Obama Paving Perry’s Path to Presidency

rick perry prayerfestWhen you try to understand how Rick Perry defeated Barack Obama in the 2012 election, look to the summer of 2011. That’s when Obama did almost everything possible to alienate the voters he needs for re-election. Obama began with a humiliating surrender to Republicans on the debt-ceiling deal, leaving even longtime supporters questioning his leadership.

He then attacked long-loyal Latino voters by reaffirming his vicious, anti-immigrant “Secure Communities” program, triggering grassroots protests across the nation. Obama then went after environmentalists. He approved the restarting of the environmentally destructive Keystone XL Pipeline, and then hit his green supporters upside the head with a two by four by reversing new smog regulations approved by his own EPA.

Obama even promoted the false and longstanding Republican view that environmental health regulations kill jobs. Add a stagnant economy to Obama’s problems and its clear that activists could work day and night against Perry without convincing voters to give Obama another four years.

President Obama is now consistently taking actions that will help deliver the 2012 presidential election to Republicans. Despite plunging approval numbers, he continues to undermine his support among the voters he needs to win next year.

And before you identify me as one of those long-time Obama bashers of the “professional left,” I wrote a piece on November 20, 2006 titled “Barack Obama’s Moment is 2008” in which I urged him to run for President. I’d love to have titled this “Why Obama is Certain to Defeat Perry,” but, for reasons discussed below, that would conflict with political reality.

Environmentalists Deflated

It has been axiomatic since the Reagan Era that despite all of the similarities between the two major parties, there is a major difference on the environment. Obama’s EPA has been one of the few administration bright spots, and until this month green activists were primed to go all out for Obama’s re-election.

But after his extraordinary EPA betrayal, environmentalists feel deflated. It is hard to believe that Barack Obama is the same person who won the strong backing of Al Gore, when he faced Hilary Clinton in 2008. Few could have anticipated that three years later Gore would have to send the President a public letter urging him to reject the environmentally catastrophic Keystone permit.

Obama can no longer be trusted on environmental issues. Period. And as green activists debate how much electioneering they should do to help Obama defeat Rick Perry, the important fact to remember is this: activists can work day and night for Obama but if the product they are selling is not trustworthy, voters will not be buying.

Latinos Angry

I wrote during the 2008 Democratic Convention that Latino voters were key to Obama winning the November election. He ended up winning four heavily Latino-impacted states that George W. Bush won in 2004 (Nevada, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado), as well as Virginia, which also had a meaningful number of Latino voters.

Many of us thought that Obama supported Latino interests and understood the political importance of addressing the needs of this powerful constituency. But in a pattern that runs through his entire presidency, Obama has repeatedly turned his back on long-loyal Latino voters.

His failure to move on comprehensive immigration reform and record deportations caused him political problems that pundits assumed he would spend the next year repairing; instead, Obama has generated his highest level of outrages among Latinos by his moving forward on the wrongly-named “Secure Communities” program, allows federal authorities to screen fingerprints of those arrested by local police in order to detect undocumented immigrants. Activists attack the program for creating “insecure” communities, as it deters undocumented immigrants from working with police.

The week of August 15 marked a National Week of Action to End “Secure Communities,” and protests have continued throughout the nation against Obama’s program. Good luck to SEIU and Latino voter outreach groups next fall who will be seeking to convince Latinos to mobilize for a President who has proven so contemptuous of their concerns.

(Yes, after the initial round of protests against Secure Communities Obama had an administrative ruling issued restricting deportations of non-criminal undocumented immigrants. But this has not reduced anger over the Secure Communities program).

Perry Will Rally Disillusioned Democrats – Wrong!

I can already hear those who have read this far saying, “There is no way environmentalists and Latinos – or white progressives, African-Americans, union members for that matter – will either vote for Perry or not vote regardless of their anger toward Obama. They understand the stakes are too high.” Obama may share this view, which is why he has oriented his entire presidency toward securing “independent” voters despite his own falling approval numbers among this group.

If you believe that Democrats can take their electoral base for granted, I suggest you start studying history.

Let’s start with the November 2010 elections, when fear of a Tea Party takeover of the House failed to generate much Democratic voter turnout. Or if Obama’s calculation is that only presidential elections count, where was the traditional Democratic turnout when President Jimmy Carter faced Ronald Reagan in 1980?

While in retrospect Reagan was far to the left of Rick Perry, at the time he was viewed by the Democratic base just as Perry is today. And yet Carter had so disillusioned core Democratic constituencies that they could not even be roused to vote to prevent Reagan’s election.

What those who argue that Democrats have nowhere else to go do not understand is that Obama needs to win core constituencies by the huge margins he did in 2008. And absent an immediate and dramatic policy turnaround, no amount of door knocking by Obama for America volunteers is going to equalize these groups 2008 vote.

As we saw in November 2010, even as little as a 10-15% turnout drop off can defeat Democratic candidates. As the most recent poll by Latino Decisions found, “the number of Latinos who are certain to vote for Obama in 2012 does not reach the level needed to, at this point, obtain the supermajority of votes the president needs to win certain difficult states, such as New Mexico, Colorado and other western states.”

And its not just Latinos whose support for Obama will decline from 2008. You can fill in the name of every constituency, as well as the potentially millions of voters whose vote for Obama in 2008 was based entirely on the economy – these latter voters will be going with Perry in 2012.

