WASHINGTON -- There has been no shortage of liberal discontent with the path pursued by President Barack Obama during his first few years in office. But when the discontent manifests itself (as it occasionally does) in talk of a primary challenge in 2012, the chatter usually succumbs to political reality. For all the Democratic base's tiffs with Obama, there is little sustained appetite to find or back someone else.
Last week a group of liberal activists and academics, led by consumer advocate Ralph Nader and scholar Cornel West, announced that they were looking for six "recognizable, articulate" candidates to launch a primary bid -- not to rip the nomination from Obama's grasp but to keep him honest on issues like civil rights, consumer protections, labor and foreign policy.
Soon thereafter, one of the politicians most likely to fill that niche explained once again that he wasn't interested, both in challenging the president and in backing the idea Obama needed that type of challenge.
"I strongly disagree with Ralph Nader. As I've said many times before, I believe that re-electing President Obama is an absolute imperative for our economy, our judicial system, for progressives and for our country," said former Sen. Russ Feingold, who announced recently that he was not running for Wisconsin's open Senate seat. The Wisconsin Democrat added the following:
President Obama took office in a time of historic challenge for the country. He passed the Recovery Act to bring our economy back from the brink, implemented historic health insurance reform to make health care more affordable and accessible, repealed the discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, and rejected the conventional wisdom in
Washington to offer a life-saving loan to the auto industry, saving 1.4 million jobs.
Now, facing Republican candidates that are bought-and-sold by corporate money, and who want to give more tax breaks to the wealthiest and attack the rights of working Americans, the President is fighting to create jobs and provide economic security for middle class families. 2012 will be a close and competitive election, and in an environment after the lawless Citizens United decision, where corporate special interests will be out there fighting for Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, progressives must unite to ensure that the President is reelected.
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