Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Taking the Centrist Obama Cult Pledge

Now that we are recovering from our paroxysms of ecstasy from listening to President Obama's speech this afternoon, and the afterglow is being replaced (for at least a few of us)  with that old cynical morning-after feeling, the Reelection Campaign is wasting no time in reining in the base.  I just got this odd email from Obama operative and base-hater Jim Messina:

Stand by the President's Vision

President Obama has called for a plan that ensures we can live within our means while still investing in our future. I stand by his vision to:

  • Rein in the deficit while protecting seniors and the middle class, and making the investments we need to win the future;
  • Ensure that the most vulnerable Americans are not the only ones sharing the burden of fiscal responsibility;
  • Keep spending low while strengthening Medicare and Medicaid, and end trillions in tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires who don't need them; and
  • Set aside partisanship in favor of a renewed sense of shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.

I am being asked to sign a pledge or oath of some kind. I hereby promise to be a crusading centrist/compassionate Republican-lite.  Umm.... I don't think so. Just yesterday, I signed that progressive petition telling Obama he could fuggedabout me voting for him, working for him and sending him any more of my dollars.  I even asked him to return the fifty bucks I sent him two years ago because I have to pay my electric bill.  I guess he didn't get the message yet.

These people think a wonderful speech changes everything and we will all just swoon at his feet again when he graces us with that million-dollar smile.  How do you spell c-l-u-e-l-e-s-s?  On second thought, I am probably in the minority. Based on what I am hearing. liberals are celebrating Obama's return to liberal principles.  Fool me once, fool me twice, fool me a hundred times. But ask yourselves this.  Where, in the speech, did Obama talk about jobs, jobs, jobs?  How many times did he utter that corporatist mantra "winning the future?"

Make no mistake.  This was a typical, persuasive Obama campaign speech. It was not a presidential policy speech.  It made a lot of us feel good, have renewed hope.  But, like Glenn Greenwald, I have long given up paying attention to the speeches.  Just keep an eye on what Obama actually does. 

We were all being set up for a disappointing capitulation, but surprise!  He will defend Medicare and Social Security! (no mention of Medicaid. Uh oh). Therefore, we should all be grateful he didn't fall into Paul Ryan's arms in a bipartisan embrace.  Think about this in terms of political theater.  Paul Ryan is the bad cop, the evil character, and whether he knows it or not, the fall guy of the season. Barack Obama is the good cop and the savior who says he will refuse to extend the Bush tax cuts again. But that's not for another two years. Notice that he is not specifically backing Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky's Fairness in Taxation Act, calling for an immediate tax hike on millionaires and billionaires?  Of course, he will take Ryan on -- Ryan is easy to take on, because he is extreme beyond all rationality.  His own party won't back him once push comes to shove.

 I Wantcha Back in My Personality Cult

Jim Messina, a protege of Montana Senator Max Baucus, is a former White House deputy chief of staff whose job was to have weekly meetings with progressive groups to make sure their independent grassroots efforts on health care reform jibed with the Administration's.  He clashed with several progressives over the secret deal with the pharmaceutical industry to back away from reimportation of drugs from Canada.  Read the excellent article by Ari Berman in The Nation to get the full background on Messina, who has been called Obama's Karl Rove.


Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I'm with you Karen, I want my money back.

I assume the Obama campaign is going to try to scare us into voting for him - the lesser of two evils and all that. Obama won't say anything - he can't afford to alienate his Republican friends - but he will have others suggest that the alternative to a second term will be a further rape of the middle class. They are really counting on Americans notoriously short memory. I think Obama will throw the progressives a bone right before the election to make us think he is changing - but he will continue to sell out the middle class if re-elected.

If there was ever a time to throw our money and energy behind a third party candidate, the time is now.

I quote a reader comment from the NY Times:

“There is still a year and a half until the next election. I would like to think that, in a country of 310 million people, there's at least one person -- again, one out of 310 million -- with the decency, wisdom, conviction and backbone to guide this country. And that that person will step up, and soon, before we lose the rest of our democracy to the corporations.”

turnipseed said...

