I think it’s fair to say that many progressives and liberals are disappointed in the Obama Presidency. There is no small number of us on the left that feel he has compromised too often, not fought hard enough on core issues, and in some cases, simply been too slow in action. I share some of these frustrations.
I recognize that Health Care Reform did not go as far as we would have liked. I am certainly aware that he escalated the war in Afghanistan, that the Bush tax cuts were extended, and that the debt ceiling deal, well, it kind of stunk.
However, this isn’t just about the president. I’d also like to talk about us in the progressive population. Because, the fact is, we have disappointed too.
Let’s look at the 2010 mid-terms in particular. Aided and abetted by the Tea Party movement and the right wing “birthers,” “deathers,” and science deniers, the Republicans took back the house in what can only be described as a complete democratic blood bath. The far right marshaled their armies, disrupted town halls, spread misinformation, and busted our ass at the ballot box.
The question we should ask ourselves is how did we allow this? Where were we during the town hall hijackings in the summer of 2009? How did we allow the fringe of the fringe to dominate our discourse? Look, I know it’s easy to blame someone else–specifically the president—but is that entirely fair? I think not. Of course, I’ve heard the argument that progressives were too deflated after the so called “Capitulator in Chief’s” first two years in office. I would ask though, after eight years of Bush, if someone told you that the next president will pass Health Care Reform, save the auto industry, and repeal DADT, I think a whole bunch of us would not have only been happy—even ecstatic—but some of us would have been heading off to Rushmore with a hammer and a chisel. Now I know that there is a fuller discussion to be had on the first two years of the Obama Administration, and that’s fair. Still, I wonder how we could have given up so fast and not turned out in 2010.
It seems now that a significant number of us would like for the President to be primaried, even at the risk of handing back over the government to the people who we think are trying to destroy it. Usually, when these discussions are had, it comes down to these five candidates:
1: Howard Dean—Already said he isn’t going to run. The last time he did, he melted down with a shriek and lost to the electrifying personality that is John Kerry.
2: Bernie Sanders—Not going to run, and he’s an avowed socialist. Next.
3: Russ Feingold—Not going to run. Couldn’t get reelected in his own state.
4: Dennis Kucinich—Not going to run. Considering moving to Washington state to carpetbag a house seat now that his has been eliminated in Ohio. Sees UFO’s.
5: Alan Grayson—Not going to run. Couldn’t get reelected in his own state. Also, a bit nuts.
So, in breaking down this list, we have 5 people who aren’t going to run, and would have no chance if they did. The only thing they would accomplish would be to weaken the President and strengthen Perry or Romney. How does that not frighten you?
But let’s dig deeper. Of the 5 possible candidates I mentioned, three are legitimate. You can toss out Kucinich and Grayson right away. Decent guys, right on the issues, not a chance in hell. I love Bernie Sanders as much as the next guy. He’s the real deal. However, if Obama can get beat up for being a socialist, what do you think will happen to an actual socialist?
That brings us to the two most viable candidates. Dean, who already lost once when running for President, and Feingold who got beaten by a Tea Party candidate as an incumbent Senator in his own state.
Which brings me to a greater point, if Feingold can’t win in Wisconsin with a great record of service in the senate then why are we even discussing this? Furthermore, how weak are we as progressives if we couldn’t get out and support Feingold and Grayson in 2010 against weak opposition? Now, we want them to run for President? If so, what are we going to do differently this time around?
It’s been said, that 90% of everything in life is showing up. Well, in 2010 we didn’t show up. Our reasons for not doing so are really just excuses. We didn’t get our way, I want it all, he’s not good enough, etc. And maybe all of that is true. However, if we were looking to punish the President by not supporting our congressional majorities during the mid-terms, then I say “Job well done!” Unfortunately, that bit of petulance has also left us with a completely intransigent Republican House and a soft majority in the Senate. As you may have already noticed, that means that NOTHING gets done, not the big stuff we wanted or even the small stuff we would like. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty punished myself right about now.
The truth is, if you want a more progressive President, then try electing a more progressive congress. One of the things we hated so much about Bush is that he acted more like King George than he did a President. For all his shortcomings, Obama is not George Bush. He needs congress, and we took it away from him. With it, went our progressive goals.
So here’s an idea. How about in 2012, we suck it up, support our “disappointing friend” and not only vote for him, but vote for our congressional hopefuls as well. Yes, I know, we need a viable third party. While I would never begrudge a person for voting their beliefs, I would suggest that winning is better than losing, and that forward—even in small steps—is better than backwards. And until we go to either a parliamentary system or institute run-off elections (good luck with that), then we really only have two choices, the Democrats or the Republicans. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow myself to be so disappointed that I forget what eight years of Republican rule was like and stay home or lodge what amounts to be a protest vote.
If you want to heal our country, I would suggest that we start with ourselves first, and let’s start now, because in 2012, there will be way too much at stake to still be in the position of sorting out our feelings and qualified misgivings.