Obama's Mysterious Lack of Leadership
As we all know, President Obama has been surprisingly "centrist" (conservative) in his policies. He's compromised early and been meek in his support for progressive causes. He's surrounded himself with corporatist advisers and cabinet members, many held over from the Bush Administration. He's cut shady backroom deals with Big Med and Big Insurance. He's continued the militarism of Bush and has failed to hold Republicans accountable for their crimes. He's fired progressive aides based on the flimsiest of charges. (See this petition for an enumeration of Obama's failings.)
It's rather a mystery why Obama has been so centrist. Either he's foolishly bipartisan, or he's fearful of losing corporate campaign money, or he mistrusts ideology, or he's afraid of reprisal (from the CIA?). Or maybe all of the above.
During his campaign, Obama said many things to attract the progressive vote. We all know that politicians tell voters what the voters want to hear. But it's a surprise that an intelligent African American, with a history of working as a community organizer, would be so unwilling to go to bat for the middle class and the poor.
The fact is: had Obama shown guts and leadership, many more Democrats would have followed his leadership and would have voted for progressive legislation. Even if the Republicans and the corporatist Democrats had been able to squash the legislation, still Obama and the progressives could have held their head up high in defeat, knowing that they fought the good fight. And the American people would have learned a thing or two.
During his first year in office he seemed to want to erase the differences between the Dems and the Repugs, especially with regard to the bailouts and the war in Afghanistan.
Obama gives, the Republicans take, and the Republicans do all that's in their power to make Obama fail. But again and again, Obama goes back for a beating. What a masochist!
But Obama is Obama and not FDR. It's sad, because he is gifted, and he was given a great chance to fix things. It seems that he's barely even trying.
What should progressives do?
Given the reality of progressive weakness, the most important thing to do, I think, is to work to strengthen the progressive news media, so that voters can learn the truth about policies and politicians. There ARE many progressive publications and commentators but their messages need to be heard by the public. Our only hope is that we can get the message out to enough people to make a difference.
Progressives within the Democratic Party need to caucus strongly, and they need to be willing to block weak bills and candidates. Had progressives in the House, including Kucinich, stood their ground with the health care reform bill, it might have ended up stronger.
Another reason that forming a third, progressive party would be very hard is that progressives tend to be independent and don't want to follow leaders. I think this is true both locally and nationally. Getting progressives to work effectively together is a daunting task, about which I've written and thought. (What's so ironic about the issue is that Republicans seem to cooperate better than progressives, even though Republicans espouse individualism and progressives espouse communalism.) If progressives would cooperate to give more support to websites and advocacy groups, both locally and nationally, their influence would be stronger and they'd be better able to coordinate.