Why Dems should be furious at Obama

Alternative title: The triumphant, tragic presidency of Barack Obama

Historians will look back at the presidency of Barack Obama as one that was both triumphant and tragic.

It was triumphant for the obvious reasons: Obama is a brilliant orator and a decent human being.  He is the first black man to win election to the highest office. He saved America from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, bringing on economic growth that continues until now.

Historians will point to the real, if partial, victories of the Affordable Care Act, re-regulation of Wall Street, and increased environmental regulations.  They  will point to the intractable wars that Obama inherited and to the relentless and almost unanimous wall of opposition from Republicans in Congress and from right wing media.  They will point to the racism and birtherism that he had to face.  They will say that his progressive critics had too high expectations for what he could achieve.

Yet the tragic thing about the presidency of Barack Obama was that he was given a once-in-a-generation opportunity to control the narrative,  expose GOP corruption, establish a strong Democratic majority and save America from the forces of corporatism and militarism.

Obama barely even tried.

A review of the evidence shows that Obama failed to take advantage of the opportunities he had available, with the result that most of his legacy is now being destroyed.

In short, he didn’t fight.

Due to an excess of moderation, idealism, naiveté, and/or cowardice, Obama disheartened his supporters, confused the public about which party would serve their interests,  allowed the Republicans to control the narrative, and facilitated the handover of the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, and a majority of state legislatures to extremist Republicans.

Specifically, the Democrats lost 900 seats in state legislatures during Obama’s presidency. “At the beginning of Obama’s term, Democrats controlled 59 percent of state legislatures, while now [in early 2017] they control only 31 percent, the lowest percentage for the party since the turn of the 20th century. They held 29 governor’s offices and now have only 16, the party’s lowest number since 1920.” (source: Barack Obama Won The White House, But Democrats Lost The Country: What Happened?

And Donald Trump is now president.

Here’s a particularly outrageous example of Obama’s bad choices. As reported in Politico (Biden: McConnell stopped Obama from calling out Russians), three weeks before the 2016 election, Obama and Biden wanted to inform the American people about Russian interference in the election. But they allowed Mitch McConnell to veto the announcement. About a week later, Obama allowed James Comey to announce that he was re-opening the email investigation against Hillary Clinton.

Biden said he and former President Barack Obama worried that without a united front of bipartisanship, speaking out before the election would undermine the legitimacy of the election and American institutions in a way that would play into the Russians’ larger ambitions.  (source)

This is the same Joe Biden who, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that was holding hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, decided against allowing women other than Anita Hill to offer testimony about Thomas’s sexual harassment.

Why don’t Democrats fight?

Republicans in Congress had opposed virtually every policy position of President Obama. The Senate threatened filibusters on numerous bills.  In March of 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court;  the Senate, under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, refused to hold hearings on the nomination. Yet three weeks before the 2016 election, Obama and Biden still wanted to be bipartisan and still deferred to Mitch McConnell?!

There are dozens of similar inexplicable cowardice or excessive moderation on the part of Obama. See the list below and this petition.

While writing this article I watched a video of former President Obama’s wonderful speech to students at the University of Illinois. In the speech President Obama eloquently denounces the current occupant of the White House. It brought me to tears to realize that such a brilliant, gifted, sensible, lovable man could be followed in office by such an incompetent, repulsive scoundrel as Donald Trump.

Compare how Obama led to the masterful tactics of Mitch McConnell, who engineered the placement of two Supreme Court justices and then convinced Senate Democrats to allow fifteen more federal judges to be confirmed as a condition for his letting Senators return to their home states to campaign.   Why didn’t Obama fight like that?

If Obama is a closet conservative, then some of his choices make sense. But from a purely political, strategic point of view, many of his choices were just dumb and naive.

In 2008 America was ready for the change that Obama promised.   The economy was in deep recession. Corporate America had come begging to Uncle Sam for bailouts. The war in Iraq — launched on false pretenses —  was going badly.  The war in Afghanistan was unresolved. Wall Street was exposed as corrupt and under-regulated.  Scandals and criminality in the Bush administration and the GOP (Tom DeLay, etc) made Americans yearn for a strong, ethical, populist Democratic leader.

Obama campaigned as such a leader and had a mandate —  certainly in terms of the electoral college vote:  365 to 173.  The popular vote margin was respectable but not overwhelming: 52.9% to 45.7%.

Signs of trouble appeared early after Obama won election. Before his inauguration in 2009, when President-elect Obama was asked by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulo about whether there would be investigations and prosecutions for Bush-era criminality, Obama responded, “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” In 2012 Obama again tweeted: “We don’t look backwards, we look forward.”

Apparently, Obama didn’t look forward far enough. Else he would have foreseen the Republican takeover of the House in 2010 and the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Obama was a brilliant and inspiring speaker. But, once elected, he barely used his oratorical skills to sway public opinion. His successful campaign organization, Obama For America, devolved into the  ineffective Organizing for America.  He often betrayed his base: progressives, environmentalists, women, labor, educators, and pacifists.

Here’s a partial list of Obama’s betrayals and mistakes:

  • Prosecuting whistle blowers
  • Protecting war criminals and Wall Street crooks
  • Surrounding himself with Wall Street cronies
  • Supporting the charter school movement
  • Bankrupting and weakening the Democratic National Committee and state parties (see below)
  • Continuing the Bush bailouts of Wall Street, not Main Street
  • Failing to support the Employee Free Choice Act, despite union support during his election and his promise to “to fight for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act”.
  • Appointing conservative judges to the federal courts (“According to a February analysis by the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of environmental, consumer, civil rights, and women’s groups, 70 percent of Obama’s judicial nominees are former corporate attorneys. ” Obama’s Judicial Nominees: Liberals Are Upset With Them, Too).
  • Pushing for strong enforcement of federal marijuana statutes US vows marijuana enforcement regardless of California vote, Medical Marijuana Industry Is Unnerved by U.S. Crackdown
  • Stacking the committee responsible for designing the Affordable Care Act with conservative Democrats, resulting in a health care bill similar to what Republicans had proposed: a gift to the private insurance industry
  • Supporting conservative Democrat Blanche Lincoln against progressive challenger Bill Halter in the Arkansas Senate race; see Biden Sends Fundraising E-Mail For Blanche Lincoln.
  • Compromising early and often on taxation and other issues, in a vain hope to garner Republican cooperation;
  • Compromising with Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich; Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said this about the estate tax provision included in the tax cut compromise: “We had the president — George W. Bush — we couldn’t get it done then and we’re getting it done here.”
  • Nominating Jason Furman for Chief of the Council of Economic Advisers; the American Enterprise Institute says of Furman: “He has written on the importance of fiscal discipline, the need to undertake entitlement reform sooner rather than later, the role of international trade in improving living standards, and the benefits of Wal-Mart in boosting living standards for low-income Americans.” (source: Jason Furman would serve with distinction as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers).
  • Promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a neo-liberal “trade deal” that was more about giving power to corporations than about promoting free trade

The above is just a sample of his betrayals. See this petition for a much fuller list.

Under Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee had pursued a successful 50-state strategy. Obama weakened the DNC and state parties, making sure that most money was fed to his re-election effort and to the re-election campaign of Hillary Clinton. As it says in the Rolling Stone article Can Democrats Fix the Party?

The 50-state strategy devolved under Obama into a presidential-battleground strategy, leaving state parties starved for cash and leadership. “Obama didn’t put resources into local parties unless it was for his re-election effort,” says the former party chair. Making matters worse: Obama tapped ambitious Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz – a favorite of White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett – to run the DNC in 2011. “That congresswoman had no idea what she was doing,” adds the former chair.

Wasserman Schultz went rogue. In a rift with the White House that spilled into a story on Politico, she was criticized for using the DNC as a vehicle for self-promotion, hoping the office would serve as a springboard into House leadership. The White House made overtures to oust Wasserman Schultz, but she dug in, promising an ugly fight that could tar the president as both anti-woman and anti-Semitic. (Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign in the aftermath of the Russian hack of the DNC, declined to participate in this story.)

Obama dodged that fight, and instead fostered Organizing for Action, the grassroots group born of his campaigns. “They had a mirror organization that did just their politics, and it weakened the DNC,” says a source in House leadership. “It directed money elsewhere and was not in the interest of the long-term stability [of the party]. It was a selfish strategy.”

In Donna Brazile’s account of her the role in the 2016 campaign, Hacks, the Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, she wrote, “Obama left the party $24 million in debt — $15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign…. As I saw it, these three titanic egos — Barack, Hillary, and Debbie [Wasserman Schultz] had stripped the party to a shell for their own purposes.”

A DNC member in Washington State said the same thing to me: Obama left the DNC weakened and broke.

In Land of the free? How Trump Has Put America’s Identity in Peril, Ben Fountain writes

Obama was elected on the shoulders of an incipient movement that he allowed to languish once he became president. It started early, even before he took office. Locked in a runoff for the Georgia senate seat held by a Republican incumbent, the progressive Democratic nominee, James Martin, begged the popular president-elect for help. A Martin win would have given Democrats a crucial 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, but even with the stakes so high, Obama, reluctant to spend any of his considerable political capital, limited his support to a single radio spot. Martin lost, and the template was set.

“Obama’s whole approach was to minimize opposition, rather than to maximize support,” said Martin Ganz, a union organizer and Obama adviser, and so it would go for most of Obama’s presidency. His reluctance to take his case directly to the people, allowing his opponents to control the narrative. His muddying of what were in fact sharp partisan distinctions, including his maddening restraint when it came to the politics of class. His tenderness toward Wall Street, which was hardly reciprocated. His feckless pursuit of common ground with the Republican opposition long after their hardcore obstructionism had become painfully clear. It’s a matter of record that the Republicans’ deliberate, unwavering, freely admitted strategy was to destroy the president by thwarting every single measure he put forward, even those previously supported by the GOP. In fact, even those that originated in the GOP; the Affordable Care Act was based on a plan developed by the hard-right Heritage Foundation.

Such was his practice of the politics of moderation that Obama lost even when he won. The “shellacking” that the Democrats took in the 2010 midterms was due in no small part to Republicans’ successful demonizing of the Affordable Care Act. The popular mobilization that twice elected Obama president might have, with sustained, vigorous support and forceful leadership, matured into the kind of mass movement that creates lasting change.

Obama promised openness on national security matters but instead enforced secrecy.   “Obama’s transparency phase did not last long. His administration secretly subpoenaed reporters’ phone records and brought at least nine leak-related prosecutions, more than all previous administrations combined. ”  (source: the New York Times)

The same New York Times article summarizes the Obama administration legacy on the war on terror:

In all, what Obama left behind was a troubling inheritance — vast, secret and mostly unilateral powers to spy and to kill in the name of fighting the global war on terror, powers that depend more on the good intentions of those who wield them than on any written law. Listening to Obama’s early rhetoric, it was easy to think that he was going to do something to pare those powers back and remove the country from its permanent post-9/11 war footing. The war against Al Qaeda would continue, he said, but with “an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process; in checks and balances and accountability.” He would pursue “the strongest and most sustainable legal framework,” a legacy “that outlasts my administration, my presidency, that endures for the next president and the president after that.”

But in the end, Obama’s record on counterterrorism was one of continuity, not change. Guantánamo shrank; it did not close. Obama responded to Edward Snowden’s disclosures by throwing his weight behind the National Security Agency. The C.I.A. kept its drones and signature strikes. Efforts that might have been intended to scale back the drone program wound up codifying it; the series of speeches that Obama presented as part of his “framework” — road maps to reform — had the effect of normalizing and putting a humane face on a policy of quasi assassination. During the final months of Obama’s second term came a gesture toward transparency, an executive order requiring the White House to release annually the number of noncombatants killed by drone strikes outside war zones. Their estimates for Obama’s years in office were far lower than those compiled by outside groups.

President Trump has now loosened the rules for drone strikes and used the other powers established by Obama.

The lost opportunity of the Obama administration is particularly painful to behold, because of the damage that was done by his predecessor and that is being done by his successor, and because Hillary Clinton could be president now, had Obama made a few small moves.

A sympathetic assessment is that Obama was a decent man, of moderate temperament.  He was not up to fighting the vicious and relentless forces arrayed against us.  In the end, he and Hillary were swiftboated into defeat.   Her email scandal was minor compared to the scandals around Trump.   But, again, the Democrats let Republicans control the narrative.

I believe the sympathetic assessment is too kind.   It is a mystery to me that a man with such gifts and such an opportunity threw it all away and allowed the Republicans to regain control.

Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, wrote an incisive article Psycho-Babbling Obama in 2010 — about the same year I realize that Obama had sold progressives under the bus.    Ford’s devastating words ring true today with even more force:

For two years we watched Barack Obama undercut the left wing of his party at every turn, with a disdain so palpable his minions could not resist insulting leftists in the most juvenile terms. For two years we watched the First Black President facilitate the greatest transfer of wealth in human history – $12 to $14 trillion – to Wall Street, and we watched as he put the U.S. war machine back on the offensive in the world. For two years we heard Obama say over and over again that he had no intention of taking targeted action to help Black and brown communities that had been targeted for destruction by banks. After two years, one would think that folks on the Left would have gotten the idea that Obama is pro-Pentagon, pro-Wall Street, and doesn’t have a transformative bone in his body regarding either race or class. But, for many, the message, however obvious, has not sunk in. Rather than face the fact that Obama is not a friend of the people, leftish commentators insist on conducting a psychological analysis of the president. They seem to be trying to find some quirk in Obama’s personality that can by corrected in time for the Armageddon showdown with the Republicans.

Still unwilling or unable to admit that they were “psyched out” by Barack Obama and his corporate handlers, Lefties search for psychological reasons that the First Black President has been such a disappointment. It’s the failure to fight thing, or the lack of vision thing, or the failure to communicate thing, they say. [But i]t isn’t that Obama has trouble conveying his vision, it’s that his actual vision is unacceptable to progressives. As for his willingness to fight, Obama fought his own left wing, and stomped their butts into the dirt over his corporate health care plan.

It’s hard to be angry at Obama, because he is brilliant and decent. But looking at his record or compromise and accommodation, it’s also hard not to be angry.

Sure, there were many causes of the 2016 election debacle. (Hillary, for her part, had the hubris to think she didn’t need to campaign in the swing states.) As sitting president and head of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama bears a particularly heavy responsibility.


Listen to the music of Donald Trump’s face

This is what Donald Trump’s photo sounds like when I feed it to my software for converting images to music:

Donald Trump
Here’s a second rendering of Trump’s face, using a different algorithm:

Here’s what Barack Obama’s photo sounds like:

Barack Obama
Here’s a second rendering of Obama’s face, using a different algorithm:

Here’s what a young woman, Brenna, sounds like:

Here’s what a photo of a plant sticking up through a grate sounds like:

Plant sticking through a grate

Here’s what a photo of a pair of Northern Gannets sounds like:

Northern Gannets

Here’s what a photo of a cute child sounds like:

How President Obama and his supporters damaged the Democratic Party

Finally, near the end of his presidency, President Obama is displaying the sort of fighting spirit that we needed early on.

