Dump Obama: for a tough new year
by jeffroby, Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 08:35:34 PM EST
Per the Daily Caller:
After the “shellacking” the Democratic Party took in the 2010 midterm elections, there was some speculation that President Barack Obama … could be vulnerable to a primary challenge for his own party’s nomination in 2012. But that doesn’t appear very likely, at least according to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine.
On Sunday’s broadcast of CNN’s “State of the Union,” Kaine dismissed the prospects in an interview … “Ed, I think it’s very unlikely that the president is going to face any kind of a serious primary challenge within the Democratic Party,” Kaine said. “You and I know that you can always get a fringe candidate or somebody to run.”
Kaine didn’t completely rule it out, but he measured the possibility of such a challenge to be “virtually nil.”
“So, you know, could somebody throw in their name?” he continued. “And, yes, it’s possible, but I think the likelihood of any serious challenge to the president is virtually nil. And I think the president’s strong performance and especially the three major accomplishments at the end of the year make it even smaller.” *
In other words, as Kaine whistles past the graveyard, Dump Obama is alive and well, as we brace ourselves for weekly announcements from the punditocracy that it is not.
Time to evaluate where Dump Obama is at. What progress have we made? In light of that progress, how do we see it further developing? I’ve been writing a Dump Obama series on FDL since early September, when the call was Time for a Dump Obama Movement.
First question. Why a movement? Why not an organization? Well, my take was that the progressive movement was so weakened by last year’s healthcare fight that it was barely worthy of the name. And how was one guy with a keyboard going to do either?
And, you might further ask, what is a movement and how is that different from an organization? For starters, the normal human condition is social/political stasis and isolation. Keeps things orderly, let business-as-usual remain business-as-usual, backed up by the threat of force with various degrees of subtlety. As individuals, people may have all sorts of political thoughts, needs, evaluations, fears and desires. But alone, the thought is, “I am alone, and if I step forward, I will be beaten down.” So people remain alone and immobile.
With movement, someone steps forward, something happens, breaks into the open. Those who thought themselves alone become aware that that perception was indeed false. From “I am alone, and if I step forward, I will be beaten down,” the thought transforms. “I am not alone! And WE will not be beaten down!” Once the sense of WE emerges, the situation transforms.
A new equilibrium wants to lock in. But with the emergence of the WE, people are not confronting it from the same place of isolation. New possibilities emerge. New action. More drastic actions come to the fore that had previously not been considered possible, so on and on the process develops. WE are not alone and WE will not be beaten down. Equilibrium, change, new equilibrium, new change.
This is the essence of movement. But movements can be fragile. Just as sudden hope moves things forward, setbacks can demoralize, fears can return. Movements can reach a peak short of what is required. They can be beaten. The people united CAN be defeated, and frankly, at this point, the people are hardly united.
So let’s look at how Dump Obama is going as a movement.
The way we could tell we were on track was actually a gift from our opponents. In September, I had made some Dump Obama comments on Docudharma, fellow Dumpster metamars had incorporated them into a diary on DailyKos (which went into full Obamacrat hysteria), Paul Rosenberg had picked up on this on OpenLeft — and went ballistic! I got wind of his diary denouncing metamars, jumped into the comment thread there, Rosenberg went super-nova ballistic, ran a whole series of diaries in the coming month, declaring, “I really have no time for the likes of you, Jeff. You are probably the most effective force in demobilizing the left so far as building electoral power goes.” No finer compliment …
For merely proposing a Dump Obama piece on Docudharma, I was summarily stripped of my front-page privileges, lest it run afoul of the Powers-That-Be at Daily Kos. As Buhdydharma put it: “
I am not going to marginalize DD, which this would do….on a whim of frustration.”
While battered from pillar to post, I discovered significant support as well. I discovered that I was indeed not alone. Nor was I beaten down.
On election night and the day after, clearly a calculated release date, we started seeing a smattering of articles discussing the possibility of Obama being primaried. Of course no such thing would happen, no “serious” politician would risk their career, yadda yadda, but it was NOW revealed that major league fundraisers had been talking about diverting their funds to causes other than Obama since at least that summer, that there had been some idle chatter about a primary challenge for some time — in the highest circles of the party. But fear not, primarying Obama is merely idle chatter.
