At Least Obama Did Better than King George

Barack Obama wants another four years in the White House. The president announced April 4 that he would seek re-election in 2012, and that his campaign will “coordinat(e) millions of one-on-one conversations between supporters across every single state, reconnecting old friends, inspiring new ones to join the cause, and readying ourselves for next year’s fight,” according to the New York Times.

He called his approach “unprecedented,” an effort to reconnect with volunteers and attract new ones in a grassroots movement. But the early announcement also was about cash, as the Times pointed out: “behind the scenes, an aggressive fund-raising campaign also began, with top donors asked to contribute $5,000 — $2,500 for the primary season and another $2,500 for the general election. “

Traditional liberals and the Democratic Party faithful are likely to jump on board quickly, but I have my doubts about the mass of volunteers who joined with him last time. He has taken every opportunity to kick his own base, to belittle liberals and abandon nearly everything they hoped he would stand for.

What has become clear – actually became clear within a couple of months of his inauguration – is that Obama, the great liberal hope, is nothing more than Clinton redux — a corporate stooge in thrall to the military-industrial complex.


A health-care law that forces people to give the health insurance companies money — a law, in fact, modeled on the flawed one put in place by former Gov. Mitt Romney (and perennial Republican presidential candidate) in Massachussetts.

A weak financial reform bill that has done little to prevent Wall Street speculators to get back to their old games.

An expanded war in Afghanistan that has been expanding into Pakistan, continued war in Iraq, military intervention (short of war) in Libya without Congressional approval.

Continuation of Bush-era policies on detention, Guantanamo, interrogation.

A half-measure stimulus and a cave-in to Republicans on the deficit.

Support for nuclear power and clean coal and a hands-off approach to Big Oil’s requests to expand domestic and deepwater drilling — even after the 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

An array of broken promises on labor rights issues, tax policy (extending the Bush tax cuts even as he agreed to tackle the deficit).

And yet, Obama is likely to garner support from a good portion of the left because of the downward pressure our first-past-the-post puts on our electoral system. By all rights, the left should walk away from Obama; it’s the only thing we have left and the only way we will be able to gain any leverage in the policy arena. But we won’t.

The memory of eight years of Bush remains too strong, so the lesser-of-two-evil argument is going to come back, going to play a major role in the discussion on the left flank of the political discussion.

Consider the alternative, the argument will go, and it will be effective — there is not a Republican in the race or on its periphery (i.e., Gov. Chris Christie) who warrants a shot at the Oval Office.

Progressives may not like the alternatives, may indeed opt for Obama over Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, et al.

But progressives should also make it clear that any support given to Obama comes with a price tag — moving progressive goals to the top of the agenda. More importantly, we need to stop thinking of the electoral arena as the only outlet for political action. It cannot be about candidates and money, but about direct action and protest and the creation of a moral momentum that forces the larger political class to listen.

The history of our political movements makes it clear that it is our only hope. Direct action — sit-down strikes, general strikes, marches, boycotts — forced issues like civil and labor rights onto the table, pushing the politicians to act.

Protests against Vietnam, including the flight to Canada by those evading the draft, forced politicians to find a way to end that nightmare.

We have hit the same point today.

Hank Kalet is regional editor for in New Jersey. Email

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2011

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