But that person would have to appeal to every single Democrat and "Independent" in order to beat whatever dimwit the repubs come up with. I don't see that as a likely scenario. Don't forget either, that as much as we are disappointed with Obama, the right still sees him as evil incarnate.

Much as I resent the "Messina Memo" (ewww, he is toooo creepy-looking) desperately seeking my progressive vote, I don't see much choice and it makes me sick to realize that the President and his operatives are ready to use this state of affairs to try to get me on board.

There is no short-run answer. The right has build a mean machine over the last 30 years; we simply have nothing to counter it and it will take as many years to build an effective counterpart even if we start now, which I am hopeful of in the form of Russ Feingold and his Progressives United. If we can get money out of elections, there might be some hope.

For what it's worth, I did not support Obama until he won the nomination. I thought his methods of getting to that point were based on clever utilization of the system of primaries--not on any presentation of why he would be the best candidate. Once he was nominated, I got on board, made calls, gave money, and felt very proud of him on inauguration day. The glow lasted about two months--until he started capitulating on any and every detail--he wouldn't even stand up for taking his wife to New York for dinner! By the time the watered-down health care reform came around, I held my nose in disgust and despair and tried to support it; but as the insults (wars, Guantanamo, public option, Bush tax cuts, on and on it goes) mounted, I felt that my initial instincts were (sadly) validated.

Janet Camp

Brian H. Bragg said...

You speak for a lot of Americans who strongly supported Barack Obama in 2008. We sustained our support through a dispiriting series of betrayals by a man and an administration who seemingly have expended very little effort toward accomplishing some of our basic priorities.
For me, the very first betrayal was the decision (reversing Obama's previous commitment) not to go with public financing in the 2008 general election cycle. That told me the campaign had decided to crawl into bed with big-money donors. Next, of course, came the appointments of cabinet members and advisors who clearly represented the Wall Street wing.
For two years, we have heard the bugler sound retreat after retreat. Even the administration's proudest accomplishment, health insurance reform, was a sad imitation of what could have been accomplished with strong and committed leadership. We talk now about Obama's failure to support a public option, but I can't overlook the fact that Medicare For All Americans -- guaranteed health care from cradle to grave -- should have been this president's baseline goal from the start. The public option, as presented in Congress, was pretty weak tea, anyway.
I don't believe this administration is tainted with the rampant criminality and corruption that marked the Cheney-Rove-Rumsfeld-Bush regime, but in terms of policies and implementation I see too few important differences. For me, the worst example is the steadfast maintenance -- and even extension -- of the police state we have lived under since 2001. Obama obviously has no interest in restoring to Americans the many basic privacy rights and legal protections that were stolen from us by the peddlers of GWOT.
I am looking for an alternative in 2012, but I'm afraid the corporate oligarchy has already won.

Anne Lavoie said...

I want my money back too! It was the first time I ever donated to a political campaign and I was generous. I don't blame myself for being a sucker, I blame Obama for being a con man. It was also the first time in a lifetime of voting that I regretted my vote for anyone.

Now whenever I receive a paper mailing from Obama's troops, I stuff it all back in the envelope with my editorializing and artistic embellishments on his photo. My message is basically NOT A CHANCE! And I tell them exactly why. I also send emails to the White House saying the same. If they want to gauge the tone of the public, I want mine to be included.

Valerie, I agree that we need a third party but the two-party Duopoly have instituted all kinds of obstacles and does everything in their power to prevent the success of third parties, even from getting on ballots. The media is also part of the collusion.

Ralph Nader was one example of a third party candidate succeeding in meeting all the criteria but kept out of the Presidential debates. I find it funny that they blame him for Al Gore's loss when he was never once even allowed to appear on the debate stage.

That said, it is the Internet that gives us an opportunity to challenge this corrupt system. Thanks to people like Karen, we can finally know and share the truth and form movements. It is the start of something big, so keep it up Karen. You are appreciated. And needed.


Kate Madison said...

I agree with all of the comments about "ODS" (Obama Disenchantment Syndrome). I don't think there is a Progressive with breath left who is not disappointed and ambivalent about our President. I, too, wish that Russ Feingold would challenge Obama for the nomination, but I know that will not happen. So........

