by Rusty Clark
The story goes that some mice became very upset about the cat in the house and convened an emergency meeting. They finally came up with the idea of tying a bell around the cat's neck, so the dangerous feline could no longer catch victims unawares. The plan gained a lot of enthusiastic praise, until one mouse piped up with a question that preceded a long silence: "Who's going to bell the cat?"
In recent days, the big cat in the White House has provoked denunciations from groups that have rarely crossed him. They're upset about his decision to push for cuts in Social Security benefits. "Progressive outrage has reached a boiling point," the online juggernaut MoveOn declared a few days ago.
Obama's move to cut Social Security is certainly outrageous, and it's encouraging that a wide range of progressive groups are steamed at Obama as never before. But this kind of outrage should have reached a "boiling point" a long time ago. The administration's undermining of civil liberties, scant action on climate change, huge escalation of war in Afghanistan, expansion of drone warfare, austerity policies serving Wall Street and shafting Main Street, vast deference to corporate power. . . The list is long and chilling.
So is the evasive record of many groups that are now denouncing Obama's plan to cut Social Security. Mostly, their leaders griped in private and made nice with the Obama White House in public.
Yet imagine if those groups had polarized with President Obama in 2009 on even a couple of key issues. Such progressive independence would have shown the public that there is indeed a left in this country -- that the left has principles and stands up for them -- and that Obama, far from being on the left, is in the center. Such principled clarity would have undermined the right-wing attacks on Obama as a radical, socialist, etc. -- and from the beginning could have gotten some victories out of Obama, instead of waiting more than four years to take him on.
Whether or not Obama's vicious assault on Social Security is successful, it has already jolted an unprecedented number of longtime supporters. It should be the last straw, suffused with illumination.
That past is prologue. We need to ask: Do such groups now have it in them to stop pretending that each of the Obama administration's various awful policies is some kind of anomaly?