Friday Feedback: Why Leftists Should Support Obama’s Reelection

friday feedbackEach Friday, LA Progressive presents a comment we editors find to be most profound, insightful, or just plain irritating.

This week, an article by Walter G. Moss, “Why Leftists Should Support Obama’s Reelection,” drew the following response from Bob G.

I think the sophistry is on the side of those who are commenting here, suggesting that people should not vote for Obama because he is an imperfect vessel for their principles. They suggest that the alternative is to teach the Democratic Party that it can’t automatically expect leftist votes if it takes centrist (my word) positions.

Why do I say that this is sophistry? It’s actually simple: The argument assumes that the Democrats have room to maneuver to the left and still have a chance at winning. Two centuries of experience suggest that this is not the case. I would argue a different model for our system: There are two choices both in the short run and in the medium run (ie: the next 4 years and the next 25 years). One is Republican rule, which transfers money to the rich, refuses to fund social and medical services, and continues to whittle away at our freedoms including privacy, reproductive rights, and the right not to be spied on.

obama purple lady

White House photo by Pete Souza.

The alternative is the Democratic Party rule, which pushes (albeit slowly) for medical and social services, resists the hard-right reduction in freedoms, and resists the uncontrolled creation of new wars of conquest by the Republican leaders. I would suggest that there is no realistic alternative that includes a leftist government combining international isolationism with strongly redistributionist domestic policies. We can push for moderate redistributionism (my choice is to add a modest amount to the income tax equivalent to the current level of social security taxation, and provide each person the equivalent of minimal health coverage using that amount — in other words, the public option made as a default, which would get all the younger folks into the system).

I would suggest that the alternative to Obama is a president who will appoint more Supreme Court justices who side with the corporations and the very wealthy. We are dealing with that problem now in the form of uncontrolled political contributions by the super Pacs, which is the result of a very bad Supreme Court decision made by Republican appointed justices.

Shorter version: reality is what is left after you throw out all the wishful thinking. Defeating the moderate Democrat does not historically lead to a better set of Democrats. It just puts conservative Republicans in power.


  1. Bob G says

    Thanks to Dick and Sharon for running my comments. To those who don’t quite agree with me, all I can say is this: I think it’s fine to support good candidates for congress. In fact it’s critical to do so, because a lot of what we have been seeing is what you get from having the crazies running the legislative branch of the government. I would simply add that I don’t attach the term ‘progressive’ to myself, and instead call myself a liberal. I don’t have any problem with the word liberal, I’m not ashamed of it, and I think it represents a powerful and important tradition in our politics.

    As to what the left thinks of Obama and what you would prefer to have, I simply repeat what I tried to say earlier — there aren’t a lot of choices available, and there certainly are not any better choices. I personally am hugely happy that Obama got a health care bill passed, considering that it has been impossible until Obama’s presidency to get a bill passed that includes the entire population (not just those over 65) in spite of more than half a century of trying by presidents going back to Truman. I certainly agree that it would be better to have the government offering its own public option health insurance, but I viewed the passage of the 2010 bill as the first step that will inevitably lead to that result. I also think that the inevitable trend is that the health insurance companies will either be replaced by a public option plan, or that the insurance companies will be reduced to something like the status of health insurance coops and insurers in European countries. We obviously haven’t gone that direction as quickly as the Europeans and the east Asian countries, but that’s our way. We go slower on these things, and the opposition is ferocious.

    I also agree that this edition of the federal government should have been better at getting federal judges and agency heads appointed, but I think you would have to agree that this is a problem that has been provoked by the Republicans in the U.S. Senate. I do think that the Democrats in the Senate should have been more effective at counteracting the Republican stonewalling, but perhaps this is due to the Democrats in the Senate consisting of a mix of ideologies. Perhaps it’s just that the Republican Party has become exactly what Paul Krugman describes them as — a radical group, not a conservative group — one that has no respect for rules or tradition. Notice that it is a lot easier to threaten to destroy or shut down the government by voting No on everything, particularly when you hold the majority in the House, then it is to create a pretty good piece of legislation and pass it.

    There is one other point that is a little ugly, but is worthy of discussion. My view is that opposition to Obama has brought out the worst in this country and that includes a very nasty strain of racism that constantly appears in the guise of other things. Things such as the assertion that Obama cannot make an intelligent speech without using a teleprompter, things such as the birther charges, and on and on. Even something as all-American and benign as the First Lady’s work on behalf of childhood health and against obesity has been treated as some kind of ultra-lefty attack by the right wing. I notice that the younger generation recognizes these attacks as racist — you don’t have to try to persuade them, they see it immediately and automatically. The up side to this ugly little secret of ours is that there were enough of us on the other side to elect Obama. I fully expect him to be reelected, but unless the centrists and moderate liberals and liberals come out and vote for good congressional candidates, we are in for another ugly era.

    I think the major difference between people like me and those who are now talking about boycotting Obama is simply a matter of patience and perspective. I understand that progress is going to take a long time, but we can get to where we want to be. If those on the left refuse to help, it will take longer or it won’t happen at all. The fact that people stayed home in 2010 and let the Republicans take over the House of Representatives is the real outrage, not Obama’s performance as President.

  2. Joe Weinstein says

    The alternative to supporting Obama is to support good Congressional progressives and decent Democrats in other offices. There’s no rule that says it’s got to be Dems in all branches of government or else Gops in all branches.

    From Obama there’s no guarantee of performance even on Supreme Court and like appointments. Notice how his two appointments – but not Ginzburg – voted to support the pro-corporate majority on the Court’s latest anti-consumer-rights decision. And he hasn’t even bothered to send up NOMINATIONS for dozens of long-vacant federal judgeships.

  3. Pancho Valdez says

    So what the author is saying is that those of us on the Left should continue pissing off our votes as there is NO hope of change in this country? Sounds like the typical defeatist, too scared to stand up and fight neo-libs of the DP.
    People are sick and tired of the crap that people like this use to justify supporting lame ass democrats. Between 60 and 70% of the eligible electorate refuse to vote as a result of this kind of insult to our intelligence.
    Obama is the best republican prez we’ve had since Teddy Roosevelt. Or so it seems.

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