Sam Seder’s Losing Strategy
Sam Seder (majority.fm) opposes Barack Obama’s usurpation of our constitutional rights. He’s criticized Obama for claiming that he can kill Americans anywhere at any time without judicial oversight. He thinks that Obama has capitulated too far to the banks and that the President’s desire to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are bad for the country. Sam has used the word “terrible” to describe other significant failings of the President.
But he wants you to vote for Barack Obama because he thinks that’s the only opportunity that progressives will have to push their agenda forward. He thinks that Congress can be made to bend in the People’s direction and against the obvious will of Obama. And, even though Sam admits that Obama’s appointments to the Supreme Court have been less than progressive (Kagan, in particular, is a disappointment), he seems to think that an Obama-appointed Court that votes 9-0 against the people (as it eventually will, whether Obama replaces Ruth Bader Ginsburg or not) is better than a Republican-appointed Court that votes the same way.
Sam Seder has said that if we vote for our interests rather than against them, it is merely a “protest vote” that is “less than useless”. Of course, large numbers of people have been either ignorantly or knowingly (as many did in 1980) voting against their interests for quite some time. Unfortunately, it turns out that we’ve gotten what they voted for: a government that acts against our interests.
I say that it acts against our interests because I believe that our security lies not in the strength of an authoritarian police state but, instead, in our freedom. Our security lies in the ability of The People to control their government and not the other way around. I should note that I’m pretty sure that Sam believes the same things.
But Sam is afraid of the consequences of allowing a Republican to be our next President. He says, without being very specific, that a Republican President would be worse than Obama. I’m not exactly sure what could be worse than the dramatic usurpation of our rights signed in to law by Obama under the NDAA or H.R. 347 or by Eric Holder’s anti-constitutional statement that due process is not necessarily judicial process, but Sam thinks it would be worse to have a Republican President do the same kind of things, although Obama has done more than simply lay the groundwork to make more terrible oppression easier for Republicans to implement.
Sam may believe that our economic conditions would be somewhat better with Obama than with a Republican President, and he is correct to some extent, but Obama has shown time and again that his sympathies lie more with the welfare of the bankers than with the welfare of The People. And, under Obama, the flow of money from the poor and the middle class to the very rich has not slowed even a little bit. Yet Sam thinks that we must continue to vote against our interests because of the possible short-term consequences of doing otherwise, as if bare economic survival is worth the cost of surrendering our rights to the state.
I admit that at least the next four years would be horrible with a Republican President. But I don’t see that Obama would do better to any extent that would make extending his term in office worthwhile. Obama is interested, as Digby wrote, in “what works”. Unfortunately, history is replete with examples of “what works” contradicting the values and beliefs of The People. Focusing too much on “what works” leads to authoritarianism and, too often, to fascism. Nevertheless, Obama has been entirely consistent in strengthening the corporate security state at the expense of our liberty.
Furthermore, the corruption that infests our government may be the direct result of our own corruption. We have sacrificed our interests by voting for people who work against us, and Sam proposes that we continue doing so. That demonstrates a fundamental dishonesty on our part. We are responsible for the corruption of our electoral system and our government because we have corrupted the purpose of having elections. The purpose of elections is to allow The People to exercise their will, and our failure to do so corrupts that system.
Sam wants to do the same thing that many people did in 1980: vote against our interests. After all, a lot of people think that Obama is a nice guy, especially when compared with any of the Republican candidates. Even I believe that. We can imagine having a beer with him or even playing basketball with him while the Republicans are proven liars, hypocrites, and demagogues. And Sam says that only if Obama is President will progressives have an opportunity to push their agenda.
And he’s serious about that, as if Obama can be made to care what progressives want even though Obama sincerely believe that progressives’ idea are bad ideas and has consistently ignored or criticized us. Furthermore, Sam thinks that Congressional Democrats can be pressured to act in our favor and against Obama. He believes this even though a large majority of Congressional Democrats voted to pass those horrible laws that have deprived us of our rights. Sam believes progressives can gain strength by supporting Obama, even though the Democratic corporatists, led by Obama, control the reigns of the Democratic Party and work hard – and very effectively – to keep progressive Democrats out of power.
Sam believes that even if we keep doing the same thing we’ve done before, we can have different results. He believes that if progressives condone Obama’s horrific policies by voting for him, they will be taken seriously when, later, they ask Obama to change his policies. However, contrary to what Sam believes, if we support Obama again then progressives will be weaker than ever, and we will fail to hand down to our children the freedom that we used to enjoy.
Sam Seder’s strategy is a cowardly one. If we’re afraid to fight because we might get hit, the result will be only a greater loss of our freedom.
It is certainly true that, for the short term, our country and our people will not do well, but there is very little that we can do about that. We waited too long to become active. Progressives will not be listened to in the short term. We will not get a seat at the table. There is no “winning strategy” for progressives in the short term. While we might pick up a few progressive seats in Congress, the best that we can hope for on policy over the next four years is to not lose any more ground, although Obama certainly will strengthen the police state. That’s why we have to start looking at the long term. We have to start working now so that our children won’t have to fight even harder to get their rights back because we were unwilling to stand up for them today.
We need a long term view and a long term strategy. But what can progressives do?
We have to admit that if we want change then we have to begin by changing ourselves. We cannot continue to support the people who oppose us. Even though we will lose the next few battles against the authoritarians, we can start building our strength by actively opposing them. We can begin by changing the way we vote. Instead of voting against our interests, we can begin to vote for them. Instead of voting for the lesser of two evils, we can extend our outlook and start voting for the greater good. That certainly doesn’t mean that we must vote Republican, because there will be other candidates even this year, and some who want to restore our rights to us are campaigning even now, and we certainly must have a Democratic Congress. Progressive challengers to Obama will lose this race to him, and he will win in November, but we will, at least, have finally entered the fight rather than be content to surrender our will. That would be a significant change, and it can lead to greater changes in the future if we keep fighting for our freedom. But we must vow never to surrender again.
We must start changing now. We must not force our children to fight our battles for us. The danger to them will be greater than it is for us today.
— David Dickinson