The Progressive Retreat from Obama: Who is to Blame?

As you may be aware, Matt Stoller’s most recent Salon column and other progressive critical perspectives, including my own, have met with some heavy outrage when they suggested the possibiity that the Democrats and POTUS weren’t exactly interested in addressing the demands or needs of those liberals and progressives who voted them in. TransEx blogger Robert Prasch weighs in on the controversy.

By Robert E. Prasch

Those following the political blogosphere are, no doubt, aware of vitriol being directed at some long-respected progressive voices who have concluded that it is time to vote third party.  Fatigued by being again, as they were in 1996, 2000, and 2004, asked to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” they are tired of the “same old song and dance.”  And it is old.  Some readers may remember the bumper stickers beseeching us to vote for the Neo-liberal pro-Iraq War Senator John Kerry over the Neo-liberal pro-Iraq War George W. Bush: “Kerry Sucks Less.”

But I want to raise a related issue.  What, exactly, were these now-vociferous supporters of the President doing and saying in late 2008 and early 2009 when the administration was setting in place the personnel, policies, and decisions that laid the groundwork for today’s dispute?  Is it unreasonable to ask how it is even possible that a president, who garnered such fierce and passionate enthusiasm a few short years ago, could even be in such a close election?  After all, he is running against an individual who has spent almost the entirety of his adult life acting as the quintessential predatory capitalist.  Let’s remember that this is occurring even as most Americans outside of the top 10 to 20% tax bracket are continuing to suffer through the worse economic times in anyone’s living memory.  Can we at least agree, Richard Nixon excepted, that this precipitous drop in popularity, despite the “hot hand” he was dealt, represents one of the greatest failures in the history of postwar political leadership?

The reason underlying this monumental failure is not hard to find.  President-Elect Obama and his inner circle fundamentally misjudged the political moment.  The nation was clearly demanding significant change – so much so that they were willing to elect an unseasoned—Black—politician (remarkable given the U.S.’s unflinching history of racism).  Yet Obama and his inner circle somehow convinced themselves that recycling the tired old idea of “triangulation” from the Clinton first term would be their best play.  To that end, Barack Obama and his senior advisors immediately set about alienating their core supporters.  Within two weeks of election day, the Administration announced that Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner–the individuals whose previous records individually and collectively defined what it meant to be monumental failures as public servants–would be placed in charge of the economic recovery.  Their appointments indicated, and their performances amply confirmed, that whatever “hope and change” meant as a slogan, it would in no way apply to the president’s economic policies.  They have, without a doubt, restored Wall Street’s fortunes – what they have not done is restore the fortunes of anyone else.

On December 1st, 2008 the Obama Administration announced that Robert Gates would be retained as the Secretary of Defense.  Gates, let us recall, was more than simply the man George W. Bush appointed to direct his pointless, endless, and immoral wars along with extending them to the rest of the globe via the nascent drone program.  No, as the former Deputy Director of the CIA, Gates narrowly escaped prosecution over his role in the Iran-Contra Scandal.  Even if we allow that the 1991 investigations into his actions were above-board (a stretch), he was far too closely associated with the rampant criminality of the Reagan regime to warrant appointment to dogcatcher, much less to Secretary of Defense.  That he did not belong in a Democratic Administration goes without saying.

What about financial reform?  Did the appointment of Goldman Sachs and Citibank impresarios to innumerable offices at the CFTC, SEC, and elsewhere suggest to any of these die-hard Obama partisans that “hope and change” would play a fleeting role in the Administration’s governing agenda?  If so, when did they come to that realization?  Just to ground the point: Did any of them really think that Rahm Emanuel would lead progressive change within the Democratic Party?  We know that Emanuel spent his entire career as a Clinton-era operative fighting against progressives within the Party.  Did anyone expect that to change when he became the president’s Chief of Staff?  Anyone?  Let’s not even get started on Obama’s vigorous pursuit of Bush’s “free trade” agenda or his not-so-secret plans to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.

To repeat: all of the appointments listed above were announced before the inauguration.  They were announced before the president revealed that he had no intention of keeping a broad range of campaign promises.  Before he began to prosecute the brave whistle-blowers who reported upon Bush-era war crimes and unconstitutional surveillance.  Before he dropped charges against all of those who actually committed these crimes.  These latter inconsistencies, we now know, made sense because the Administration was on the cusp of doubling-down on the very worst – really grotesque — Constitutional abuses of the Bush era.  Let us be clear, no president has ever claimed the right to kill American citizens, at its own discretion, for reasons untold, and without any outside review of its decision.

