Progressive Revival

Progressive Revival


Obama (and Biden) Have No Clue About What’s Bothering Their Political Base

posted by Michael Lerner

Shortly before the California Democratic primary in 2008, the San Fransisco Chronicle invited me to write a short article explaining why I, chair of the interfaithNetwork of Spiritual Progressives, was supporting Barack Obama. Like most other progressive activists, I understood that a president is limited in what s/he can accomplish in limiting the power of America’s economic and political elites and in restraining the military-industrial complex, the pharmaceutical and health care profiteers, the oil industry’s relentless destruction of the environment, or the selfishness and materialism that had become the hallmark of Wall Street and increasingly the “common sense” that was conveyed by the media and advertising into the consciousness of many Americans.

But what a president can do is to challenge the ideas of the powerful and rally those who have become aware that the current system is not only destructive to the future of the planet, but also to the possibility of constructing lives that have a sense of higher meaning than accumulating money and things, or building families and friendships that are about love and not dominated by the self-interest “what’s in it for me” consciousness of the capitalist marketplace.

President Obama is now traveling the country seeking to rebuild the enthusiasm he generated in 2008, and seems clueless as to why it is not there. And the Democrats who followed his lead seem similarly clueless. They imagine that we, their political base, must have had unreasonable expectations that somehow a Democratic majority in Congress and a Democratic president could overcome the Republican party of “no” and the powerful institutional constraints built up over many decades. So they try to explain to us why they failed to pass the legislation that we, their political base, would have wanted.

It’s easier to believe that their liberal and progressive base is naïve than to acknowledge that we are not alienated for their failure to pass appropriate legislation, but for their failure to fight for such legislation. And our upset with Obama is not that he didn’t accomplish what he couldn’t accomplish, but that he didn’t do the one thing he could do: consistently speak the truth, tell us and the country what was really happening in the corridors of power and what the constraints are that he was facing.

It’s one thing to make compromises after you’ve struggled for something you believe in, another to make the compromises without ever trying. Liberals and progressives had already been deeply disillusioned after the Democratic sweep of Congress in 2006, continued to fund the war in Iraq despite overwhelming popular opposition to that war. So when Obama entered the primaries and spent much of his time distinguishing himself from Sen. Clinton on precisely the grounds that he had opposed the war from the beginning, he gave his base the impression that he would be a leader who would challenge the war makers. Similarly, when he challenged the selfishness and materialism that pervaded Wall Street, we felt we had a candidate who would be willing to speak truth to power.

So what happened? Massive bailouts for Wall Street while almost nothing for the millions of unemployed or those losing their homes to avaricious financial lenders; escalation of the war in Afghanistan and leaving 50,000 troops as “advisors” in Iraq; refusing to consider a “public option” for health care and supporting a plan that forces tens of millions of people to buy health insurance without putting any restraints on insurance companies’ continuing escalations of the amount we have to pay for health care; repression against immigrants; allowing continued drilling in the oceans for oil even after the Gulf disaster, and substituting the empty promise of “cap and trade” for the tax on carbons that is the only plausible way to reduce carbon emissions; refusal to punish those engaged in torture in the US intelligence community; and the list goes on.

The president has a bully pulpit that could have rallied the American public to an alternative worldview. Reagan did that while facing a hostile Democratic Congress; Roosevelt did that while facing a hostile Republican Congress-and that is what made them the most significant presidents of the 20th century.

Many of us will vote Democratic in November, despite all this. But don’t expect us to be able to rally others when the best we can say is that the Democrats and their national leader are better than the plausible alternatives. That is not a rallying cry likely to produce many votes or move us beyond our deep disappointments. And many others, feeling humiliated at allowing themselves to have opened to the hope Obama elicited, now find themselves either totally uninterested in politics or wishing to strike back at the Democrats for making fools of those who trusted. Obama and the Democrats remain clueless.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine and author of 11 books, most recently a national best-seller The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right ( Harper, 2006).



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brooksjk

posted October 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm


Continuing a theme that he and fellow Democrats have been using the past month or so, the president wants you to know that you are too stupid to think for yourselves:
“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we‘re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared,” Obama said Saturday evening in remarks at a small Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening. “And the country’s scared.”
Obama told the several dozen donors that he was offering them his “view from the Oval Office.” According to Politico, Obama blamed the economic downturn for Americans’ inability to “think clearly” and said the burden is on Democrats “to break through the fear and the frustration people are feeling.”



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Ross Kendall

posted November 21, 2011 at 1:21 am


I am someone who worked for Obama and donated more money then I could afford. This blog precisely describes why I am so disappointed. I get sick to my stomach listening to Obama, Axelrod, and company explaining why they were not able to accomplish what they never fought for. Compromise in advance is the strategy of a weak whiner. Obama has finally started to try but I suspect it is too little, too late. If he does get re-elected He will turn his back on his supporters again. He is not a fighter and he wants to be liked. Maybe seeing Michelle getting booed at a NASCAR Rally will give him some spine.



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