President Obama is Asking for Help from the Professional Left

President Obama called on progressives yesterday to get out and get active ahead of the midterm elections. The President, speaking at the University of Wisconsin, told the cheering crowd "we cannot sit this one out. We cannot let this country fall back because the rest of us didn't stand up and fight." The President continued, "progress is going to come, but you've got to stick with me. You cannot lose heart." Given that he has so often compromised with Republicans and multinational corporations, and been afraid to take on great wealth and corporate power directly, and has totally failed to message his successes, it's doubtful that the President will be able to mobilize his main base of old-line boomer liberals, youth, and people of color, all who feel he's only done a half-assed job. On the other hand, as Obama almost comes close to implying, if his base doesn't show up and Republicans take control, America may well - and quickly - begin to look like Argentina in 2001, otherwise known as a total economic and social disaster.


gerald's picture
gerald 10 years 3 days ago

The last paragraph in Rabbi Lerner's article!

Many of us will vote Democratic in November, despite all this. But don't expect us to be able to rally others when the best we can say is that the Democrats and their national leader are better than the plausible alternatives. That is not a rallying cry likely to produce many votes or move us beyond our deep disappointments. And many others, feeling humiliated at allowing themselves to have opened to the hope Obama elicited, now find themselves either totally uninterested in politics or wishing to strike back at the Democrats for making fools of those who trusted. Obama and the Democrats remain clueless.

Maxrot's picture
Maxrot 10 years 3 days ago

But Mr. Obama, Progressives are F'n retards, why would you want their help?

Let me put it this way, "Once bitten, twice shy". The Obama administration has taken the Progressive base of his party for granted, and now he's realizing that though the Progressives are still not inclined to work against him, they're now not so inclined to work for him. If he wants the Progressives to start working for him, the answer is simple enough, he has to get out in front of that parade and carry the Progressive banner, that's all they want, that's all they ever wanted of Obama.

I think its a Catch-22 though, if Progressives come out and support the Democratic party now, Obama will figure he can continue ignoring the Progressive agenda and then chastise them for not voting for the Democratic party when elections come around again. Obama wants the Progressives to follow him, the Progressives want Obama to represent their side. Which side is correct, well last I checked this was a country for the People, by the People, a representative democracy, so I think its the responsibility of the representative to do the work of the People he claims to represent. Obama hasn't any right to complain about being abandoned, he's the one who walked away.

As for me, I'm going out to vote regardless. I never expected more from Obama than what he's given, so I'm not let down and disappointed. I also realize that allowing Republicans control of either or both houses of congress is not the same of having Democrats in control. Democratic control may not be my most ideal way to run our government, but I prefer them over the Republicans any day of the week.

I would like to see Obama take up the Progressive banner, but I don't think its in his nature to be confrontational with the conservative agenda, and that's what progressive policies demand by default.

Appeasement is not a winning policy, yet Obama has been trying to appease the right from the get go. All appeasement does is convince your adversaries that they will get what they ask for so long as they hold out. That strategy didn't work out for Chamberlain, and its not going to work out for Obama.


stonesphear's picture
stonesphear 10 years 3 days ago

The GOP do their own undoing and do a bang up job of it. They can't afford to lie their way through much longer. This isn't the best of times to be filthy rich , is it ?

adameran's picture
adameran 10 years 3 days ago

Re today's libertarian guest (thx to P. Krugman):

The best line I’ve ever heard about Ayn Rand’s influence:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

DFMM's picture
DFMM 10 years 2 days ago

President Obama said the Democratic voters should buck up. It's the Democrats in Washington who need to buck up. The Democrats' base bucked up and got the Democrats the majority in 2006, but the Democrats said they couldn't do anything because they only had a slim majority and there was a Republican in the White House. The base bucked up again in 2008 and got the Democrats a bigger majority in Congress and the White House; but the Democrats continued caving, backpedaling, and being outmaneuvered by the Republicans and the blue dogs. It's bad enough that the Democrats in Washington are angering and demoralizing the base; but you would think that they would at least stick up for themselves in their own best interest. But their first impulse has been to backpedal; such as abandoning ACORN while by contrast the Republicans engage in voter caging, dumped voters off the rolls in Florida in 2000, etc,. and the Democrats won't even investigate election fraud. Another example is the White House abandoning Van Jones while by contrast George Bush made egregious recess appointments like John Bolton. Still another example is the Democrats took impeachment and investigation off the table; by contrast the Republicans have put impeachment on the table if ---God forbid--- they gain the majority, and even if they fail at impeachment, there is little doubt that the GOP would lay siege to the White House and to the Dems in Congress. The Democrats need to stop trying to avoid conflict with the Republicans; the Republicans are not going to let them avoid conflict, so Democrats might as well deal with it.

sashasue's picture
sashasue 10 years 1 day ago

Well, mocking and ridiculing his base is certainly no way to prevent his base from losing heart, and inspire them to "stand up and fight."