Unfortunately, Obama is directing his wrath at Elizabeth Warren and other progressives.

Just two years after the end of disastrous and corrupt presidency of George W. Bush, Democrats were dealt a shellacking in the midterm elections of 2010.   In 2014 control of both houses of Congress was handed over to extremist Republicans.

What went wrong?

A hint about the cause is the following.

In recent days President Obama is openly attacking progressives in the Democratic Party over their opposition to the fast-tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.  This trade deal — which would allow international corporations to sue the US to obtain compensation for lost future profits due to regulations and laws — is opposed by organized labor, by environmentalists, by progressives, and, in fact, by most Democrats in Congress.  The President is depending on the support of Republicans to pass this deal.

President Obama has denied that the trade deal is secret, but in fact it is secret.   The public cannot view it, though Wikileaks leaked a chapter, and there are tight restrictions on how members of Congress can view it. As Politico reports, “If you want to hear the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal the Obama administration is hoping to pass, you’ve got to be a member of Congress, and you’ve got to go to classified briefings and leave your staff and cellphone at the door.”

Margot E. Kaminski wrote in this New York Times op-ed:

[T]he draft text is classified by the United States government. Even if current negotiations over the trade agreement end with no deal, the draft chapter will still remain classified for four years as national security information. The initial version of an agreement projected by the government to affect millions of Americans will remain a secret until long after meaningful public debate is possible.

Even the most starry-eyed supporter of President Obama must now be having second thoughts about the policy choices and political smarts of the leader of the Democratic Party.


The myth that Obama was forced to compromise

Defenders of the President will claim that, all along, he was forced to compromise because of the unrelenting opposition of Republicans and conservative Democrats.

It is true that conservatives and their well-heeled supporters launched a massive propaganda campaign against the President and the Democrats; and  Republicans in Congress opposed, often unanimously, virtually every policy proposal coming from the Democrats. As a consequence, many Democratic bills died in the Senate, due to filibusters, and bills that did pass Congress, such as the Affordable Care Act, were badly compromised.

But a clear-eyed analysis of the evidence, summarized below, shows that in many cases President Obama actively and repeatedly chose to pursue policies that favored corporations and the military over the People.  He repeatedly compromised early and unnecessarily. He actively selected corporate Democrats to design the Affordable Care Act and many other bills. He filled regulatory agencies with industry-friendly hacks.  He supported centrist Democratic candidates over progressive candidates. He urged regulators to pass industry-friendly rulings.  He prosecuted whistle blowers and let war criminals and Wall Street thugs off the hook.

In the elections in 2010, 2012, and 2014, Democratic candidates were burdened with defending, or ignoring, a poorly designed monstrosity of a health care bill that failed to rein in costs, that pleased nobody, and that was, at best, a small improvement over the existing health care framework.   To a large extent, ACA was a gift to the insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital industries.  The bungled launch of the national ACA website further reinforced GOP talking points about the inefficiency and haplessness of government.  The ACA pandered to anti-choice politicians, by making it illegal for ACA-related health care plans to cover elective abortions. And organized Labor disliked the ACA because it removed incentives for joining unions and made union members subsidize insurance companies. (See Brendan Williams book Compromised: The Affordable Care Act and the Politics of Defeat for a detailed exposé of the Obama administration’s failings in the area of health care reform.)

In short, the President’s centrism, his failure to lead, his quickness to compromise, his failure to prosecute criminality in the Bush administration and on Wall Street,  and his unwillingness to decisively break with conservative policies and framing confused  and alienated supporters and voters, and allowed our opponents to portray the Democrats as servants of the rich and the powerful.

You needn’t take my word for it. The President himself said, “My policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies … back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”

Obama moves right, Dems follow

In short, Obama is a terrible Democrat, just as George W. Bush is a terrible Republican.

Why can’t our political system deliver quality candidates?

I was once an ardent Obama supporter

Before I enumerate the the ways in which Obama betrayed Democratic principles, I want to point out that I am no radical leftist.  In 2008 I donated hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours to the campaign of candidate Barack Obama. When he won on Nov. 4, 2008, I texted “Happy day!” to my brother.

Within a year I had sorely regretted my support for Obama. I wrote articles, submitted resolutions, and advocated for accountability, to save the Democratic Party from looming catastrophe.

How President Obama betrayed Democrats

President Obama violated Democratic ideals and aided Republicans by:

