Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Rift Between Obama Democrats & Progressives

It is interesting to see the tweets of Angry Black Lady, Joy-Ann Reid and Shoq attacking progressives for disagreeing with with President Barack Obama's policy. Shoq is anonymous. (Though I suspect Shoq is African-American.) Angry Black Lady and Reid feel an understandable racial connection to the first black president. To place it in proper perspective: in 1961, talking smack about JFK in a Boston Irish pub would probably result in an ass-kicking. Considering the racism directed towards Obama, it is understandable Angry Black Lady and Reid would feel the need to defend the President. Where I get lost is when Angry Black Lady accuses Salon.com blogger Joan Walsh of racism in a tweet war.


Joan Walsh and I had words. Rather than retract her statement about resenting black folks who call themselves "THE BASE" (which I originally took to mean "exclusively" and then asked her who was making such claims), she proceeded to race-bait while accusing the black folks who called her out of race-baiting. Then, much later, she claimed that the Twitter character limit prevented her from using a word other than "RESENT."


Angry Black Lady post a series of tweets that transpired between her and Walsh. I strongly suggest you read that to get context. Walsh wished Obama's policies were more progressive. (So do I.) Walsh wrote that she will support Obama in 2012.


Barring something horrific, I will support President Obama in 2012. (And I read Glenn Greenwald daily, so I know there's a digest of fairly horrific things taking place in the realm of civil liberties, on top of the regular cave-ins to corporate America.) I have explained before: I think a primary race would be distracting and destructive to progressive politics. It would tear the Democratic Party apart in ways that would make that unpleasant 2008 bickering look like a love-in. As the great Michael Harrington used to say, when it comes to electoral politics, I stand on "the left wing of the possible," and that's about where I believe Obama is. So I expect to stand with Obama next year.

Equally important, though, I oppose a primary challenge from the left because I believe it would keep progressives trapped in the fiction that presidential campaigns are the be all and end all of progressive politics. They're not, as Obama's election should have proven to everyone. MoveOn, Dean-turned-Democracy for America and much of the lefty blogosphere went all-in for Obama, lauding him as the true-blue progressive in the race, when he was not. They helped bring him the Democratic nomination he should have had to at least compete for among progressives. (Do people now understand that his praising Reagan and saying Social Security needed fixing might have been harbingers of the way he's led?) They dissipated energy that could have been spent in other ways; progressive groups have spent the last two years trying to figure out how to organize the base for truly progressive causes, rather than allegiance to a centrist Democratic president. Meanwhile, the stunning organizing achievements of Obama for America in 2008 -- building an email list of 13 million names, 4 million donors and 2 million active volunteers -- were never put behind a grass-roots effort to support Obama's agenda. We know from the New York Times that the Bill Daley White House shut down an effort by OFA to back the Wisconsin protests.


Angry Black Lady and Walsh get into heated tweets about the white and black base. The truth is Obama won't win without either. In Florida, blacks and young whites sat out the midterm elections. Republicans won the Florida Cabinet and the U.S. Senate races. Divisive racial arguments between the base will produce President Michele Bachmann or some other nightmare scenario.

Joy-Ann Reid attacked Glenn Greenwald, Dahlia Lithwick, and Jane Hamsher because they disagreed with President Obama's detention policies of terrorists and Bradley Manning. I seriously doubt Reid would defend these policies if George W. Bush was still in office. Reid even accused Greenwald of not being a progressive. Greenwald and Hamsher were critical of Bush's detention policies. It is not surprising they would be equally critical of Obama. The greater issue is the Fifth amendment. We are either a nation of laws or we are not. The damage done to civil liberties extended beyond Bush's tenure and will likely go on beyond Obama's.

There are two camps. Democratic supporters of Obama and progressives. Obama supporters will defend Obama. Progressives would toss Obama aside if they found a more progressive Democrat that was electable.

Reid hysterically exclaimed Obama's lame duck session was "less horrible than advertised." I noted that it is getting harder to put a better spin on Obama's policies. If the economy was booming, Osama bin Laden was captured and employment was at record numbers, there would not be this infighting with progressives and Team Obama Democrats. Angry Black Lady and Joan Walsh aren't racist or the problem. The problem is a decade of bad governing. A second term of Obama or a Republican administration isn't going to change that.

I do wish is Team Obama Democrats stop defending the President violating the Fifth amendment. If Obama is your guy then more power to you. You might feel differently if you are shackled and hooded in Gitmo. You are aware that Obama has the power to declare anyone a terrorist and detain them indefinately. Obama also supports warrantless wiretapping.

Team Obama Democrats remind me of Andrew Sullivan spending years supporting the GOP. Part of what pushed Sullivan away from the Republican Party was the Bush administration torturing detainees. The Obama administration ended the practice of torture. Obama did keep several legally questionable policies.

The role of citizens is to actively question the policies of government. Rooting for political parties or politicians, as if they were a sports franchise, will lead to heartache. Voting for the lesser of two evils is understandable. However, let's not kid ourselves that we will be voting for a Democrat who sold himself out to the Chamber of Commerce. Change only happens when people are engaged in the political process.

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