How the Washington State Democratic caucus worked to sabotage progressive candidates

The House Democratic caucus in Washington State supported Democrat Matt Larson over Darcy Burner in the 5th LD primary for House seat position #2.  Darcy is a strong progressive. She worked in D.C. as Executive Director of Progressive Congress and has a big following. The Democratic Caucus contributed $50,000 to Matt Larson. Later, after Darcy trounced Larson in the primary (11,014 to 5,056), the Dem Caucus donated only $20,000 to Burner.

Before the election I’d heard mumblings from a Democratic operative that Darcy was too far left, and after the election this same operative defended the caucus’s decision, saying that Larson would have been more electable.

Darcy Burner on TV

I was told by a knowledgeable source that the Democratic caucus also refused to support Jason Ritchie for state House because he refused to be critical of Darcy.

I asked Jason Ritchie about this, and he agreed that the HDCC didn’t want either him or Darcy in the caucus, so they didn’t target the races for support. He also agreed that both seats were winnable, as the district is trending blue. He went on (telling me I may quote him):

Labor allies stood behind my campaign 100%. I was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution. The problem is the HDCC and the entrenched elite who are not listening to the grassroots. Progressives and Labor need to stand together, not fight against each other, to oust the current leadership and reestablish our party as it was founded, progressive and working class champions.

Jason Ritchie for House

Here’s an early article about the caucus’ opposition to Darcy Burner, from Seattle Met: House Democrats Take Sides in Democratic Primary.

Here are details about the donations. In the 5th LD primary for House seat position #2, the Democratic Caucus contributed $50,000 to Matt Larson, Darcy’s Democratic challenger.

Democratic Caucus contributed $50,000 to Matt Larson
Darcy easily beat Larson: 11,014 to 5,056.   On Oct 10, 2016 the House Democratic Campaign Committee contributed $20,000 to Darcy’s campaign (substantially less than the $50,000 they gave to Larson).

Democratic Caucus contributed $20,000 to Darcy Burner

But Darcy lost in the general election to Paul Graves, who won 39,330 votes to Darcy’s 33,838.

In the other 5th House race, Jason Ritchie was the only Democratic primary candidate.  Republican Jaye Rodney beat Jason Ritchie 37,772 to 34,954 in the general election. That was even closer.

Fact is, the caucus (especially Frank Chopp) tends not to like progressive candidates.

They chose former Republican Rodney Tom over a good Democrat, leading to the Republicans taking over control of the state Senate. State Democratic chair Dwight Pelz later regretted this.

Fact is, the Democratic caucus is wishy-washy on Democratic Party principles:  Frank Chopp allowed Steve Litzow’s charter school bill SB 6194 to come to a vote; over a dozen Democrats voted for it; and Governor Inslee allowed the bill to become law. Despite its being unconstitutional!  See These Dems voted to undermine public schools, contravene the Constitution, and aid Republicans.

In 2012, after Dennis Kucinich’s seat was redistricted out of existence, he visited Washington State to investigate running for Congress here. But Pelz opposed Kucinich’s move and ridiculed him,  angering many progressives.

A similar sellout was the recent votes by Senators Murray and Cantwell against Bernie Sander’s bill to allow re-importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada. There is an effort underway among Democrats to pass a resolution, or possibly a censure, about this issue.   Yes, Trump’s upcoming inauguration is a dark day for America. No, that’s no excuse for selling out principles for the sake of campaign money from corrupt drug companies.

It’s sellouts like these that confuse the voters, cause low turnout, and contribute to GOP victories and defections to the Greens and Socialists.

How corporate, hawkish Democrats betrayed the party and elected Trump

The neoliberals [ We elected them, remember? ] and neocons created an unholy matrimony. We let the globalized corporate camel’s nose under the tent and now folks are worried about Trump’s business being a conflict of interest.

As I use “we” here, I am reflecting and including myself as part of a people that acted as a bystander rather than an upstander over the years of my life. My own activism has been off and on. I realize that I cannot do it all, even now. I also realize that we need to create a friendly space for people to join in activism at the level of commitment they have to offer. We need to accept activists at their current zone of proximal development. There is more than enough work to do for everyone and all talents are needed in this work.

