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Recruiting Primary and General Election Challengers to Obama in 2012

Just as feared, efforts to find a primary challenger to Barry Obama in 2012 are set to waste precious time and energy on people who will absolutely refuse to even mount a campaign, much less in a primary against an incumbent executive.

There is no reason whatsoever to think that Cindy Sheehan will run for president within the Democrat Party. So why waste the effort trying to convince her of something she’s dead set against? True, she may run as an independent, and I would like to see her run for the reason that her campaign would in fact bring to the forefront issues that politicians from both major parties ignore or spin at their leisure. But the fact remains that you’re simply not going to succeed in convincing her to run as a Democrat. She is too soured on the party, and for good reason: having been used and abused by the Democrat establishment for years, her experiences have led her to conclude that trying to reform the party from within is futile and therefore utterly pointless. Likewise, there is no reason to believe that Cynthia McKinney, who ran in 2008 as a member of the Green Party, can be enticed to return to the party that abandoned her when she needed its help to retain the House seat she lost in 2006.

Al Franken ran for the U.S. Senate, and won in a race that literally came down to a few hundred votes. But has he expressed any desire whatsoever to run for the office of the presidency? Not to my knowledge, and those who suggest otherwise have misinterpreted the words of others to take meaning where it does not exist. Franken seems content right now to remain in the Senate, and that’s exactly where his skills are needed.

Dean and Grayson, as pointed out, have deplorable records on issues vital to progressives, such as NAFTA, Israel-Palestine, and health care. To even contemplate putting someone on the presidential ticket who denies that Israel committed war crimes against the Palestinians in gaza, wastes no opportunity to vote in support of more U.S. tax dollars to that country so it can commit even more war crimes, and who supports warmongering efforts against Iran is to turn off everyone in the U.S. who supports peaceful solutions to Israel-Palestine. And Dean’s progressive-only-when-it’s-convenient positions simply don’t pass muster with real leftists. He may appeal to phony liberals who only oppose right-wing policies when it’s Republicans implementing them but who enthusiastically support those same policies when Democrats implement them, but he’ll receive no substantial support from independents and truly liberal Democrats.

Of the remaining Democrats on the list, only three remain who might actually be goaded into running for president in 2012 against Obama. The others previously put forth, with the exception of perhaps Sheehan and McKinney, will never be convinced to run for anything, let alone president, and so shall not be included as potential Democrat challengers.

1. Dennis Kucinich
2. Russ Feingold
3. Richard Trumka

Those three are your best options, and the ones left-wing Democrats should be focusing their energies on. To waste even a second trying to recruit the likes of Jane Hamsher, Paul Krugman, and Jon Stewart is to fail to take efforts to find a real primary challenger seriously.

On the Independent and Third Party fronts, the list is a bit longer, though not by much. Your best bet for challenging both major party candidates in 2012 from the left is to get the following people to run:

1. Ralph Nader
2. Cynthia McKinney
3. Cindy Sheehan
4. Mike Gravel
5. Jesse Ventura

All of the above-named persons have run campaigns for public office on strong independent platforms. Ventura is a bit too much of a “maybe” as he has not expressed interest in running for president, but he has expressed enough disgust with the two major parties and their mutual politics that he might be goaded to it.

If progressives are going to go the third party-independent route, we’ve got the next two years to build up the Greens or some other organization to pull off a major upset. Do not count on the Democrats to mount any kind of primary challenge to Obama, let alone a serious one. And even if such a challenge was to materialize, the chances of getting the candidate who lost to run as an independent are so infinitesimal as to not be worth the bother. Still, I think the effort to mount a primary challenge is worth it if for no other reason than to demand that Democrats begin representing the left in this country.

The bottom line here is that finding and running a candidate or candidates to run against Obama in 2012 is serious business and that only serious efforts at finding such candidates must be made. Wasting time on flights of fancy guarantees only failure, and that failure is far too destructive both to the progressive movement and to the country.

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Michael Kwiatkowski

Michael Kwiatkowski