Wednesday, December 8, 2010 Guest Post - Tough Decisions For President Obama.

[Editor's Note: I'm in Chi-Town all week freezing my butt off and closing Q4 bid'ness. The do's of the chuuch are open. Shady Grady's in the pulpit. What's next for Obama is the sermon. Show our guest a lil' somethin' in the love offering.]

I will say upfront that although I did not vote for him in 2008 I considered him a better choice for the country than the hapless McCain and the proudly pugnacious and totally clueless Palin. And I still believe that today. Some of the criticism around candidate Obama was that he had never run anything. Since much of this was coming from the Clinton camp, where the candidate apparently believed that being married to the President was relevant job experience, this criticism was rightly considered self-serving and mostly ignored. Even former President Clinton said that one could honestly say that no one really has experience relevant to being President of the United States. The job really is that big.

As we know now the President has decided to allow the Bush era tax cuts to continue as part of a larger deal to secure extended unemployment benefits for 13 months. Unlike the other things he's done to upset his base this one may really be the straw that breaks the camel's back, a bridge too far. It will be if the economist Robert Kuttner has anything to say about it.
…Gestures like freezing federal pay levels and cutting the government workforce only play into the rightwing mantra that the government is the problem. Politically, they signal weakness.

This move makes no significant impact on the deficit, reduces employment and purchasing power; and, characteristically, Obama got nothing in return. The Democratic National Committee, disgracefully, even used the Organizing for America email list to try to drum up support for a Democratic president freezing worker pay during a deep recession.

The Bush tax cuts expire on December 31. Most Democrats are beating on the Republicans for refusing to spare 98 percent of Americans a tax hike, so that the top 2 percent can continue to get lower rates. Most Democrats are whacking the Republicans for letting unemployment insurance expire at a time of increased joblessness. But the message gets blurred because of Obama's mixed signals.

Let's stop pretending. Barack Obama is a disaster as a crisis president. He has taken an economic collapse that was the result of Republican ideology and Republican policies, and made it the Democrats' fault. And the more that he is pummeled, the more he bends over.

The labor movement is just disgusted with Obama. Young people who rallied to him are turned off. Progressives in Congress are seething. Obama could well head into 2012 with little of his base intact, save the African American community. A serious primary challenger could easily win Iowa, where it all began. And a primary fight is a terrific organizing tool. It could force the media to take note of a progressive message about the economy.

Yet if we are to be spared an awful decade, both economically and politically, either Obama needs to grow a backbone; or some other Democrat could well challenge him in 2012. Either course will require the progressive community to stop crying in our beer and to get out and organize.
The question of the President's "yarbles" (thanks A Clockwork Orange) or lack thereof has been discussed time and again and will certainly be raised in the future. (Probably tonight on The Ed Show) That's not really what I want to discuss here today. My question is assuming that you either voted for or supported the President in 2008 are you happy so far with what's been accomplished in the first two years? Not resigned or accepting but HAPPY?

If you're happy with what he's done so far then God bless you. I would ask you though, what are the red lines at which Obama would lose your support? How closely can he hew to Bush policies before you say "Wait a minute…".

If you're not happy with what's been accomplished so far then pray tell, what are you prepared to DO about it? What can you do about it?
Part of the problem with what's broadly been defined as the left these days in America is that we've let much of the passion, the fire, all of the righteous anger and energy be expressed by right-of-center or even far right candidates and movements. It seems sometimes that too many of us on the left are too invested in cynicism and snarkiness. Obviously this is not the President's fault.

Yes it is true that Palin is an idiot, Steve King is a racist, and Rand Paul wouldn't lose sleep if white-only housing covenants started making a comeback. But whether we like it or not each of those people are where they are because they have the rabid and vocal support of a sizable number of our fellow citizens. Some have their positions not because of the Republican elite but rather in spite of the Republican elite. I don't agree with very much that the Tea Parties or their Republican elected representatives stand for but I can't help but admire their passion, organizing skills, and general disdain for compromise-whether it's realistic or not. For example Bachmann thinks that 13 months of extended unemployment benefits is too generous and is saying she might not vote for this deal. She's bats*** crazy of course.

Why is there not any sort of equivalent mass movement on the left? I can't help but think that President Obama and other Democrats might not have made some of the decisions they have made if either were really concerned about being held to account by an organized and energetic base. With the possible exception of Senator Sanders and maybe a few others in the House (Conyers, Welch) I expect the Democrats to fall in line on this latest decision. After all they may be more afraid of crossing Pelosi…

Question: What is the progressive and/or Black agenda? Are these things necessarily related? Where is the progressive mass movement to bring about change? Have liberals become captured by political parties? Are people on the left simply unrealistic about the requirements for governance or what a President can accomplish? If this deal dies in Congress will you blame the President for agreeing to it or Congress for not going along?

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