Challenging Obama’s Anti-Progressivism
By Stephen Lendman
08 December, 2010
Believing Obama is progressive is like calling a cat a dog. Only the delusional think so. He’s, in fact, hard-right, a neocon, a warrior president, a corporatist pursuing anti-populist policies favoring wealth and privilege, not social justice when more than ever it’s needed.
He’s a fraud, an elitist, chosen years ago, then put on a fast track to power. Big monied interests love him. So do war profiteers and members of America’s aristocracy. He’s one of them.
Only the voting millions who backed him were defrauded. Will they awaken, finally understand, and express their ire publicly more strongly than in mid-term theatrics, throwing out bums for new ones. It’s high time. A year two Obama assessment is coming. Watch for it, parts I and II. A year one analysis can be accessed through the following links:
Definitions of Progressivism
Merriam Webster defines it as people “believing in moderate political change and especially social improvement by governmental action.” The Oxford Dictionary says it’s anyone “advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.” Wikipedia calls it a “political attitude favoring or advocating changes or reforms through governmental action.”
Progressivism began in the 19th century to end slavery, support women’s rights including suffrage, small farmers, and political populism – namely:
— social reforms benefitting ordinary Americans;
— citizens having more control over government;
— establishing comprehensive education as a universal right;
— curbing excessive corporate power;
— eliminating corruption and waste;
— supporting organized labor;
— laws to prevent child worker exploitation;
— environmental conservation, and more stressing social values above financial gain.
Obama’s agenda is mirror opposite – anti-progressive/populist/liberal. Judge him by his advisors and top officials. They support power, not working Americans. Their policies are pro-war, pro-business, pro-privilege, pro-super wealth, anti-dissent, anti-democracy, anti-freedom, anti-civil and human rights, anti-environmental sanity, and anti-government of, by and for the people. They oppose virtually everything most people want, need but don’t get under either party, one a near clone of the other.
After eight Bush/Cheney/Republican years, Americans wanted change. Obama’s promise won the most sweeping non-incumbent victory in over 50 years, along with congressional Democrats gaining large House and Senate majorities.
Out with the old. In with the new. Everything changed but stayed the same. In fact, it worsened with perhaps greater harshness coming in Obama’s next two years, including escalated imperial wars, neoliberal austerity, greater than ever impoverishment, desperation and despair, as well as hardened repression to curb popular anger.
Surprisingly, however, Obama’s approval rating still hovers close to 50%. On December 6, the conservative Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll said “47% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president’s performance. Fifty-three percent (53%) disapprove.” It also found 28% strongly approve, 41% strongly disapproving, “giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -13.” It’s about the same one he’s had all year despite greater numbers being harmed, a trend showing no sign of abating.
One progressive, Tikkun’s Rabbi Michael Lerner, expressed concern in a December 4 Washington Post op-ed headlined, “Save Obama’s presidency by challenging him on the left,” saying:
“People who used to say, ‘Give (Obama) more time’ when (he) was criticized for capitulating to the right, or who argued that (he) must have a plan to turn things around, are now largely depressed and angry.”
If so, polls like Rasmussen’s don’t show it, at least not convincingly. Lerner, however, believes “many liberals and progressives” are mad about Obama’s unwillingness to veto “tax relief for billionaires,” besides continued imperial wars, escalated in Afghanistan, abandoning the healthcare public option, refusal to prosecute Bush war criminals, and his overall unpopular agenda.
Instead of condemning Obama and congressional Democrats, Lerner worries mostly about “a full-scale Republican return to power in 2012.” A “disaster” he said, given their economic policies and environmental record, as well as disdain for social justice and world peace.
Clearly, Lerner’s been largely AWOL during the past two years, mindless that Obama’s extremism exceeded Bush and that Democrats overall are as hardline as Republicans. Their rhetoric alone differs. On core issues like war and peace, corporatism, police state repression, and environmental pillaging, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them, what Lerner and other progressives should understand, highlight, repeat, and preach to their faithful, not believe leopards can change spots.
He does, wanting Obama to be “the candidate whom most Americans believed they elected in 2008:” the myth, not the man whom James Petras calls:
“the perfect incarnation of Melville’s Confidence Man. He catches your eye while he picks your pocket. He gives thanks as he packs you off to” imperial wars. The “first Jewish president,” he “unconditional(ly) support(s the) pro-Israeli Lobby and the colonial expansionist and bellicose policies of the Jewish state.”
Liberals, progressives, and intellectuals who “support a politician who publicly and openly embraces new wars, billionaire bailouts,” and mass privatizations, including essential services like healthcare, Medicare, education, perhaps Social Security, and more are “what C. Wright Mills called ‘crackpot realists.’ ” Their followers are what Walter Lippman described as the “bewildered herd,” clueless of the world around them, mostly how gravely they and their loved ones are harmed.
No matter. Lerner, and others like him, want Obama’s presidency saved – “by challenging him in the 2012 presidential primaries with a candidate who would unequivocally commit to a well-defined progressive agenda and contrast it with” his.
Those Democrat, however, don’t exist, and progressive independents aren’t welcome in a party embracing Democrat Leadership Council (DLC) extremism. As neocon as Republicans, they’re anti-populist, anti-environmental sanity, anti-labor, anti-welfare, anti-peace, pro-business, pro-privilege, pro-war, pro-Israeli belligerency and occupation, and pro-imperial zealotry for global dominance.
They support super-wealth and oppose social justice for Blacks, Hispanics, Latino immigrants, Muslims, working Americans, the poor and disadvantaged, consumer protections, populism, progressivism, honest elections, human and civil rights, and democratic values.
Obama buys it, governing accordingly. Believing he can be shoved to the left is “crackpot” lunacy. So is thinking congressional Democrats can, any of them. They cannot, what checking their voting records show, supporting pro-war defense budgets, Obamacare, pro-Wall Street finance reform, pro-agribusiness food “safety,” pro-Big Oil/Wall Street cap and trade, and much more.
Progressives? Hardly! They’re not likely to change – not now, next year, in 2012 or thereafter. They won’t follow Lerner’s platform embracing “love, kindness and generosity….a new New Deal….(a) Caring Society: ‘Caring for Each Other and the Earth.’ ” They support same old, same old, business as usual, softened only rhetorically.
It’s high time Lerner and other progressives understood, concluding other ways must be found for change outside the two-party dictatorship – independents committed to populism, real elections, excluding big money donors, social justice, civil and human rights, democratic values, and unconditionally ending imperial wars and occupations immediately, as well as slashing the defense budget, closing all overseas bases, and cutting force levels, no ifs, ands or buts.
In today’s environment, however, achieving those goals is enormously challenging. But it’s no reason not to try! To borrow a phrase, there is no alternative.
A Final Comment
On December 6, The New York Times reported Obama’s capitulation to Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich on income, capital gains, and dividends. Also on their federal estate tax that lapsed at the start of 2010. Despite their rhetorical disapproval, congressional Democrats will likely concur, while at the same time agreeing to deep austerity cuts for working Americans.
Obama again showed his allegiance to wealth and power. The two-party dictatorship is venal and broken. Replacing it with real progressive change is vital. Indeed, there is no alternative!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at •••@••.•••. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.