We’re Angry At The President, What Now?
It is easy to cry “A Pox on both your Houses!” when looking at the political mess we see in Washington. The anger that Liberals, Progressives and just plain old Democrats feel right now at the President and the Party Leadership is fairly earned. We have time and again a willingness to negotiate down from a position of power, and I have to say that it is due, to my mind anyway, the lack of experience this president brought to the job.
True, no one has any experience being president before they land that job, but President Obama was a little less experienced than others. He was in the odd position of being good enough to get the job, but perhaps not good enough to do the job that needed to be done. In any case that is all in the past, we can’t change it.
It is not all the president’s fault, that is clear, the way the Democratic Caucus in both Houses of Congress have acted has helped to hamstring him. We should have been having this fight about taxes before the election, not after in a jam packed lame duck session. The weak willed failure to address the issues that would excite the base was part and parcel of the electoral drubbing Democrats received this November.
Still this would not have been as much of a problem if there were strong leadership from the White House. I understand the idea of respecting Congresses roll in the development of legislation, the thing is Congress is always going to be fractious and defocused by its very nature. Three people can barely decide what movie to rent, let alone 535. The fact that there is one president who can make up his own mind and then provide direction for his party means that his views should prevail. This requires leadership, using both the carrot and the stick to move the agenda forward. We have seen too many carrots for the opposition and not nearly enough sticks for the recalcitrant Democrats.
So the question becomes ‘What Now?” If the party and its members are massively unhappy with this president what do we do? There is a lot of talk about a primary challenger for the President. I don’t have a problem with this idea, after all it is part of the process and why shouldn’t we take advantage of the process? The thing is it is a simple answer to a complex problem.
Sure we can call for a challenger, and if things are bad enough, or even as bad as we think, some Democrat might come forward to try. However we should not kid ourselves that we are likely to get a top tier candidate this way. Challenging a sitting president of your party is almost always political suicide. Only Senator Ted Kennedy managed to do it, lose and still have a political career.
There is also the issue of money. If there is to be an organic (I’m not going to say grass roots because the reality is there is no chance of doing this with small dollar donations, even the vaunted Obama small donor numbers were augmented with lots of big dollar donors) there has to be some serious money behind this. Organizations need to be put in place now if the hundreds of millions of dollars which will be needed are going to be raised.
There is also the issue of what it will do to the party. You have probably noticed that most everyone is more than a little pissed off and not just at the president. I have always maintained that:
Getting Democrats together and keeping them that way is like herding cats which have been hopped up on meth, through L.A, at rush hour, during an earthquake, in the rain.
A primary fight can be hugely divisive and no matter what some of the folks on the losing side are going to be bitter and not come home to the fold. Just look at the die hard PUMAS from 2008 if you doubt this. This time around it had the potential to be even bitterer.
It is unclear what having a challenger might actually force the president to do. It is thought that someone challenging him from his left would force him to the left, but it might also have the affect of forcing him to the right, which would further alienate his base, which he will need in order to win. That would be a disaster for Liberal policy, as even though the current president is not nearly as liberal as we would like, any Republican in 2012 will be so far to the right that they will make Denis Hastert look like Denis Kucinich.
It is easy on a political website on the left side of the political divide to look around at all the commentary and assume there is tons of potential workers who are energized enough to get out there and make a primary bid really work. Sadly I think we have to be realistic. There is a multiplier that I have used in most of the campaigns I have been involved with, it is .25. Take the number of people who say they will volunteer and then multiply that by .25 and you have your starting place. That might be a little high for the general population, but I think in terms of on-line activist it is just about right.
Given that multiplier, do you think there are enough people to make a primary challenge work? I am not going to say one way or the other, I can’t claim to be fabulous in predicting what will happen in an angry electorate, no one is, but it is something to keep in mind.
There are times when you can’t sit still any longer. Those who took the presidents reference to FDR seriously have been scolded enough by the White House for trying to “make him do it” that they are ready to focus their efforts elsewhere. The policy the president is pursuing is not acceptable to the base and that means that he will have to deal with that problem.
Our problem is what do we do if we have decided that President Obama needs to earn our support again? He acts in ways that indicate he thinks it is automatically locked up, but the reality is that any politician has to earn that support if they want to be re-elected. For those of us on the Left who are disillusioned this is going to be a tough time. There are real problems that the President is trying to deal with. Even if we think he is dealing with them in the wrong way, the cost of allowing someone who can get the Republican nomination into the White House is one that has to be balanced with our disillusionment.
I don’t know the answer to what now? I do know that the answer can not be throwing our hands up and retreating from the fight. Whether you believe the president needs to be replaced or are a staunch supporter the fact remains that the Liberal agenda for this nation is the right one and we must each keep fighting for that, even if we can’t agree on the means to get that agenda enacted.
The floor is yours.