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Obama Transition (So Far) Not Friendly to Progressives

by Natalie Davis --

True progressive voters had a couple of actual progressive options in the November 4 election. They could have gone with Green hopeful Cynthia McKinney or Independent candidate Ralph Nader. We knew Barack Obama was no progressive messiah — his No on Prop 8 and anti-marriage-equality tap dance and flip-flops on FISA and other early campaign promises showed that.

barack obama and hillary clinton

barack obama and hillary clinton

Still, based on Obama's stated intent to focus on people over corporations, most progressives opted to give their votes to the former junior senator of Illinois. Now that he is poised to become the 44th president of the United States, what is their reward?

If the measure is based on the people who will advize him in the White House, the answer is: bupkis.

This, from Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive:

He won the crucial Iowa caucuses on the strength of his anti-Iraq War stance, and many progressive peace and justice activists worked hard for him against John McCain.

So why in the world is he choosing Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State when she was one of the loudest hawks on Iraq and threatened to obliterate 75 million Iranians?

And it's not just Hillary.

Obama's OMB pick, Peter Orzag, is a Clintonite disciple of Robert Rubin.

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Obama's AG pick, Eric Holder, is a Clintonite who represented Chiquita Bananas.

And Larry Summers's name is still being bandied about for Treasury, even though Summers, while Clinton's Treasury Secretary, forced the deregulation of our financial markets and imposed disaster capitalism on Russia.

Worse still, heading Obama's transition team on intelligence matters are two former deputies to George Tenet, of all people.

And don't forget that during Obama's preparation period, which the mainstream media insists upon likening to President Lincoln's noted "Team of Rivals" transition, he keeps taunting us about the Republican or Republicans who will serve on his team. Sure, it makes sense to build bridges with those who disagree with him on some policy matters. But why does there seem to be no such effort being made to include someone with true progressive values?

Rothschild notes, correctly, that there are plenty of progressives who would be great additions to his staff and cabinet — he mentions anti-corporate globalization economist Joseph Stiglitz, progressive Sen. Russ Feingold, and AFL-CIO official Arlene Holt Baker. I'd also add Rep. Dennis Kucinich to the list — perhaps as the secretary of a new department of peace. But I don't expect to see any real progs in the Obama orbit, just as there were none in the Clinton administration. And that feels like a betrayal.

This isn't to say that an Obama Administration won't mean some positive benefits for real progressives (as opposed to garden-variety Democrats, go-along-to-get-along DINOs, and centrist liberals). The feeling that change is possible — his much-heralded audacity of hope — even permeated the gloom that generally hovers around this pessimistic prog. To be fair, Obama could bring about wonderful changes even for those of us who believe in the progressive peace-justice-compassion ethos. We'll see in time whether that is true. Right now, however, I sense hope is fading.


President-Elect Obama would be wise not to take this segment of his constituency for granted. If not for progressive votes, he would not be where he is. He knows this, and he intends to enlist us in his "fired up and ready to go" group of active Obamaniacs. Already, my inbox is filled with annoying e-mails from David Plouffe and MoveOn urging us to take part in the effort to make Obama's vision a reality. But as Bill Clinton discovered, if Obama ignores our vision while pursuing his own, we can become an opposing force.

Natalie Davis

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