Then came the tax deal. Something broke. There was a torrent of progressive rage directed at Obama. Learned liberals such as Michael Lerner’s Save Obama’s presidency by challenging him on the left, and Clarence Jones’s Time to Think the Unthinkable: A Democratic Primary Challenge To Obama’s Reelection, among others. On the New York Times front page, Matt Bai of the Times wrote a skeptical piece — Murmurs of Primary Challenge to Obama (demoted from its original title Talk on the Left of a Primary Challenge), in which he tellingly concludes: “should the president’s progressive critics warm to the idea, it might not take a particularly credible primary challenge to weaken Mr. Obama’s chances for re-election. It might only take a challenge designed to do exactly that.”
What this marked was that primarying Obama was now a legitimate position. There is a particularly interesting piece in the December 21 Democratic Strategist, a solid Democratic Party semi-insider blog. The significance of the piece is not its brilliance on the face of it — it in fact reflects a deep unease at the current fractiousness within the party. Rather, it states that we Dumpistas are now a legitimate force within the Democratic Party, and we have to be part of the dialogue.
Thus, in the absence of a primary candidate, our positions now have weight!!! The threat has proven sufficient.
Of course, given the straits the Dems are in today, this cannot be tolerated.
For a while, the best the Obamacrats could come up with was that a primary challenge would cost the Democrats the White House in 2012. Even on Kos, Obama could barely scrounge up any actual defenders. But now the tax deal — which was a disaster for Obama — has passed. And in a move that would make even George Orwell sick, the tax deal is now Obama’s great triumph. It leaves Obama in great shape. You see, the giveaway to the rich is in fact a second stimulus plan (and shooting someone in the head helps cure their mineral deficiency). And (no smirking, please) now that the LEFT has been paid off through this stimulus package, Obama is free to make as cozy with the Republicans as he wishes (which of course he wishes) since his left flank is now politically covered.
Then they throw us DADT. See the equivalence? Blow a hole in the nation’s financial foundations through this giveaway, heightening the pressure on Social Security, local governments, wage freezes, all that, and let gays openly into the army. Score one point on a social issue which doesn’t cost money, and destroy the economy in exchange.
START treaty passes. Obama is powerful, Obama is in control, Obama is in fact a liberal. And the word primary has fallen out of the headlines! It is to be expunged from every corner, erased from our collective memory, gone. They want each and every one of us to again be alone.
But let’s go back to our starting point. As I wrote, “This is the essence of movement … movements can be fragile. Just as sudden hope moves things forward, setbacks can demoralize, fears can return. Movements can reach a peak short of what is required. They can be beaten.” At this moment, with the connivance of the media and even the Republicans, the criticism of Obama has chilled a bit. There is an obscenely orchestrated pageant of Obama triumphant.
But here is where organization comes in. As movements advance, organizations can develop which embody, consolidate, the state of the movement. Organizations can self-consciously move forward even when the tide is moving against them.
Following my October Dump Obama: time for a candidate, and the November election, malcontent stepped into the breach. Working with the Dump Obama ferment following the election debacle, he set up a process at FireDogLake to begin a candidate search, hammer together 5 points of unity, take on the proud name of the New Progressive Alliance, and begin the search for both a candidate and a steering committee to give added visibility to this work.
So yes, we now have an organization. We are not alone, and we are in a position — within our limited resources — to let others know that they too are not alone. The rage they felt at the tax deal was not a figment of their imagination, not a “whim of frustration” best forgotten, but a real force that is influencing events, influencing those who are currently shouting the loudest that they are not influenced.
What organization can do is consolidate the movement at its peak, then hold the line as the party regulars counterattack, so that when the strategic weakness of the Democrats is again ripped open, the movement can pick up where it left off, rather than starting over.
The question is, what are our real possibilities?
We need a method:
Crystal-ball gazing is always a dubious business. Movements are volatile, and there are world events (invasion of Iran, a second, deeper dip to the depression, assassin’s bullets, a train getting blown up by alleged jihadists, to name a few) that can sharply impact the movement just as assassinations and the urban riots and the Tet offensive did in the 60’s. But we can now look at Dump Obama as a movement, and as an organization, and our plans can be more informed.
First, the possibility of a Democratic primary challenge is alive and well. The strategic 6-ton T-Rex in the room is the gap between the great needs of the American people, and the pathetic scraps the Democratic Party is willing to dole out. There is no indication whatsoever that this will change. Despite the caterwauling of some, we probably have until late summer for this to develop, for a significant Democratic Party politician — in office or out — to step forward.
The war in Afghanistan will continue going to hell, there is no reason to expect any noticeable lessening in the unemployment numbers, and every reason to expect growing homelessness, foreclosure, hunger and desperation. We have to keep hammering this, making the most of every proposal from the Catfood Commission and PR bullshit from General Betrayus. (Was that impolite? Can I get Congress to censure me? Please?) Now that Dumping Obama has become part of the national dialogue, we have to relentlessly keep it there. We have to let a prospective primary challenger know that there is a base of support waiting for them. If we can ourselves recruit a candidate, better yet. But we can’t let ourselves become dependent on that.
