candidate

When I first proposed that it was time for a Dump Obama movement, I argued that the immediate task was to build a movement. I did not want to focus on organizational questions, did not want to get hung up on questions of who the candidate would be. Build the base of support and the candidate(s) would follow.

I was immediately assailed by supporters and detractors alike who insisted that I had to have a candidate. At that time, I restated my position on building the movement first. Without passing judgment whether my original assessment was correct or not, it is now time to find that candidate (or candidates).

Taking into account overt Dump Obama, third party, throw-them-all-out, write-in Public Option, and abandon the Democrats sentiment in the aggregate, I’ll say that Dump Obama sentiment was greater than even I had thought. The Dump Obama concept has gone viral, the movement exists in nascent form, a topic on Democratic Underground and MyDD, among Democratic Party sites. A topic of speculation in mainstream venues. Not because we’re so mighty (I’d be a liar to pretend otherwise) but because Obama is doing so badly. So to echo Robert Redford from The Candidate (1972), “What do we do now?”

We indeed have to move to tactics. So let’s talk candidates.

Dump Obama: working today

On October 7, OpenLeft ran a most charming piece by Mike Lux, Obama comes through on foreclosure issue: what’s next?

But then, that most delightful and rare of Washington moments happened: the system worked. Consumer advocates started raising hell on the blogs and in traditional media, the White House started looking more closely at the issue, and literally within a matter of hours, Obama announced that he was not going to sign the bill … As soon as the issue was raised, the White House team focused on it, and made the right decision quickly …

But I think it is fair to ask ourselves what happens next and how the progressive community should respond to it … The question now is how progressives respond if Obama does start to move in a more progressive direction … progressives should be ready to move to meet the President halfway and work with him in the areas where he does move our direction, and we shouldn’t always assume the worst. We should keep our healthy skepticism, push hard when we need to push, but be ready to engage when a door is opened to us to engage on.

In other words, the entire episode is a validation of the incrementalist, cooperative liberalism that has brought the progressive forces to the sorry state we are now in.  More tactically, it is a plea for us now to go full steam with the Democratic GOTV operation.

Dump Obama: more urgent than ever

Since I floated the call for a Dump Obama movement, I’ve gotten much helpful feedback.

My original draft, “Time for a Dump Obama movement,” was based on the broad strokes, which I believe are essentially correct.  But I’ve since taken a closer look based both on these responses and from Obama’s contemptuous speech at that infamous $30,000/plate fundraiser.

First, many of the comments, I believe, took my call as something that should be done INSTEAD of what others were already doing.  I was then given alternate approaches, including Vote Green, Dump the Senate, Dump the System, write-in Public Option, Don’t Vote, work the Dem primaries.  Others pointed out that 2012 (when Obama would face a primary challenge) was a long ways off, and I didn’t address what was to be done with the upcoming November elections.  Allow me to address them in no particular order.

I call for a movement.

Not, for instance, an organization or a campaign committee.  People keep saying, you have to have a candidate first.  No, the movement comes first.  Is there any movement already?  That’s a complicated question, since the concept of movement involves a lot of things that can’t be measured like frogs in a pot.  Movements have organizations, members, slogans, actions, demands — even contradictory demands — but they are not reducible to any or all of them.  A movement entails some sense of common identification.  Some sense of motion, of development.  A movement entails some sense of hope, to use a word that has turned to poison but must not be surrendered.

Time for a Dump Obama movement

A couple of weeks ago, in comments on various blogs, I threw out the notion that it was time to start a Dump Obama movement.  It stirred up a variety of responses:

        The move is premature.

        We need to concentrate on further exposing Obama first.

        The masses aren’t yet ready.

        We need to overthrow the entire system, not just Obama.

        Congress is a worthier target.

        Republicans are worse.

As well, a significant number of folks were either intrigued or downright enthusiastic.

Since then, I have seen a growing stream of posts illuminating the extent to which Obama has been initiating right-wing policies which can in no way, shape or form be blamed on his inability to control a Republican-dominated Congress, among the best being Glenn Greenwald’s “The profound mystery of the ‘enthusiasm gap’ “.  Especially interesting was a September 8 piece by FireDogLake’s Jon Walker “Why Should I Care? Leaders Lack Good Reasons to Vote For Democrats – or Against Republicans”, in which he attempts a hardball analysis of the consequences of a Republican takeover of Congress, noting:

I’ve been told for two years a mere 59 Democrats in the Senate are powerless due to the filibuster; by this same logic, we have nothing to fear from Republican gains because they will never be able to get anything through a Democratic filibuster, and even if they do, Obama can veto it … Talk of how a segment of Republican candidates favors privatizing Social Security or eliminating Medicare does demonstrate that they are out of touch with mainstream America, but in all honesty there is zero possibility that either move would come about as a result of Republican action alone, with or without winning narrow control of the House.

At the same time, the din of hysterical “Republicans will eat middle-class babies” articles and comments are becoming a steady chorus, as erstwhile radicals clarify their loyalties.

Julia Williams for Congress, Green independent for Michigan 12 — Reflections

I’m very far from being okay.  There is very little satisfaction in watching the collapse of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.  The joys of “I told you so” are vastly over-rated.

Does anyone remember — or want to remember — the insane amount of energy spent for months on end for that piece of shit known as healthcare reform?  Hour-by-hour, vote-by-vote, blunder-by-blunder, broken promise-by-broken promise?  The desperate hope that some pathetic fragment of a public option would make it into the final bill?  The obscene celebration at the signing?

Does anyone remember — or can remember — that Obama & Co. wanted to get healthcare done with because the big issue on everyone’s minds was jobs?  The obscene unemployment rate?  Do we remember that it was only a few weeks ago that they passed one more extension — one that completely ignored those who had exhausted their 99 weeks of benefits?  That cut benefits by $25?  And expires in November?

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