Harvard Law Professor Roberto Mangabeira Unger thinks his former student is a sell-out. Despite supporting candidate Barack Obama in 2008, he wants him defeated in 2012. Romney will be worse, he thinks. Romney will leave a legacy of conservative judicial and administrative appointments, but he thinks that it’s only through Obama’s defeat that the Democratic party can become more progressive.
Here’s the video:
We’ve heard this argument a lot recently. In fact, I’ve heard this argument my entire life. It started with Jimmy Carter. Conservatives hated Carter, but liberals, especially in the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate era, felt he was far too moderate. Carter, as I’m sure you know, was defeated in his second term and his loss ushered in the “Reagan revolution,” which of course ushered in 12 years of Bushes and pushed the Republican party even further to the right. Eventually, the Reagan revolution gave birth the the Tea Party.
Did it push the Democratic party to the left? No. Of course not. It couldn’t. What Professor Unger chooses to ignore is that not only does a president leave behind a legacy of judicial and administrative appointments, some of which are capable of changing the entire landscape of the United States, a president can leave a long and wide trail of destruction and almost worse, eight years of the bully pulpit.
One of the agendas of the Republican party is the privatization of virtually everything. Once We the People lose the post office or Social Security or the military or fire departments, it becomes virtually impossible for even the most liberal president to bring them back into the less expensive and more democratic public domain, even if flanked by a liberal Congress. Once minimum wage or Planned Parenthood are gone, they are gone. Once we go even further from our goals of clean energy, our chances of ever getting there are almost nil. The destruction of the public airwaves won’t ensure less propaganda, it will ensure a greater presence of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Once the Republicans have dug a Grand Canyon sized financial and social hole, we’ll only be able to dig our way to China.
The Reagan revolution and its aftermath were disastrous for the country, but even more damaging has been the propaganda. Unions have been all but obliterated. Taxes have gone from being an obligation for the good of the country to being a dirty word, even a “sin” in the eyes of many religious conservatives. Evangelical Christianity has become an expectation of political office. Multinational corporations have been elevated to a level above mere citizenry and above any lowly elected official, including the president. A person’s value has been redefined to equal his financial worth, not his contribution to society.
These views have been endorsed by the people, not just by political office holders. The Reagan revolution won the hearts and minds of the people…not all of the people, but an active and large enough minority to push our agenda further and further to the right, especially when Democrats like Professor Unger advocate the defeat of the President.
Republicans are politically smarter than Democrats. There’s no other way to phrase it. When they have a candidate who is less than ideal (Romney), they back him anyway. They stay engaged even after the election and force their less than ideal candidate to fit their agenda. Republicans have strong behind the scenes operatives, like Grover Norquist, who coerces and bribes to make sure that their politicians stay to the right of Pinochet. Republicans would never champion the defeat of their candidate under the guise of moving the country further to the right. It makes no sense. One grows more power by having power not by ceding power.
If Professor Unger wants a more progressive Obama, I believe a more progressive Obama is within our reach, with a lot of work on our part. First, we have to surround the President with a truly Democratic congress. Then we have to help states turn blue, and not just from the presidential level. We need more progressive Democrats, whether they be in town councils or in the governorship. The complexion of the country doesn’t change simply because you remove one person. The presidency is not a monarchy. The job of the president is to enforce the laws that are enacted by Congress. Presidents can only spend money within the budgets that Congress hands down. The president cannot reverse Supreme Court decisions.
Sure, we as progressives could throw up our hands and sit out this election. We could even vote for Romney. Would a Romney victory indicate that the country needs to move further to the left? Hell no! It would be seen as a conservative mandate. Would the damage done by a Romney presidency strengthen the left? Has a conservative presidency ever strengthened the left? While we’re at it, why don’t we shoot ourselves in the foot, just so we can improve our gait.
|Wendy Gittleson grew up in a political family. Her passion is for social justice and fairness. She is the Senior Editor for Addicting Info. She lives in a union household. In her rare downtime, you’ll find her hiking or exploring the shoreline with her dogs. Follow her on her Facebook page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson|