Obama Sitting on the Fence?

Matt Bai has an article in the Wednesday New York Times "Debt-Busting Issue May Force Obama Off Fence."

Bai says that Obama's fiscal commission has given him the choice of ruling for the next two years either from the center left [allied with "traditional liberals" who want the rich to pay their fair share of the taxes and cuts in the military budget] or from the center right [both Democratic and Republican centrists who want to reform "entitlement" programs and taxes]. Bai indicates he has to choose between a "liberal renaissance" or continue his attempts to work with the Republicans in a "postpartisan" alliance. The choice he makes will shape the political landscape for years to come-- for better or worse.

Although many think that Obama is the opium of the Left we can still work with him for progressive causes on whichever side of the fence he falls. Who would have wanted a McCain-Palin administration-- we wouldn't even have a fence, just a ditch. Bai doesn't know which side Obama will choose. His recent two year pay freeze for federal workers (who did not cause the economic collapse) while bankers and CEOs (who did) are raking the money in is not a good sign of things to come. Bai gives us some hints which side Obama will choose.

I will give three major ones he points out. 1. Obama's books and writings indicate he is a "whatever works" pragmatist with no particular ideological commitment-- a political chameleon perhaps. 2. Bai reports that in private Obama has sometimes called himself "essentially a Blue Dog Democrat." He didn't mention this during the primaries! 3. Although he voted against confirming John Roberts as Chief Justice he "castigated" Democratic activists who criticized those Democratic senators who did saying they threatened "thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas." Well, the "thoughtfulness and new ideas" of John Roberts are not leading us down the road to a more democratic country. In any event Bai says Obama is "loath to publicly disown his base on any specific issue." I'm not sure I like the adverbial phrase. The proof will be in the pudding.

Obama must decide, according to Bai, either for the left or the right once the Bowles-Simpson committee gives him its report. Social Security is the acid test. Bai says that if he accepts the commission's recommendations on Social Security the outrage from his base will be so great he could face a primary challenge in 2012. The Republicans would love that: something like a Feingold-Obama fight (suggested in The Nation by Cockburn) to cover themselves while they self destruct over a Palin-Romney brouhaha. Obama has come to the Rubicon-- how will the die be cast?

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  • Three great issues:jobs,health care,and social security plague our nation.
    With brother Riggins,we have to agree that left influence,unfortunately,is the least of our worries,when millions cannot get unemployment extensions,millions are in and on the verge of abject poverty,and millions more face unemployment,depopulation,deportation and genocide.
    All hinges on our ability to help harness,and direct these fighting millions to extend and protect jobs and job protections like unemployment,health care and social security.
    These millions,in their organization and potential organization,have to push POTUS and Wall Street over to make jobs,health care and social security human rights,in the context of United Nation standards.
    All CPUSA activity must move in this criteria.
    Expanded unity of the organizations who suffered greatly in the last election,especially in the shadow of Citizens v FTC and potentially in Holder v Humanitarian(the repression of which we have already felt) is both possible and necessary.
    More and more engagement of workers and allies as material forces with the direct action of the working poor that MLK led in the civil,social,and human rights era would have to be on our agenda. Information about the crisis and simple solutions on social security,jobs and health care and the connection with converting our total economy from war to peace is needed by us and all people to create the dogged political will and result.
    The die is cast. Les jeux sont faits.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 12/04/2010 3:38am (7 years ago)

  • Joel is certainly correct that we have to be more active in pushing for the reforms we want. POTUS will certainly respond to pressure from the people. But we have to know who we are dealing with. If he is at heart a "Blue Dog Democrat" as the New York Time indicates we have to know how to react to him one way-- if he is a progressive Democrat or even a left-center Democrat we have to use different methods to influence him and to appeal to the base. We definitely don't want a Republican victory in 2012. Krugman's article in the NYT today asks "Has Obama suffered a moral collapse?" Krugman thinks in the Democrats want to accomplish any real "liberal" reforms and beat back the Republicans they will have to look for a different leader than Obama-- he's out of gas. In any case it is not criticism from the left we have to worry about-- its criticism from the right that is doing the damage.

    Posted by Thomas Riggins, 12/03/2010 6:31pm (7 years ago)

  • The simple fact is we lost this last election. Unfortunately too many people who post to this blog felt little need to fight to win that election, but instead more than their fair share of cynicism and despair about the major players in it. Now we have to deal with the results: there will be compromises and and back-pedaling. Instead of simply pointing that out for its own sake – which I argue is of no use to anyone regardless of how left you are – we have to work on how to win victories, how to mobilize for the most progressive agenda possible, and what we can do.

    How do you propose we win on the Social Security issue? Complain more about what we think President Obama is or isn't doing? Got to have more than that!

    Posted by Joel Wendland, 12/03/2010 11:09am (7 years ago)

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