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A Fine Whine:What More Do Progressives Want?

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I am getting sick and tired of pundits asking rhetorically, as Chris Matthews did today, “What more do progressives want?” in reference to the so called “enthusiasm gap”. Democratic turnout is supposed to be depressed this year, in contrast with the Republican Tea party, whose voters are said to be lining up to vote like techno geeks waiting to buy the latest toy from Apple. In recent weeks, the President, the Vice-president and all the President’s surrogates have taken to lecturing Democrats to “buck up” and vote because it is too important not to.

Somehow all this exhortation gets translated into the Democrats and the Obama administration blaming progressives for not being supportive enough. Now one can’t get through an hour of cable news or the Sunday chats without hearing “What more do progressives want?” Progressives, you see are supposed to be happy and grateful for all the legislation passed by the Democratic congress and signed into law by the Democratic president. Things like the health care reform, financial regulation and the economic stimulus of 2009.

As I have indicated in previous posts, I am in fact disappointed with the Obama administration and the Congressional Democrats. But that’s OK. I am not a big D Democrat. I am a progressive (a socialist, really) but I almost always vote for whatever Democrat on the ballot. This year will be no different. I anticipate splitting my votes between the Green and Democratic parties. And I always vote. Even if I only have a ficus plant to vote for. I am not the problem. The people who might not vote are less interested in politics than your garden variety progressive blogger. You know, like the unemployed and working poor, some minorities, poor people, youth. Progressives would like to have seen the Dems do more to address the concerns of these groups and others, but we will still vote against the GOP.

And that’s the Democrats’ last resort in capturing the progressive vote. The other guys are worse. Way worse. Worse than ever.

So let me try to answer the question “What more do progressives want?” Maybe I’ll throw in (for free) a few things I, at least, did not and do not want.

For starters, I wanted anyone who committed war crimes on behalf of the U.S. government held accountable. Maybe not a prison sentence for W, but at least some acknowledgment that U.S. and International laws were violated and at least a hope that it would not happen again. I did not want to see Obama’s first Solicitor General (now a Supreme Court Justice) argue in Federal Court that, “the U.S. Government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying — that the Government can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy statutes.” That’s not what i voted for.

Of course, I wanted health care reform to include a single payer health insurance system. I knew it wasn’t politically doable, but the proposal and the argument should have and could have been made. Failing that I would like to have seen the President fight vigorously for the public option. Would a greater effort have changed the immediate outcome? I don’t know, but again, making the effort would at least have altered the debate, making future progress more likely. I certainly did not want to sere the President’s Chief of Staff (he (who must not be named), make backroom deals with big pharma and the health insurance companies.

Continuing the war in Afghanistan does not constitute a broken promise on Obama’s part, but his escalation there was a foolish step further into quick sand. Everyone knows we are wasting time, treasure and lives there, but the generals and the officer corps apparently need their war, or else how will they ever get combat experience and promotions. Some civilian control over the military would be nice, I think.

Finally, I hoped that the new administration would take decisive action to mitigate the effects of the recession that (ha ha) ended last year. Instead, Summers and Geitner made sure that the stimulus of 2009 was weakened.

Well, I have tried to explain to anyone who accidentally reads this some of what progressives have wanted and really continue to hope for. If the president or anyone on his staff should somehow hear about this I want them to know I hope it helps.

Losing My Hope for Hope and Change

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Almost six months on the job finds the President still getting mostly good grades from the U.S. electorate and in many ways Obama is doing well. In partisan political terms, he is driving the right wing nuts, and they have become completely and suicidally clueless. Hardly a day goes by without a high profile Republican embarrassing him or her self and the GOP. Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin (and Todd too), John Ensign and the list grows daily.

But the Democrats and Obama have run into their own rough patches and despite GOP weakness, victory is not assured in either the mid term elections or the 2012 presidential race. If the US left (such as it is) feels betrayed, the Democrats could have unexpected difficulties in the Congressional election next year and Obama could end up with one failed term. In fact, at this point, I would be willing to vote against Obama in the 2012 primary. And my vote in the midterms is conditional upon passage of a health care reform package with a “strong public option”. I really want single payer, but will accept the public option. Anything less and I will not vote Democratic again for the foreseeable future. And no, I will never vote for any Republican, nor for any anti choice candidate of any party.