And now we suddenly worry about more because of Trump. Suddenly many are worried about white nationalism. It has been part of this country since our inception. Yet white nationalism has never stopped. And there are many of us who ignored the constructs of racism gripping our country. Racism continues to allow the murder of innocent Native Americans, blacks, and Latinos.

We’ve allowed deregulation and privatization to take root. We allowed Citizens United. We bailed out the banks and Wall Street. Some of us fought these things in the streets. Some of us showed apathy.

We allowed ourselves to be seduced by the propaganda of consumerism. Think about #BlackFriday.

We allow our current neoliberal president to protect bankers and big oil while he militarized the police who use violence against peaceful water protectors.

We allowed jobs to be outsourced and unions to be disempowered. Our current neoliberal president and most of the country stood by while his former Chief of Staff closed 50 public schools in poor black and brown neighborhoods to privatize them, while he fired 1,000s of educators to replace them with 5 week trained corporate TFA players.

Our current neoiberal president stood by while the former secretary of education, Arne Duncan claimed that “Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans”. Most of the country stood by while people suffered, died, and virtually all public schools in New Orleans were privatized virtually overnight.

We stood by while Gov Snyder poisoned the water of Flint, Michigan and allowed Betsy DeVos, Nestle, the water companies, and the water profiteers to take the money of the victims.

Most of us stood by while all three branches of our government were sold out to corporate power. Most of us stood by while black and brown votes were disenfranchised by redistricting and voter suppression.

We allow our current neoliberal president to engage in permanent war while privatizing agencies like Blackwater to be our mercenaries.

We stood by and allowed Disaster Capitalism to flourish.

By voting for the lesser of 2 evils in a 2 party system for years now, we paved the way to authoritarian white nationalism / NeoNazism and nepotism.

Kudos to those who have been awake and actively organizing this entire time. We may be weary, but we have to create space in our lives to build bridges with all other activists – the civil rights movement – climate justice movement – immigration rights movement – #BlackLivesMatter#NoDAPL#IdleNoMore – public ed activists – unionists – Fight for $15 – Anti-war movement – all of us need to work together – organize as allies.

It will take a general strike to end corporate power. Or a very ugly revolt. Or both. The French succeeded in overthrowing their government in 2+ weeks in 1968. De Gaulle fled the country. Workers could’ve done better with their negotiations, but in the end they won much. Trump and the GOP aren’t going to be champions for the middle class. Kudos to some of the conservative GOP who are already disagreeing with some of Trump’s decisions. But will you join us to fight? Wall Street and white nationalists are still in charge. Will you organize against racism?

Are you awake yet? Or will the apathy continue? How will we organize? When? Where? Will you make time in your life to take a stand and organize yet? I am ready.

Defeat Trump but recognize the problems with Tim Kaine

First, it needs to be said that we cannot let Trump win.

That being said, as an elected PLEO Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, I owe a report back to the people even as I continue to process the events of the past couple weeks, so I’m offering this partial post-DNC analysis/reflection/report back as I’m still processing the events I was privileged to witness. We need to go in with our eyes wide open as to what we’re being asked to support and work for in this election cycle. The following is a tidbit of a longer message regarding Sec’y Clinton’s VP pick Sen. Tim Kaine that was sent by the Bernie Campaign to his Democratic National Convention Delegates last week.

Known as a “centrist” governor of Virginia, Kaine supported restrictions on abortion and angered environmentalists by fighting for a controversial coal-fired power plant in Wise County. He declared “I strongly support” Virginia’s anti-union “right-to-work” law and denigrated critics of corporate-friendly trade deals as having a “loser’s mentality.” He criticized Democrats in 2011 for seeking a higher tax rate on millionaires. In the U.S. Senate since 2013, he has consistently ranked as one of the least progressive Democrats and was one of only a dozen Democrats who supported Trans-Pacific Partnership Fast Track last year.

Instead of solidifying the power built by the people’s movement to support Bernie Sanders into a unified Democratic base by choosing a progressive running partner, Clinton has chosen to throw the people’s movement under the bus in favor of the possible chance of gaining some votes from disenchanted Republicans. I’m having trouble seeing the loyalty to our party’s platform by courting those who are opposed to it, and am afraid that she’s disrespected the movement and lost for the Democrats much more than we stand to gain.

