Obama’s Progressive Blacklist

When President Obama’s initial cabinet and financial appointments included Labor Secretary Hilda Solis as the sole progressive, it raised little alarm. After all, the President was calling the shots, and he appointed outspoken progressive Van Jones as a special advisor on “Green Jobs”. But Solis is publicly invisible, and Jones was gone after nine months, the first victim of the president’s blacklisting of what his press secretary described as the “Professional Left.”

And now we can add Elizabeth Warren, whom Obama bypassed to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to this progressive blacklist. As with Jones, the usual defenses will be raised, but the blacklisting of progressive appointees cannot be ignored. The president has appointed more Republicans to key positions than he has progressives, further confirming the President’s longstanding “blaming of the left” for his own political failures.

Obama’s progressive enablers will defend his bypassing of Elizabeth Warren, just as they justified the President’s throwing Van Jones overboard without a fight. That’s why the Warren decision must be understood in the larger context of the President’s blacklisting of all progressives, who are now outnumbered by Republicans among Obama’s key appointments.

A Progressive Blacklist from the Start

It is now clear that Van Jones’ appointment was a complete aberration, and that Obama imposed a progressive blacklist from the start. Consider:

Christine Romer was the only member on Obama’s entire economic team with any progressive credentials, and she soon left; the rest of Obama’s appointees came from Wall Street (Larry Summers) or were government regulators in bed with Wall Street (Tim Geithner);

Republican Defense Secretary Robert Gates was the dominant foreign policy figure, with not a single Obama top foreign policy appointee having opposed the Iraq war:

Hilda Solis was the only progressive Cabinet choice, and she was seen as more a “labor” or “Latina” appointee than as a “progressive.”

Rahm Emmanuel was Obama’s first chief of staff. A longtime basher of the left, Emmanuel exposed Obama’s own hostility to progressives in a December 2009 interview in which he criticized liberal senators over the health care bill.

Obama’s initial starting team refutes the popular story line that he was progressive until after the 2010 elections. In truth, Obama created his progressive backlist even before Inauguration Day.

Obama: Compromise over Principle

Here is an excerpt from what Firedoglake columnist David Dayen is calling “Obama’s Last Lecture:”

“One of the challenges of this generation is I think to understand that the nature of our democracy and the nature of our politics is to marry principle to a political process that means you don’t get 100% of what you want. You don’t get it if you’re in the majority, you don’t get it if you’re in the minority.

You can be honorable in politics understanding you don’t always get what you want.”

Obama made these comments in March, and they were included in a video of the talk that his re-election campaign distributed last week. The talk embodied Obama’s fervent faith in compromise, and helps explain his extreme distaste for progressives, who he sees as putting principles ahead of necessary compromises.

This becomes clear in Obama’s discussion of how today’s progressives would have viewed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation:

“Here’s a wartime President making a compromise around the greatest moral issue that the country ever faced, because he understood that his job was to win the war and maintain the union. Can you imagine how the Huffington Post would have reported on that? It would have been blistering. “Lincoln Sells Out Slaves.” There would be protests, and we’re going to run a third party guy.”

In truth, on the “greatest moral issue that the country ever faced” – slavery and secession – Lincoln did not compromise. He declared war. And if its fair for Obama to imagine the Huffington Post response to events in the 1860’s, then it is equally fair to imagine Barack Obama denouncing Lincoln for failing to reach a compromise whereby maybe half of southern states stayed slave but civil war was averted.

The President’s own example shows how profoundly he misunderstands the role of political compromise. While Obama blacklists progressives for being uncompromising, he ignores that some issues cannot be compromised, and that the left has proved far more willing to accept less than 100% than the right.

Compromise vs. Surrender

Here is Obama last week on the three pending free trade deals:

“Most of the things that I’ve proposed to help spur on additional job growth are traditionally bi-partisan. I’ve got three trade deals sitting ready to go. And these are all trade deals that the republicans told me are their top priorities. They said this would be one of the best job creators that we could have.”

Can you imagine George W. Bush or any Republican President since Eisenhower bragging that their top economic strategies are Democratic Party priorities?

randy shawOr any Republican President preemptively giving Democrats veto power over all policies and appointments, in order to ensure “bipartisanship”?

No wonder even low-level Obama appointees with progressive views are jumping ship. With progressives barred from top appointments, at least the left can no longer be credibly blamed for Obama’s failed presidency.

Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron 

Randy Shaw’s most recent book is Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.


  1. Mike Field says

    Interesting that some would say that Van Jones is the only “progressive” Barack Obama has appointed. If so, he chose to appoint someone who is pretty pestilent, in my opinion. I will tell you, I am a conservative but I do not disregard all progressives. Dennis Kucinich has always impressed me as good thinker and honest communicator. I live in Washington state. He is considering moving here and running in the new district to be created in King County south of Seattle. This is a heavily Democratic district which will elect a Democrat. I would rather see, hear and read Kucinich in the local media and would rather see him in the state’s delegation ahead of a lot of other people. He does have supporters here.

    What I do wonder about is the intransigent leftism of some of the Greens. Almost all Greens are leftists, but I have thought sometimes that it would be possible for the Green Party in America to have a conservative wing based on opposition to corporate globalism and universalist elitism and on a belief in forthright political communication. Most of the time, Green candidates are real breath of fresh air when it comes honesty and directness.

    Back to Obama, he is in the end a company man with some maverick views. What do you expect? He likes to wear the suit, have the credentials, climb the ladder, be part of the Ivy League club. His disregard for the issues of the black underclass, which actually in varying degrees afflict all segments of American society, especially rural society, is to me the measure of who he is. He comes out the elitism liberal organization in the Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago, which has always been in bed behind the scenes with the regular organization, aka the Daley machine. The machine has always looked to Hyde Park for clean faces and “progressive” minds all the way back to Paul Douglas and Adlai Stevenson, not a Hyde Park, but a Hyde Park darling. I was there.

  2. Joan Campion says

    In Pennsylvania, Green Party candidates accepted conservative Republican help in getting on the ballot. One of those GP candidates is a personal acquaintance of mine, and she certainly lost her, and her party’s, credibility with me on that one. I’m “green” to my fingertips, but never will I vote Green.

  3. LD says

    Neos are a single party political entity having superimposed upon our bicameral system under cover of US policy. Neocons identify republican, while neoliberals identify democrat. They are a Nazi organization having invested in OTO and and issue largely on recruitment from Bohemian Grove.

    Neos follow the occult protocol (the double bind, extreme prejudice, identity politics/militancy and deadly sabotage). Neocons apply their agenda to foreign countries, while Neoliberals attack domestically, although Neocons will sponsor domestic terrorism while Neoliberals sponsor international terrorism seemingly paradoxical to their core political agendas. It doesn’t really matter to them who does what except we perceive a pseudo difference in order to make it possible for them to thrive. Let that sink in.

    When Obama chooses a team of Neocons seemingly paradoxical to his parties interest he is gut loading his administration in preparation for an insurgency, and he is taking his orders from Wales. Again, let this sink in.

    With Neoliberals and Neocons largely occupying the US administration and squeezing our progressives, Libertines ANAI, such is the forebearer of an alignment of an axis within the federal government that is making preparation for an overthrow. Remember, Neocons and Neoliberals are the same political entity. In these circumstances, everything you have imagined about Obama will become so patently clear you will be standing in a FEMA concentration camp reflecting on all the things you should and and could have done to avoid this…like pay attention to who you are voting for???

    When we are attacked again in September this year Obama will not be lying to you when he tells you his administration didn’t do it. In fact this will have been perpetrated by a covert neocon cohort within our own government. The thing is Obama will have had knowledge about it, but he will not deny this. He simple won’t talk about it in this perspective, which is Neo paradox.

    Obama makes you feel good with his folksy rhetoric, which is why he was promoted. He doesn’t actually design his own political agenda. That’s done for him. What you have to decide is are you going to continue to blow this slick whistle or cut him off before he comes full circle having pulled off one of the biggest cons games in history: your voluntary participation in his BDSM macabre.

    Let it sink in.

  4. Dave Blake says

    I agree with Randy about Romer and the economic team, and I share his distaste for (and disappointment in the overrated abilities of) Rahm Emmanuel. But I think he’s painting with a broad brush when he tries to includes the failure to appoint Warren in the list of progressive-hostile Obama moves. Obama left her in place to set up her baby, but to now try to push her formal appointment to a Senate Reptilican minority that has already made her denial a signature issue would only waste his capital. If he pushed Warren and lost, it would embolden the ’tiles to oppose his 2nd choice; But now if they unite to oppose Cordray too, it’ll be clear their opposition is not to any one person, but to the entire department. I’m aware that they’re already trying to parlay their confirmation power into a fundamentally change in the department’s governance, but this way they won’t be able to confuse the issue with an “anyway, she’s a radical” argument. Obama looks reasonable, they look like they’re unfairly trying to overplay their hand. That’s sound politics, not progressive betrayal.

  5. Alan8 says

    “…And these are all trade deals that the republicans told me are their top priorities. They said this would be one of the best job creators that we could have.”

    What a blatant lie! Obama is an undercover Republican! And the Democratic Party supports these priorities because they’re mostly funded by the same corporate interests that fund the Republicans.

    The Green Party doesn’t accept corporate money and represents CITIZENS’ interests, like single-payer health care for all, and pulling OUT of corporate trade deals like NAFTA.

    Your Green vote sends a message to the corporate politicians that backing the right-wing fascist agenda will cost them votes. This message is sent even if the Green you vote for doesn’t win!


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