The reality of today is not the reality of 6 months from now
A declaration of independence
We also have a perspective that entails independence. We are united with the broader Dump Obama front in agreeing that Obama has to be primaried. But within that front, there are those who think Obama can actually be denied the nomination, and those who think primary pressure can serve to reform the Democratic Party, while the position here is that the Democratic Party is fundamentally beyond reform. These are important differences.
But the time for fighting them out is not now!
At this point in my opinion, there are 5 core beliefs:
(1) We need a massive WPA-style jobs program.
(2) The U.S. must get out of Afghanistan.
(3) Healthcare is a basic human right, and the government is responsible for its provision.
(4) NAFTA must end.
(5) Obama’s extension of presidential dictatorial powers and his shredding of the Constitution to further the so-called war on terror are an abomination and must be rolled back.
These views are denied a voice in the public dialogue, with the Democratic Party AT BEST nibbling at some of the edges. Our task, as Obama Dumpers is first and foremost to give these demands a militant voice.
There are serious questions about long-term strategy, regarding independent politics, limits of the Democratic Party, etc. We don’t need to have abstract fights with our friends over these now, though we independents should be organizing independents in a non-sectarian manner within the broader front. We have these fights when the consequences become material. In other words, if we fight to Dump Obama, and the Dems shut us down, how do we continue to give voice to the 5 demands? If our candidate is going into the convention with a few delegates, how do we carry the fight? If our candidate gets cold feet and decides to endorse Obama for 2012, how do we carry the fight? If our candidate supports 3 of our 5 demands, is that good enough? An important tactical question, not to be answered in the abstract.
In my opinion, having an independent alternative is the only way to continue. We can put it forward now, and are doing so, it gives us leverage. But right now, building the broad Dump Obama front is the primary task. At a certain point, the fight for political independence takes center stage. But at what point? I’ll not try to answer that in the abstract. I think we’ll know when we get there.
The fight today
Right now, we are in a heavy fight with the Democratic Party, which denounces us as Palin agents, whiners, unsophisticated hotheads. It may be the case that our candidate search finds us a candidate. But it is likelier that our work helps create the ferment, the base, the inspiration, for a candidate to jump into the race. We have to step up the fight.
We need individual commitments to work particular blogs over an extended period. Some blogs accept diaries, some only comments. Some significant sites like Kos and Democratic Underground are explicitly Democratic Party sites, while others at least claim an open-ness to independent politics.
How to focus this work? I would like to zero in on one particular set of bloggers out there, to either lead them onward to effective action, or get them the hell out of the way. We’ve all seen it. Obama is a dog, Obama is a sellout, Obama eats dead rats! I’m so mad I could just spit! Grrrrrr! [Loud foot stamp! stage left.]
So I ask them, how about dumping Obama, how about running someone against him in the Dem primaries?
Well, harrumph, uh, well, what we really need to do is overthrow capitalism or da system or da one party with 2 faces sophisticated understanding elections are meaningless, uh, sputter, growl, yap. Look over there, shiny object, gotta go. These people think what we really need is some big important fight, which we have no means whatsoever of conducting, but can’t dirty our hands with a very real fight that we actually can be part of. So there’s these blowhards. Let’s call their bluff.
There are also a whole lot of people who are just as angry and afraid, who simply do not see any outlet for their rage, but who will leap to our banner once it is presented. They are a minority at this point. But movements are not based on percentages, but the accumulation of critical mass. In other words, if you have enough people to pull something off, you can do it, regardless of your percentage of the American population. The Tea Party folks know this very well, and it is the one thing we most have to learn from them.
There is critical mass in this country to primary Obama. And just as we, as individuals, find we are not alone, it may be likely that as an organization, we are also not alone. There may be, likely are, other small groups responding to the same forces we are, working their way towards Dump Obama. If so we need to find each other.
While we do not need to be initiating fights with the broader Dump Obama movement at this moment, that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be working that track even today. The question is how?
