I supported, worked for and contributed to Barack Obama's 2008 campaign (all the while cautioning that he would often disappoint progressives once in office). I have been a proud progressive critic of President Obama after he assumed the presidency, criticizing his choice of a Wall Street-friendly economic team, his tepid financial reforms, his troop escalation in Afghanistan, his failure to fight hard and effectively against the legal bribery of our campaign finance system, and his backroom deals with the for-profit health care industry in formulating the Affordable Care Act.
That said, I consider the possible election of Mitt Romney (and the likely election of reactionary Republican majorities in the Senate and the House if he prevails) to be the greatest threat to the nation since the Great Depression and perhaps since the Civil War.
Such a victory for a Republicans -- the most virulently reactionary American political party in historical memory -- would likely result in British/European-style austerity that would plunge a country already experiencing an unnecessarily slow recovery from the deepest recession since the 1930's into a full-blown depression. It would likely lead to tax cuts for the wealthy that would only increase the economic inequality between the top 1% (and top 0.01%) and the 99% that has been widening since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. It would likely lead to the unraveling of the economic reforms of the Progressive era, the New Deal, and the Great Society including Medicare and Social Security, which have done so much to turn America into the first largely middle class society in history. It would unravel even the relatively mild regulation of Too Big To Fail Banks of the Obama administration and make another financial crisis more likely. It would restore the neocons to leadership of American foreign policy which could lead to further unnecessary wars. It would lead to the appointment of up to three new Supreme Court Justices in the mold of Scalia/Alito/Thomas who would block progressive reforms for a generation to come. And it would unravel environmental regulation and guarantee that nothing is done to mitigate Global Climate Change which threatens the very fabric of human civilization.
Therefore, this progressive critic of President Obama intends to do as much, or more, to aid his reelection -- and the election of a Democratic Congress -- in 2012 as I did to aid their election in 2008. With all my heart, I urge other progressives to do likewise.
For progressives and others who worked for and voted for President Obama and a Democratic Congress in 2008 to sit this election out, or decrease our campaign efforts and financial support, would be to invite national disaster. My plea is for progressive to work as hard for the election of President Obama in 2012 as they did in 2008, without ever giving up the long-term project of building a progressive majority.
Any here's my special plea to wealthy Democratic donors: Despite your justified discomfort with the corrupt campaign finance system in the post-Citizens United world, open your wallets as wide to Obama and Congressional Democrats in 2012 as you did in 2008 -- including to Democratic super PACs -- lest we be crushed by the onslaught of the reactionary Koch/Rove/Republican money machine who have no such qualms. Then after November, let's make it the cause of our lifetime to end the Supreme Court sanctioned system of political bribery, including, if need be, passing a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to ban the outsized influence of big money in American elections.
I make this plea without in any way compromising my critical faculties. I do so without giving up on the longer term goal of building a progressive movement that can bring real change to America and the world far beyond what President Obama and Congressional Democrats will bring on their own. And in this election, I also intend that much of my support will go to the type of progressive candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Donna Edwards supported by the likes of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
I do not believe that in, his second term , President Obama will be a progressive savior. In fact, I fear that his cautious and overly-compromising impulses -- coupled with the outsized influence of big money, lobbying, and the revolving door on the political process -- will lead President Obama to strike a conservative-leaning "grand bargain" with Republicans that will trade cuts in vital social programs such as Medicare and Social Security for modest tax increases on the wealthy.
For progressives, supporting, working for, and contributing to the reelection President Obama and of a Democratic House and Senate is a bit like the little Dutch boy putting his finger in the dike. It's only a temporary stop-gap to slow the Republican juggernaut. It won't by itself repair the dike of an eroding middle class in the wake of a 30-year Republican assault assisted by a tepid Democratic defense. But it's the only thing that can hold off the reactionary Republican flood and buy time to rebuild the dike by building a movement for true progressive reform.
In 1964, in response to LBJ's slogan in his campaign against Barry Goldwater -- "All The Way With LBJ" -- civil rights leaders, anti-war activists, and others in the progressive movement coined the slogan "Part of the Way With LBJ" -- In return we got the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid (plus, unfortunately, the escalation of the Vietnam War which sooned turn the chants into "Hey, Hey LBJ. How Many Kids Have You Killed Today?".) But history never moves in a straight line.
In 2012, the slogan for progressives should be "Part of the Way With Obam-A" to signify their commitment to reelecting President Obama and a Democratic Congress while continuing their fight for a progressive majority that can bring the genuine "Change We Believe In."
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