And for those who blame Republicans for preventing Obama from imposing the job creating policies we need, the public is not ignorant. Voters know that Obama put budget deficits ahead of unemployment, and that he allowed Wall Street rather than Main Street to control his Administration.

The debate has already started about how hard activists should work for a president who has disappointed them. The answer is that it will not matter.

randy shawEven if activists replicate their day-and-night 2008 campaigning for Obama in 2012, they will get a much different response at the doors and on the telephone. Even the most persuasive and enthusiastic of organizers can only do so much, and Obama has handed them a losing hand.

Can this political dynamic change between now and November 2012? Sure. But it is hard to see this happening with a President who makes his re-election struggle steeper by the day.

Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

Randy Shaw is author of The Activist’s Handbook and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.


  1. Don Duitz says

    I agree that Obama is too right of center. BUT, PERRY IS DOOMED BY HIS OWN CRAZINESS TO BE NOMINATED. There are not that many nuts in the country to get him the party bid. There is little to compare him to Reagan. Reagan had few redeeming features but, he was not over the border like these lock step Republicans today. I believe there is a better chance that someone else will face off with Romney. I’d love to see Obama get someone like Robert Reich to offset the corporate elite that he confers with now. Where is the balance and what about his Main Street???

  2. Adam Eran says

    This is the desired outcome of the Karl Roves of the world, who echo Boss Tweed’s motto: “I don’t care who I can vote for as long as I pick the candidates.” The choices in 2012 are likely to be between over-the-cliff-crazy-neofascist-righties (Perry or Romney) and right-of-Richard-Nixon-righties (Obama).

    Omitted from this litany of Obama’s many failings is, IMHO, the worst: his failure to prosecute the banksters responsible for the current economic downturn. Wall Street gets bailed out while social safety net programs are cut…

    Even during the bad ‘ol de-regulatory Reagan / Bush 41 days during the S&L scandal the Office of Thrift Supervision made literally 10,000+ referrals for criminal prosecution, and the Justice Dept. prosecuted 1,000+ Savings and Loan frauds. One of the prosecutors during that time, William K. Black, notes that this was done by Republican appointees despite the fierce resistance of the administration and congress, but it was done. Yes, even Republicans can have integrity.

    Now, OTS has made literally zero referrals for criminal prosecution, and the Obama justice department has brought 10 cases to trial in a scandal that is, according to Black, 40 – 100 times larger.

    Obama may indeed be a one-term president, but he will certainly go down as one of the most corrupt in history. Of course that didn’t deter people from admiring Reagan, but it’s a shame nonetheless that the public has been so gullible.

    The big issues for 2012: Who gets to appoint the next two supreme court justices, and what will congress look like. Obama may squeak through to a second term, but it’ll include nothing like the mandate he enjoyed, and squandered, in 2008.

  3. says

    Randy has accurately hit several cogent points. I don’t know about Latinos, but he’s correct about us enviros. And yes, Obama’s foreign policy has estranged various ethnics whose unabashed if old-fashioned idea of the USA is that this country is – and should proudly act – as the last best hope for democracy, for democratic allies, and against genocides.

    And Randy didn’t even get around to the really scary but rarely discussed disaster of the Obama presidency in regard to the future of liberal or even centrist public policy in this country. Just look at the Obama record on federal judgeships, with a record number of vacancies – well over 100. It’s not merely that the Republicans have been given a pass to stall Obama’s nominations. But note, with 2/3 his term over, Obama hasn’t even submitted nominations for half those vacancies!

    The comparison of Obama-Perry with Carter-Reagan is apt, despite the elapsed 32 years. We can learn from 44 years ago too – 1968. The one way for the Dems to save themselves – not necessarily keep the White House but keep the Senate and maybe regain the House and anyhow prevent a runaway rightist presidency – is for some one to show soon and clearly that Obama will have serious primary opposition – an alternative who will galvanize Democrats for their traditional and updated agenda. Gene McCarthy did that and convinced LBJ to quit. Despite all the ensuing calamities – RFK assassination, Chicago confrontations, and Dems running Humphrey – the most damaged goods apart from LBJ himself – at least the stage was set where the Dems could effectively oppose a runaway Nixon presidency.

  4. pigdog67 says

    Can illegal immigrants vote? I do not think so. Can undocumented aliens vote? No. I immigrated to this country legally. And put years of effort into and paid money too. I consider illegal aliens to be breaking the law. If there is such a law it should be enforced. Put terminator robots on the border to keep people out. Otherwise change the law. I do not understand why progressives are always focused on some ‘suffering person’ or discriminated person (in their opinion). Racism and discrimination exists in all races. Genghis Khan was not white. He was Mongolian. He murdered millions of people because he was paranoid. Life is suffering. Everyone suffers and some point in there life. Everyone dies. Why not focus on life instead of this strange focus on everyone not having equality … People are not created equal. Equality is slavery and slavery is equality

  5. marta says

    I read that he has a 50% disapproval rating. No progressive I’ve asked likes him anymore. The racist tea baggers have always hated him. So who are these diehards — the 50% that still approve of him?

    • Marie says

      I think that those who still approve of Obama, are more interested in having a president who “represents” the Democratic party, than having a good president.
      Oiur only way out is, coming up with a better alternative, and the courage to vote for that better alternative even if it is not from the Democratic party. Yes, it is risky; but Qbama / Perry is a no-win situation.

Leave a Reply

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