I am going to sound like a broken record in the next couple of years, if I do not already. But, here's the deal. THINK SUPREME COURT! Do you really want to help elect (by voting for, or not voting) a whacked out Republican to be President--who might have one or two opportunities to appoint a Supreme? Could you live with another Scalia, Thomas, Roberts or Alito? I couldn't. To me, these guys are the scum of the earth and are hugely responsible for giving corporations more power and denigrating women's rights. Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayer and a few more like them are the best hope we have for bringing sanity back to the Judicial Branch. We know Obama will appoint good justices. If that is the "lesser of two weevils," so be it. End of rant.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

It is a real dilemma. One part of me wants to let Obama crash and burn, as he deserves, so that the next Democratic candidate won't take his/her base for granted. That same part of me despises the man for being such a traitor and a weakling. Instead of supporting the little decent legislation the few good Democrats have introduced to Congress, he leaves them out there on a limb. Obama is a LITTLE better than Bush but not a whole lot and I get the feeling that the same people who ran the Bush Administration behind the scenes are running Obama Administration. Yet, I can see that the Republicans take a vote against Obama as a mandate to do some unreasonable things - Maine and Wisconsin come to mind.

I honestly don't know what I will do if it comes down to Obama and any of the Republicans considering office at this point. But I DO know that I will throw energy and as much money as I can afford behind a progressive Democratic challenger during the primary. I still might vote for a third party candidate if that person is truly remarkable - but I get what you are saying Kate and THAT is the dilemma.

This is a bit of a non-sequitur - but am I the only one who found it kind of strange that so many of the reader responses to Nicholas Kristof’s opinion article (I couldn’t find Marie Burns or Kate Madison’s comments but bless you Karen for yours) sounded like they were all on board for Obama and his “courage?” This man just threw the weight of his office behind continuing the Bush tax cuts four months ago! How can anyone with a memory trust or believe him when he says no more tax breaks for the rich? The Prez doesn’t even have the courage to openly appoint Elizabeth Warren let alone lead the charge for higher taxes. I think this is the bone I was talking about but it isn’t even a bone; it is the promise of a bone.

My Grandma always said, look at what a person does, not what he or she says if you want the true measure of that person.

Brigitte de Saint Phalle said...

Watch Obama do more to damage Social Security and destroy Medicare as we know it than any Republican president could. Progressive Democrats are totally demoralized. We've watched Obama embody Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan and do his own thing in Libya. Another War President! Reining in the military industrial complex: off the table! Qaddafi gave up trying to go nuclear. This is his reward. It would be reasonable for Iran to decide the only thing that will protect them is 50 bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Then there is the small matter of the continuing Bush domestic policies, like no judicial oversight of domestic spying ....

As a proud Liberal I'm going to restore the Democratic Party's fighting spirit by not voting for Obama. With a real Republican in office they will get their voice back. I'm hoping for a primary challenge. I won't hold my nose and vote for Obama. He is already compromising with himself as a prelude to looting social programs some more to get the debt ceiling raised. NY Post headline: BAM to deal on debt.

A Supreme Court appointment is important but the Supreme Court will be the least of our problems if the President keeps enabling radical right legislative programs.

"Cat" will do said...

I cast my vote early in 08, sitting alone in the office of my local town office. My daughter was a paid organizer on the Obama campaign then, and i wanted to support her candidate, but when the moment came for me to put a check next to someone's name for President, I sat there thinking: "Yeah it would be cool to tell myself I voted for a half black [(I suppose that's progress...) candidate", but I couldn't get past the fact that the guy had lied and backtracked on his promises so often, I had that 'he speaks with forked tongue' thing bothering me. So I placed mycheck next to the name of the same guy I've voted for the last four times (or more?) – Ralph Nader. Because, in the end, I wanted to be ableto say I voted for someone who didn't lie to me. And his was the only name on the ballot I could say that about. I have no buyer's remorse, but am sad for those who do,kind of. Better they should wake up and smell the coffee earlier in the day and take those rose colored glasses off.