Why Obama can't blame the GOP for his inability to pass progressive legislation

(originally published at OpEdNews)

Oh, those terrible Republicans. Indeed, indeed. Who can deny it? The Republicans are bad news.

But when I hear President Obama and the Democratic leadership blame the Republicans for the Democrats' inability to pass progressive legislation, I get angry. Nancy Pelosi could have instituted impeachment hearings against Bush and Cheney once it became clear that they had misled the nation into war. At the start of his Administration, Obama could have pushed for prosecution of Bush-era crimes related to the war, torture, the politicization of the Justice Department, corruption of federal agencies, election fraud, and other matters.

In short, President Obama and the Democratic leadership's effort to shirk responsibility for effecting progressive change is belied by one salient fact: had Obama and the Democratic leadership prosecuted the Republicans for their numerous serious criminal acts, then the GOP would be in a much weaker position to mount an effective resurgence.

The American people would now know the truth about what had happened, and many Republicans would be in prison or would be cowering in shame with their tails between their legs.

Pelosi and Obama DIDN'T EVEN TRY. Given the magnitude of the crimes perpetuated by the Bush gang, it's hard to see how there couldn't have been convictions and a fallout. Or at very least the American public would have gotten a good political education.

The Repugs sure wouldn't have held their punches in a similar situation.

Instead, we all know what happened. Obama chose to look forward, not backwards. Obama chose to be bipartisan, not confrontational. Obama chose to hide the truth from the American people. Obama surrounded himself with advisers from the Bush Administration and from the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. Obama cut back room deals with Big Pharma and Big Insurance to eliminate a public option, the re-importation of drugs, and the ability of the government to negotiate drug prices. Obama continued Bush's bailouts of Wall Street, nixed windfall profit tax on bonuses, escalated the war in Afghanistan, and fired progressive advisers at the slightest provocation. Etc, etc, etc. See this petition.

No wonder Obama and the Dems are "struggling" to accomplish anything!

No wonder millions of progressives are contemplating giving up on the Democratic Party!

What did Obama expect? That the Republicans would play nice? That progressives would ignore his repeated betrayals? As Paul Krugman asked, is the Obama team a bunch of idiots?

I too share that healthy and natural urge to hold Obama accountable. In short, Obama actively tried to help the GOP.

But despite my extreme disappointment and anger at President Obama's poor leadership, I still think the best way for progressives to achieve their aims is for them to work within the Democratic Party to reform it. The work is unpleasant and difficult. But given the realities of the America's non-parliamentary political system, third parties have little (constructive) power. And given the damage that could be wrought were the GOP to regain power, progressive can't afford to cut off their noses to spite their faces.

I've argued this position at length here and here.

There really are many good and middling Democrats. For example, on July 27 of this year, 102 out of 250 House Democrats (40% of the Democrats) voted against funding the war in Afghanistan. President Obama had to rely on Republicans to continue funding his war. More Republicans (160) voted for the funding than Democrats (148).

So, I say: punish Obama, but don't punish the Dems in general.

How? Condemn Obama widely, pass resolutions critical of Obama in Democratic organizations, write letters-to-the-editor saying why Obama is doing poorly. But don't abandon the many progressives working within the Democratic Party to push it leftward. Such progressive Dems are particularly numerous at the local level.

The alternative is years in third-party oblivion, with likely GOP control of Congress and the White House.

If the many angry, motivated progressives would infiltrate Democratic Party organizations at the grassroots level, they could kick out and shame corporatist Dems. Think how the Religious Right and the Hard Right took over the Republican Party starting during the Reagan years.

If only the progressives would be so effective.

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