So, Clinton and the DNCC are forcing us to support a Right-to-Work, anti-choice, anti-environmental, anti-tax on millionaires, pro-TPP Vice Presidential candidate and work for our own demise? Where’s the respect for working families, women, future generations, and the growing movement to fight for their issues? Asking workers to support a Right-to Work (actually it’s Right-to-Work-for-Less) candidate is like asking displaced workers to train their outsourced replacements who will do their jobs for less pay.

Right-to-Work is all about breaking working people’s power. What is our future if our power is taken from us? With the advent of union busting, the proliferation of Right-to-Work to 25 states now, and the diminishment of union density and working families’ power to fight for our fair share of the wealth we create, income disparity has reached modern historical highs not seen since the 1920’s, when industrial unions started building real worker power and created the middle class.

There are similar analogies for women, environmentalists, tax fairness and fair trade proponents, i.e. asking women to support someone who wants to restrict choice, or environmentalists to support someone who wants to expand use of fossil fuels. It appears the policies that Kaine supports are all about advancing a corporate agenda. And, I’m reminded that Clinton’s chief advisor (Bill) is also from a Right-to-Work state and started this whole free-trade fiasco that has cost so many American jobs, was a founder and leader of the conservative DLC, implemented so-called welfare reform that has crippled the most vulnerable families, and instituted conservative criminal justice reform that locked up so many disadvantaged and people of color into the prison-industrial complex and militarized our police forces.

Certainly, the platform contains some very good policy objectives that we all instinctively know need to be in it, but with no way to enforce the platform on electeds it’s just a lot of good words. It all boils down to trust in Hillary. But, as a member of the Walmart Board of Directors, what did she do to support their low-wage workers? What effect will the millions of dollars she received from the many closed door speeches she gave to the Wall Street elite (at $300,000+ per speech) have on reforming our financial system with more than token efforts? Is the Debbie Wasserman Schultz fiasco indicative that Clinton uses political favors to repay political abuses, gain political power, and squelch the people’s voice? Despite the good words in the platform, policy follows power and in this case, I fear it will follow the money and the conservatives she, Bill, the DNCC, and the DLC are catering to and dragging the Democratic party toward.

Wouldn’t it have been better political strategy to embrace the people’s movement rather than to power through an agenda that moves us to the right?

Many Trump followers are frustrated with the insecurity that the ongoing assault by corporations and power elite have imposed on their families, so they’ve gravitated to a demagogue who is saying what they want to hear regarding change, but is actually an embedded part of the problem.

The media will spin all this to make it easier for us to rationalize, but we’ll still know the truth. So, Clinton vs. Trump? I’m still processing, and healing from the top-down reaming at the DNC (Bernie Delegates were abused all week at the Convention, some physically), but I know I’ll make the best decision in the end that my conscience will allow.

Now, I have to re-read the first sentence of this article above. What a dilemma.

Why are the Dems losing in the budget and transportation negotiations in Olympia?

Sunday I attended a meeting of the Legislative Action Committee of the King County Democrats.  Representative Tana Senn of the 41st LD spoke, followed by Senator Cyrus Habib of the 48th LD.

During discussion of the budget it became clear that there is unlikely to be a capital gains tax. Nor will Governor Inslee get the carbon pricing plan that is central to his advocacy for clean energy.

Tann Sennhabib

Furthermore, the transportation plan agreed to in the senate contains an obnoxious “poison pill” according to which funding for public transit and bike lanes would be cut if carbon pricing is later instituted.

Negotiations on the budget seem to be favoring the Republicans.

Yesterday I got email from Jaxon Ravens, the state Dem chair:

If Senator Andy Hill and the State Senate GOP don’t come to the table and work with Democrats to strike a deal on our budget, then 25,000 workers — about half of the state’s workers — will be sent pink slips. Important services like state parks and supervision of former inmates will be shuttered.

Democrats are doing their part to reach a deal. Governor Inslee and House Democrats have dropped key parts of their initial proposal, like a capital gains tax. Their compromise goes 77 percent of the way toward filling the gap between the initial budget proposals.

State Senate Republicans? They’ve budged only 2 percent.