I personally think the independent track to develop is a relationship with the Green Party. There are issues with them. Even with their development at the local level, here are some numbers to consider:
Nader as Green: 2.74% in 2000 (2,883,105 votes)
Nader as indy: 0.38% in 2004 (463,655 votes)
Cobb as Green 0.0965% in 2004 (118,000 votes)
2004 total 0.49% (581,655 votes)
Nader as indy: 0.56% in 2008 (738,475 votes)
McKinney as Green: 0.12% in 2008 (161,603 votes)
2008 total 0.68% (900,075 votes)
At the local level, they have continued to develop, but nationally, they have declined, but declined due to 2 factors: First, Nader was running against them in 2004 and 2008, and Nader is the premier independent name. Secondly, they were running under a Bush administration, when the progressive movement was operating under a strategy of “elect more and better Democrats,” a strategy which has proven itself completely bankrupt, its last gasp being last winter’s healthcare fight, when they justified their sellout with Stupak and no public option, with “we can improve it later,” yet never mentioned “improve it later” during the November 2010 debacle.
The Greens have an opening here you could drive a fleet of oil tankers through. If they have the vision to seize it, and by backing a primary challenge, we are in just the right place to push a major Democratic Party defection to the Greens for November. How big? Dunno. But if the Green total went from 0.12% in 2008 to 5% in 2012, that would be a great leap. That would mean spoiler potential in many states, and ugly as that might seem to some, that would mean a degree of actual power that the left hasn’t enjoyed in generations. This has to be pursued.
If the Greens reciprocate, great. If not, I still think they’re our best shot. To do so, we have to develop the concept of the Green Democrat, i.e., Democrats who are not (or not yet) formally independent, but in agreement with the Green Agenda which could provide the necessary link for developing a long-term relationship here.
One independent alternative
Another approach has been put forth by some within the New Progressive Alliance — create a brand new populist party to unite all left forces, secure ballot status for it prior to having a candidate, and recruit a Democratic Party primary candidate who will pledge to run under that new party’s banner should they fail to secure the Democratic nomination.
This is problematic on several levels.
(1) Size of the task. We would need to gather approximately 650,000 signatures and register 144,000 voters to qualify in the 37 states that allow ballot status to a party in the absence of a candidate. First, consider the level of actual work being put out by the New Progressive Agenda. Fact is, many participated in the candidate selection process, fewer in choosing our name and platform, and only a handful have responded to malcontent’s call for people to work the blogs and press. It’s not even on the same planet as the ballpark for what this would take. We have grown. We have developed. We are better organized. I’m not disparaging that in any way. But this growth, development and organization also gives us a metric to more accurately consider what our real strength is.
Might a few big name endorsements and a splash on the blogosphere transform this? No. In numbers and influence, of course. But not in the kind of raw organizational strength that electoral politics calls for. Much has been written about the strengths and weaknesses of the blogosphere, but what seems to be clear is that the blogosphere can be influential. If there is organized strength, it can multiply that strength exponentially. However, the blogosphere — in and of itself — cannot generate that organizational strength. For that, the fundamentals still apply. Boots on the ground.
(2) If it could be done, narrowly defined, it would not transform the situation. At best, it would create one more competitor in the independent field. It might espouse the goal of uniting all other progressive forces under its banner. Only a massive revolutionary upsurge — such as is not in the wind at this moment — could achieve uniting the left under anyone’s banner, and frankly, unity has never been the left’s forte even under the best of circumstances.
(3) It would divide our own forces. Somebody could argue that we’re smart enough to walk and chew gum at the same time. But a serious primary challenge takes a bit more than walking, and getting a new party on the ballot is a bit harder than chewing gum. The reality is that if the new party attempt were serious, given its immensity, it would drain all other efforts (and fail), and any less effort would render it symbolic at best. There is already some tension between those ready to ditch the Democratic Party tomorrow and fuck this primary bullshit, and those who still have hopes of salvaging the Democratic Party. If we pursue this brand new 3rd party, the Dump Obama forces would be split from the beginning. That’s no way to start a war.
(4) Politicians have been known to break their pledges.
The bottom line
In my opinion, the relationship between the Dem primary thrust and building an independent movement is that the primary thrust opens the door to the independent thrust. The more fiercely it is pursued, the more people will end up voting independent at the end of 2012. There is no short-circuiting that process.
But it’s now time to get to work. That holiday turkey should be well-digested by now. Your hangovers should be easing up a bit. If your favorite football team lost this weekend, get over it.
Choosing a candidate list was fun, batting around organization names and platform points was important. Now it’s time to get our fucking asses in gear and do some work. We have to break the cone of silence the Obamacrats are trying to drop over our heads. This country is in big trouble, and Obama triumphalism is a farce. So get hold of malcontent at admin_at_themalcontent_dot_com, sign up for some serious, and accountable, blog work. We’re in the rare position of being able to make a difference, and we can’t blow it.
You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.
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