Monday, December 20, 2010

Obama Making Empty Gestures Towards His Base While Pursuing A Conservative Consensus Agenda


Late last night, Peter Wallsten, new to the Washington Post but not to Beltway political journalism-- as an L.A. Times correspondant the legally blind reporter was chided by a deranged George W. Bush for not removing his sunglasses at a press conference-- published an inside baseball story about how Obama is making a lame attempt to shore up his progressive base. Obama has been a big disappointment to many progressives who see him as an essentially conservative insider, which is what he was as a senator, so no surprises there for anyone who had bothered to watch his voting record (basically the same as Max Baucus'-- less liberal than Lieberman but to the left of Ben Nelson's). For many, the Conservative Consensus tax-cut deal for millionaires and billionaires was the last straw.

Blue America refused to endorse or raise money for Obama in 2008 because we did follow his record. During the debate this month we warned our friends in Congress that anyone voting for the Obama-McConnell tax sellout to the political class's donor base at the expense of the rest of the country would automatically disqualify them from Blue America fundraising in 2012. And we're not the only progressive group disappointed in Obama. Even the Inside the Beltway progressives, the ones vying for invitations to White House parties and pats on the head from minor administration officials, have had their feathers ruffled. So, according to Wallsten, the White House is "reassuring liberal groups, black leaders and labor union officials who opposed the tax compromise that Obama has not abandoned them." 

Feel reassured? After all, on Friday Obama himself "hosted a group of union presidents in the Roosevelt Room for what participants described as a cordial meeting in which the two sides agreed to look beyond their differences." Cordial isn't good under these circumstances-- not with this president, who has been able to use "cordial" as a cudgel to wield against any semblance of a progressive agenda. 

Everyone knows Social Security is the next item in Obama's sights, that he's determined to do for Big Business that what Bush and 75 years of unadulterated Republican opposition to Social Security never could: open the door to dismantling the most popular social program in the history of America.
The White House faces challenges in soothing the raw feelings. A number of liberal activists said in interviews that the tax deal further depleted their confidence in the president, and they worry he will give ground on other issues to work with newly empowered Republican leaders and shore up the political middle.

Hickey's group [Campaign for America's Future] sent a warning to activists Friday suggesting Obama, left to his own devices, might join with the GOP to cut Social Security benefits to trim spending and avoid raising the federal debt ceiling-- a move it warned would "shatter his grassroots base" and lead to "political suicide." Liberal concerns were heightened when the leaders of Obama's bipartisan deficit commission recommended Social Security cuts.

Hickey said he and other liberals have raised such concerns in private sessions with White House officials but have received no clear assurances. "The responses we get are ones that leave their options open," Hickey said.

Another liberal movement leader, Daily Kos blog founder Markos Moulitsas, said he "long ago" cut off contact with the White House. "It's clear that they want to double down on their capitulation strategy," he said in an e-mail.

Liberal groups were part of the broad coalition that helped elect Obama in 2008, and activists had high hopes that he would govern as a left-of-center president. But tensions with the White House increased as many liberals complained Obama took a more centrist view on issues.

They criticized him for not pushing harder for a government-run insurance option as part of his health-care overhaul, for example, while some viewed his economic team as too closely tied to Wall Street banks and voiced frustration that his economic stimulus plan was too small. Obama further angered some activists in announcing the initial tax deal, accusing some on the left of being "sanctimonious" in their opposition to compromise.

...The latest Post-ABC poll found that 87 percent of liberal Democrats approve of the way Obama is doing his job, close to the 90 percent average for the year but a drop from his 94 percent approval rating in that group shortly before the election.

Support has even lessened slightly among African Americans, Obama's most stalwart constituency, with just two-thirds of blacks now saying they strongly approve of his job performance, a low point in his presidency. Eighty-eight percent of blacks approve overall.

...Liberal organizers said they hope the White House will want to work closely with them. But Ilyse Hogue of wondered if Obama's top aides appreciated the potential political damage to his 2012 chances if the party's liberal base feels left out.

"If this administration has a pathway to victory that cuts out the sort of core constituency that has been fighting with him and for him, I'd like to see it," she said.

Ilyse makes a good point, one that was borne out in midterms that saw millions of Democrats and left-leaning independents stay home in disgust. And did Republicans and right-leaning independents reward Democrats who supported conservative policies? Ask the Blue Dog caucus, which lost over half its members while most of the rest had extremely close calls. Ask non-Blue Dog reactionary-leaning, mealy-mouthed sellouts who voted against issues like Choice, social equality and economic fairness, from Tom Perriello (VA, for whom Obama personally campaigned), Melissa Bean (IL), Bob Etheridge (NC), Solomon Ortiz (TX), Suzanne Kosmas (FL), Rick Boucher (VA), Michael McMahon (NY), Ike Skelton (MO) and John Boccieri (OH) to hardcore conservatives like John Adler (NJ), Artur Davis (AL) and Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ). The exact same strategy that Obama is following didn't save any of their careers.

Obviously none of this should be taken to mean that Blue America won't be as active as ever helping raise awareness and contributions for members of Congress who stand up for working families against the Conservative Consensus-- like this guy, whose Senate term is up for reevaluation by the voters, and who we would love to see challenge Obama, though we know how unlikely that is. He certainly has earned our support.

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At 7:48 AM, Anonymous work and travel said...

i like the way he works :))

At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The importance of DADT is not particularly relevant when it was an issue that garnered over 70% approval and would be higher with greater leadership to combat homophobia in minority communities. Yes, its nice the "repeal" was passed, but the repeal is less controversial than issuing Congressional commendations for some 3rd grade class's efforts at a can drive. Thats why rewarding political leaders for DADT repeal is bullshit.


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