Basically, the message I hear from the legislators and from Ravens is that the Republicans out-maneuvered the Democrats.  By various budgetary gimmicks, unreasonable projections, and postponements, and thanks to an increase in revenue due to economic growth, the Republicans get to maintain their “no new taxes” pledge. The Democrats fail to raise revenue, fix our regressive tax system, or make clear progress on clean energy and transportation.

On the topic of transportation, Habib said that the senators chosen to negotiate with the Republicans were Senator Steve Hobbs and Senator Marko Liias.   Habib said the pair agreed to the Republicans’ transportation plan and left the other Democrats on the committee in a quandary.   The infamous “poison pill” in the plan  was anathema to many Democrats. But it was hard to reject the recommendation of the “bipartisan” leaders.

And the Republicans were able to split Democratic constituencies: the Senate transportation plan has decent support for public transportation but is bad on carbon and climate change.  Public transportation advocates and many mayors and cities councils are thus happy with the plan, while environmentalists are mostly opposed.

The Republicans even get to trumpet their plan to lower college tuition by 25%, though Tana Senn pointed out the reductions exclude community colleges and are paid for by eliminating scholarships and by lowering pay for faculty. (See GOP proposal to slash college tuition puts House, Senate at odds.)

So it seems the Republicans are winning.

Negotiations aren’t finished, and maybe the Republicans will be forced to agree to eliminate some tax exemptions (e.g., for oil).  Habib said Republicans already have been forced to agree to cost of living adjustments for teachers and other pay raises for state workers.  But the Republicans seem willing, perhaps eager, to shut down state government to get their way. Is the reason they keep winning just that they’re unscrupulous?

Habib said the Dems didn’t sell their tax increases well to the public. He gave the analogy of shopping for clothes. If you walk into a store the salesman doesn’t start off asking you to give him $100 up front. Instead, he shows you a nice shirt, tempts you, and says, “Isn’t it nice?”     The Dems should have held a carrot in front of the public and said, for example, “If you want decreased class sizes, as the voters approved in the ballot initiative I-1135, then we can fund it by raising taxes on the rich.”

Republicans raise taxes on the poor and the middle class

In fact, the Republican talking point that there are “no new taxes” is mostly empty rhetoric, because the Republicans have agreed to raise taxes — on the middle class and the poor. The Senate transportation plan raises the regressive gas tax.  But even Habib at one point in the meeting repeated the Republican talking point that they passed a budget that didn’t raise taxes. I repeatedly said to Habib and Senn that the Dems need to emphasize the fact the Republicans do want to raise taxes.  Habib said that it’s not smart for Dems to oppose tax increases, even if the taxes are regressive, because the state needs revenue.

Habib pointed out that businesses were in favor of the increase in the gas tax, because without good transportation infrastructure their businesses will suffer, but they don’t want to pay for it.

So, the Dems were out-maneuvered and allowed the Republicans to control the messaging. Republicans are also spending money on media ads touting their budget. Understandably, Dems didn’t want to spend money on counter-ads, because they can’t afford it.    The GOP has deep-pocketed benefactors.

But I suspect there’s another reason the Dems keep losing:  the system is rigged. One of the two Democratic senators chosen to negotiate with the Republicans on the transportation package is a centrist/corporate Dem, Steve Hobbs.  Hobbs  is a long time Road Kill caucus member.  The other Democratic negotiator, Marko Liias, used to be quite progressive (see Who’s progressive in the Washington State House?) but in recent years has moved to the right. (“Liias voted against the budget because it did not include the continuation of tax incentives that benefits technology companies. ” source; and Liias was a sponsor of the Money Tree bill that would have aided the loan shark industry source).

And the person chosen to lead the budget negotiations in the House is Ross Hunter, who is also a centrist Democrat and who has been a leader in promoting tax breaks for his former employer, Microsoft.

Governor Inslee, on the other hand, took the lead in pushing for the $8.7 billion in tax breaks for Boeing.

Corporate Dems dominate the Democratic Party nationally; hence the many sellouts of the Obama presidency, including the selection of Senator Max Baucus as the lead Senate negotiator for the Affordable Care Act and the apparent success of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Were the Dems just out-maneuvered by the clever and ruthless Republicans?   Or is the deck stacked in Olympia against progressive policies, the way it’s stacked in D.C.?

Let’s hope the Republicans are forced to eliminate some major tax breaks. But don’t hold your breath.

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