My point is a simple one: a betrayal has indeed occurred.  It was not instigated by Glenn Greenwald, Matt Stoller, the Black Agenda Report, or any other progressive voice.  All these writers have done is put these betrayals before the public.  The people who betrayed the once-vibrant and hopeful 2008 coalition that elected Barack Obama president are lodged in the White House.  Their betrayal was not a consequence of circumstance.  It was the inevitable playing out of decisions taken before January 20th, 2009.  The above list of appointments amply affirms that Barack Obama and his leading advisors knew, at the moment that the oath of office was taken, that their priorities and agendas would be in many, if not most, instances antithetical to the priorities and agendas of its supporters.  There was to be, neither then nor later, a glass “half-full” or even a “quarter-full.”  If anyone tells you otherwise, just ask him or her to show you the glass.

The fact is that the Obama Administration, like the Clinton Administration before it, knowingly engaged in a cynical wager.  They bet that they could pursue a host of policies fundamentally odious to their core supporters and yet be reelected.  The calculation depended on the premise that rank-and-file Democrats would have no other option.  Unsurprisingly, the Obama Administration and its surrogates have invested considerable time and energy convincing its former supporters that there is no option.

Anyone who has ever gone shopping knows that their bargaining power depends ultimately upon his/her willingness to walk away.  The ability to walk away explains why the service we get from our local dry cleaner is significantly better than what most of us get from our local cable provider.  When you have a choice, and demonstrate a willing to take that choice, you become empowered as consumer (I might add that the same is true of labor markets, which explains why most employers prefer a higher level of unemployment than their employees).  Right now, a deeply cynical reelection campaign is betting that progressives will be too afraid of Romney to seek to empower themselves.  This, let us remember, has been the strategy pursued by an increasingly right-wing Democratic National Committee for close to thirty years.  Every four years we are asked to vote for the lesser evil.  In a couple of weeks we will all learn if this plea will pay off again.  The question is, will we learn?  Will we learn to bargain with a faithless leadership of the Democratic Party?  If not this election, then when?

But, let us be clear.  Win or lose, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama will all be fine.  They win either way.  Lucrative lobbying, banking, and advising jobs await all of them.  “Speaker fees,” often six-figures, will be plentiful.  The gravy awaits, and it’s all good.  Of that we can all rest assured.  What of the economic fortunes of the vast majority of the American people?  Obama’s former supporters?  The unemployed?  Underwater homeowners?  The victims of fraudulent foreclosures?

Well, here’s some news: He’s just not that into you. We’re adults.  It is time to get over it.  You owe him nothing because he has done nothing for you and plans to do nothing for you – unless you count the positive harm of cutting Social Security and enacting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  If voting for such a person “rocks your boat,” feel free.  But surely it can be understood why more than a few people may feel differently.


Author: Robert E. Prasch

Professor of Economics, MIddlebury College

66 thoughts on “The Progressive Retreat from Obama: Who is to Blame?”

  1. Robert: Your words, “Anyone who has ever gone shopping knows that their bargaining power depends ultimately upon his/her willingness to walk away. The ability to walk away explains why the service we get from our local dry cleaner is significantly better than what most of us get from our local cable provider. When you have a choice, and demonstrate a willing to take that choice, you become empowered as consumer ”
    Your thinking here, your philosophy is what caused me to give up the democratic party of my youth (Chicago Daley Democrat). When the Chicago Dems traded Catholicism based ‘democrats” for a cafeteria style political offering–abortion rights, and feminist inspired policies, I willingly embraced the ‘tea party” grass roots republicans who were a nascent force in the 80’s.

    More to the point of consumerism, When I served on our local school board, an elected position, I experienced a cultural flaw waving as a ‘right” an ‘entitlement” a central philosophy of affluent liberals (and trickling down to all entitlement democrats)… the idea that politics and choosing elected officials is like an act of consumption! Oh dear god, Lincoln and the founding fathers would turn in their graves. Your post voiced what I learned to detest while serving as an elected official in an affluent highly educated suburb of chicago. Politics and making democracy work is not consumerism. You can’t just walk away and choose another vendor. What a terrible reason to seek a third party. What a hollow Democratic party… and mass of followers… which includes of course outsourcing their national security to a minority of volunteers and then pulling the rug out from under them with the disdain reminiscent of the Vietnam era. Making democracy work requires engagement not a big Visa limit and a demanding consumer base. Shame.

    1. Dear SchoolBoardLady:

      I wish to say that I’ve long admired your comments, from afar: they’re wonderfully inane, delightfully incoherent, and substantively superficial.

      Nevetheless, please let me try to add to your “insights”: looking for candidates outside the duopoly who represents one’s political beliefs and policy program is not disengagement, as you clearly argued. Rather, it is disengagement when one feels no need to look beyond the duopoly because the label – be it R or D – suffices for making a “choice”.

      This would all be comic, to a large extent, if presidents from either coporate party weren’t so free to kill innocents abroad: Can you imagine a Congress controlled by Republicans impeaching, prosecuting, and incarcerating a Democratic president for slaughtering people in Yemen, Pakistan, or Afghanistan? Or, a Democratic Congress impeaching, prosecuting, and incarcerating a Republican president for bombing thousands of desperately poor Laotians? If you cannot, then I say you’d make a great American.

      Other than practicing jury nullification where it would be ethically justified, about all we can do to tell the people running the corporate parties that we will not play by their rules is to vote outside the two-party system. (I typed this slowly so that, hopefully, you might get it.) I realize that this won’t play well in an affluent, white (figuratively speaking, but maybe not) suburb where everyone is apparently nice, but no one forced you to live in such a ridiculous setting.

      Luckily, I know of several cities in New England and upstate New York where you could more readily develop a grip on reality. Lawrence, Massachusetts comes to mind; check it out.

      1. Dear Kevin, I’m typing fast to get through this chore of responding to recycled ‘philosophy”. Repeat— political engagement is not shopping for a third party customized candidate that serves your narcissistic view of reality. You are either an member of the ‘intelligentsia” or pretending to be one–but reality is not your strength.
        Running and winning a political office (as I have) is in fact an engagement with reality, whether one chooses to learn from it is another issue. I’ve lived all over the US and in other countries–resulting in reality and broad perspective. Your alienation from the two “party” dominated political process does not mean the process is ‘wrong”. Heck, in Illinois, there really is only one party-and that party spawned Obama! Illinois politics is the model of ‘single party” politics–bordering on a dictatorship. Illinois’, where Obama learned poiitics is properly called ‘Madiganistan” (look it up). So much for skilled diplomacy and crossing the aisle.

        The fact that Obama does not engage congress in his private war using drones and special forces only means he’s abused his power. If Republican’s controlled the house and senate…. Obama would face impeachment over obstructing the use of drones or special forces–Benghazigate, and misusing his legitimate power.

        Historically, both parties in congress approved the use of military force and bombing which resulted in loss of innocent life, thus we don’t impeach Presidents when the President Commander in Chief uses legitimate power. You can choose not to live in such a a ‘ridiculous” setting as the United States which has a two party system, which also uses military force. There are many countries, including Canada which is protected by the United States Military and at the same time does not have to spend it’s own taxpayer money on same. Cleanse yourself and move to Canada or Norway or the Netherlands, or……

        Iraq showed the world how bipartisan approved American power could be both incompetent and illegitimate-resulting in not just ‘collateral damage” as we remember from Vietnam–death of innocents, but also damage to other American leadership roles in the world, especially our humanitarian work.

        Proving my ‘simplicity”…. when a very powerful nation is attacked on their own land, there is a reaction that uses the full force of the very powerful nation (economic power, technological power and power derived from ‘legitimacy”.) While the US may have killed fewer innocents in Iraq (than Vietnam), I believe we have incurred other collateral damage which we (voters) as a democracy ultimately allowed.

        The pathetic apathy of most Americans who don’t bother to even vote is a tragedy. Equally tragic, is the huge number of ‘uniformed” American’s who do vote. Today when I voted, standing in front of me were college girls (I live near a university) discussing their fear that “Romney would take away their contraception.” I informed them that ‘contraception” was never ‘illegal” and that Romney is focused on the economy and could not care less about contraception, or abortion or the fake war on women.

        Kevin, worry more about the apathy and ignorance of voters, not the limited number of candidates for the office.

        While I love much of Ron Paul’s philosophy, I fear he could not be effective as President–but we should continue to listen to him and keep our minds open. Still, the ‘walk away from the negotiation/sale” and purchase a third party product concept of democracy is immature and not in touch with reality–the democratic process is not a ‘purchase’ or ‘entitlement”.

  2. I wonder how many of the people commenting here about the evils of Obama currently use Medicaid, or food Stamps? I wonder how many of you might have needed help from FEMA in the past, or have needed to make a complaint to the National Worker’s Right Board?

    I agree that Obama has continued and built upon many of the abuses that Bush started when it comes to the security state. At the same time, Obama actually makes all those programs that progressives have built over time work for the American people by either staffing them with competant people or trying to mitigate the scale of budget cuts (or increasing their budget).

    Perhaps the reason that the kind of “progressives” who post here don’t have much influence is that you are willing to suggest taking actions that would not only do nothing to mitigate the outrages being conducted abroad (anyone who thinks Romney will undo what Bush and Obama have built is out of their minds) but would also directly negatively impact the lives of millions of Americans and weaken the progressive safety net merely to show your ideological purity. Individuals who claim to believe in helping others and then act in a way that actively hurts people are not individuals with credibility.

      1. Honestly, AND?

        Would any of the trends you mention improve under a Romney administration?
        Would Jill Stein, assuming she magically won, be able to staff the cabinet with the kind of people you want given she would have to deal with the Senate as is?

        You also completely ignored my point about the federal bureaucracy, federal safety net programs, and competent admnistration of the public trust. I can only imagine it is because you have no counter-argument for that.

    1. I have to reply because I erroneously clicked on thumbs up instead of down! Gepap finds fault with progressives who are not in dire circumstances yet criticize Obama who has improved some of their aid programs. That is a phony argument because, as the subject article states, Obama has made the lives of the poor far worse by harming the financial life of our country.

      Above and beyond these purse-string issues are the moral issues few mention in their blogs: will you vote for a president who continued and expanded unnecessary wars, wars of aggression, a president who, by Nuremberg standards is a war criminal? Will you re-elect a president who has shattered our Bill of Rights and our other constitutional protections that reflect Anglo-Saxon law since King John’s signing of the Magna Carta, the right to a trial? Will you re-elect a president who has betrayed you for his own personal gain from happy banksters and other Wall Street criminals?

      Morality and politics, especially in foreign policy, have been separated by sophists, people like Henry Kissinger, but the separation has hurt us as well as millions of others, dead by our hand. Morality is essential in politics, and that is Barach Obama’s principal deficiency: he is immoral as we shall be as a people if we re-elect him. Who takes Obama’s place is not our responsibility if we did not choose him. He is the moral responsibility of those who did choose him.

    2. But isn’t Obama more likely to succeed at cutting programs like social security? Romney/Ryan would likely propose greater cuts, but as an opposition party the Dems will stop them (and if they don’t, well, that only confirms what has been written here). Opposition to Republican plans is the one thing Dems seemed to get right—sometimes (the war in Iraq being an exemplary exception). While Obama may propose smaller cuts, he will face no opposition when the time comes.

      1. …”what has been written here”… has, unfortunately, been confirmed time and time again; how much more will it take before enough people say ‘enough!’?

  3. You people who refuse to sully yourselves by voting for the lesser of two evils don’t understand, the majority doesn’t want progressive policies, or at least your ilk suck at selling them. You’re the people who gave us Nixon and G.W. Bush. No one who followed the 2008 election closely could have thought that Obama was anything other than a centrist Democrat. If you feel like you were duped, you were, but you duped yourself.

    1. Obama’s not a centrist Democrat. He’s more extreme than Bush. He’s not the lesser of two evils; he’s the more effective evil, as Glen Ford says. Don’t get it twisted.

      Also, Gore was right of center and a terrible candidate. Bush stole the 2000 auction. Gore didn’t contest the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters. He lost his home state. The policies of Clinton and Gore were not progressive.

      “Those captive to images cast ballots based on how candidates make them feel. They vote for a slogan, a smile, perceived sincerity, and attractiveness, along with a carefully crafted personal narrative of the candidate. It is style and story, not content and fact, that inform mass politics. Politicians have learned that to get votes they must replicate the faux intimacy established between celebrities and the public. There has to be a sense, created through artful theatrical staging and scripting by political spin machines, that the politician is “one of us.” The politician, like the celebrity, has to give voters the impression that he or she, as Bill Clinton used to say, feels their pain. We have to be able to see ourselves in them. If this connection, invariably a product of extremely sophisticated artifice, is not established, no politician can get any traction in a celebrity culture.”

      – Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion

    2. Gus, the argument here seems to be that anyone who is disappointed with Obama had deluded expectations. The fault is there’s—not Obama’s—and, consequently, they ought to vote for Obama again. (Frankly, I’d rather vote for Nixon.)

      In truth, while Obama did not run as anything but a centrist democrat, he has governed as a neoliberal and a neoconservative. He made numerous campaign pledges regarding the war on terror, habeas corpus, corporate influence in politics and our two-tiered economic and justice systems, issues on which his has proven worse than the Bush administration. So, in fact, the premise of your unpersuasive reasoning is itself false.

  4. The author compares Obama to Bill Clinton, as if the two Presidents were birds of a feather.

    But a quick look at the record reveals precisely the opposite.

    Taxes for the rich went up under Clinton and down under Obama; income went up under Clinton, down under Obama; the size of government was reduced under Clinton, increased under Obama; the cost of government decreased under Clinton, exploded under Obama; the size of the military was reduced under Clinton and is burgeoning under Obama; the poverty rate plummeted under Clinton and is hemorrhaging under Obama; the number of illegal wars was zero under Clinton, beyond belief under Obama; human rights grew under Clinton and are under assault now; the Democratic Party grew under Clinton and is hemorrhaging membership under the Bammer; we were paying off the deficit under Clinton, not so much under Obama.

    The difference is clear. Bill Clinton is a centrist Democrat, while Barack Obama is a neocon posing as a centrist Democrat. It’s disconcerting to see my fellow lefties so thoroughly confused on this matter.

    1. This is complete bullshit. Much of it is factually incorrect, much of the rest is just talking about the impact of the economic disaster Obama inherited. There are lots of genuine criticisms of Obama but these aren’t them.

    2. I agree with everything but your conclusion.Clinton enjoyed (and furthered) Reagan’s reforms which rescued us from Carter’s ineptitude. Obama made worse the inherited Bush’s spending habits (and the real estate debacle was the making of both parties–active democrats and passive Republicans. Obama is the most left president in our history.

  5. There are two dry cleaners in town. One turned your suits purple the last time you took your clothes there. Think twice about walking away in the course of bargaining with the other.

  6. In addition to Glenn Greenwald and the BlackAgendaReport who’ve already been mentioned in the column above, I also highly recommend the analysis of Roger Hodge (author of The Mendacity of Hope), Tariq Ali (“The Obama Syndrome”), the journalist and activist Paul Street (author of the excellent “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics”, “The Empire’s New Clothes”, “Empire and Inequality” and the blog at, Chris Hedges (find his columns at Truthdig), anti-war activist David Swanson (check out his numerous books and blog at, and also Lance Selfa, author of the just-released “The Democrats: A Critical History (updated edition)”.

      1. Oh! I forgot to include Deepa Kumar’s “Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire”, Michael Parenti’s “Democracy For the Few”, James Petras’ books and blog (, and the brilliant and prolific Vijay Prashad.

  7. Is there a strong progressive critique of Obama? Of course. Does this imply that it is a good progressive *strategy* to refuse to vote for him? Absolutely not. Despite all that is terribly wrong with the Obama administration, there’s no doubt that suffering will be much greater under Romney than Obama, that much of the safety net dating from the New Deal to Obamacare will be dismantled, that whatever regulations there are that protect workers and the environment will be dismantled, that taxes on the rich will be radically lowered, that there will be a majority of 5 rabid right-wingers on the Supreme Court, that voting rights will be further eroded.

    What is achieved to counterbalance all of that by not voting for Obama? The argument is that by showing willingness to walk away, the Democrats will have to bargain with us. That might conceivably work if there was an organized ‘us’ that could show itself to be lost to Democrats but winnable by bargaining. That is, if refusing to vote for Obama were really part of a clear organizational strategy with people committed to an organization that negotiates for them, pledging not to vote for Democrats until the organization agrees, showing the large numbers and discipline to make all of that credible. Maybe, might work then. But as a self-indulgent “I’m going to stay pure and then they’ll learn their lesson and have to negotiate with progressives.” Please.

    I’ve been listening to this “vote 3rd party” and “don’t support the lesser of 2 evils” crap at least since 1968. Never in all that time has it accomplished a damn thing except to give us Bush instead of Gore. Never has it been part of an organized, disciplined strategy that would have some hope for achieving anything at all. Until you’re willing to put in the hard work to organize a strategy that would give this effort any hope at all of accomplishing anything, please get out of your dream world and forget about your precious purity and cast a vote that will help some of your fellow human beings to suffer less, help protect the legacies of what progressives have managed to accomplish on many fronts to date (safety net, women’s rights, civil rights, gay/lesbian rights), and, by giving relatively better protection to our efforts to organize and to voting rights than we would have under Romney, give us more, not less, hope of organizing something progressive should we ever actually choose to undertake it.

    I am totally pissed at Obama, but I’m not going to poke a stick in my eye, or in the eyes of millions of others, to prove how righteous I am.

    1. Or to put it another way: this is the underpants gnome theory of political organizing:
      1. Help elect right-wing Republicans
      2. ????
      3. Progressives advance

      Aiding and abetting the Republicans in undoing all that progressives *have* accomplished over the years, without any workable strategy to give progressives greater power as a result, is a destructive path, and has been for at least the 45 years I’ve been hearing people come up with the same arguments. Do we need a way to assert independent power as Progressives? Yes. Personally, I think that involves organizing a progressive force that operates w/i Dem party like Tea Party w/i republican, primarying candidates, trying to elect “fighting democrats” instead of spineless ones, but ultimately supporting the Dem candidates. Maybe you’ve got a better idea. But what we need are ideas to actually accomplish this. Not ideas that have no chance of accomplishing anything except helping to unravel whatever progressives *have* accomplished.

      1. The Democratic Party underpants Gnome theory of political organizing is worse:

        1) Put your time, effort and money behind reelecting supposed Democrats who lied
        about supporting a progressive agenda when they first sought election.

        2) ???????

        3) Progressives advance

        How’s that one worked out so far? Not very good.

        Odd how many people characterize refusing to vote for the Democrat as aiding and abetting the GOP. These “blame the voters, not the candidate” types would be fired in an instant if they were hired to market “Coke” and after the marketing campaign failed blamed consumers for not buying Coke.

      2. I found myself in a liberal blog but have enjoyed some of the intellectual energy. I am a former Chicago Daley Democrat gone Reagan in 1980… through many maturing experiences. As one wise nun told me when I was a know-it-all teenager finding many faults with the Catholic Church but unable to enumerate all that’s ‘right” with the Catholic church… should we start with bringing education and healthcare to the masses… long before there was a welfare state? I digress. I just wanted to say, that Romney may not make all your wishes come true (because clearly Obama Clause was a disappointment). Being from IL, I knew exactly what we were in for with the empty suit Obama, voted ‘present” more than any legislator in IL history… and so much more. Romney will improve the economy through the actions of an accomplished businessman. He will be diplomatic like a businessman leading his company–not like an incendiary community organizer demagoguing ‘the rich” and whipping up the emotions of ‘the others”–but resolving nothing. The community organizer does not increase the size of the economic pie. He achieves his ends through manipulation, personal power (abuse?), and redistribution–giving economic and power benefits in exchange for re-election and continuing power. Again, I remind you I was born and raised in Chicago and Obama has been tutored and propped up by the masters. None of you disappointed Obama in 2008 voters should be remorseful. Just learn from your mistakes already. Our president is not our priest or Rabbi… he is an executive person charged with leading as an executive perso which will include compromise and yes, crossing the aisle. i doubt if most of you will be satisfied none the less. BTW, I am blogging to vent my personal angst over the unforgivable malfeasance of Obama with regard to Behghazi. My bias, my family serves in the Navy and we have many close friends who are Navy SEALS and serve with NATO here in Norfolk and abroad. What is even more enraging is how little the American public cares… and liberals justify their indifference with, “well we should n’t even be involved there, can’t wait until we are out.” God help our nation of entitled and indifferent.

    2. The argument made here is not about purity it is about long term goals. It is highly doubtful that Romney is the radical that Dems make him out to be; like Bush, he is not a true social conservative. In fact, I doubt he and Obama are really all the different, but I’m not interested in pursuing that one. There are differences between the parties, but more importantly, there are differences between the parties and themselves when they are in power and when they are the opposition. Under Bush the Democratic opposition stood its ground against social security reform. Pray tell, who will oppose it under Obama? I agree that much needs to be done to organize the left, but I don’t think reelecting Obama plays a crucial role (it could, in some other world, but it won’t in ours, after all, whatever happened to the antiwar movement, the outrage over the war on terror and suicidal environmental policies?).

      1. Jonas, one thing is for sure… Obama and Romney are VERY different ….. the only similarity (I believe) is that they are both male.

      2. and the environment is improving in the US (not completely because of the EPA but in spite of it) My son is an engineer and most of my career development clients are engineers and technical people… and executives of the same background… oil is being replaced by natural gas and the ability to burn off the pollutants and bury them back in the ground. I’m an economist and look at our problems as trade offs heading in the right direction. Our real problem is the pollution produced by the developing world, which we already pay for when we help them solve their technical problems. The citizens won’t pay attention to global terror as long as our president refuses to use the word or acknowledge terror. Obama simply ‘labels” terrorism away… workplace violence at Fort Hood and religious outrage about a anti-Muslim film for Benghazi ….Time to put political vanity in the same place we put noxious fumes…and vote like a rational person who cares about America ‘all of America” not just one’s individual entitlement… I think we need some of the payments to bear “issuer… Bank of China….

  8. So what is the choice really? The third party candiates are throw away votes — not because they are bad candidates, but they don’t have a numerical prayer of winning. Don’t kid yourself. As horrible as Obama has been, Romney IS worse. So this election, I’ll vote Obama because he will destroy Medicare and SS less. In the future, maybe enough people will wake up and get behind a progressive 3rd party candidate.

  9. The argument hasn’t changed and it just becomes more ludicrous every election. The pro-Obama, pro-Gore camp says if you don’t vote for the lesser of the 2 evils, you’re actively helping greater evil assume power. There is truth to this, and even though I agree with just about every critique in this article or in Greenwald’s posts, there is no getting around it. But the sanctimony! My god, the sanctimony in leveling so much indignation against people who have the temerity, in this great land of freedom and democracy, to be grossly uncomfortable in constantly being asked to vote for the lesser of 2 evils while the Wall Street sponsored DNC considers how to wipe their collective bums with the haughty “hopes” they will recycle in the next cycle.

    The debate is ludicrous. It’s embarrassing, really. Of course the country and the world will be better off if Obama wins, all else being equal. Of course no liberal worth their spit should be content with the crumbs thrown their way while the rest of the agenda gets trampled on.

    The system is rigged. It’s bought and paid for. Bright people, with more than less in common, are screaming past each other over a sideshow. Can people perhaps focus more of their attention on arguing about how to fix the real problem? Runoff voting? Making common cause with Republicans who also think there’s something wrong with spending BILLIONS on elections? Something? Anything?

    1. if the need to point out the illogic of betting on the worst possible candidate for progressives needs to be made over and over it is because those people who complain about the system being rigged never seem to give concrete examples of what they can do to unrigg it.

      The US is not a monarchy – the President is not King – they are one of three in theory co-equal branches of government. Even if by some utterly incredible consequence someone like Jill Stein was elected to the Presidency, she would still have to work with a Democratic Senate and a Republican House (the too most likely outcomes). Perhaps, instead of magical thinking every four years and pinning for that never to come wizard candidate progressives can start by focusing on legislative races, specially in the local and State levels where the system is a little less rigged since the much smaller turnouts allow for more insurgent candidates. That way they can build up a base from which to chose candidates to run for office for Congress.

      That is how one builds a movement, not by voting for a candidate destined to get 1-2% of the popular vote nationally and no electoral votes. Neither of the last two big third party candidates were progressives – one was a center right billionarie and the other a racist governor.

      1. To “Gepap”, one comment of yours in particular Screams out for a reply, as you’ve (inadvertently, no doubt) raised a point that Democrats and Republicans refuse to accept: If the U.S. is not a [elected, I admit] monarchy, then why don’t Presidents regularly face prosecution and incarceration for bombing innocents in foreign lands? Is there a greater crime?

        Though I’m sure the list could reach back further, starting with the unforgiveably brutal extermination of Native Americans, we can surely point to just about every President since LBJ, to include said Texan.

        But no President – None – had ever claimed [publicly, at least], and exercised, the authority and power to kill an American citizen without a trial, merely on his say-so. If you still contest that this is a man for whom we must vote, then why don’t you just come out and advocate bowing and scraping to a President as Britons had to bow and scrape to a Monarch before the popular extension of the franchise in the 19th Century?

        Who on this blog, exactly, is living in a Wonderland?

    2. Buheler… Voo Doo Economics? World Better off with Obama at the helm? Are you just reading the New York Times? So, it took the ‘abuse of power with drones” to get you all enraged with the unbridled power abuses of Obama? Czars and going around Congress didn’t get your attention. (Obama learned that technique in Chicago IL, see state with worst financial position in the country, Czar power school run by Mike Madigan in the one party political state know as “Madiganistan”. Obama’s like-ability is code for ” I can’t say I don’t like the well spoken multiracial dream come true image of a historic black president..” Obama is not an executive person and don’t expect him to change his life long behavior and become one…. he is a community organizer behaving like a community organizer…. (see Saul Alinsky). I am not disappointed–Obama is everything I feared–and more. Time for liberals to forget about race and focus on all Americans and their economic welfare and national security… growing the pie and protecting our nation from global terrorism.

  10. Pray answer, in the context of the median voter theorem, what is the effect if voters on one side of an issue peel off and vote third party? Or choose not to vote at all?

    No, friends, perhaps you are right: Let us denounce reality, let us label it phony. Let us disown responsibility for outcomes and seclude our selves comfortably in the cave of our own righteousness.

    There we can watch the crisp shadows of our ideals create lines which must not be crossed — which must not be crossed, we can tell ourselves, over and over.

    And under no circumstances should we abandon our stringent morality, in order to do what is right as we can, lest we dirty ourselves with the nature of the world.

    1. KCBOB put it perfectly poetically. Of course, it’s this poetics (and the poets, mostly known as “English majors” in our era) whose rationalizing have led us to this lawless state of criminality by the elite. Of one thing we can feel confident: no drones sent by the sage man in the White House have yet targeted KCBOB’s home, have they?

      So, friends, heed BOB’s “wisdom”: punish Obama by re-electing him, and keep web surfing if you come across any horrific news about the next droned wedding party in a country full of Muslim brown people. Life is easy when you’re a liberal.

    2. KC BOB, well said. I would add, I’m not completely against using drones selectively–BUT, I do find Obama’s ‘politically motivated drone strategy” reprehensible. Obama believes that he can personally conduct a war from the situation room, giving thumbs up or thumbs down to clandestine work of our special forces… take credit for politically popular ‘kills” and ignore the heroic special forces and let them die, when their activities contradict or expose a contradiction in his political narrative.

    3. So sticking to your morals is somehow denouncing reality? The rest of your mocking, hypocritically self-righteous take down of your perception of the self-righteousness of others makes sense, but the “phony reality” part is a little soft.

  11. Great move to dump Obama. Now, don’t ruin a good thing by heading over to Romney-Land. No need to become a clueless hypocrite (like too many are now).

  12. Actually he has done something for me. As a self-employed solo attorney who has to purchase health insurance on the individual market my, and who also has a daughter with a pre-existing condition, he has greatly improved our situation.

    1. And GW Bush gave old folks on Medicare prescription drug coverage. What’s your point supposed to be here, that some sort of benefit to you personally overrides all else?

      1. Of course he doesn’t think that. Personal benefit is what we are anout in thi country. The national well being is irrelevant, provided that I get my bennies.

        1. And your personal benefit is the feeling of righteousness you get when you say “voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil. I refuse to sully myself with reality, when my vote for Jill Stein will lead to such appalling conditions for millions of people that they will inevitably eventually vote for a true liberal. There will be rainbows and unicorns. In the meantime, sorry people who die because Romney and congressional Republicans gutted the ACA. Your sacrifice will not have been in vain.”

          1. What part of “many on the left are not voting Democrat this election” is not part of reality? Please, “sully” yourself with that one.

    2. I would think that an attorney would bear more ire against a president who has done as much as he can to dismantle the very concept of rule of law. Torture, mass financial fraud, and criminal negligence will not be prosecuted if the perpetrators are wealthy and powerful, but users of marijuana have the book thrown at them even if their state government has legalized such use. A bank claims they own your house and seizes it? Good luck finding redress. But blow the whistle on criminal misconduct and you might just end up in prison without a trial. This is Obama’s vision of America.

      Here’s hoping your daughter never needs Medicaid or Social Security, which president Obama dearly wants to cut. Here’s hoping that if you ever need the insurance Obamacare has forced you to purchase you can afford the deductibles and co-pays. Here’s hoping there’s a livable world in your child’s future after Obama has opened the floodgates of oil drilling and global warming. Apparently, in those matters hope is all we have.

      1. While I agree with your summation, TK421, I will say that it’s not surprising an attorney would be more interested in himself and his situation than anyone else’s. An overwhelming majority of lobbying firms and PACs are comprised of legal wizards.

        I won’t be pedantic and say that all attorneys are self-interested prigs, but it sure seems that most of them are.

    3. And there in lies the evil. upper middle class people like yourself now “enjoy” the entitlement disease. yes, attorney’s no matter what your income, are considered upper middle class. professor Clay Jenkins provided an excellent ‘thomas jefferson hour” on this very topic a few weeks ago. Just recognize how easy it is to trade away your rights and liberty…. for entitlements from the government–there is no ‘free”.

  13. This is an invaluable article .. his supporters seem immune to any criticism of his more recent detestable actions (the drone wars, persecution of whistleblowers, citizen assassinations, etc etc). But since these earlier actions are more mundane in a way, more like ‘politics as usual’ (cynical appointments, etc, like actions of Clinton as you point out), I could see them getting past the supporters’ defensiveness. Comparing Obama to Clinton may be more effective than comparing him (implicitly at least) to Bush — as apt as that latter comparison is.

  14. As with Professor Sheth’s writings, your postings, Mr. Prasch, are also worthy of our time.

    I would simply add my suspicion that most of Obama’s supporters — unionists, environmentalists, anti-war supporters, et. al. — from 2008 just could never bring themselves to admit that they’d been Duped. I mean, why would anyone ever have been persuaded of Obama’s putative anti-war creds because he spoke out when he was a legislator in a body (i.e. the Illinois Senate) that has nothing to do with the country’s declaring war or making foreign policy?

    Again, as a veteran, my first concern is not the welfare of the American people; if they want to vote themselves into chains and poverty, that’s their right. My primary concern is to create a world where no President has the power to drop bombs on innocents living abroad. Is it too much to ask “progressives” that they should vote for a candidate who will most likely (at least much more likely than Obama) stop sending drones to kill foreign innocents? If it is, then such progressives will have earned their coming penury.

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