  1. Escalating and widening the disastrous, corrupt war in Afghanistan, causing attacks on civilians, cover-ups, and further hardship and casualties for our troops (bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is elsewhere — why are we even there?).
  2. Secretly sending special forces to 75 countries — see this article.
  3. Expanding drone attacks, causing many civilian deaths.
  4. Supporting neo-Nazis in the civil war in the Ukraine and surrounding Russia with NATO forces.
  5. Authorizing assassination without trial, even of US citizens.
  6. Increasing total defense spending to nearly a trillion dollars a year.
  7. Authorizing an attack on Libya without prior authorization from Congress, in violation of the War Powers Act.
  8. Twice delaying the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and continuing the use of private mercenaries.
  9. Continuing overseas rendition, torture, the Guantanamo prison, and domestic spying;
  10. Choosing as his health care proposal a plan designed by the Heritage Institute; it enriches insurance companies and fails to contain a public option, not to mention single-payer.
  11. Choosing conservative Democrat Max Baucus, his advisor Jim Messina, and the other members of the Gang of Six to design the Senate’s health care compromise; Baucus had brokered the passage of George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts and 2003 Medicare prescription drug plan, and had spent the better part of the Bush presidency cutting deals with Republicans and infuriating fellow Democrats. Other transgressions included voting for the war in Iraq, the energy bill, the bankruptcy bill and to confirm Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. (source).  Jim Messina later became a chief campaign strategist for David Cameron and the UK Tories; see Former Obama Campaign Manager Led Austerity-Loving Tories to Victory.
  12. Extending President Bush’s unjust bailouts of the banks and Wall Street.
  13. Failing to prosecute criminality in the banking industry (see Eric Holder: The Reason Robert Rubin Isn’t Behind Bars).
  14. Proposing a budget deal more regressive than Pres. Reagan’s (see evidence).
  15. Opposing a bill that would have imposed windfall taxes on Wall Street bonuses.
  16. Surrounding himself with military, legal, policy, and economic advisers held-over from the Bush Administration and from the right wing of the Democratic Party.
  17. Allowing the Affordable Care Act to contain anti-labor provisions (“Union health trusts will actually have to pay a temporary tax to subsidize private insurance companies selling individual coverage on the exchanges.” [source], and “It is no exaggeration to imagine the ACA having the effect of destroying unions, by destroying the incentive to be in them [Compromised: The Affordable Care Act and the Politics of Defeat]).
  18. Allowing many of the architects of the Affordable Care Act to obtain employment with health industry corporations after leaving government service (source: Compromised, ibid).
  19. Allowing the FBI, under the direction of Bush hold-over Robert Mueller, to spy on domestic peace activists and to raid their homes, as reported here and here.
  20. Cutting back-room deals with Big Pharma and Big Insurance that eliminated a public option, prevented re-importation of medicines, and benefited the corrupt and inefficient health industry, in violation of his campaign promise (see also this).
  21. Repeatedly firing progressive staff members, including Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod, based on distorted right-wing smear campaigns, without giving the accused a chance to defend themselves.
  22. Allowing anti-choice provisions to be included in health care reform, despite his campaign pledge to “make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as president”.
  23. Threatening war with Iran (though more recently his has been a voice of moderation).
  24. Disallowing single-payer advocates a seat at the negotiating table (unclear whether Obama himself made this decision) and reneging on his promise to support a public option.
  25. Supporting assassination of an American citizen residing overseas; see Glenn Greenwald’s analysis.
  26. Failing to support the Employee Free Choice Act, despite union support during his election and his promise to “to fight for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act”.
  27. Proposing to open sensitive coastal areas to offshore oil drilling.
  28. Favoring $50 billion in government subsidies for nuclear power but not for green energy.
  29. Announcing in November, 2010 a two-year freeze on federal workers’ wages. “This action — negligible in its effect on the federal deficit — affixed the presidential seal of approval to the strategy of handing workers the bill — and the blame — for the economic havoc caused by Wall Street fraud, corporate tax relief and war” (souce).
  30. Expanding the definition of terror to include domestic nonviolent civil disobedience, see this article.
  31. Working with Republicans in the Deficit Commission to gut Social Security, relying on false claims of pending insolvency, and ignoring the option of eliminating the income cap on social security taxes (see this and this and the editorial Whacking the Old Folks from the June 7, 2010 issue of The Nation).
  32. Supporting corporatist, conservative Democrat Blanche Lincoln against progressive challenger Bill Halter in the Arkansas Senate race; see Biden Sends Fundraising E-Mail For Blanche Lincoln.
  33. Failing to push for meaningful action about climate change at the Copenhagen conference.
  34. Appointing pesticide pusher Islam Siddiqui as chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the US trade representative.
  35. Supporting the court martial of Bradley Manning, who leaked the “Collateral Murder video” and documents about the war in Afgahnistan; see also this.
  36. Pushing for strong enforcement of federal marijuana statutes US vows marijuana enforcement regardless of California vote, Medical Marijuana Industry Is Unnerved by U.S. Crackdown (“Medical marijuana advocates accuse the Obama administration of going back on earlier promises not to go after groups abiding by local laws.”); see also this article and this article. “The president campaigned on the promise that he’d stop federal raids on medical marijuana operations that were in compliance with state laws, a vow that Attorney General Eric Holder repeated after the election. But then the Obama administration raided more than 100 dispensaries in its first three years and is now poised to outpace the Bush administration’s crackdown record.” (source)
  37. Overseeing the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, despite his June 2008 statement: “I strongly favor diversity of ownership of outlets and protection against the excessive concentration of power in the hands of any one corporation, interest or small group. I strongly believe that all citizens should be able to receive information from the broadest range of sources. I feel that media consolidation during the Bush administration has had the effect of eliminating a lot of the diversity of information sources available to persons who have to rely on more traditional information sources, such as radio and television broadcasts and newspapers.”
  38. Prosecuting whistle-blower Thomas Drake, who exposed fraud, corruption, and illegal surveillance in the NSA “Trailblazer” program; “Even neo-conservative secrecy advocate Gabe Schoenfeld, whose far-flung idea it was to use the Espionage Act to prosecute leakers, calls Obama’s conduct ‘draconian.'” (See The New Yorker’s Damning Dissection of “Leak” Prosecution of Thomas Drake);
    See Obama’s Crackdown on Whistleblowers.
  39. Nominating George Beck as US Attorney in Alabama (see Obama Proposes a Wretched Nominee for Controversial U.S. Attorney Post).
  40. Approving the use of taxpayer funds for religious schools (Solicitor general surprises justices in religious schools case)
  41. Compromising with Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich; Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said this about the estate tax provision included in the tax cut compromise: “We had the president — George W. Bush — we couldn’t get it done then and we’re getting it done here.”
  42. Choosing JP Morgan banker Bill Daley as chief of staff, despite Daley’s approval by the Chamber of Commerce, “Daley publicly pushed the line that Obama and the Democrats overreached with healthcare reform; opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency….[and] kvetched about the electoral plight of centrist Democrats in a December 2009 Washington Post op-ed.” (source)
  43. Failing to support Wisconsin workers whose collective bargaining rights were taken away by Governor Walker, the Koch brothers, and Republican legislators. This despite his earlier promises to support workers. See Shoes for President Obama.
  44. Failing to prosecute Bush-era crimes, thereby aiding Republicans and allowing them to hide the truth about their policies from the American people (“…the incredible lengths to which Obama has gone in his crusade to fully protect Bush, Cheney, and their co-conspirators, an effort that has included making threats to England should it be so uncouth as to reveal any evidence of wrongdoing”, from An Honest Look at Obama’s First Year); see also Obama, Press Ignore GOPer Use of DOJ to Cheat Voters, Taxpayers; WikiLeaks has now revealed that Obama worked behind the scenes to prevent the Spanish judge from prosecuting Bush &ammp; Cheney for war crimes; ‘”The only people Obama has prosecuted are the whistle-blowers” .
  45. Compromising early and unnecessarily on raising the debt ceiling. “President Obama initially tried to strike a ‘Grand Bargain’ with Republicans over taxes and spending. To do so, he not only chose not to make an issue of G.O.P. extortion, he offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases. As The Times’s Nate Silver pointed out, Mr. Obama effectively staked out a position that was not only far to the right of the average voter’s preferences, it was if anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter’s preferences.” (Paul Krugman); “It is now beyond dispute that President Obama not only favours, but is the leading force in Washington pushing for, serious benefit cuts to both social security and Medicare.” (Glenn Greenwald);
  46. Suspending a federal scientist for publishing a paper about the effect of climate change on Arctic wildlife (see Federal polar bear scientist back on the job).
  47. Blocking investigation of foreclosure fraud; see Why is the Obama Administration Trying to Block Investigation of Foreclosure Fraud? and this.
  48. Backing down on strengthening Bush-era smog standards, despite EPA director Lisa Jackson’s statement that the current standards are “not legally defensible given the scientific evidence on the record” of dangers to human health” (source). In rejecting the stronger standards, Obama repeated Republican talking points by citing “the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty” — despite “the EPA’s own studies show that a tighter standard could have created $17 billion in economic benefits” (source; see also here).
  49. Supporting free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, despite the opposition of many Democrats and despite the approval of most Republicans (Trade Deals Wed Obama to Republicans as Democrats Vow to Oppose).
  50. Allowing a contractor working for pipeline developer TransCandada to conduct the environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline (source).
  51. “Siding with insurers rather than patients, the Obama administration also changed the rules to prevent patients from appealing contractual disputes, such as a particular service or medication is covered in a policy.” (source).
  52. Deciding not to investigate possible police brutality in the crackdown on Occupy Oakland; see Despite Iraq Vet’s Cracked Skull, DoJ Sees No Evil in Occupy Crackdown.
  53. Pressuring state attorney generals to accept a deal with Wall Street companies that, in the view of many, largely exonerates the criminals on Wall Street (see See Glenn Greenwald at about 54:00).
  54. Trying, but failing, to extend the occupation of Iraq (see (Ibid, 57:00)).
  55. Illegally defunding WikiLeaks, without due process (see (Ibid, 59:00)).
  56. Overseeing the coordinated crackdown on Occupy protesters (Ibid, 59:00).
  57. Restricting access to the morning after pill (see Health Secretary blocks wider access to morning-after pill).
  58. Being “just as zealous as George Bush in stripping away environmental, health and safety protection at the behest of industry” (source).
  59. Naming former Wall Street defense lawyer Mary Jo White to be the Chair of one of the Securities and Exchange Commission (petition).
  60. Nominating Jerome Powell to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. “Powel served as the undersecretary for finance under the president George H. W. Bush and was a partner of The Carlyle Group. The Carlyle Group is a massive private equity firm and one of the largest defense contractors in the world” (source).
  61. Failing to pursue prosecution of big banks for robo-signing (see Insight: Top Justice officials connected to mortgage banks).
  62. Negotiating a free trade agreement, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership: “TPP has been under negotiation for three years and, unlike in past trade negotiations, Congress has been denied access by the executive branch to the draft agreement text. The few TPP texts that have leaked suggest that TPP would not only replicate the job – offshoring investor protections of NAFTA but expand on them while also undermining Buy American procurement policy, imported food safety rules and medicine price containment policies” (source); see also this.
  63. Agreeing to a “fiscal cliff” deal  on New Year’s Day, 2013 that made permanent 82% of the Bush tax cuts. The deal  lowers tax rates for incomes up to $400,000/$450,000 instead of $200,000/$250,000. (Rep. Adam Smith said that the compromise made in return for an agreement by Republicans on a two month delay before sequestration kicks in).
  64. Giving Shell Oil approval to drill beneath the Arctic Ocean off Alaska and blocking global action in Copenhagen and Durban (RootsAction). “The Obama administration on Monday gave conditional approval to allow Shell to start drilling for oil off the Alaskan coast this summer, a major victory for the petroleum industry and a devastating blow to environmentalists.” — source: New York Times.
  65. Selecting John Brennan as the nominee to head the CIA; see As Brennan Tapped for CIA, Case of Somali Detainees Highlights Obama’s Embrace of Secret Renditions.
  66. Loosening media ownership rules; see Obama Administration Seeks to Strengthen Rupert Murdoch.
  67. Nominating Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary (see Failure of Epic Proportions”: Treasury Nominee Jack Lew’s Pro-Bank, Austerity, Deregulation Legacy).
  68. Nominating Ernest Minz for secretary of energy; see Energy Nominee Ernest Moniz Criticized for Backing Fracking & Nuclear Power; Ties to BP, GE, Saudis;`:w
  69. Appealing a federal judge’s ruling that lifted age restrictions on the morning-after pill (see Women’s health groups slam Obama administration’s decision to appeal morning-after pill ruling).
  70. Nominating Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, to run the FCC (see Uh-Oh: AT&T and Comcast Are Ecstatic About the FCC’s New Chairman).
  71. Nominating former Obama fundraiser Penny Pritzker for Commerce secretary, despite her family’s history anti-unionism and shady, subprime business dealings (see also this; as Brendan Williams wrote, “Upon President Obama nominating billionaie, union-fighting hotel heiress Penny Pritzker as commerce secretary, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote that it ‘[t]urns out the wealthy didn’t lose the 2012 election; rather, the Republican rich lost to the Democratic rich.'”).
  72. Personally intervening to stop Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, from pardoning Abdulelah Haider Shaye, “a Yemni jounralist who in 2009 revealed a US airstrike that killed fourteen women and twenty-one children” (source: The Nation, March 25, 2013, p. 3).
  73. Nominating Jason Furman for Chief of the Council of Economic Advisers; the American Enterprise Institute says of Furman: “He has written on the importance of fiscal discipline, the need to undertake entitlement reform sooner rather than later, the role of international trade in improving living standards, and the benefits of Wal-Mart in boosting living standards for low-income Americans.” (source: Jason Furman would serve with distinction as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers).
  74. Calling for extradition of whistle blower Edward Snowden.
  75. Signing “into law the $633 billion defense authorization bill despite provisions that block any attempt to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and try detainees on US soil” (source).
  76. Choosing Larry Summers as front-runner to head the Federal Reserve, despite Summers’ ties to the worst Wall Street abuses (Congressional Dems forced Obama to nominate Janet Yellen instead).
  77. Weakening public education: “A feature of the Obama presidency has been his campaign against the American public school system, eating way at the foundations of elementary education.” (source).
  78. Nomimating Ted Mitchell, a supporter of privatization of education, to become Under Secretary of the Department of Education (“an alarming sign that the administration is favoring greater privatization of public education”.(
  79. Appointing conservative judges to the federal courts (“According to a February analysis by the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of environmental, consumer, civil rights, and women’s groups, 70 percent of Obama’s judicial nominees are former corporate attorneys. ” Obama’s Judicial Nominees: Liberals Are Upset With Them, Too).
  80. Threatening to jail veteran New York Times reporter James Risen if he doesn’t reveal a confidential source; a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows that the Obama administration’s efforts to prosecute leaks and control information are the most aggressive since the Nixon era.
  81. Nominating Antonio Weiss, a former Wall Street investment banker, as Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance; as reported here, Weiss helped Burger King merge with a Canadian company to avoid paying its fair share of U.S. taxes.
  82. Nominating anti-abortion legislator Michael Boggs to be a federal district court judge.
  83. Running HAMP (the Home Affordability Modification Program) in a way that benefited bankers, not homeowners, contrary to earlier agreements. David Dayen in American Prospect, winter 2015, writes, “HAMP cannot be justified by the usual Obama-era logic, that it represented the best possible outcome in a captured Washington with Republican obstruction and supermajority hurdles…. It was entirely a product of the administration’s economic team, working with the financial industry…”.
  84. Supporting high-stakes testing that weakens public education and unions.
  85. Working with Republicans in Congress to pass the TPP against the opposition of labor, environmentalists, and most Democrats (Obama vows to help pro-trade Democrats fight off the left wing).
  86. Comparing progressives such as Elizabeth Warren to Sarah Palin because of the progressives’ opposition to the TPP trade deal (Obama goes after Warren: ‘She’s absolutely wrong’ on trade and Obama’s war with Elizabeth Warren is heating up).  As The Other 98% said of this, “When President Obama campaigned for office, he promised to reverse NAFTA on dozens of occasions. Now, he’s using his recent popularity to attack his own party from the headquarters of a sweatshop corporation [Nike in Oregeon]. If only Obama worked as hard preventing people from losing their homes or jailing banksters…”
  87. Distorting the truth about the secrecy of the TPP.  Obama said: “When I keep on hearing people repeating this notion that it’s ‘secret,’ I gotta say, it’s dishonest, And it’s concerning when I see friends of mine resorting to these kinds of tactics.” In fact, the text of deal is not open to public and is viewable by members of Congress only with heavy restrictions.
  88. Supporting charter schools, which are destructive of public education and the interests of teachers; see As Obama Admin Seeks More Funding for Charter Schools, Questions Raised over Billions Already Spent.
  89. Blocking adoption of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Review Conference’s consensus statement. See Obama Administration Sabotages Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference.
  90. Failing to put expansion of Social Security on the agenda of the White House Conference on Aging (July 13, 2015), despite support of almost all Senate Democrats and 116 out of 188 House Democrats (source).

Why do grassroot Dems put up with it?

Because they fear they might empower the Republicans; because they’re uniformed; because they believe the nice-sounding rhetoric coming from corporate Dems; and because it’s almost impossible to convince Democrats to oppose a sitting Democratic president. I was accused of aiding the racist wingnuts and birthers who attack Obama from the right. It pains me to no end when Obama supporters hold onto their delusion that the President is a friend of the people.

Why Politics Sucks

Additional documentation

An alternative to the Dems

Hell with the DNC! We’ve got to be able to do better than the Pepsi versus Coke brand war of Republicans versus Democrats and their Bush versus Clinton dynastic choices. We need an independent progressive party and independent candidates.

It’s not that I don’t agree that any party championing progressive policies couldn’t inspire more Americans to vote. I do. What I think is now a tired, recycled every four year idea is that the Democrat Party has enough democracy left in it to actually change.

We voted for “hope and change” in 2008. We delivered the mandate and the majorities and what did we get? We got Wall Street bailouts, Insurance co. enshrinement, more perpetual war, zero accountability for war criminals, torturers, liers, pussy-footing on climate and the fracking oiligarchy, with zero defense of people losing homes, etc, etc. Too-little-too-late leadership post 2014 election loss, with meaningless pandering gestures are just desperate attempts to rescue relevance after a massive betrayal of our aspirations and real momentum for actual change.

Even now, when the Democrats have supposedly seen the light… THIS WEEK we saw a ramp up in the active campaigning to “fast tracking” of perhaps the most catastrophic transfer of power – from real human citizens to oligarchic transnational capital and the corporations – in the history of the world, i.e. TPP and its companion so-called “free trade” agreements.

If you want final proof on how little it matters to the Democrats or Republicans what you think, check out this recent presentation by Lawrence Lessig – and note the literal “flat line” on the how public opinion matters. And note the graph on who recovered in this “recovery”. And remember the money primary statistic “.024%” that puts us on par with China (or Hong Kong anyway) in terms of actual democracy.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwWH307tDYE

How stupid, desperate, dysfunctional are we that our perpetual hope against hope argument is to keep looking to our abuser the DNC to stop suckling at the tit of the oligarchy and come back to the People?

DNC – kiss my ass! It’s time for a real choice.

See How the Democrats Could Win Every Election.

Originally on facebook.

Obama saved the economy — and the GOP

Obama gave a priceless gift to the GOP: immunity from prosecution for war crimes, torture,  disastrous wars, politically motivated prosecutions by the Justice Department, widespread corruption, and other criminality.

In 2008, it appeared that the GOP was destined for many years of repudiation. They’d proven themselves corrupt, incompetent, and imperialistic.

But Obama nursed the GOP back to life by refusing to prosecute criminality, thereby hiding the wrongdoing from the American people.   Obama tried to be bipartisan. He compromised early and often. The GOP almost never compromised and often voted unanimously against the Democrats’ bills.

Obama had a chance to reorient America to a new paradigm of Democratic progressivism. Instead, he hid Bush-era criminality from the populace; surrounded himself with Bush holdovers and Wall Street cronies;  prosecuted the whistle blowers; expanded the power of the military, and governed as a centrist.  Obama didn’t fight.  As a result, in 2010 and 2014 the GOP roared back to life.   Americans were confused about who was to blame for the mess we’re in.

Indeed, Obama is a Wall Street Dem and a great friend of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.

In 2008 we needed an FDR or at least an LBJ.  Instead we got a centrist Dem who said of himself, “My policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies … back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”

No wonder people didn’t turn out to vote in 2014.

From 2009 onwards I tried to submit resolutions to local Democratic organizations critical of Obama’s sellouts.  As you can imagine, those resolutions didn’t go over very well. “Are you crazy? Are you trying to help the GOP?”

There are those who would say that impeachment of Bush, Cheney and others would have been too divisive and would have led to a backlash against Democrats similar to what happened in 1999 when Republicans impeached Bill Clinton. The analogy doesn’t hold. Clinton was impeached for (lying about) sex. Bush and Cheney could have been impeached for torture, deception about the grounds for invading Iraq, and other crimes. See Kucinich Introduces 35 Articles of Impeachment.

In 2007,   members of the Washington State legislature were working on bills calling for the impeachment of President Bush.  Senator Patty Murray ordered them to stop.  See D.C. Dems want to stop legislative impeachment talk.

During the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, there were women aside from Anita Hill who were willing to testify that Thomas had sexually harassed them.  Then Senator Joe Biden did not allow the women to testify. See The Injustice Of Clarence Thomas.

Well, the Democratic leadership got the shellacking they deserved.  They don’t fight the good fight.  Unfortunately, millions of grassroots Dems are truly progressive but repeatedly get sold out by the leadership.

It all makes me sick.

Obama gave a priceless gift to the GOP: Why aren't Dems furious?

Obama gave a priceless gift to the GOP: immunity from prosecution and accountability for war crimes, torture, and other criminality. Still, many Democrats treat him as a hero.

In 2008, it appeared that the GOP was destined for many years of repudiation. They’d proven themselves corrupt, incompetent, and imperialistic.

Obama had a chance to reorient America to a new paradigm of Democratic progressivism. Instead, he hid Bush-era criminality from the populace; surrounded himself with Bush holdovers and Wall Street cronies;  prosecuted the whistle blowers; and governed as a centrist.  As a result, in 2010 and 2014 the GOP roared back to life.   Americans were confused about who was to blame for the mess we’re in.

There are those who would say that impeachment of Bush, Cheney and others would have been too divisive and would have led to a backlash against Democrats similar to what happened in 1999 when Republicans impeached Bill Clinton. The analogy doesn’t hold. Clinton was impeached for (lying about) sex. Bush and Cheney could have been impeached for torture, deception about the grounds for invading Iraq, and other crimes. See Kucinich Introduces 35 Articles of Impeachment.

Why was turnout so low among possible Democratic voters?

Turnout for last month’s election was low — under 37% nationwide and under 50% in Washington State. National turnout for youth (18 -29) was at about 21.5% according to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Under 30% of registered voters voted in Texas and New York.

Why was turnout so low?

Disillusion with politicians in general is one explanation.

Thomas Frank blames Republicans’ patented brand of  fake populism.

Howard Dean blames gutless Democrats.

Jamelle Bouie in Why Democrats Can’t Win Over White Working-Class Voters  says that working class white people think “The Democratic Party is too associated with blacks and too associated with welfare to win over enough whites to make a difference.”  Kevin Drum  makes the same analysis in Mother Jones (“Can We Talk? Here’s Why the White Working Class Hates Democrats“):

[Social welfare programs] benefit the poor but barely touch the working class. Does it matter that the working class barely pays for most of these programs in the first place, since their federal income taxes tend to be pretty low? Nope. They’re still paying taxes, and it seems like they never get anything for it. It’s always someone else.

Socialist Mike Whitney makes a convincing case for Obama being to blame for low turnout.

The New York Times also blames Obama … Obama Is Seen as Frustrating His Own Party.

It’s hard not to hold Obama largely responsible.

In 2008 the public was disgusted with Republican corruption, mismanagement, and war-mongering. They were ready for real Change that Obama promised.   (But here’s a scary thought: 45.7% of voters voted for McCain and Palin in 2008.)

While Obama was never going to live up to the unrealistic hopes raised by his masterful campaign, it’s clear that he barely even tried to enact real change. Democratic partisans who blame just Republicans for the failures of Obama’s leadership are in major denial.

The electorate voted for change in 2008 and instead got a president that surrounded himself with Wall Street cronies and Bush holdovers; a president that protected the war criminals and Wall Street crooks and prosecuted the whistle blowers; a president that promoted a health care plan devised by the Heritage Foundation; a president that expanded the power and activities of the military and the surveillance state; and a president who compromised early and often so that 90% of the Bush tax cuts were made permanent.

Obama himself said, “My policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”

Obama tried to be post-partisan and to “look forward.”  Instead he got crushed.

What’s most perplexing is Obama’s failure to communicate clearly who’s to blame for our problems.  He’s a great speaker, but he mostly allowed the GOP to control the messaging.

As William Kuttner wrote in HuffPost in 2010, “Let’s stop pretending. Barack Obama is a disaster as a crisis president. He has taken an economic collapse that was the result of Republican ideology and Republican policies, and made it the Democrats’ fault. And the more that he is pummeled, the more he bends over.”

In fact, Glen Ford made a good case that Obama’s talk about post-partisanship was just a smokescreen to justify corporate-friendly policies. In Psycho-Babbling Obama Ford wrote, “Rather than face the fact that Obama is not a friend of the people, leftish commentators insist on conducting a psychological analysis of the president.” .

I think Obama’s central mistake was his decision not to prosecute Bush officials for war crimes — the worst sort of offense: starting a fraudulent war that killed 100s of thousands of people and wasted trillions of dollars.  In general, nobody was held responsible for that disaster or for the economic crash of 2007 and 2008.  This kept the truth hidden and allowed the wrongdoers to recoup and roar back to life.  By 2010 Republican had won back the House. What a disaster!  Thomas Frank bemoaned the debacle in his book Pity the Billionaire.

No wonder people didn’t bother to vote.  People voted for change and got more of the same.

And it annoys me to no end when Obama supporters pretend Obama did a good job.

So, my hypothesis in this article is that turnout was low largely because of Obama’s failure to lead and because of peoples’ disillusionment with politics in general.   I’d be curious to see objective evidence about this hypothesis.    Have political scientists and pollsters done interviews to figure out why people didn’t vote?    I know many of my coworkers ignore politics because, they say, it’s too depressing and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Of course, you can’t just blame Obama.  He couldn’t have changed much alone, even had he tried.  The corruption is endemic in D.C. and extends to the highest reaches of the Democratic leadership. For example, in this New Yorker article, Ryan Lizza quotes former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who may challenge Hillary for in the Democratic primary in 2016:

There is a big tendency among a lot of Democratic leaders to feed some raw meat to the public on smaller issues that excite them, like the minimum wage, but don’t really address the larger problem. … [They’ll] say we’re going to raise the minimum wage, we’re going do these little things, when in reality we need to say we’re going to fundamentally change the tax code so that you will believe our system is fair.

Lizza writes, “He added that one Northeastern senator—Webb wouldn’t say who—’was literally screaming at me on the Senate floor'” in anger over Webb’s plan to tighten regulations of Wall Street. Who was the screaming senator? Chuck Schumer? Hillary?

Hillary is even more friendly to the Pentagon and Wall Street than Obama, but at least she probably wouldn’t have been such a push-over.  But if she’s the standard bearer for the Democrats in 2016, the Dems are in for a lot more trouble.

Anyway, it’s clear that Obama barely tried to enact change.  Had he fought and lost it would have been better than compromising and repeatedly losing. His compromises didn’t earn him one iota of concession from the GOP. Instead, his compromises disheartened and confused the voters and allowed the GOP to control the messaging.

And it pissed off a lot of erstwhile supporters who lost hope and faith in the democratic and Democratic process.

In the future it will be a lot harder to fool voters and Democratic activists into believing the populist rhetoric that candidates spew when they’re running for office.  Obama tricked me, I admit. I volunteered, donated to his campaign and celebrated his victory. By 2010 I was angry.

Democrats sometimes deliver, on wedge issues such as gay marriage, gun rights, and marijuana legalization.  (On the other hand, Obama merely followed and didn’t take the lead on these issues.)   But on the central issues of economic justice, the Democratic leadership mostly serve the 1%, despite their rhetoric.  So, in 2016 the Dems are gonna have trouble tricking progressive again.

We really need to stop Hillary and take back the Democratic Party from the corporate Dems.

Who's to blame for the 2014 election debacle?

A group called American Voices of Reason posted the following on facebook.

You're fired, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

It is time for Democratic voters to hold party leaders accountable.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a complete FAILURE as leader of the Democratic National Committee.

Republicans now have control of the Senate and they have a record-number of seats in the House. Additionally Republicans are Governors in 30 out of 50 states.

Democrats have a STRONG RECORD over the past six years under President Obama. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz FAILED to highlight the President’s STRONG RECORD.

Democrats should have been running ads featuring people whose lives were saved because they have insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. Democrats should have had ads highlighting the 10 MILLION private sector jobs created in the past 4.5 years.

Is it really the fault of Wasserman-Schultz? I think it’s largely Obama’s fault, for: prosecuting whistle blowers; surrounding himself with Wall Street cronies; continuing and expanding GWB’s military and surveillance policies; promoting a health care plan devised by the Heritage Foundation; failing to prosecute Wall Street criminals and Bush era war criminality, thereby allowing the GOP and its allies to regroup; continuing GWB’s bailout of billionaires instead of homeowners; compromising early and often on numerous issues; appointing Bush hold-overs and centrists as advisers and cabinet members; betraying Democratic constituencies; etc, etc. (See Petition expressing extreme disappointment with President Obama’s policies for a list of betrayals.)

Turnout last week was low — under 37% nationwide and under 50% in Washington State — partly because people voted for Change in 2008 but came to feel betrayed. The country was eager for real Change. The public was disgusted with Republican corruption, mismanagement, and war-mongering. But Obama barely even tried to enact real change. Instead, he aimed for bipartisanship or post-partisanship.  Obama allowed the Tea Party to express populist outrage at government collaboration with plutocrats.  As Obama said of himself, “My policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies … back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”

Also, talk about accountability! How about holding Republican criminals accountable? Obama tried to be “bipartisan” with them. He “looked forward” and didn’t want to dig up past wrongdoing. THAT’S why the Dems lost in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Because Obama tried to play nice with those bastards.

Also, didn’t Obama, as leader of the Party, have any sway over Wasserman-Schultz’s approach? I’d presume he did.

It’s true that the Affordable Care Act, despite its many compromises and weaknesses, did represent a step forward on the path to a fairer and more efficient government-managed health care system (as in many countries overseas).  But Democrats nationwide were unable or unwilling to defend it. And the GOP messaging prevailed. Is that Wasserman-Schultz’s fault?  Obama has the bigger bully pulpit.

Obama sometimes is great at messaging. In other ways, he let the GOP define the terms of dialog. And his policies confused the voters.  He allowed the Republicans to control the messaging, with the result that the Dems got the blame for the bad economy and the lack of progress in D.C.   His lame attempts to rise above partisanship were dismal failures.

Had Obama fought hard and lost it would have been better than compromising and repeatedly losing.   He gained almost nothing from his many compromises with the GOP.

Of course, even more than Obama, the Republicans and their billionaire and corporate buddies are to blame for the mess we’re in. But Obama (“the great black hope”) wasn’t up to the battle. He let the GOP messaging prevail, and the Democrats didn’t vote.

When I volunteered to knock on doors for Democratic State Senator candidate Matt Isenhower last weekend, I was sent to an area of Woodinville with stately homes that must cost well over a million dollars each.  (There are lots of Microsoft millionaires in that part of Washington State.)  Though we were supposed to be targeting likely Democratic voters, it seemed many people were for Republican Andy Hill. My point: Like many swing districts, the 45th legislative district has too many rich people to vote reliably Democratic, and the more rural parts of the district, of course, tend to vote Republican.  Democrat Isenhower lost 53% to 47%.

The people need to hear our messaging, especially about economic inequality, so they stop voting against their own self-interest.  It won’t work in wealthy swing districts, but it could work in rural and less wealthy areas.

Yet in Washington State, neither former Governor Christine Gregoire nor current Governor Jay Inslee, both Democrats, have made any significant effort to educate the public about our regressive tax system, which relies on the regressive sales tax and a regressive Business & Occupation tax that favors profitable corporations because it taxes revenue, not profit. In fact, Governor Inslee’s main action since being elected seems to have been to grant Boeing an $8.7 billion tax break — for which Inslee was rewarded by Boeing’s decision to ship more jobs out of state.

As I’ve been saying for the past four years, the situation is grim and is unlikely to get better soon.    Perhaps Elizabeth Warren can revitalize the Democratic Party.  Bernie Sanders is great, but he’s old and I suspect that the US isn’t ready for a Socialist president.

Unfortunately, Hillary is likely to be even more friendly to Wall Street and the military than Obama.  In fact, Rand Paul is running to to the left of Hillary on those two issues. On the other hand, I doubt Hillary would allow the GOP to walk all over her the way Obama did, in his quixotic attempt at post-partisanship.

As a friend pointed out, it’s encouraging that Alan Grayson won in Florida. It’s a sign that a strong progressive who is unafraid to communicate our messages can win.

The two Democratic Parties: corporate Dems versus progressive Dems

On facebook, in comments to articles, and in person I often hear  socialists, anarchists, and independents say things like “The Dems are as bad as the Republicans” and “Trying to fix the Democratic Party is a hopeless task.”

Such views represent a gross exaggeration or distortion of the facts, but they contain a kernel of truth.

The reason such views are dangerous is that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party desperately needs the help of socialists, anarchists, and independents to win back the Democratic Party from corporate Democrats, to defend the US Senate from extreme Republicans, and to win back the state senate.

There are, in fact, two Democratic Parties. On the one hand (the left hand), there’s the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, consisting of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, most of the grassroots activists, and associated groups such as PDA, MoveOn, DFA, and DailyKos.   On the other hand (the right), there’s the corporate wing or “centrist wing” of the Democratic Party, consisting of  the White House, members of the House New Democrat Coalition, many governors (including Gov. Inslee), and numerous officeholders.

Often the corporate Dems are progressive on social issues (such as women’s rights and gay rights).   And they’ll often voice progressive-sounding statements about economic inequality, labor rights, militarism, trade agreements, and environmentalism — especially when they’re running for office.  But when push comes to shove, the corporate Dems often end up voting with the Republicans to empower the 1% and the military-industrial-financial elite.

Too often, corporate Dems have gone along with the war-mongering of the Republicans. For example, for last week’s vote to approve President Obama’s request for funding to support Syrian rebels who will (it is hoped) fight ISIS, all Washington State House members but Rep. Jim McDermott voted Yea.

And the centrist Dems seem favorably inclined towards the Trans-Pacific Partnership, despite the state party’s platform which is clear that TPP should be opposed.

Still, even the corporate Dems are generally nowhere near as bad as the Republicans, who barely even pretend to care about issues such as the environment, labor rights, income inequality, women’s rights, and corporate socialism.

The party-line vote two Thursdays ago to overturn Citizens United in the US Senate is a case in point.     All Republicans sided with the rich and powerful by voting against Senate Joint Resolution 19, while all Democrats sided with the people.  See Senate Republicans defend billionaires by keeping Citizens United alive.  In his 2010 State of the Union speech, President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for the Citizens United decision.

As of August 2013, House Republicans had voted 40 times to overturn Obamcare (ACA).

252 Republican Senate Filibusters

During the Obama administration, there have been numerous often unanimous party-line votes.  ExampleExampleExample.   ExampleExample (on gun control).  Example (on jobs).

You can see visually how very different the Republicans are from the Democrats by visiting this article:  Visualized grouping of US Congress members by similarities in their voting record.   In fact, I modified the image to highlight the members of the Progressive Caucus in green:

US House members grouped by similarity of their voting records

As you can see, Democrats are far from the Republicans.  Moreover, the members of the Progressive Caucus are clustered mostly on the bottom left of the image, far away from the Republicans, with the corporate Dems between the progressives and the Republicans.  Progressive Dems really are different from the corporate Dems.

(The image suggests, by the way that representatives such as Hastings from Florida, Speier, and Neal may be closet progressives.  On the other hand, the graph may be skewed by votes on unimportant or procedural issues.)

Consider, too, the policies of Republican governors such as Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida, Chris Christie in New Jersey, Rick Perry in Texas, and Rick Snyder in Michigan. They repeatedly have voted to cut taxes for the rich, decrease funding for education, and weaken labor rights.    Any notion that Democratic governors would have been as bad is totally delusional.

So, in short, people who say the Dems are the same as the Repugs are delusional, or dishonest, or both.

This is true both nationally and in Washington State, where the Democrats sorely need all the help they can get to win back the state senate from the Republicans.

See Who’s progressive in the Washington State House? — based on combined data from five scorecards for data on which Democrats are progressive and which Democrats are corporate in the Washington State House.

In Washington State, the Republicans took over the state senate and blocked all sorts of progressive legislation from coming up for consideration. Republicans opposed the Reproductive Parity Act. They slashed funding for Metro Transit. They tried to weaken environmental regulations. They submitted bills to weaken collective bargaining rights and gut health benefits for workers.

In Washington State, bad Democrats include former Republican Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, who helped Republicans take over control of the state senate. Less corporate is Rep. Ross Hunter, who arranged for Microsoft to get huge tax breaks.

And Governor Inslee is guilty of arranging an $8.7 billion tax break for one of the richest corporations in America (Boeing), at a time when the State Supreme Court has ruled that the legislature is in contempt for failing to adequately fund education.

I acknowledge that there are bad Democrats. What I adamantly reject is any notion that the Dems in general are the same as the Republicans.

Despite his lofty campaign rhetoric, President Obama has often sided with Wall Street and the military.  As Obama said of himself, “My policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies … back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”

So, for example, I fault President Obama with compromising too early and too often on health care reform, and with not allowing single-payer advocates a seat at the bargaining table. But even in the case of that very compromised law, it was the Republicans who demanded concessions and changes that weakened it.

Hillary Clinton is even more hawkish and Wall Street friendly than Obama. (Arguably, Tea Party populists such as Ron Paul are to the left of Obama and Hillary on the issues of militarism and Wall Street — at least in their rhetoric.)

But, as compromised as Obama and Hillary are, almost any Republican would be far worse. I am not proposing that we vote for “the lesser of two evils.”  I didn’t vote for Obama in 2012 (I voted for Jill Stein), and I oppose Hillary.  My point is that it’s plain wrong to say that the Dems are as bad as the Republicans.  Such rhetoric harms the causes we care about:  peace, economic justice,  share prosperity, public education, public health care, sufficient social services, worker rights, and environmental stewardship.

Another delusion that annoys me to no end is the fantasy common among anarchists that we can, in the foreseeable future, make do without any sort of strong central government. Unwittingly, anarchists are aiding Grover Norquist, the Koch Brothers, Ted Cruz and others in the Tea Party who want to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, public education, and the EPA. See Anarchism, Libertarianism and the way forward.

Socialists and anarchists, get real.  Stop trashing the Democratic Party in its totality.  The progressive wing sorely needs your help.