Glenn Greenwald has posted a good analysis of what the fuck it is that Team Obama is doing, and I have to agree with Glenn.
Greenwald argues that it isn’t that Team Obama wants to defeat the Repugnican Tea Party’s agenda but just doesn’t know how. Greenwald argues (or at least I interpret his argument to be) that Team Obama, for its own political benefit, wants to c0-opt the Repugnican Tea Party as much as possible — even if that means hurting millions of Americans.
Conventional D.C. wisdom — that which Obama vowed to subvert but has done as much as any president to bolster — has held for decades that Democratic presidents succeed politically by being as “centrist” or even as conservative as possible. That attracts independents, diffuses GOP enthusiasm, casts the president as a triangulating conciliator, and generates raves from the D.C. press corps — all while keeping more than enough Democrats and progressives in line through a combination of anti-GOP fear-mongering and partisan loyalty.
Isn’t that exactly the winning combination that will maximize the president’s re-election chances? Just consider the polling data on last week’s budget cuts, which most liberal commentators scorned. Americans support the “compromise” by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent; that support includes a majority of independents, substantial GOP factions, and two-thirds of Democrats.
Why would Democrats overwhelmingly support domestic budget cuts that burden the poor? Because, as [Matthew] Yglesias correctly observed, “just about anything Barack Obama does will be met with approval by most Democrats.” In other words, once Obama lends his support to a policy — no matter how much of a departure it is from ostensible Democratic beliefs — then most self-identified Democrats will support it because Obama supports it, because it then becomes the “Democratic policy,” by definition.
Adopting “centrist” or even right-wing policies will always produce the same combination — approval of independents, dilution of GOP anger, media raves, and continued Democratic voter loyalty — that is ideal for the president’s re-election prospects.
Sadly, I can’t argue against most of Greenwald’s points. Most “Democrats” very apparently have just picked a team — and operate not out of a set of shared basic, non-negotiable principles and values, but simple-mindedly rally behind their team flag with the big blue “D” on it, no matter who is carrying it.
That’s fine. (I mean, it isn’t fine, but it is what it is.) But that a majority of so-called “Democrats” are unprincipled, easily led sellouts doesn’t mean that I have to join their ranks. (Besides, I’m registered with the Green Party, and I don’t much mind being on the outside looking in, especially if being on the inside means that I have to sell my soul.)
To give one of many possible examples of how Team Obama could operate differently, what should happen with our federal budget is plain and simple: The rich and the super-rich should pay their fair share of taxes — after all, their wealth comes largely from the infrastructure that other taxpayers’ dollars provide (public schools, highways, etc.) — and so the BushCheneyCorp-era tax breaks for the wealthiest never should have been extended like Team Obama allowed them to be in December. And the bloated budget of the bloated military-industrial complex sorely needs to be cut down to size. The U.S. spent more than $685 billion on its military in 2010, while next largest military in the world, China’s, gobbled up less than $115 billion in 2010. At numbers three and four in military spending are France and Britain, each of which in 2010 spent less than one-tenth of what the U.S. spent, as did No. 5 Russia. Here is what that looks like on a graph:
Cutting the insanely bloated budget of the insanely bloated military-industrial complex should be able to keep Medicare and Social Security afloat — but the right-wing traitors, aside from wanting to continue their looting of the U.S. Treasury via the military-industrial complex, want to privatize everything. “President” George W. Bush’s idea to privatize Social Security went over like a lead balloon, so now the right-wing traitors want to get their greedy grubbies on Medicare. But make no mistake: “privatization” means the theft of public dollars by unscrupulous fraudsters whose No. 1 goal is not to provide quality goods or quality services, but to profiteer — to take the money and run, just like the Wall Street crooks just did.
At the barest fucking minimum, U.S. military spending should be cut at the same proportion that any domestic spending is cut, yet the bloated budget of the bloated military-industrial complex, year after year after year after year after year, remains untouched — while the treasonous right wing tells us that we just can’t afford to spend the people’s money on the people.
It’s like the head of a household spending a huge chunk of the household’s income on a home arsenal instead of on things like food, rent or the mortage payment, clothing, and health care, and when the household’s income really tightens, the home-aresenal spending remains intact (or even increases), but the rest of the home’s budget (food, clothing, utilities usage, etc.) has to take cuts. It’s not just grossly irresponsible, but it’s insane. (And it’s soooo United States of America.)
Team Obama could make this strong case. Leadership is about leading. Sometimes leading means being unpopular at first, leading the people (kicking and screaming, sometimes) where they initially might not want to go. Disrupting the long-standing dysfunctional national narrative, including the sub-narrative that we need to spend as much as we do on “defense,” takes leadership. It’s hard work, not the path of least resistance, which is the path that Team Obama is taking. (Indeed, if the winguts have their “path to prosperity,” in which blatant thievery from the majority of the people for the further benefit of the already rich and super-rich few is redefined as “prosperity,” then Team Obama’s path is the path of least resistance.)
I get it that Team Obama is trying to appeal to the mushy middle, those who don’t understand politics and who thus believe that “centrism” — standing for nothing, so that you don’t have to bother to learn anything or to fight for anything — is the way to go. I get that.
The two problems that I have with this “strategy,” however, are that:
(1) The members of the mushy middle are unlikely to contribute significantly to presidential campaigns, so it seems to me that if he is going to raise as much money for his re-election bid as he raised in 2008, Obama is going to have to take much more from the corporatocrats than he did in 2008, since he has burned his base beyond belief and cannot realistically expect their level of support to be repeated. (I, for one, gave him hundreds of dollars but will never give him another fucking penny.)
(2) More importantly, I see no reason why the “independent”/“swing” voters should vote for any Democratic presidential candidate when the Democratic Party, first under Bill Clinton and now under Obama, continues to resemble, more and more, the Repugnican Tea Party. Why go for second-class conservatism when in the Repugnican Tea Party you can have the best?
When we quite predictably will have both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney saying pretty much the same thing in their battle for the White House, I don’t know why the members of the mushy middle whom Team Obama loves so fucking much — over the disposable remnants of his base (you know, us suckers who got him into office in the first place) — should bother to vote for Obama when they’ll get the same thing from Mitt.
I know that for myself, when I see Obama and Romney singing the same old song and dance, I see no reason to continue to support the dog and pony show with my money or my vote, when I believe that the show just needs to be shut down.
I want real hope and real change. And that won’t come through continuing to support Barack Obama or the so-called Democratic Party even though they see no reason to support me.