Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Primary Realities (Updated @ 13:00 2 Aug 2011)

It has taken some time for the bloom to fall off the rose, but the liberal / progressive base of the Democratic Party is getting restive. The base is spitting mad over what it considers the multiple sins of omission and commission that Barack Obama has committed. There is even talk of a Primary challenge to the President. Nothing in present day politics points out the fecklessness of the Progressive base than this move. 

First there is the unavoidable fact that no Progressive hero is willing to play Saint George to Obama’s dragon. Far too many politicians are like Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, more than willing for someone else to take up the good cause, but unwilling to do the deed themselves. One wonders how committed these Progressive stalwarts really are to the one true faith. There seem to be no end of armchair generals, but trigger pullers seem to be thin on the ground.

But this is only the beginning of the inept political gamesmanship of the Progressive base. The supposed goal of a primary challenge is to bring Obama back to the left; to halt his rightward drift. One can only hold their head in their hands to hear such considerations. Lefties; Obama is just not into you, he never was, he never will be. He will give a nice speech, toss the most meager of bones, and then govern right.  If the Progressives continue to act like a jilted girlfriend to Obama’s political Lothario, they will continue to get played.  A temper-tantrum Primary challenge to Obama will only play to the contempt that Obama obviously has for the base.

If you go up against an incumbent President, like Ronald Reagan did, and Ted Kennedy did, you go in to win. You go in to win, and damn the consequences. This is politics 101. The liberal base could not be more incompetent in forwarding its goals to not understand this.  To Primary a President of your own party means you have accepted a “damn the torpedoes” mentality. It means you have had such a break with the leader of your Party, that your only concern is to ruin him or her politically. To put this crudely, the goal of Primarying Obama is not to deliver a slap to the face, but to gut him like a fish. The goal is to put such a hurting on Obama that no future Donkey politician would dare sell out the Democratic base.

The down-side to this is that a Republican Operator may get the gold ring. Shredding Obama may mean eight years of Multiple Mitch Romney in the Oval Office. The hard nut is that the Progressive movement must accept that possible result, and be fine with it; as long as they can mount Obama’s head on their wall. You must accept an Naderite world view to accomplish this. You have to accept the notion that the choices offered by the present political parties are the choice offered a Thanksgiving turkey : slow roasted or deep fried.

A serious Primary challenge to Obama would take a bloody-mindedness that seems lacking in the Progressive contingent. All the political Berzerkers seem to be on the right side of the political spectrum. Progressives make a fetish of their reasonableness. Most times Progressives lose the fight before they have even engaged the massed hoards of the right. Progressives have been a punching bag ever since Ronny Ray-Gun strolled on the political scene. The left have a reputation of folding like origami.

How the left counters this long history of losing their shirts is anybodies’ guess. How they actually manage to get a message out, any message out, in the white noise of the 24 hour news cycle is another issue. The current muddled message has no chance in the he said-she said, brain-dead, narrative the corporate media vomits up as “news.” In the search for ”balance”, corporate news has abandoned any attempt at truth-telling or fact checking. Obama can hippy-punch / liberal bash his opposition in oblivion and not even break a sweat in the present media environment. 

Finally any opponent of Obama, especially from the left, is going to have to deal with the race card. The bitter truth is that if Obama does get into any difficulty from a challenger, he will pull this joker out and play it. His supporters are more than willing to play racial politics. The only way to counter such a play is to call BS. The only response to the charge is to perform an act of political jiu-jitsu; to show how the charge of racism is act of political bad faith. Such political messaging will take nerves of hardened steel. Bill Clinton is something of a template with his Sister Soldier moment. Of all the political bear traps out there, the issue of race will be the hardest to deal with for any opponent of Obama. There is enough real race-based animosity hurled at Obama for his supporters to use as a bogus charge of racism against a challenger from the left. The challenger will have to keep hammering away on core economic issues and core entitlement programs that Obama is trying to undercut, and how that relates to the lives of African-Americans to the point of nausea and beyond.  That opponent will have to do that in full knowledge that they might only secure a minority of the minority for their troubles. While support for Obama has fallen to 50% among African-Americans, the bitter truth is that it is still much easier for Obama to coax this cohort back home, than for an opponent to persuade them to cut the apron strings.

Obama probably knows all of this; which is why he has no obvious concern about a challenge from the left. The talk of a challenge is just that: talk. Obama is fully aware of how feckless and clueless his left wing opponents are; and how easy it is to logroll them. The summer of Progressive discontent may just melt away like a ice cream scoop on a hot August day. There really is no political downside for Obama in shafting the Democratic Party core, time and time again. For there to be a down side that base has got to go at Obama with political murder in its eyes. It has to make clear that you do not cross the base without an expert, well provisioned team of Sherpas, and purpose built equipment. The present chatter by Bernie Sanders et al is worse than useless; it is further proof of political incompetence from the left.

