By Wendy Gittleson, August 8, 2011
It’s tough being a Progressive these days. Hell, it’s tough being an American these days, but I digress. As Progressives, there is a lot we agree upon – We want fair/progressive taxation. We want multinational corporations to bring jobs back to the US. We want universal healthcare. We want a reliable social safety net. We want equal rights for all. We want clean water and safe food. We want an end to the wars. We want the Bush regime to be tried for their crimes. We want banksters and other corporate masters to be held accountable for their sins…perhaps more importantly, we want their money out of our democracy.
Even typing that list depresses me. As a country, we are so far from our progressive utopia, it’s amazing we aren’t all moving to Sweden.
Just to refresh a memory or two, the years between 2000 and 2009 were pretty damn awful. The Presidency was stolen from us…arguably twice. We were attacked. We retaliated against the wrong country. We started another war. We tortured. The word ‘American’ started being seen as a badge of shame, so much so that Americans began claiming they were Canadian. The earth got hotter. Natural disasters were managed by a horse lawyer. Corporatists took over the Supreme Court. Corporate money took over the country in a way never seen before. Jobs left the country in record numbers. The banksters played games with our mortgages, resulting in a whole new breed of homeless people. Wages went down. Benefits went down. The gap between rich and poor put the Grand Canyon to shame. Social Security held on by a thread. Medicare was manipulated to be an extremely costly gift to the insurance companies. Creative accounting made sure that the next administration would have to pick up the tab. This whole debacle was sold to us under the guise that it was God’s will. In short, our country made the final leap to plutocracy mixed with a generous helping of theocracy.
In 2007, the economic facade assembled by the Bush team began to crumble. The artificially inflated housing bubble burst, in a dramatic way. The stock market crashed. Oil prices escalated. The Bush regime was at the end of their term. They saved their bankster friends before leaving, but their parting gift to the American people was a huge collective middle finger. They came into office with two goals, empire building and setting the stage for total privatization by convincing the American people that government was dysfunctional. In those two ways, their regime was a complete success.
By the time election season came along, even die hard Republicans were ashamed of their party. The American people were ready for change. We wanted to hit the country’s ‘reset’ button. Along came a breath of fresh air. Senator Barack Obama was new to most of the country. He was African American (that’s different, right?) He was extremely intelligent. He was a Constitutional attorney and former Editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was handsome. He was young. Unlike Bush, he knew how to form complete thoughts and articulate them. He was charismatic. He was inspiring. He spoke of “change.” He had all the qualifications of a ‘reset button.’
Progressives fell in love. We knocked on doors. We helped get out the vote. We donated money we didn’t have. We attended rallies. We were involved in a way not seen since the 60s. It felt great. It felt empowering. It worked. We helped elect a President.
In the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, the economy was on the verge of a depression, but the country was bathed in an aura of optimism. Hope and change were on the horizon.
The aura began to darken early. The mantra of change became suspect when ex-Clintonites began filling the Cabinet. Even before the inauguration, progressives started jumping ship. Since then, there have been a lot of disappointments. The wars have continued. The Bush tax cuts were extended. The public option was taken off the table during the health care debate. More Progressives jumped and as a result, we lost the Senate to a new batch of Tea Party Republicans.
Last week a deal was struck to raise the debt ceiling. Since then, the internet and the media have been filled with threats to sit out 2012, threats to primary the President or even to turn to a third party. Progressives are angry…and rightfully so. The road to Progressive values should not be this bumpy and painful. We voted for ‘change’, where the hell is it?
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
President Obama made a lot of campaign promises and he’s kept an unprecedented number of them. He has accomplished a pretty amazing amount for a first term President. Unfortunately, his obstacles are higher than even our expectations.
Our electoral system is screwed up. In 2008, it cost more than half a billion dollars to win the Presidency. Since the Citizen’s United decision, giving corporations the unlimited ability to donate to elections, that number will undoubtedly go up exponentially in 2012. As long as a candidate has to bring in that kind of money, corporate ties will be a given.
Seemingly unbeknownst to many, there are three coequal branches of government. Congress owns the checkbook. All legislation must go through them before heading to the President. He’s had a pretty hostile Congress since the beginning. They have made no secret that their only goal is to destroy this Presidency. The filibuster, which was once used only occasionally, has been used to block almost all Democratic legislation and many of the President’s nominees. In other words, they are not letting him staff the agencies that would improve the way government would do business. Despite that, Nancy Pelosi’s House was able to push through many Progressive forms of legislation which were signed into law.
Then 2010 happened. Disillusioned Democrats decided to sit it out and the Tea Party moved in. The House was taken over. Now, we have a Republican House and a non-filibuster proof Senate. It’s amazing anything has gotten done.
Oh, did I forget to mention the Supreme Court. Five of the nine members are pure plutocrats. A few more years of their judicial “restraint” and we might as well throw up our hands and give up on our democratic experiment.
Last month’s debt ceiling debate was politics at its ugliest. Republicans were willing to bankrupt the country to advance their own political goals. In the past, the debt ceiling has been raised with a single line of legislation. It was never tied to the budget in the past, yet Republicans insisted it be tied to draconian cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Unemployment with zero increases in revenue. The President insisted on an unspecified compromise. In the end, we got a compromise. We got the increase to the debt ceiling with cuts, or perhaps revenues to be determined later. If no decision is made, cuts will come from the military and other spending. Social Security is off the table and Medicare can only be touched from the provider side. Overall, it’s not a great deal, but it’s not the end of the world.
Progressives are, to put it lightly, pissed. Bill Maher, who has been a harsh critic of Obama’s since the beginning, chided his audience when they didn’t respond favorably to his rant against the President. “He f***ed up,” he said. “He’s your President, not your boyfriend.” In Maher’s defense, he did say he would still support the President, even if just for lack of options.
Still, progressives, if he’s not your boyfriend:
Why do you expect him to change your entire world? We hated the amount of power that George Bush took for the Presidency. Why do we want it out of Obama?
Why are you so emotionally involved? He’s a politician. He’s not a miracle maker. It’s not personal. He has to make deals to get anything done. That’s how Washington works.
Why do you expect him to beat up the other guys? We want a more civil Washington, except when we’re in charge, I guess.
Why do you play hard to get? This one always gets me. There are a lot of Progressives who believe that the best way to get Obama to come around to our way of thinking is to withhold our support. Are you kidding me? Are we in middle school? Playing hard to get might work in adolescent love but it never works in politics. When you started threatening him and proclaiming your vote off limits during the beginning of his Presidency, he did what any mature person would do, he did his job the best way he thought he could. Adults don’t get their way by holding their breath, throwing a temper tantrum and withholding support. That’s how they get ignored.
If you want to affect real change in Washington, you can…we can stay active. Call and write the President. Call and write your Representatives. Get out the vote. Help organize a movement to change campaign finance. Only when we take private money out of campaigns, will we see a truly Progressive President.
The number one promise that Candidate Obama made to us was that we would be the change we were seeking. We are the ones that own the reset button. We have broken our own campaign promise.
I’m sure I’ll be called an “Obama Apologist” or an “Obamabot,” but in my opinion, I am being a realist. I know the obstacles in Washington. I know the alternatives (President Bachmann/Romney/Gingrich/whoever). I know what the Supreme Court will look like under another Republican Presidency. I know that if the Republicans win, there will be no more Social Security, no more Medicare and frankly, no more care. I know that nearly every government service will be privatized. I know that women’s rights/gay rights/immigrant rights/civil rights will be stripped. I know that the wealthy will declare victory in the war on the poor.
In the worst case scenario, another Obama administration will lessen our losses. In the best case scenario, Progressives will join with the President to accomplish real change.