Archive for April 1st, 2010

Or how not to alienate your progressive base

by JC

In a move branded by Politico as “Triangulation Lite” President Obama took his Clinton-eque charade out of the closet with his announcement about opening up offshore waters to oil drilling:

And the drilling decision also allows the president to distance himself from liberal environmentalists disdained by some pro-drilling, blue-collar voters.

“It’s not a bad thing to show you’re willing to do something that gets liberals angry right after you pass the biggest liberal bill in a generation,” said a Senate Democrat staffer, whose boss opposes the policy.

Couple this with Obama’s embracing of the following: his health care reform was a warmed-over hodge-podge of republican ideas; he has called for new nuclear power plants; his failure to close Guantanamo as promised; continuation of FISA warrantless wiretapping policies; unwillingness to pursue accountability of the Bush administration for its roll role in Iraq and Justice Department politicization, among other things; protection of Wall Street as Main Street continues to struggle; tepid plans for climate change and financial regulation legislation; failure to repeal DADT; strengthening anti-choice policy; and on and on, it is amazing to hear this quote out of the mouth of DNC Chairman Tim Kaine today about feeling ok with the base:

“My sense is that we are [OK with the base],” Democratic National Committee Chair Tim Kaine told the Huffington Post shortly after health care’s passage. “I think we’re okay. There were tough points along the way, very tough issues along the way, because this is an issue that people feel strongly about.”

And when the Administration starts to display hubris like this:

“Top-ranking officials and strategists express confidence that both the president and the party will suffer little long-term blowback by negotiating away specific policy principles cherished by progressive groups. They note that while… [like how] health care reform was defined for months by howling over the sacrifice of a public option for insurance coverage, by the time the bill came to a vote there was near-Democratic unanimity behind its passage”

it is time for progressives to do something different than howl every time the president uses them to triangulate with the right in order to move to the center and appear moderate and pragmatic (“sacrificing the public option.” Huh… nice plan. Set up the left then whack them with the old “don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good” argument). Because as I say in the title, it takes three to triangulate. And you can’t triangulate with a position that refuses to react.

“Near-Democratic unanimity” does not a governing coalition make. Many, many progressives like myself proclaim themselves to be left of that “democratic unanimity” and are not part of the 30% +/- of the populace that self-identify with the Democratic party. Left-wing independents (or affiliated with dozens of fringe political persuasions like Greens, Social democrats, etc.).

And how do I propose that the left-wing react instead? Well, it’s time to bring forth another third party movement based on progressive principles–not progressive politics. Instead of ranting and raving, progressives just need to divert their attention to supporting a politician who is principled and willing to call out Obama from the left for what he has done, and what he is becoming. A politician who is willing to unite those of whom Obama would use as a point of his triangulation.

Howard Dean (“this isn’t health care reform–it’s tepid insurance reform at best”) is one such person who has shown the willingness to criticize the president, and was shut out of the Administration for his progressive beliefs. There may be more. But one thing is for sure. There are millions of disgruntled progressives who are being taken for granted and used by President Obama in his move to create an illusion of a populist center from which to govern.

That’s not change I can believe in. It is time to begin to consolidate on the left and leave the triangulation politics behind.

My reaction to Obama’s announcement that he wants to open up off-shore waters to drilling and build more nukes? I guess I’m not surprised anymore. And it’s not worth getting all blustered up about it and playing the triangulation game. And I’m going to send off a contribution to DFA earmarked for a Dean primary run against Obama, for starters. And I’m still trying to get off of the OFA mailing list–and they continue to spam me. Infuriating.

Then I’m going to look around for a good third party movement on which to start focusing my attention and energies. Anybody else?

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