Taylor Marsh 02 August 2011 at 12:43 pm 
No one will challenge Pres. Obama, from the left. There’s not enough money to make it worth it, because Obama’s corporate fluffers are filling his 2012 war chest, which will dwarf the GOP’s candidate. However, outside groups like Rove’s will make up the difference, so the big two will be equal players.
But the progressive movement, though I’m not among this brave band, is really up against it. They’ve been humiliated and put down, not only by Obama & Democrats, but by the Tea Party, who stood up and got a lot, even though they’re not happy either.
Unease and disgust are the words for anyone in politics today.
But it is going to be very interesting how progressives react and what they do.

spincitysd 02 August 2011 at 3:45 pm 
Yes there is that whole money thing. Any political actor must understand how corrupt the US political system has become.
Far too many people bought the myth of Barack Obama hook line and sinker and did not bother to figure out where the money was coming from. How does a political Tabula Rosa, with only two years in the Senate raise the doe-ray-me to swamp Team Clinton in a sea of cash? How does Obama find the geld to out spend the Arkansas political Tag-Team champions in Primary after Primary? Small contributions via the net? Not bloody likely boys and girls. But what a smoke screen for putting even the most cynical observers into a confused state. Still, the fact that a Democrat had more money to spend than the Republican nominee should have been a huge, red, flashing light. When does any Democrat worth the name have more campaign funds than even the most hopeless of Republicans? Follow the money, it is even more important now than it was in the days of Watergate.
I have no idea what the Progressives will do, I only know what they need to do if they want to become relevant. First and formost they have to own up to the facts on the ground. Progressive need to understand that they are the only true opposition party out there. They have to own that idea; accept that Obama is not now, nor never has been one of them. They have to accept the fact that they are way out in the cold and it is a long, tough slog back to power. They have to understand that it is the economy stupid; that power and wealth is concentrating into the hands of the hyper-rich. If there is going to be any push back to the new aristocracy of wealth, Progressives cannot shy away from class conflict, they have to understand that the New Robber Barons are not asking or giving any quarter.
Progressives also have to understand that their only option is developing a grass roots organizational response. It is the Howard Dean, nuts and bolts, long game that has to be played. And it will be a very long game indeed, because the left is at zero, a non-player. Progressives have to understand they are starting from scratch and plan accordingly.
That means building up an entirely new organization. It may mean abandoning the Donkey Party the same way the Republicans abandoned the Whig party so long ago. People on the left have to understand what a fools game the present political duopoly is. There are no bargaining chips for lefties in the Democratic Party; only wooden nickels.
Success for Progressives, if it comes at all, will come from the grunt work of the grass roots. Victory, if it comes at all, will come from the depth and breadth of the organization, not from some “transformational” personality. There is no substitue for spade work in politics; organise or perish. A strong organization will create is own leaders. A weak organization will allow a faceless wonder to helicopter into leadership, Either inside or outside the Democratic Party, the left has got get its act together, it has to get down into the weeds of practical politics, of building a movement.
How the left manages to do this, how it regains its confidence after decades of self-flagellation and self-hatred is a mystery. But the left has got to get over its funk about the Nixon-Reagan political triumph. Self doubt is both pointless and counter-productive.
The nation needs a confident and scrappy left political movement to maintain long term political health. We have spent far too much time in the politics of memory; far too much time in reaction. The body politics needs hope again. Whether is gets that hope is another story. Maybe that is why ” Unease and disgust are the words for anyone in politics today.”

think08 02 August 2011 at 11:05 pm 
Despite the verbosity of this post, the points are all pretty obvious. You don’t think progressives have considered these things, and have many times before? We need to be cautious who falls into the Progressive tank, because many who call themselves Progressive supported Edwards, Clark, and then Obama. Not particularly progressive candidates. Many of us real progressives figured out day 1 that Obama wasn’t one of us. At this time, there are many who feel quite comfortable in letting Obama go to the wolves, when it’s much more important to get Dems in both houses, and let a Romney win the White House. If you haven’t noticed, Obama is a Republican, and there won’t be a lot of difference anyway, so I think Progressives have figured out that they are more than willing to let the fake Dem go, and deal with that just fine thank you.
spincitysd 03 August 2011 at 12:33 am 
While the few and the proud sniffed out Obama as a Rockefeller Republican, or worse, at the beginning, far too many on the left are still in denial.
I still don’t think people understand how deeply down the Rabbit hole goes Think 08. Electing Donkeys is not the answer because the Democratic Party is no longer the Party of FDR, HHH, Harry Truman, or Ted Kennedy. The Democratic Party is Barack Obama, deal with it. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street. If lefties stay with the Donkeys they will somehow have to clean out the rot that has taken over the Party of Jefferson. That is a huge job. That is primary challenge after primary challenge after primary challenge on every level of the electoral process. That is a lot of political guerrilla theater.
I like your handle Think 08, and I truly hope you do think this one out. The corporate take over of the political process is a done deal, we really do have to think of how we, the people, get ourselves out of this mess. We get the government we deserve Think 08, and that is worst part of what happened in the debt debate; we deserved this epic shafting.
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