If you're not already "exhausted of making excuses" for Obama and the Democrats, this will definitely push you over the edge:

"Obama Mocks Public Option Supporters" (and supporters of true and effective financial reform, and supporters of peace, and ... ) -

dstack's picture
dstack 9 years 51 weeks ago

Interesting how Obama's administration offends his base, but now he needs us. This is when we "turn the other cheek". I agree that we're looking at a "total economic and social disaster" if we sit on the sidelines. I believe Obama realizes the advice from Raum Emanuel for concensus building with Republicans doesn't work these days!

applewuud's picture
applewuud 9 years 51 weeks ago

I think some progressives need to get out more. When we just talk to each other, listen to each other, read each other, we think that politicians are lacking in "correct" thinking or courage. All they'd have to do is talk like us, and they'd win.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

To get things done in a democracy, you have to get the votes. And as the tea party has proved, there are plenty of already-reactionary people ready to put energy wherever Fox News tells them to. A left-leaning politician who's a good tactician avoids energizing the opposition.

To quote a song by Jim Scott:

Now the guy you turned out for in such numbers

Needs us, needs you, he can't do it by himself

So he wasn't the Messiah,..

Give him a little slack

There's too much work to do,

Taking our country back.

Look, I love you all, but I must confess

I'm in pain that it's being said that we love this country less

Do you want put back in charge

All the people who got us into this mess?

When the bigots and the tyrants wave the flag

The bell of liberty gets another crack

Let's put this love in gear

And take this country back."

In other words, there is no perfect world. But if we insist on not working for a "plausible alternative" in Rabbi Lerner's words, we are going to wind up with a bunch of crazies driving us over the cliff. The crazies are already energized. The fact that we don't challenge our co-workers, aunts and uncles, and the reich-wing media in the water cooler wars on a daily basis is what led us into this mess. We have a lot of catching up to do, and we have to catch up with the leaders we have, not the leaders we wish we had.

elzenmahn's picture
elzenmahn 9 years 51 weeks ago

What we're seeing is the biggest shortcoming of a two-party system, especially a system so heavily owned by Big Money on both sides of the aisle. It's the "look at the alternative" argument when there is only one alternative, and a much worse one at that. The result is that the "less worse" alternative can take certain voter groups for granted.

The net result is that our political system cannot, and will not, tolerate a true progressive like a Kucinich or a Sanders in the Oval Office. The Nation magazine ran an article a few weeks back that details this dilemma quite well, in my opinion. Right now, we're stuck with centrists (at the most) and far-right wingers - we don't have a true, politically viable left wing in this country (at least not on the federal level), and haven't since at least the Reagan years and the destruction of the labor movement. There are the left wing heroes like the aforementioned Kucinich and Sanders, to be sure, but just not enough of them to make a significant difference in the nation's discourse as of yet.

I will agree with President Obama that change takes time. The Repubs knew this, and have been ready, willing, and unfortunately, able, to change this country in a decidedly rightward direction. We progressives need to take a lesson or two from them in the perseverence department. But I can only hope that he realizes that our votes are not to be taken for granted - he and the Dems need to work for them, like they did in 2008. Most importanly, the Dems and Obama need to earn our votes.

elzenmahn's picture
elzenmahn 9 years 51 weeks ago

I think the role of money has everything to do with Obama's appeasment of the Republicans.

Since the Republicans are the party of Capital, and have been since the Robberbaron era, they have never seemed to have a problem with finding financing for their campaigns from those with the disposable income to do so on a large scale. The Dems, not being able to rely on funding from Labor since Reagan, have had to feed at the same corporate trough as the Republicans. Since Money flows where Money is served, the question then becomes which side will best serve Money?

So even when not in power officially, the Republicans still hold their sway through their nature as the Party of Capital.

RobertH's picture
RobertH 9 years 50 weeks ago

I still maintain the thought that they all need to be booted. It seems as if nobody really cares about Americans. They care about votes and votes only. It's all about their power and nothing about what is best for America.

hgovernick's picture
hgovernick 9 years 50 weeks ago

In response to gerald, who supplied the link to salon:

A testy U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday blamed clueless voters with short attention spans for the uphill battle beleaguered Democrats are facing against Republicans across the nation.

I blame clueless Democratic organizers, who have not organzed anything comparable to the coast-to-coast events fronted by Sarah Palin's Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots, with the sponsorship of the Koch Brothers, Dick Armey, et al.

I attended the 9 / 12 Tea Party Rally at the Saint Louis Arch. There were approximately 4,000 people there. They were ALL fired up - so much so that they weren't even aware that they were being used as pawns by the Republicans in the race to replace Democrats in Congress. This rally was one of many peppering the country since the birth of the Tea Party movement.

Clueless Democratic organizers have dropped the ball - they've had almost two years to keep the base energized. I can't even find an active Democratic organization in St. Louis City.

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