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White House photo by Pete Souza.

In his recent article, "Why Leftists Should Support Obama's Reelection," lifelong history professor Walter G. Moss underscores what could be the pivotal question in this year's presidential election:

  • Will the progressive community, which hugely and vigorously supported the Obama-Biden ticket three years ago, put its shoulder to the wheel again?
  • Or, as they did in large numbers during the off-cycle 2010 election, will leftists and liberals express their displeasure with the slow pace of "Change We Can Believe In" by staying home?
  • And, no doubt most importantly, what will be the consequences of whichever path our progressive community chooses?

Wearing his professional historian's hat, Moss argues from what he calls the "consequentialist" or "realist" position that the consequences of sitting out the election or, worse, actively working against Obama's re-election would be dire indeed:

"So I applaud the passion and pressure that many of you, my fellow leftists, demonstrate in fighting for such noble ideals as peace, equality, freedom, and justice. And I recognize that President Obama has not always pursued these goals as passionately as you would like. But our roles as private citizens and his as president are different. Politicians must always remember that politics is, as Bismarck once stated, 'the art of the possible.'"

walter moss

Walter Moss

Taking us back through near five decades, Moss reminds us that support by liberal activists for first Eugene McCarthy and then Bobby Kennedy against a sitting president, Lyndon Johnson, gave us Richard Nixon. Similarly, support for Teddy Kennedy against sitting President Jimmy Carter gave us twelve years of Ronald Reagan and Bush The Elder. And, finally, support for Ralph Nader against Al Gore in an open election contributed to eight years of Bush The Lesser.

These considerations prompted Walter to subtitle his essay, "An Open Letter to Fellow Leftists: Please Support President Obama’s Reelection."

As we gear up for the long march to November's election, many of us are struggling with this choice, prompting us to launch our LA Progressive survey last Saturday. Following are a sampling of answers to all 5 questions with links to the full set of answers.

1) Do Lefties Support Obama's Re-Election?

Nearly 75% of the survey's 226 respondents indicated that they would indeed support the Obama-Biden ticket (assuming Joe Biden is again the running mate), with 20.5% saying they will not support his re-election, 6% remaining undecided, and 2% indicating they don't consider themselves progressive, liberal, or lefty.

Of those 75%, 22% are die-hard Obama supporters who believe he's the best president we've had in decades, 47% feel he's done a good job under the circumstances, and 60% believe the consequences of having a Republican president are too dire (NOTE: survey takers could indicate more than one choice). Given that LA Progressive's readers -- the audience for this survey -- are overwhelmingly progressive and would likely have little truck with a Republican of any stripe, the 47% approval factor for doing a good job under the circumstances should be worrisome for Obama's Chicago campaign team, as are the 20% who say that they will not support him at this point.

A sentiment expressed by one of the 20% not supporting Obama is this:

Leftists survey Q1

"It is not just that he failed to deliver on his campaign promises, it is that he extended Bush Tax Cuts, put Social Security on the table, signed the NDAA, ordered the assassination of American citizens, without charges or trial, and on, and on the list could go."

More supportive, and generally more common sentiments coming from Obama supporters are reflected here:

"The intransigence of the Republican Party and its veering to the far right in social and economic issues is a real and present danger to our way of life and freedoms. To expect perfection in this situation is what is defeatist. Some friends who declined to vote in the latest Congressional election only aided and abetted the take-over of the House of Representatives last fall."


"The Left has got to stop expecting perfect scores on all their pet issues from a Democratic president. Obama, specifically, faces three decades of focused Republican efforts toward their agenda. It will take more that one Democratic president to get things back on track and the work can't all be left for the president to do. Each of us has a role to play in our communities to stand up for our beliefs."

You can find all comments to this question here.

2) President Romney, Gingrich, Paul….?

Many liberal commentators resist "scare tactics," such as asking what would happen if we elected a Republican president this go-round. But, given what our survey called the "cavalcade of clowns" -- a term I found as gentle as it was accurate -- the question needs to be asked. Predictably, most responses were dire indeed, sprinkled with more than a few mentions of moving to Canada. These two were typical:

"We would find a reason to start another war. Efforts underway to crush unions at the state level would increase exponentially with support from the White House. The country would increasingly become a two-class society: the haves and the have nots, as you see so many places around the world."

