Obama’s Betrayals: First The Base, Then The Party – OpEd


We know that there isn’t much “Hope” for “Change” — at least for progressive change — should President Obama win a second term as president.

Even when he had the chance, with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress during the first two years of his presidency, and with a solid mandate from the voters to act on restoring civil liberties, taking significant action against climate change, ending the wars and defending Social Security and Medicare, he did nothing.

United States
United States

There are some Democrats still caught up in the fantasy, imagining that if the president is re-elected, and doesn’t have another term to worry about, he will finally show his “real colors” and become the progressive they imagined him to be in 2008.

The evidence that this is not the case, though, is clear in the way he is campaigning. You don’t hear, and did not hear in either of the first two presidential debates, any call for voters to give the president a strong Democratic majority in House and Senate. In fact, there was not a word in either of those debates from the president about the importance of getting rid of the Republican control of the House, and of solidifying the Democratic grip on the Senate to prevent Republicans from again blocking any progressive legislation.

If the president really planned on being a progressive, he would have taken the many opportunities handed to him by Romney in those debates, and by questions from the moderator and the audience in the second debate, to blame Republicans in Congress for the failures of his first term, and would have told the 65-70 million viewers to get out there and elect Democrats to Congress — especially progressive Democrats. He had a chance to single out the Democrats in tough races where a win would really have shifted the balance not just to the Democrats, but to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, for example Elizabeth Warren over Scott Brown in Massachusetts, or Tammy Baldwin over Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, or Alan Grayson over Todd Long in Florida.

Instead, the president was silent about the congressional races.

What this tells us is two things. One, the president and his staff don’t really care about Congress, and in fact think that the way to win the White House for a second time is to back away from progressive positions as much as possible, in order to win those so-called “middle of the road” voters who, for the most part, are swayed by weird, meaningless things like appearance, demeanor, and image. And two, the president and his handlers probably don’t even want to have a progressive, or even a Democratic majority in Congress, because if they had such a thing, then the president would be compelled to do progressive things in his second term, and he doesn’t really want to do that.

This is a president who is happier coddling corporations, massaging the military-industrial complex, and ignoring the indigent. That’s easy to do when you have a Republican Congress. You can pretend to be a nice progressive guy trying to do the right thing, only to be stymied by the troglodytes in Congress. But if you helped elect those trogs by not fighting for a Democratic majority, it’s really not honest to then blame Congress.

The blame has to be with Obama and his campaign. Instead of making this campaign a movement for real progressive change, it has been a single-minded struggle to re-elect the president — a president who has little to show for his first four years in office, and who is asking for four more years in which he will deliver little more, except for perhaps more military actions, more assaults on the Bill of Rights, and more undermining of the nation’s already shredded social safety net.

I’m not saying things wouldn’t be worst under a President Romney — especially a Romney gifted with a Republican Congress, or a Congress with a Republican House and a Senate with a depleted and further demoralized Democratic majority. But at least with Romney as president, ordinary Americans would quickly be able to identify where the enemy was. With an Obama back in the White House, confusion would continue to reign as the assaults on the New Deal and the Constitution continue, and as the imperialist wars go on, and as the despoilation of the earth continues apace.

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective. Lindorff is a contributor to "Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion" (AK Press) and the author the author of “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press). He can be reached at [email protected]

One thought on “Obama’s Betrayals: First The Base, Then The Party – OpEd

  • October 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Could you please clarify what you mean by the term ‘proggressive’? The reason I ask this is because this term has been used so vaguely that it is almost a political stereotype. Almost every political group claims to be ‘proggressive’, while they label their opponents as ‘reactionary’.

    Apart from that, your usage of the term proggressive automatically assumes that there is a continous proggress in human history starting from the Reneissance up to today. Personally I don’t share this modernist assumption. By classifiyig political groups as reactionary and proggressive, this modernist discourse creates a simple and banal dichotomy as if everything could be clear as white and black, or good or bad. In the American political structure it’s not likely that any candidate will be proggressive (if there’s any proggress at all) because you put too much emphasis on the capabilities of single individuals. Even though an individual president is determined to make a real change, he’ll probably be blocked by other factors and actors. Just remember the case of J.F. Kennedy who dared to challenge the military-industrial and financial centers of power within the U.S political structure. So my simple point is that it’s not in the hands of an individual or two to make a real change in a political&financial structure wowen by a web of complex interests and power politics. Obama is just a self-made middle class member struggling to hold the position he has achieved so far. If there was the most proggressive person on earth ( as you call them) was president in stead of Obama, I don’t think he could make a great change in the American politics.

    So my advice to you would be to be more careful when you use terms like proggressive & reactionary because they don’t mean anything when it comes to the realities of politics. My two cents…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *