The Divided Left revisited

The Divided Left in America is a major problem, and it’s come to fore in the discussions on social media about whether Bernie should run as an independent and about whether Bernie supporters should work within the Democratic Party.

Progressive Democrats are desperately trying to reform the Democratic Party but lack numbers. As a result the corporate Dems win. Greens,Socialists and others further to the left flee the Democratic Party and support candidates like Ralph Nader, Jill Stein, and Rocky Anderson. Nationally, these third party candidates win maybe a few percent of the votes and fail to organize effective political organizations. For example, they don’t typically have statewide candidates.

In short, angry Dems flee the Democratic Party, allowing the corporatists and hawks to win. In contrast, angry conservatives take over the GOP and push it further to the right.

In local races, candidates like Kshama Sawant can win a city like Seattle. But statewide (e.g., in the suburbs) they are perceived as too radical by most people. (Bernie Sanders is more of a social democrat than a democratic socialist; he harmed his chances by calling himself a socialist. Noam Chomsky and others agree with this view.)

I understand that working within the Democratic Party is difficult, dirty, unpleasant work. Whoever said the Revolution would be pleasant?

Still, I’m not condemning those people who flee the Democratic Party. I understand why they do it. The leadership is corrupted. This is clear nationally. Statewide, Inslee voted to give $8.7 billion to Boeing, and he allowed the charter schools bill to become law. In my LD (41st) there are many good Dems but the LD allows our legislators to betray us: Tana Senn and Judy Clibborn both voted for Steve Litzow’s (R, 41 LD) charter schools bill, despite the fact that the state Supreme Court ruled charter schools are unconstitutional; despite the fact that McCleary isn’t yet funded; and despite the fact the the state party platform says “We oppose charter schools.” Many (most?) of the 41st LD Dem PCOs are pissed, but the LD leadership treats me like a dangerous outsider. They also disliked my criticisms of Hillary’s hawkishness.

The PDA pursues an inside-outside strategy that allows people to work but within and outside of the Democratic Party. That’s perhaps necessary but it’s not ideal.

Anyway, any ideas for uniting the left? For years I have been promoting the idea of a shared media platform where people post articles and discuss things. Progressives and socialists are supposed to believe in cooperation for the common good. Fact is: people don’t work together too well.

Hey, all you Bernie supporters who attended the caucuses, take over the Party!

The surprise overwhelming win by Bernie Sanders in the Washington State Democratic caucus was due, I surmise, to the participation of young people who had never before gotten involved.    I know in my precinct there were a surprising number of young people I had never seen before.   I am eager to see hard data about whether my theory is true.

Regardless of whether Bernie wins the nomination, we need these young people to reinvigorate the party and push it to the left.  This is the sort of peaceful political revolution that Bernie Sanders has been calling for.

Angry conservatives take over the GOP.  Angry progressives too often flee the Democratic Party.  This election represents a chance to fix that fundamental flaw in liberal politics in America.

The Republican scam, and the Democrats' unwillingness to oppose it

Last night I was listening to AM talk radio, and a Republican candidate was promoting the following conservative narrative: “Yes, there is terrible wealth inequality, and it’s due to government waste, corruption and regulations. We need to slash taxes and get rid of regulations so that the middle class can have jobs and thrive.  Government is a taker. We need more freedom.”  The candidate also talked about the preciousness of life.

Likewise, at a political event in Nevada recently, Marc Rubio told the audience that the notion that “big government is good for the people who are trying to make it” is a “lie.” He said, “When the government dominates the economy, the people that can afford to influence the government — they win. And everybody else is stuck.” (source: November 30, 2015 edition of the New Yorker)

There is some truth to Rubio’s statements, and the conservative narrative is plausible enough to dupe lots of people.

Yet it’s a big scam.

The scam goes like this. Conservatives corrupt and starve government so it performs poorly. They make sure it serves the 1%. They wage almost constant war. They allow corporations to ship profits and jobs overseas. They oppose regulations that might rein in Wall Street, even as they decry Wall Street greed and the bailouts. They under-fund the IRS and regulatory agencies. They promote regressive taxation which unfairly burdens the middle class.  Then they argue that taxes are too high and government is wasteful and corrupt. They use the failures of government to justify cutting taxes and maintaining tax loopholes for the rich. When progressives try to fix the system, they accuse progressives of wanting to raise peoples’ taxes.

The scam works — it’s rather brilliant — and our task is to expose it and promote an alternative vision in which government serves everyone, not just the 1%.

Scam Alert!

The solution to the corruption of government isn’t to throw in the towel and give up on government. The solution is to fix the system so it’s not rigged.

But we have a tiny voice, and the corporate-backed Republicans have most of the money and an effective noise machine.  There aren’t enough progressive rich people willing to fund an alternative, lefty media empire. And most Democratic politicians choose to ignore the problems of fair taxation and government corruption. They allow Republicans to frame the issues.

