What Will It Take to Bring Obama Home?

obama family

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha attend Easter church service at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., Sunday, April 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

When it comes to the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the mistake people made was mistaking voting for activism.  I believe that before we have any discussion on whether and how we can bring Obama home to progressive values, we must first come to terms with this reality.

It’s not as if you can blame them.  After eight years of a disaster that was the Bush administration, voters wanted and needed a major change in the direction of the country.  We needed to wipe the slate clean and set a new tone for America.  A new man for the times came on the scene.  He was a person of color, clean and articulate, and with lofty rhetoric.  And he provided hurting, hungry people with hope and promises of change.  In fact, he was the embodiment of change.

Now, in 2011, things are a little different.  Main Street is hurting, and unemployment is high and seemingly intractable.  Meanwhile, as poor and working people struggle and fail to keep their necks above water, Wall Street and the corporate elites never had it so good.  Profits are at a record high, and the gap between the richest of Americans and the rest of us is higher than at any time since the first Great Depression.

In the midst of this, the current administration has lacked the backbone, the heart and the intestinal fortitude to fight for ordinary folks.  There have been some successes for progressives over the past few years, to be sure, but sprinkled among a larger host of disappointments and missed opportunities.  The President made no attempts at a public option or single payer health insurance system, opting instead for a watered-down compromise plan that has proven itself as a giveaway to corporate interests.  He extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest people in this nation, and embraces budget cuts that support the fraudulent Republican narrative of austerity and trickle-down economics.  The Bush military policies continue, as does the practice of rendition and detaining terror suspects at Guantanamo.  And when the President goes to the bargaining table to negotiate with the Republicans, he gives away the store right away and asks for nothing in return.  Democrats, progressives and other Obama supporters are shaking their heads in disbelief.  Where is the fighting spirit, the will to work hard for our values?

Part of the problem is that Obama took the Goldman Sachs money in the presidential campaign, and has to play their tune.  He stacked his inner circle with Wall Street water carriers and Clinton-era neoliberals with a deregulation fetish.  These are the people who helped create the country’s economic mess, in which the plenty greedy were allowed to plunder America’s resources by gambling it all away at the casino.

The other part of the problem is Obama’s quixotic journey to the political center.  There is nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and road kill, and you’d better believe it.  Although his campaign rhetoric was progressive, this president chooses to govern from the middle.  That decision in itself is questionable for a number of fundamental reasons:

  • First, the people who elected Barack Obama did not want a centrist who stands for nothing, sees how the wind is blowing and splits the difference.  They wanted bold, decisive leadership, not a referee-in-chief.
  • Second, such a strategy hopes to garner support from undecided independent voters who want Democrats and Republicans to play nice together, while ignoring the base.  Sometimes, compromise is not a prudent step, particularly if your opponent has an unacceptable point of view.  These voters live solely in the minds of inside-the-Beltway prognosticators and pundits.
  • Third, governing from the center is a tough proposition when you fail to define what the center actually is.  Ultra-rightwing Christian fundamentalism is driving the center in its traditional sense rightward.  So, if your desire is to be Republican-light, be forewarned that when a fake Republican runs against a real Republican, the Republican always wins.
    Fourth, President Clinton was able to get away with triangulation, but that was Clinton’s style.  Plus, Bill had the benefit of a booming economy.  So, although the base was angry when he sided with the Republicans to end welfare as we know it, he remained popular.  But there is a sense today that voters are done with the foolishness.  And the protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere point to a pushback against a conservative onslaught that would dismantle the New Deal-Great Society legacy. cont’d on page 2


  1. Sal-Robert Pauciello says

    In 2009, President Obama on Health Care Reform came to the table with a Half-Loaf of Bread, and came away with a Quarter-Loaf. In late 2010, he caved on the Bush Tax Cuts. In the most recent Debt/Deficit “Debate,” of 2011, he did not stand his ground on His “Balanced Approach” (Closing corporate Loopholes and gaining Tax Revenue from those who can most afford it,) taking the Republican approach that spending and debt is the most pressing issue, rather than pointing out that Jobs are what is most needed. This bill paints the Democrats into a corner (for the most part,) because it doesn’t really allow the Government to be “Spender of Last Resort” in order to create the Jobs the Millions of Americans desperately need. Everything is about CUTTING! Bill Maher pointed out that Obama needs to “Flip the Script,” go on the offensive, and specifically “not be so nice to the Republicans.” If the LOPSIDED deals that have gone through can really be spoken of as Compromises, I must not be living on the same planet—because they are anything but FAIR for the Majority of Americans. Unfortunately, the 2012 Election will once again come down to the “Lesser of Two Evils.” I may” hold my nose” and vote Obama again, only because the other party has Ideological zealots to offer that should scare the crap out of any reasonable progressive—but I feel putting pressure on the President from within the Party may be the only practical thing that is left to do. By the way, does anyone know where Grover Norquist gets his money from? This guy needs to be humbled and exposed for the charlatan that he is.

