Is Barack Obama a fauxgressive or a nogressive?

Is Barack Obama a fake progressive? Or has he come to make sufficiently clear that he is simply not a progressive that he can hardly be accused of really faking it?... READ ON

 

 

Why Obama/Dems are less trustworthy than Bush/GOP

It might seem hyperbolic or facetious that a left-leaning blogger would argue that Obama and the Democrats are less trustworthy than Bush and the Republicans. I am not claiming that Bush or Republicans make better, more desirable leaders than Obama or the Dems. What I am arguing is that Republicans can generally be trusted more than Democrats to do what they say they are going to do. In a nutshell, the reason is... READ ON.

 

 

 

Progressives Taking Charge

The President has shown a talent for slowly but surely moving public opinion in the right direction on crucial policy points, then inexplicably giving those points away to his political opponents for little or nothing in return. According to last month’s Gallup poll, for example, only 20% of Americans want Congress to reduce the deficit solely through spending cuts, while the overwhelming majority favor some mix of taxes and cuts, and an additional 7% support tax cuts alone. This was President Obama’s stated position, the one thing he said he would stand by, yet the deal he ultimately signed off on included zero revenue increases.

The President long ago convinced Americans that the Bush-era tax cuts should be allowed to expire, either for those making more than $250,000 per year, or for all taxpayers. Yet the President caved on this proposition during the lame duck session of Congress, and again in the debt ceiling debate.

So now we’re waiting on a deficit “Super Commission” likely to be packed with conservative hardliners, and a process in which the President promises, once again, that increased taxes for the wealthiest among us must be part of the mix. But the stakes are high. And the default outcome—in the likely event that the commission cannot agree—is across the board cuts that would devastate Americans hardest hit by the recession and bury the prospects for job creation and recovery.

We can hope that the third time will be the charm. We can wring our hands and expect to be sold down the river. Or we can take action to make sure it’s a real fight, with or without the President’s resolve. That course, the right course, will require innovative ideas, aggressive organizing, and a powerful narrative that has been lacking from the debate so far.

Fortunately, progressives have already launched several efforts that are crucial to winning the fight. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (many of whose members opposed the debt deal) led a jobs tour around the country, proposed a Progressive Budget, and is calling for job creation as a top priority, including in budget negotiations. The Congressional Black Caucus has its own jobs initiative and has vowed to push back against harsh, cuts-only approaches.

From the Rebuilding the American Dream movement, to the Home for Good Campaign, and beyond, activists are taking to the streets, to Facebook, and to the halls of power in their call for an opportunity society, including an opportunity budget.

Just as crucial will be telling our story, a story that inspires the base, persuades the undecided, and marginalizes our opposition. It must be a story rooted in shared values of opportunity, and economic security, and the idea that we’re all in it together. It must identify corporate misconduct, inadequate regulation, and wrongheaded economics as the forces that got us into this crisis. But it must focus overwhelmingly on positive, pragmatic solutions that enable Americans to get back to work and rebuild their dreams, as well as their assets. Hardly a fringe message, research and experience show this fits well with what everyday Americans already believe.

Armed with ideas, organizing, and a compelling American narrative, we can win not only the budget and deficit fights, but the fight to restore our economy and expand opportunity into the future. It would be nice to have the President in the lead in this fight, but we may have to pull him along behind us.

Obama's Tipping Point

I have been saying for a long time now that President Obama is the world's worst negotiator and has absolutely no interest in fighting for progressive principles. I didn't make this up out of the whole cloth. I voted for the guy and I desperately wanted him to succeed. But my job is to cover politics and when you cover Obama all you see is him running for cover.

Let me give you a small example nobody talks about, but I think is telling. After Gabby Giffords was shot, his administration indicated that he would do a major speech on gun control ... later. I told my audience that was not going to happen. Why? Because I know Obama. He hates, hates, hates conflict. And he would never take on an issue where he did not have overwhelming support. It's not in his nature.

