The excuses some Democrats give for their chill toward backing President Obama's reelection bid would fill up a legal pad. He's made much too nice with the GOP. He's put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block. He hasn't pushed aggressively enough for a full-blown FDR-style jobs program. He let Wall Street and banks off the hook with a placid, terribly compromised financial reform bill. He hasn't done enough on home foreclosures. The Blue Dog and moderate Democratic congresspersons and senators that represent shaky swing and conservative districts are scared stiff that if they rub shoulders too close to Obama, they will be signing their political obituary for reelection.
Their frost toward Obama is far more worrisome than the pesky, nuisance rants of Ralph Nader about finding some progressive, pro labor Democrat to run against Obama. This is, of course, beyond ludicrous, and not much more than a cheap momentary headline grabbing ploy to feed the naive and delusional thinking of some radicals that a challenge to Obama would somehow shove him and the Democratic party to embrace an unabashed anti-corporate, anti-war, anti-poverty, pro-union, bank and financial crackdown agenda.
This talk quickly faded into the news dust bin. But it was revived for a hot moment when it seemed that Occupy Wall Street might actually become an organized movement with visible leadership, tangible goals and might actually target Obama as much as protestors targeted the corporations and GOP for aiding and abetting corporate pillage. This didn't happen. But the talk and action by entrenched, well-connected Democrats is another matter. If even a handful of the Democrats that express wariness of the president don't give Obama their full campaign support, endorsements, and a voter platform for him in their states and districts during the campaign it would be tantamount to an endorsement of the GOP. The effect would be to create party paralysis and division at worst, and uncertainty at best. This would be disastrous to a presidential campaign.
This was amply proven when Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford in 1976 and when Senator Ted Kennedy challenged President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Their challenges weakened both presidents, divided the party, and ultimately helped make possible Carter's win over Ford and Reagan's win over Carter possible. At the lower rung on the political ladder, a Democrat congressperson or senator that refuses to vigorously push their constituents to support their party's presidential standard bearer sends the strong message that the party's standard bearer's policies and actions are questionable or outright harmful to their constituents.
The inescapable conclusion that voters would draw from this is that Obama's GOP opponent might actually have something better to offer voters on the crucial make or break issues of the jobs and the economy. This is especially dangerous with polls consistently showing that a solid majority and that includes a lot of Democrats give Obama a low mark on his handling of the economy. The other great danger in the Democrats push back from the president is that it waters down even more the critical enthusiasm level for Obama. This was the biggest factor that powered him to the White House in 2008. Independents and youth voters were fired up by Obama's message of hope and change, and fed up with the GOP's corruption, bungling, blatant cronyism and scandals, and Bush's fumbles and ineptitude. They stampeded to the polls in droves to back Obama. This made the crucial difference in the must-win swing states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia. Bush won three of these five states in 2000 and 2004. Obama won all five in 2008. In 2012 they are up in the air. Obama and his GOP opponent will fiercely fight over them. The slightest stoke of voter disillusionment by wary Democrats would further damp down enthusiasm from the very same voters that Obama will again need to turn out in back numbers.
The burden on an incumbent president is terrible, and unfair, but real, and that's what Obama will have to contend with. He will have virtually no margin for error to ward off the distraction of Democrats that have a beef with him and threaten to fold up their tents and not fully support him. It's not enough for Obama and Democrats to bank on the GOP self-destructing in rancor and division to ease Obama's path back to the White House. It will take tight-fisted unity by the Democrats behind the man who is their party's presidential standard bearer. Anything less than that by Democrats is playing a dangerous game.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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