But it appeared for a while that the one guy fighting against it was President Obama. I was incredibly encouraged by that. I shouldn't have been. It turned out at the end that he was threatening to veto the bill because he wanted it to have even more executive power, not less. This president has been a disaster for civil liberties. Every time I think about the fact that he used to be a constitutional law professor, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Indefinite detentions, summary executions of US citizens abroad without a trial, warrantless wiretapping and much, much more. All of the things we were outraged Bush did - and then some. Honestly, it makes me feel a little sick that I voted for him. At least, I could say that I fought tooth and nail against Bush.
And civil liberties abuses are the tip of the iceberg in disappointment with this president. Then there is the comedy of financial reform which doesn't reform a damn thing. There are the zero prosecutions of the top bankers who destroyed our economy through their fraud, took our money and now spit in our face with it. There is the extension of the Bush tax cuts. There is the cave in on nearly every negotiation (the payroll tax cut being the exception that proves the rule (by the way, he "won" on more tax cuts, a profoundly Republican idea)). His crowning achievement of healthcare reform was a proposal originally written by the Heritage Foundation. There isn't a Republican idea that President Obama didn't want to cuddle with and adopt as his own.
Now, the argument goes that he might be bad, but the Republicans are worse. Of course. Right now, Newt Gingrich is on the campaign trail arguing that Mitt Romney isn't kind enough to the rich. I'm not kidding. He is trying to make hay out of the fact that Romney takes capital taxes down to zero percent for only people making below $200,000. Newt thinks that's discrimination against the rich and he would take it down to zero for everybody. Then he would make your kids clean the rich kids' toilets in school.
I follow politics for a living; I'm not unaware of how hideous the Republican choices are. But that doesn't mean that we should pretend that President Obama has been brilliant because we're scared of the big, bad Republicans. That would be fundamentally dishonest.
And to be honest, I'm really disappointed that he does not have a primary opponent. This country is dying for someone who is going to take on the establishment. Who is that going to be on our side - Barack Obama? On that, I know whether to laugh or cry. Every time I think about the idea that President Obama might be against the establishment, I laugh and laugh and laugh. There is never been a guy who was this enamored with the establishment. If he had wrestling nickname it would be The Establishment.
The guy who appointed Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel and Bill Daley (and a list of hundreds of others, including two new Fed appointments, one of which is a Republican who worked for the Carlyle Group) is not a guy who is interested in changing the system at all. Change was a cutesy slogan he used to trick us into thinking he was on our side.
I would have loved a progressive alternative, but apparently we are not going to get one (except for Rocky Anderson running on the Justice Party ticket). Primaries are the perfect place to send a message without taking away votes in the general election. But it didn't happen because the Democratic establishment says we must fall in line because we wouldn't want to hurt the agenda of the president. The agenda of the president sucks and is deeply Republican. I'd love to at least get him to reconsider that agenda for a second.
But there is one thing we can do right now that doesn't really hurt the chances of the president getting re-elected and doesn't help Republicans one bit. It is an idea that Occupy Iowa came up with. In the Iowa caucuses you can vote for "uncommitted." In fact, since the 1970's "uncommitted" has won twice on the Democratic side and it beat Bob Dole in 1980. Of course, the Republican Party has shut down this option on their side. They say you can vote that way in the GOP field but they will not register those votes or send those delegates. Of course, they're the GOP; they have no interest in your dissent.
But if all of those people were to go and participate on the Democratic side they might have an effect. If "uncommitted" beat President Obama on the Democratic side in Iowa that would make some news. That might even get the attention of The Establishment. So far, he has only responded to right-wing pressure. He is the consummate politician, so if there was actually a little bit of pressure on his left he might have to respond to it, especially during an election season. Wouldn't it be amazing if President Obama acted like a progressive on some issue because he was worried about the voters?
By the way, this strategy also has the benefit of being accurate. I am "uncommitted" toward Obama. I'm uncommitted from supporting a guy that has walked all over our civil liberties, that thinks tax cuts are the only answer, that gave all of the money to the bankers and asked for nothing in return, that thinks the right-wing establishment has all of the answers. Uncommitted is the kindest word I have.
If you live in Iowa, please send a message to the President for the rest of us. We voted for change last time, apparently you didn't hear us. If you don't hear us soon, you might be the one that gets changed.