Will Progressives Sit the 2010 Elections out?
The progressive movement that propelled Barack Obama to the Presidency has very little reason to come out to vote for the Democrats this fall. If Republicans make gains in the House and Senate, it is not because they offer a better plan for America, it is because the progressive Democratic electorate have been demoralized by the decidedly un-progressive agenda of the Democratically led Congress and White House.
In the Florida primaries held yesterday, Republican turnout far exceeded Democratic turnout (Dems 909,000, Reps 1,250,000) despite more Democrats being registered in the state of Florida.
This result was entirely predicable based on the Obama administration's abandonment of their progressive base. While the war in Iraq rages on as a privatized military operation, and the war in Afghanistan is escalated even further (despite little indication that our allies in Pakistan have our best interests at heart) progressives feel that the Obama administration has not reined in the military special interests that dominate Washington.
The Mitt Romney style health insurance reform legislation strikes most progressives as far too friendly to the private health insurance industry, and far too unfriendly to health care patients. Without some type of not-for-profit health insurance option, the entire endeavor seems like a giveaway to the for-profit insurers.
The banking reform legislation recently passed by Congress also seems far too corporate friendly to many progressives, and downright useless to others due to the lack of any Glass-Steagall like provisions.
The lack of any accountability that former Bush administration officials have been held to further exacerbates the problem for incumbent Democrats.
The list of progressive grievances goes on.
Progressives who were emailed on a daily basis for their opinions and cash during the Obama candidacy have had a deaf ear turned to them by the Obama administration.
Indeed, I can think of almost no reason to go to the polls in November to ask for more of the same treatment by the Democrats. It is not that I don't understand that Washington is a very conservative place with very powerful anti-progressive influences; I have lived in the DC area for 28 years. It is that I expected Democrats to do what they promised, even if it meant a tough fight, and conservative backlash. They were going to get conservative backlash regardless of their agenda. What we got instead was constant compromising with the Republicans even before any negotiations began. What we got was a very lobbyist-centered administration that did not bring us the change that they had promised during the election. At this point the Obama administration and the Democrats have allowed the framing of the public debate to shift so far to the right that progressives aren't even on the radar screen anymore.
So don't expect the abandoned base of the Democratic Party to flock to the polls this fall and demand more of the same. We voted for change in 2008, not the status quo.
The Obama administration is going to learn a difficult political lesson in the fall; the lesson that you don't abandon your base if you want to have the support needed to pass legislation or the support needed to get reelected. Or perhaps they actually would prefer a Republican led Congress, because then they will have a plausible excuse for their lack of a progressive agenda.