Ian Welsh: The Primary Obama Movement Begins Today

The 2010 electoral massacre is all but over and Democrats are licking their wounds.

Let me put it simply, what went wrong went wrong from the very top of the party. In both political and policy terms, the President of the United States, the head of the Democratic party, created this disaster.

Nothing tracks electoral success better than the economy. Barack Obama did not do what it took to pull the economy out of the doldrums. This is true both with regards to the stimulus, which was too small, too larded up with tax cuts and too ineffective and with regards to the Federal Reserve, where Obama’s chosen chairman Ben Bernanke is about to drop stimulus (nicknamed Quantitative easing 2) on the economy after the election instead of doing it before the election. There was no economic reason not to do it months ago, when it would have helped both struggling Americans and Democrats.

Barack Obama took pains to let down or gratuitously harm virtually every major Democratic constituency. Whether it was increasing deportations of Hispanics, whether it was putting in a Presidential order against Federal money being used for abortions which was more restrictive than Rep. Stupak had demanded, whether it was wholesale violation of civil rights climaxing with the claim that he had the right to assassinate American citizens, whether it was trading away the public option to corporate interests then insisting for months he hadn’t, whether it was not moving aggressively on card check (EFCA) for unions, or whether it was constantly stymieing attempts to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Barack Obama was there making sure that whatever could be done to demoralize the base was done.

Meanwhile, the majority of Americans think that the policies Obama pursued were socialistic, progressive or liberal. They think this is what left-wing governance looks like. In 2 years Obama has managed to discredit the left, possibly for a generation.

Oh no, Republicans!

The argument against running a 2012 primary challenger against Obama should be familiar to all of us. It is the argument of fear. The argument of the lesser evil. Primarying Obama makes a Republican win more likely, and if a Republican president gets in, it will be so much worse for you! No matter how bad Obama is, President Teabag will be worse.

That’s the truth. The stone cold truth. Republicans will be worse and a primary makes it more likely that Republicans will win.

Here’s another stone cold truth. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Obama and Democrats had a historic chance to fix America. The rich who run America, whom the Supreme Court in Citizens United gave permission to outright buy elections, could have been broken when Obama took power. All that was necessary was to force them to take their losses. Contrary to what apologists for wealth have told you, this would not have meant disaster for the economy, there were ways to protect regular Americans while making the rich take their losses.

Instead Barack Obama, as in so many other ways, continued Bush’s policies, and kept the rich bailed out. The end result has not only been the tsunami of foreclosure issues which still threaten to swamp the banks, has not only been trillions in dollars of taxpayer money being used to keep rich people rich (much more money than was spent on the stimulus), it has been the wholesale transfer of money from poor to rich: an absolute decline in total wages, average wages and median wages of ordinary Americans, while Wall Street pays themselves even higher bonuses than before, gives record money to Republicans and the rich pay themselves more.

America has been in long term decline for between 30 and 40 years, depending on how you count it. It is no longer enough for Democrats to simply accept the new Republican norm every time they take power. Accepting Bush’s wars, Bush’s economy and Bush’s civil liberties violations meant that Bush won. Obama institutionalized Bush.

This long term decline is in danger of becoming terminal. The banks are still bankrupt, States and cities are in constant crisis, the housing crisis is nowhere near over. Wages are dropping and jobs are being off-shored.

The status quo of Democrats coming in after Republicans and accepting Republican policies as a fait accomplit must end. If it does not, the US will experience a full-on meltdown. Not a great depression like in the ’30s (though the US is in a Depression) but a meltdown like that which occurred in Russia after the collapse of the USSR, where the population actually declined, food was hard to find, brown outs were common, medicine was in short supply, and so on.

Any suggested policies or electoral politics which does not act to stop this terminal decline, this end of America’s golden age is unacceptable.

The price of this may well be that a Republican president gets in in 2012. That will be bad, but if it happens it is a necessary sacrifice, because until one of the two major parties is one which will propose and then execute solutions which work, all Democrats do is slow down America’s terminal decline. Better that President teabag gets in in 2012 and then there is a chance at a good President in 2016 than that the US have to wait till 2020 at the earliest. And hey, a successful primary could cut this short four years, the primary candidate could win the primary and the election. 47% of Democrats want Obama primaried. That’s not because he has rock-solid support.

Obama must be primaried and he must be primaried from the left

The left must be seen to repudiate Obama, and they must be seen to take him down. If the left does not do this, left wing politics and policies will be discredited with Obama. This is important not as a matter of partisan or ideological preference, it is important because left wing policies work. It is necessary to move back to strongly progressive taxation, it is necessary to force the rich to take their losses, it is necessary to deal with global warming, it is necessary to deal with the fact that the era of cheap oil is over, it is necessary to stop the offshoring engine which is destroyin the American middle class.

Only left wing solutions to these problems will work. America has spent 30 years, since Reagan, trying to fix its problems by going more and more right wing, and it has been a disaster. Each additional step to the right has made the problem worse.