  2. says

    Once again, a well-intentioned Mainland USA commentator who does not understand Barack Obama.

    President Obama’s number one priority is to change the culture in Washington. He is from Hawai`i and assimilated to a multicultural ethos in his teens. He wants America to be more like Hawai`i and has said so many times. Is anyone listening?

    He campaigned from the center, not the left. “Justice for union workers, a living wage and benefits, a clean environment, social safety net and fighting against wealth inequality are mainstream policies,” as the commentator says. Who says he opposes any of these policies? But he does not have majority support in Congress, so nothing will get done unless there are compromises.

    Yes, progressives should apply pressure, but to do so they must build coalitions with others. Steamrollering the views of one group over another is rejected in Hawai`i because it smacks of imperialism, so the pressure must be more ethnically diverse and more fact oriented.

    A pragmatist, Obama rejects ideological approaches, especially the Social Darwinism of the Republicans. Similar to John Dewey, he wants result-oriented solutions that have been proven by experience. For more about the real Obama, read the recent book “Barack Obama, The Aloha Zen President” (Praeger 2011).

  3. Gary Corseri says

    I share commentator Joe Weinstein’s disgust when he writes in the last paragraph of his comment:

    “By the way, this 2008 Obama voter has had enough and is indeed ready to go with a ‘viable’ or even half-’viable’ Dem or independent challenger to Obama.”

    But…, I am probably older than Mr. Weinstein and my disgust with our “two-party” system (which, let’s face it, is really one big CORPORATE PARTY–even with the Koch brothers’ “Tea Party” thrown in) goes back about 20 ye ars, and for almost a decade now I’ve been advocating “purposive non-voting” (as opposed to too-lazy-to-get-off-my-ass-and-vote) as one possible antidote for sending the ruling viral Elite that “We The People” just can’t take this hocus pocusany more!

    Mr. Love has a nifty command of the English language, but does he really believe Obama has something to “come home” to? Are we to believe that Campaign Obama was the real deal, but President Obama has somehow been blind-sided by nasty Republicans springing legislative booby traps? That’s Alice-in-Wonderland thinking: if we can just find the magic formula, we’ll find our way out of the Wishing Well!

    Again, I share Mr. Weinstein’s frustration…, but anyone calling himself a “Dem” is automatically non-viable in my opinion. I’m sure there are decent Independents… but in this nefarious system, the cards are stacked against them. Just getting registered as a legit candidate in each of the states is a dauntingly expensive, time-consuming, energy-consuming, legalistic nightmare purposely designed to weed out the non-corporate true-believers.

    Home is anywhere you hang your hat, the song says; and our Demos and Rebugs have been hanging theirs in the Hell of the Permanent War State, Big Brother Surveillance, Deregulation, Outsourcing and Economic Collapse. Only the Mad Hatter is truly “at home”!

  4. Ken Bear Cole says

    So why don’t we find another canidate to challenge Obama? He has proven to be a liar & trader to the progressive movement.

  5. says

    Overall a fine analysis, with a couple of debatable points.

    First, I question the claim in the first sentence in the final paragraph, which claims that the Republican goal is to run Obama’s presidency into the ground.

    Actually, to judge by the extremism of the Congressional Republicans, they’re OK with Obama and the prospect of a second term for him.

    They know (or should know) that their extremism will just make it hard or impossible for ANY Republican presidential nominee to gain traction. But they don’t really care about Republican presidential nominees. Their extremist agenda is there to please their corporate and right-wing sponsors and safe-district know-nothing political base. And DINO Obama anyhow caves to their agenda almost as much as could an actual Republican, and with the big plus that the result gets a cloak of bipartisan endorsement.

    It’s also not clear whether Obama really has an ideological or attitudinal place that he feels in any emotional or moral sense obliged to call ‘home’. Even less is it clear that, even if he does have such a home, that he still cares much about going there.

    By the way, this 2008 Obama voter has had enough and is indeed ready to go with a ‘viable’ or even half-‘viable’ Dem or independent challenger to Obama.

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