Of course, there was no major speech. Instead there was a small op-ed buried in a local Arizona paper (a lot of times they write op-eds when they don't want any video out there that can be used in campaign commercials or repeated on the evening news that night). But that wasn't even the telling part. There were about half a dozen issues he could have addressed on gun control. The major one after the shooting was how many bullets a magazine could hold. Would he address that? Of course, not!

It turned out that he advocated for every position that polled over 67%. But, alas, the magazine issue only polled at 51% -- not good enough for Obama. He has the majority of Americans behind him, this was the major issue being discussed at the time and he has an incredible moment to tell this story -- and he left it out of the editorial. It's hard to imagine a politician more timid. It's almost as if he is trying to be the exact opposite of Bush -- all brains, no guts.

These days many are also wondering about the brains part. Has he not been paying attention to Republicans at all? Is he awake? Could any sentient person actually believe they were going to compromise this time around, let alone the next time? He was out there this morning talking about how he is looking forward to compromising with Republicans again over the Super Committee.

Unfortunately, that is the only guiding principle Obama has -- compromise. But that is no principle at all. What if I wanted to sell you a car for $10,000 and you offered me $1? Would compromise dictate that I sell it to you for $5,000? For $2? What if the car is really worth about $10,000, should I compromise anyway? Compromise is a tactic, it's not a principle. It doesn't give you the right answer. It is sometimes necessary, but offers no guidance in what should be the final outcome.

Can anyone name Obama's principles? Something he will not bend on? A progressive priority he will defend to the end?

Does Obama even think of himself as a progressive? He once pointed to a glass half-filled with water and told Sen. Bernie Sanders, "That's the problem with you progressives. You see this as half-empty." You progressives?

But does anyone think that the guy who hired Tim Geithner, Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, William Daley, Peter Orszag, Ben Bernanke, etc. is remotely progressive? If you looked throughout the whole country, could you find more conservative, establishment Democrats? Barely, if at all. And, of course, some of those guys aren't even Democrats.

But finally, it isn't just us on the "professional left" pointing this out. After yet another unconditional surrender in the debt ceiling talks, he's hit his tipping point. Just go talk to any group of liberals in the country and see if half of them aren't incredibly pissed off at him. I do it all the time and their whispers of discontent has grown into a cacophony.

Finally, nearly every progressive commentator is talking about his profound weakness, if it even is that and not something worse (some have started to question whether he even wants to win on progressive issues or if he is fundamentally conservative).

Now, the Obama supporters won't believe this either. They'll blame the messenger as usual. But go ahead, ignore this message at your peril. Apparently, the people at the White House think they're such geniuses. "Did you know it turns out centrists decide elections?" This is the kind of politics you learn in third grade and they think they're playing three dimensional chess. Yes, independents are important, but they hate weakness in their leaders. Giving the Republicans everything they want every single time doesn't appeal to any independents and will lead to half of your own voters staying at home.

How did he not see that the Republicans would bludgeon him with the lack of jobs after he agreed to their spending cuts -- which would only lower the number of jobs in the country? How could anyone not see that and think they know anything about politics?

A young woman I talked to at the airport last week said that she will not vote in the next election. I hate to hear that. I think if you don't vote, you have no right to complain the next time around. You have voluntarily ceded your voice in this democracy. I told her that and she said, "After Obama, what is there left to hope for?"

If the clever guys at the White House don't realize they've hit their tipping point, they're in for a rude awakening when that tsunami washes over them. They're headed into the 30s in the polls and I don't think they have any clue how to get out of there. They don't even know that they're about to hit an iceberg. They think they're just one more compromise from turning the corner.

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Destabilizers and Laying Blame

Set aside S&P's credibility problems and their $2 Trillion oopsie (also, somewhat credible defenses from Ezra Klein and Felix Salmon), and what they're saying is we don't care exactly how you do it, as long as everyone agrees to do it for longer than the next election cycle.  Cuts are super, no revenue increases = unrealistic, and someone we aren't serious enough to name specifically used the prospect of default as a bargaining chip, and that's just crazy.

The reasons for the downgrade, in a nutshell: dysfunctional politics.  And NYU's Jay Rosen nails it in a tweet:

If we are to credit S & P's clear thinking, as says, then the opinion should have read: the Republicans destabilized the system.

But saying that directly in a report that could (probably not) further weaken the US economy would be uncivil! Let's just dance around it, fan the flames of dysfunction, and scurry back before Goldman Sachs yells at us again.

In the end, the downgrade may be useful in elevating a legitimate point from progressive circles to, oh, say, the White House and Senate Dems:  The House of Representatives is held hostage by a pack of simple minded zealots who don't give two shits about governance, economics, or reality. The Daily Beast profiles 19 freshmen who'd like to see it all burn:

If there is one thing clear from the Tea Party caucus’ first triumph, it is that its members don’t adhere to Washington convention or care about public sentiment. The greater the criticism, the more they stiffen. Their singular focus is collapsing the size of government, at any cost.

No tactic is too extreme, no issue too small (debt-ceiling votes used to be routine before they came to Washington), and no offer of a federal project for their district or a glitzy committee assignment can lure them from the stubborn line they intend to hold against spending.

“So you’re sitting down with [Speaker] Boehner and [House Majority Leader] Cantor, and they’re offering you stuff for a vote,” Walsh, the Illinois Republican, recalls. “They can help you and do some things, you know, committee assignments and help moving up the chain.

“But whew,” he says, making a whistling sound and sweeping his hand over his head. “You’re talking beyond me. I just don’t care.”

Calling this a mere lack of adherance to "Washington convention" is like calling Charlie Manson a "free thinker."  It's clear, for what it's worth, that S&P puts a lot of the reason for the downgrade on a handful of lawmakers with a near-religious fidelity to an American history they've re-imagined in their own image.  It's not just that the President shouldn't be open to negotiating with the lowest common demoninators, it's that you can't negoatiate with them, and they rule the GOP.

Also via Tweet, Robert Reich sees a way around it for Obama:

Mr President: Put forth bold jobs plan, challenge Rs to support it, and if they refuse make it center of your 2012 campaign.

Keyword: bold.  Drew Westen writes today that the President's problem is messaging.  He didn't tell a story with clearly defined villains, Westen says.  I agree.  But while the blame for the downgrade itself may be clear, blame for the situation right now should be spread on Democrats across the board.  More from the Daily Beast:

This time the geometry of triangulation is different. Obama is hunkered in one corner with House and Senate Democrats, who are increasingly alienated by the president’s willingness to compromise with the conservative wing of the GOP.

House and Senate Democrats are alienated?  Valid criticism -- and important going forward -- but Democratic lawmakers get a pass now considering their track record and the Legislative Meh they've served up again and again?  The POTUS and Democratic lawmakers shoulder the blame for the 2010 outcome.  Sure the story could have been better told by Obama. Also true, legislative agendas under a Democratic majority haven't lent themselves well to defining a compelling narrative. For every legislative success there is a contradicting backstory.  For every bold challenge, a walk back.  Where's the inspiration in running away from a pre-election Bush Tax Cut fight? Where's the vision in letting Max Bacchus wander health care reform through the woods for months?  NYT's Timothy Egan wrote in August 2010, foretelling Democratic losses, "[Democrats] have been terrible at trying to explain who they stand for and the larger goal of their governance."

The public has long been soured on the tea party, even in conservative meccas.  They support tax reforms and increased contributions from the nation's most wealthy.  They've cooled on the overly-simplistic Republican slogans and warmed to blaming them for failure to solve our country's problems.  They want Social Security and Medicare strengthened not shredded

Now if they could only find a party that stood for those things!

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