The first step to fixing America is fixing the Democratic party, and the first step in fixing the Democratic party is fixing Barack Obama and destroying, forever, publicly and in the most high profile way possible, the idea that Democrats can ignore and abuse their own base. The lies spewed by corporate media figures who earn millions of dollars a year, that every time the Democrats lose, it is because they were too left wing, so more tax cuts are necessary, must end.

If you love your country, or if you’re concerned for the future of yourself or your children, primary Obama. If you don’t, you may never get a chance to elect someone who will do what is necessary to save your country.


Ian Welsh: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Why Democrats Lost

The Democrats gained control of both Congress and the Presidency. They then pursued ineffective policies which didn’t fix the economy. They increased deportations of Hispanics. They restricted abortion rights for women. They spat on gays repeatedly. They betrayed unions. They gutted civil rights, going even further than George W. Bush (who never said he had the right to assassinate Americans.) They saved bankers who then rewarded themselves with record bonuses and salaries while average American wages actually declined.

The base was demoralized, not because the Dems went too far left, but because they went too far right. The non-Democratic voters were angered because they elected Democrats to fix the goddamn economy and to not be George Bush, who they were sick of. Dems didn’t do what they were elected to do.

That’s why Dems are losing – because they demoralized their own base in a base election year, because they didn’t fix the economy, and because they thought Americans wanted them to be George Bush, just a bit smarter.

This isn’t a repudiation of liberalism or progressivism or socialism (Americans wouldn’t recognize a socialist if he gave them real universal healthcare) it is a repudiation of a Democratic party which failed to fix the economy and which became identified with bailouts for the rich.

Anyone who doesn’t understand this, is, forgive me, a complete idiot.


Ian Welsh: Kos Calls For Progressive Civil War

Kos is threatening Dennis Kucinich, of all people, with a primary if he doesn’t vote for health care “reform.”

Let me get this straight, Kos wants to primary one of the most reliable and principled progressives in Congress (perhaps the most principled one) because Kucinich doesn’t want to vote for a bill which will force Americans to buy crappy health insurance from private companies?

First they came for Massa, and now, not being able to find any dirt on Kucinich, they’re putting the pressure on, and Kos is going along with it?

Because, lord knows, what progressives should spend their time and money on this year is primarying someone like Kucinich. What they should do is start a left wing fucking civil war so that Obama, Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel can sit back and laugh as the left wing tears itself apart over a bill which, whether you want it passed or not, no one who is on the left wing should think is better than mediocre.

Be very clear, if “progressives” like Kos want to primary Kucinich, many other progressives will defend him and fight for him. So, instead of picking up new seats, we’ll be wasting time and money fighting over a seat already held by a progressive.

Those who want to go after Kucinich are acting as Obama and Rahm’s heavies. Acting as enforcers for a President who believes in indefinite detention without trial, who has expanded the war in Afghanistan, gutted civil rights and who wants to force every American to buy health insurance from private companies.

It’s time for Kos’s 15 minutes to end. The man’s stupidity, hubris and willingness to be used by a president who is objectively a conservative means he is now doing more damage to the left than good.


Ian Welsh: Finding Common Ground Between Public Option Advocates and Single Payer Advocates

One of the significant fights on the left has been that between those who believe in a public option, and those who believe in single payer.

Or, perhaps I should say, between those who are willing to take what they can get: public option, vs. those who want to hold out for what they consider the best option, single payer.

So, by way of reconciling what differences can be reconciled, let me ask a question of each side.

Public Option advocates
: If you support the public option and you don’t eventually want single payer of a comprehensive system like the French have, why not?

Single Payer advocates: Are you willing to fight for a public option which could eventually lead to single payer or a comprehensive system like the French one. If not, why not?

At this point what I’m seeing is both sides retreating into moralistic screaming. The public option folks are saying “better to save some lives and if you single payer purists don’t support a public option which will save even a few lives, you’re responsible for those deaths.”

The single payer people are saying “the public option is so watered down that all it will do is discredit real public reform, aka: single payer. You public option folks are settling for so little that the few lives you might save are outweighed by all the lives you won’t save and the damage to the chance at real comprehensive health care reform.”

Both sides are assuming the other side is operating in bad faith. The public option folks assume the single payer folks just want to be pure rather than saving lives, the single payer that the public option folks are just sell outs shilling for a bad bill.

But what I’m seeing, as someone with a foot in each camp, is that both sides are (mostly) sincere.

Now there is one group that can’t be reconciled. People who want a public option so weak it either won’t survive, or can’t be used as the basis for a comprehensive system. Insurance company executives, for example. But also some people in the Obama administration, for example Katherine Sibelius, the health secretary, who said that the plan would be drafted specifically so that it could never become single payer.

But for everyone else, there should be some common ground which can be seized.

(originally posted at Open Left)