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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/13/19

Why Dems should be furious at Obama

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A DNC member in Washington State said the same thing to me: Obama left the DNC weakened and broke.

In Land of the free? How Trump Has Put America's Identity in Peril, Ben Fountain writes

Obama was elected on the shoulders of an incipient movement that he allowed to languish once he became president. It started early, even before he took office. Locked in a runoff for the Georgia senate seat held by a Republican incumbent, the progressive Democratic nominee, James Martin, begged the popular president-elect for help. A Martin win would have given Democrats a crucial 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, but even with the stakes so high, Obama, reluctant to spend any of his considerable political capital, limited his support to a single radio spot. Martin lost, and the template was set.

"Obama's whole approach was to minimize opposition, rather than to maximize support," said Martin Ganz, a union organizer and Obama adviser, and so it would go for most of Obama's presidency. His reluctance to take his case directly to the people, allowing his opponents to control the narrative. His muddying of what were in fact sharp partisan distinctions, including his maddening restraint when it came to the politics of class. His tenderness toward Wall Street, which was hardly reciprocated. His feckless pursuit of common ground with the Republican opposition long after their hardcore obstructionism had become painfully clear. It's a matter of record that the Republicans' deliberate, unwavering, freely admitted strategy was to destroy the president by thwarting every single measure he put forward, even those previously supported by the GOP. In fact, even those that originated in the GOP; the Affordable Care Act was based on a plan developed by the hard-right Heritage Foundation.

Such was his practice of the politics of moderation that Obama lost even when he won. The "shellacking" that the Democrats took in the 2010 midterms was due in no small part to Republicans' successful demonizing of the Affordable Care Act. The popular mobilization that twice elected Obama president might have, with sustained, vigorous support and forceful leadership, matured into the kind of mass movement that creates lasting change.

Obama promised openness on national security matters but instead enforced secrecy. "Obama's transparency phase did not last long. His administration secretly subpoenaed reporters' phone records and brought at least nine leak-related prosecutions, more than all previous administrations combined. " (source: the New York Times)

The same New York Times article summarizes the Obama administration legacy on the war on terror:

In all, what Obama left behind was a troubling inheritance vast, secret and mostly unilateral powers to spy and to kill in the name of fighting the global war on terror, powers that depend more on the good intentions of those who wield them than on any written law. Listening to Obama's early rhetoric, it was easy to think that he was going to do something to pare those powers back and remove the country from its permanent post-9/11 war footing. The war against Al Qaeda would continue, he said, but with "an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process; in checks and balances and accountability." He would pursue "the strongest and most sustainable legal framework," a legacy "that outlasts my administration, my presidency, that endures for the next president and the president after that."

But in the end, Obama's record on counterterrorism was one of continuity, not change. Guanta'namo shrank; it did not close. Obama responded to Edward Snowden's disclosures by throwing his weight behind the National Security Agency. The C.I.A. kept its drones and signature strikes. Efforts that might have been intended to scale back the drone program wound up codifying it; the series of speeches that Obama presented as part of his "framework" road maps to reform had the effect of normalizing and putting a humane face on a policy of quasi assassination. During the final months of Obama's second term came a gesture toward transparency, an executive order requiring the White House to release annually the number of noncombatants killed by drone strikes outside war zones. Their estimates for Obama's years in office were far lower than those compiled by outside groups.

President Trump has now loosened the rules for drone strikes and used the other powers established by Obama.

The lost opportunity of the Obama administration is particularly painful to behold, because of the damage that was done by his predecessor and that is being done by his successor, and because Hillary Clinton could be president now, had Obama made a few small moves.

A sympathetic assessment is that Obama was a decent man, of moderate temperament. He was not up to fighting the vicious and relentless forces arrayed against us. In the end, he and Hillary were swiftboated into defeat. Her email scandal was minor compared to the scandals around Trump. But, again, the Democrats let Republicans control the narrative.

I believe the sympathetic assessment is too kind. It is a mystery to me that a man with such gifts and such an opportunity threw it all away and allowed the Republicans to regain control.

Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, wrote an incisive article Psycho-Babbling Obama in 2010, about the same year I realized that Obama had sold progressives under the bus. Ford's devastating words ring true today with even more force:

For two years we watched Barack Obama undercut the left wing of his party at every turn, with a disdain so palpable his minions could not resist insulting leftists in the most juvenile terms. For two years we watched the First Black President facilitate the greatest transfer of wealth in human history $12 to $14 trillion to Wall Street, and we watched as he put the U.S. war machine back on the offensive in the world. For two years we heard Obama say over and over again that he had no intention of taking targeted action to help Black and brown communities that had been targeted for destruction by banks. After two years, one would think that folks on the Left would have gotten the idea that Obama is pro-Pentagon, pro-Wall Street, and doesn't have a transformative bone in his body regarding either race or class. But, for many, the message, however obvious, has not sunk in. Rather than face the fact that Obama is not a friend of the people, leftish commentators insist on conducting a psychological analysis of the president. They seem to be trying to find some quirk in Obama's personality that can by corrected in time for the Armageddon showdown with the Republicans.

Still unwilling or unable to admit that they were "psyched out" by Barack Obama and his corporate handlers, Lefties search for psychological reasons that the First Black President has been such a disappointment. It's the failure to fight thing, or the lack of vision thing, or the failure to communicate thing, they say. [But i]t isn't that Obama has trouble conveying his vision, it's that his actual vision is unacceptable to progressives. As for his willingness to fight, Obama fought his own left wing, and stomped their butts into the dirt over his corporate health care plan.

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See http://WALiberals.org and http://TruthSite.org for my writing, my (more...)
 
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