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"I'm leaving for Canada. The economy will crash, violence will erupt in the streets as those clowns repay their special interests, education will be notable for its absence and the split between the 1% and the 99% will explode. The rest of the world already thinks the US political system a shambles and this will serve to fulfill their expectations."

On a more hopeful note, several thought the Occupy Movement would flower under a Republican administration:

"I think the "Occupy" movement would grow exponentially. People are fed up and won't go back to the status quo any more. I hope this turn of events does not come to pass."

Again, you can find all comments to this question here.

3) Moving the Democratic Party Leftward?

Most respondents indicated that the best way to move the Democratic Party leftward is by working from the inside to elect more progressive candidates in local elections (63%) and by putting pressure on the Party from the outside by supporting progressive causes and pressing Democratic officeholders to support them (68%). (Again, respondents can choose multiple options.)

"It's important that President Obama be re-elected and that the Democrats take back both houses of Congress. However that means little as long as the Republicans are able to jam progressive legislation in the Senate via the filibuster. What is desperately needed is for massive numbers of people all across the country to take to the streets non-violently and for at least a million people to converge on Washington DC and sit down in the streets to make Obama deliver the "hope and change" that he promised in 2008."

questions 3

Nearly a third thought a better approach was to support the Occupy Movement and change the entire Democratic Party equation.

"The Occupy Movement is the only chance We have to nullify Citizens United. The Democratic Party is a disgrace, not perhaps as completely out of touch with reality as fringe GOP fundamentalists, but close. They both work for the same corporate masters."

And 11% thought that joining a third party would work better for them and 10% also thought they would focus on nonpartisan issues instead.

"The Democratic Party has consistently been the graveyard of popular movements for social, economic and political transformation. Where is the nuclear freeze movement? Where is the labor "movement"? the environmental movement? Joining the Democrats and trying to move the party to the left is a fool's errand and would be the death knell of Occupy as well."

Find all comments to this question here.

4) Occupy and Democrats

Asked how Occupiers and Democrats should interact, the largest group (65%) thought Democrats should stand behind Occupy Movement efforts and goals. Another large group (48%) thought Occupiers need to engage the electoral process and partner with the Democratic Party to achieve Occupy Movement goals, while 35% thought Occupiers should focus on their own agenda and steer clear of Democratic Party electoral efforts. Just 3% thought Democrats should steer clear of the Occupy Movement.

These comments are representative:

survey question 4

"Occupy is the first time in decades that Americans have worked together in an organized way. I think the Democratic Party should welcome Occupy -- while screening out the bad apples who are probably neocon moles -- and start acting like a party that wants to make a difference."

"Occupy is the late 60's plus the internet. Neither Progressives nor Democrats have been able to accomplish what Occupy has, namely, gotten the national conversation off of deficits and on to financial serfdom and the corruption that supports it."

"The Occupy Movement is a long-term waste of time unless they get their hands dirty and become involved in politics (electoral and policy). Also must deal with the boring stuff and not just the hot button exciting stuff in order to be effective."

"OWS has declared that is is an apolitical movement. Any attempt to align with a political party would equal disaster. The Democratic party is no friend to OWS, it is friend to the corporatocracy whose money fills its coffers. Is the Democratic Party platform for 2012 the nullification of Citizens United? No? That tells me all I need to know about the Democratic Party and its loyalties."

Find all comments to this question here.

5) Four More Years?

As with the other questions, responses to the question of how the next four years will look ranged from dire predictions of chaos and decline to more cautiously optimistic like this final observation:

dick price

"I believe ultimately that Obama will win reelection, in part because the country has become so aroused by income disparity and partly because the Republicans have gotten so good at shooting themselves in the foot. With an aroused electorate and his failed efforts at compromise over the past four years, I believe Obama will indeed begin backing more progressive legislation."

Find all comments to this question here.

We welcome your comments on this survey and ideas you might have for other Saturday Surveys we might conduct.

Dick Price
Editor, LA Progressive