I received an email this morning from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) urging me to sign the following pledge:
"President Obama: If you cut Medicare and Medicaid benefits for me, my parents, my grandparents, or families like mine, don't ask for a penny of my money or an hour of my time in 2012. I'm going to focus on electing bold progressive candidates -- not Democrats who help Republicans make harmful cuts."
You can sign the pledge, if you so wish, here.
In its email, the PCCC included some of the reactions of Obama supporters and donors in the 2008 campaign to the fear that the President in his speech today will embrace the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles deficit cutting commission which envisions deep cuts to New Deal and Great Society entitlement programs. Here are those comments because they are well worth the read:
Susan Carpenter, Obama volunteer from Ohio:
"Like many volunteers on his campaign, I was in love with the idea of Obama. I haven't given up on him quite yet, but I'm mustering the energy to work on the resistance. He needs to know who we are."
John Rotolo, Obama volunteer from Florida:
"I'm almost too heartsick to comment...I'm at a loss."
Barbara Louise Jean, Obama volunteer from Nevada:
"It's ludicrous to cut Medicare for seniors when Wall Street created this mess without being held accountable. At 69, I'll be in financial trouble if Medicare benefits are lowered."
Joelle Barnes, Obama volunteer from Pennsylvania:
"This is like a knife through my heart! This is a Republican thing!"
Suzanne Fair, Obama volunteer from Maryland:
"I know he has to compromise sometimes, but it seems that he is caving to the Republicans far too often. We elected him for real change and I would like to see him stand strong against the corporate rich."
Margaret Copi, Obama donor from California:
"I contributed more to Obama's campaign than I have to anything else in my life, but no more dollars from me and definitely not a moment of volunteer time, unless he makes huge shifts and starts to fight for the peoples' interest."
Frankie Perdue, Obama volunteer from Colorado:
"I do not think that Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security should be on the negotiating table at all. Have the corporations pay their fair share of taxes."
Deborah Finn, Obama volunteer from North Carolina:
"This is wrong! We did not elect Obama to have him make cuts in valuable, important programs. He needs to stand up to the Republicans. And he needs to speak to the American people about why it is morally wrong to cut the programs."
Michaele Bonenberger, Obama volunteer from South Dakota:
"This does not sound at all like the Barak Obama that I worked so hard to get elected in 2008."
Dotty Hopkins, Obama volunteer from California:
"It makes it hard to gin up enthusiasm for 2012. More like hold your nose and vote again! As a former Obama volunteer, I'm already worrying about my lack of desire to do any campaigning and I'm on our County Central Committee for heaven's sake."
I do think that tonight's speech from the George Washington University is a break or make moment for President Obama vis-à-vis for many in his liberal base that worked so passionately to elect him in 2008. But I'm not sure that the President's campaign team feels that Obama needs all of them this time around given the campaign is a battle for the political center and that center clearly wants, if polls are to be believed, movement on reducing the deficit. To a certain degree, Obama's campaign strategists believes that many liberals have no place to go and that when push comes to shove they will back the President. In this, they are probably right.
Going back to the notes above, I was most struck by Susan Carpenter's statement. An Obama volunteer from Ohio, one of the three most crucial battleground states in every Presidential election since 1960, Ms. Carpenter confesses that she "was in love with the idea of Obama." I think that pretty much sums what befell the progressive left in 2008. We fell in love with an idea and ignored the substance. Unfortunately for us, we now have to face up to and live with the substance of Obama and desperately need to come up with an idea for 2016.
Roger Simon of Politico yesterday wrote that he doesn't think that "Barack Obama will have a hard time defeating his Republican opponent in 2012, barring a financial meltdown or a major foreign crisis" but rather that Obama should worry about a Democratic opponent from the left. Simon, a staunch old school conservative, goes on to tout the possibilities of Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich.
None of these at any point in the last two years have ever even suggested that they are interested in challenging President Obama and they are not likely to do so now. Hillary Clinton is really the only one who could mount an effective challenge given her name recognition but she has repeatedly forsworn any interest in any elective office once she retires as Secretary of State. Moreover, she still hasn't even paid off her 2008 campaign debt to Mark Penn as yet.
The reality is that President Obama is gearing up to raise $1 billion dollars for his run. In an America where money has become the determinant factor in our politics, that is a hefty obstacle to overcome. Barring some unforeseen crisis, Barack Obama will be re-elected President simply because his talents as a fundraiser are unsurpassed. For the progressive left, I believe it would serve us better to focus on electing true progressives to Congress so that we might draw the political center leftward because right now the political center in Congress is of all people, John Boehner. The imperative of recapturing the House could not be clearer.