At a recent King County Dems Legislative Action Committee meeting I asked state House majority leader Pat Sullivan what he’d do to educate the voters so that they stop voting for Tim Eyman’s anti-tax initiatives and for Republican candidates.   I want Sullivan and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership — including Governor Inslee and ex-Governors Gregoire, Locke, and Lowery — to boldly take the lead in educating the public about taxes and government.

But Sullivan said that it’s not his job to educate the public.  The voters won’t listen to him.

I think the politicians run away from the issue because they think (know?) that they’ll get slaughtered at the polls if they talk about taxes.

Moreover, there are enough corporate, triangulating politicians within the Democratic Party to muddy the waters and make it unclear which party can be trusted. Bill Clinton dismantled Glass-Steagall, supported NAFTA and said “The era of big government is over.” President Obama surrounded himself with Wall Street cronies and promoted a health care plan designed by the Heritage Foundation to enrich insurance companies. Governor Inslee gave an $8.7 billion tax break to Boeing. Democrat Ross Hunter took the lead in arranging tax breaks for Microsoft.

Meanwhile, Republicans control the U.S. House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, and they’ve taken over a large majority of state legislatures. In Washington State Republicans control the state Senate and are two seats away from controlling the state House.

Who will step up and promote the pro-government, fair taxation message people need to hear? How can we strengthen the hand of progressives in the Democratic Party?

Clearly, Bernie Sanders has been effective at getting parts of this message out to the public. Perhaps the movement he inspires will succeed at starting to fix the corruption. My only fear is that his calling himself a socialist might limit his effectiveness. The ironic thing is: he’s probably not even a socialist! He’s a social democrat. See Bernie Sanders is a social democrat, not a socialist. Dwight Eisenhower was more of a socialist than Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders is a Social Democrat, not a Democratic Socialist

[Note: this article’s former title was: “The conservative scam: a plausible narrative that enriches the 1%”.]

Should progressives vote for Hillary if she wins the nomination?

My statement on the discussion of whether or not to vote for Clinton should Bernie not win the Democratic nomination and the many permutations of that discussion:

I support the values embodied in the Democratic Party’s Washington State Platform (and many other state and local platforms, and quite a bit of what winds up in the national platform, although small-d democracy in the party ends at the state lines.). I need to see more than a blue t-shirt with a “D” on it to support a candidate, I need to see CREDIBLE support (a track record, not just lip service) of those values from any candidate I work for or even vote for.

The primary problem with the party has been that we’ve not held our elected Dems accountable to those values and as a result working Americans have been sold out to the corporate tools of the wealthy power elite. (The GOP has always wanted to return us to the Gilded Age, they only started succeeding when many elected Dems stopped fighting back in the late 1970s.) An organized movement to change this started after the 2004 Democratic convention, Bernie’s candidacy sprang from it and has advanced it more than many thought possible.

This is a movement, and as such, it is more than one man. Bernie is incredibly principled and politically astute. But, as he repeatedly says, this is about US not him. In our system, political parties perform many valuable functions. That the Democratic Party has been slacking on upholding its values and performing interest aggregation among its members (among other things) and selling out working Americans is not an indictment of the party system, it is an indictment of the too many rank-and-file Democrats and others who share the values the party supposedly stands for thinking that someone else will do the work to make it accountable. As my friend Anita said in the thread this was written for— learn the rules and start playing. There are plenty of folks already inside the party who need your help and will hold the door open for you.

If Bernie is not on the general election ballot the pertinent question is not which sell out or no chance message candidate you will vote for, but what will you do to advance those values and ensure that 2016 is the last Presidential election where there is a Democratic candidate that does not support working class Americans. But not a single delegate has been committed at this point (super delegates are by definition uncommitted, so getting worked up over them is counter-productive), so at this point every ounce of effort should be going to ensure that Bernie wins the Democratic nomination.

Breaking News! Washington State Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Endorses Bernie Sanders for President of the United States!

On July 11, 2015, the Washington State Democratic Party Progressive Caucus held a special meeting for the purpose of considering an endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States. Members of the Progressive Caucus, including members from legislative districts and congressional districts all over Washington state, voted unanimously in favor of the endorsement. Delegates of the Washington State Democratic Party to the Democratic Party National Convention will be selected at Precinct Caucus in March 2016. We urge all progressives to attend your local precinct caucus and vote for Bernie Sanders to be the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States. For more information on how you can become a delegate for Bernie and/or help others become delegates for Bernie, visit the following web page.
http://washingtonforberniesanders.com/how-to-become-a-delegate-for-bernie-sandersBernie Sanders is our best hope to restore our democracy and rebuild our economy. Join our campaign and help us help Bernie win here in Washington state.

wa and bernie

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