I understand why Republicans want to block any meaningful health care reform. The Republican party exists to serve the wealthy and corporations. But Democrats like Baucus, Ben Nelson or Landrieu who accept insurance company bribes to work against the interests of their constituents are shameless toads. I do not how they sleep at night or what they see in the mirror.

More about health care below, but to return to the administrations overall efforts, let us stipulate that the Obama agenda includes the following priorities:
1. The economy
2. Health care reform
3. Energy and climate change
4. National security and diplomacy (Iraq and Afghanistan included)

Here is how I would grade the Obama Administration on each of these portfolios after six months in office:

The Economy: C-
The Vice president said recently that the Administration underestimated the severity of the recession (or Depression) and so did not make the stimulus package strong enough. Now Obama says a second stimulus is not needed IOW Krugman was right. And there’s the problem. It is not as if good advice was not available. It was but Obama chose to ignore it. Robert Reich, Nouriel Roubini and Paul Krugman are still around to remind the president that this is not an ordinary recession. We are living through some kind of economic crisis that should be addressed as such. Instead, Obama now says a second stimulus is not needed. Is he trying to lose my vote? Is he trying to be Hoover or FDR?

RE the banking and finance system, too much Geitner and Summers. The foreclosure crisis is probably going to get worse. Congress missed a chance to mitigate by refusing to pass the cram down legislation. Thanks Blue Dogs and Senate “moderates”. And now Obama wants the left to be nice to the Blue Dogs, Republicrats or ConservaDems (as Maddow calls them) even though they are either opposed to a public option in health care. Fat chance.

Come to think, a C in this subject is pretty damn generous.

Health Care – Incomplete
Again, my support for the President and congressional Democrats are contingent on the passage of health care reform with a strong public option. Obama has been vague about what he wants an expects from Congress on this. I don’t know if anyone in the White House knows how destructive was Rahm’s trial balloon about co-ops v public option. I hope he knows what he is doing.

Energy and climate change – Incomplete
Incomplete because the cap and trade bill is not out of the Senate yet so we don’t know what kind of sausage the final product will be.

National security and diplomacy (Iraq and Afghanistan included) – C+
This, IMO, is the area in which Obama and his team have performed most effectively. Some of the left argne critical of the Administration because the exit from Iraq will take a little longer than Obama promised during the campaign. I am not concerned about that. I will be concerned though if the withdrawal from Iraq turnes out to be incomplete.

In my view, Obama has done well on most areas of foreign relations. His reserve during the Iran post election crisis has served the U.S. well. His fence building eith the Muslim world will eventually pay handsome dividends.

The big problem that drags this grade down is Afghanistan. It looks to me that Obama is repeating one of Bushes early problems in Iraq; there is no clear strategy. When is the Afghanistan mission to be considered accomplished? What is the exit strategy? How much blood and treasure is to be expended on such a nebulous project?

No doubt there are other less visible projects and priorities, like reforming the federal bureaucracy, cleaning up the Justice Department and Pentagon procurement. Presumably human rights are somewhere in the mix but the foot dragging on don’t ask don’t tell and DOMA, and the continuation of Bush II policies re FISA and detention of suspected Islamic militants have created doubts on that score. Transparency was also promised but not yet fully delivered. I would like to see AG Holder seriously investigate Bush/Cheney crimes, but I can’t hold my breath that long.

Again, my support for any Democrat, from Obama on down, is predicated on the successful passage of an adequate health care reform package. The House bill is encouraging as is the Senate bill passed by the HELP committee. I am not completely happy with either, but they are a step in the right direction.

Now to await the final sausage.

Written by slothropia

July 15th, 2009 at 10:03 am

Gaga over Gupta? Not Me

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It seems I am not the only one who would question Gupta’s appropriateness as a spokesman for the Obama administration’s future health care reforms.

Remember when Sicko came out? Gupta was right there with the Know Nothings, or Republicans as they call themselves.

As my close personal friend Paul Krugman says:

So apparently Obama plans to appoint CNN’s Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

Read the whole thing. I agree with everything Krugman says.

Written by slothropia

January 7th, 2009 at 9:45 am