Many progressives and liberals have been coming to the same conclusion: someone has to challenge President Obama from the left. One of the main reasons for this move is that people are starting to realize that Obama has pushed through an agenda that only a conservative can love. While Republicans have tried for thirty years to destroy the welfare state and to push more wealth to the richest Americans, only Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have been able to achieve these goals. As counter-intuitive as this appears to be, there are a couple of simple reasons for this historical reality.
The main cause for the Democratic success in pushing through conservative goals is that when a Democrat is in office, people who would normally be critical of right-wing legislation are pushed to support their party. For example, it is hard to imagine a Republican president being able to force massive cuts to social programs, but President Obama has just done this through his handling of the debt ceiling "crisis."
The other major reason why the Democrats are able to achieve conservative goals is that the Democratic leadership often combines progressive rhetoric with a support for right-wing economic goals. Of course, the cause for this endorsement of policies that only favor the rich is the fact that both parties are reliant on wealthy donors to support their campaigns. Thus, when Obama began his push for healthcare legislation, he first turned to the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance corporations to get their buy-in. Likewise, in the case of finance reform, at the same time that Obama was attacking the big banks and Wall Street, he made sure to shape legislation that would allow these financial interests to continue to do their business.
If it is true that Democrats are the most effective representatives of the conservative agenda, then it is clear that we need to promote a candidate who is not tied to either party. Moreover, if the main force corrupting our political system is the way we finance campaigns, then we also have to change this system; however, the Supreme Court has stood in the way of any real transformation of our campaign finance system, and so we must not only elect an independent president, but we also have to change the way we run campaigns.
Fortunately, we live in a time where the Internet is transforming all aspects of our lives, and in the case of politics, it now is possible to hold virtually free campaigns that are no longer reliant on wealthy donors. In fact, as fewer people get their news from television and newspaper, the Web is becoming the main source for political information. This change is revolutionary since the main reason why candidates have to raise millions of dollars is that they have to pay for expensive television ads, but if people use TiVo to skip commercials, or they get their news and TV from the Web, political ads on television become less important.
The main criticisms of this push for an independent campaign is the fear that a challenge on the left will undermine Obama and help elect a crazy on the right. Yet, this desire to go with the lesser of two evils means that we are still only hoping for an evil, and as argued above, it is only the lesser evil that can enact the policies of the greater evil.
Ultimately what people fear is change and the unknown, but as recent events in Egypt and North Africa have shown, digital technology can help to usher in unexpected political transformations. Instead of simply doubting the ability of changing our campaign system, we should embark in a bold experiment. Please let me (email@example.com) know if you are interested in attending an event scheduled for November 12th at UCLA to plan for our new progressive digital campaign.