newsrackblog.com

a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Blogged.com

Primary him

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 12th, 2011

Obama creates indefinite detention system for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (Finn/Kornblut, Washington Post, 3/7/11):

President Obama signed an executive order Monday that will create a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who continue to pose a significant threat to national security. The administration also said it will start new military commission trials for detainees there.

It’s not the last straw for me; that was somewhere along the line a while ago. But it did seem to merit a response, so I made one, with apologies and credit to James McMurtry’s great “Cheney’s Toy” song.

To family, friends, and neighbors who like Obama – I’d drink a beer with him too, he’s eloquent, thoughtful, all that. That’s not the point. The point is that the facts unfortunately show he’s not on my side on a lot of critical issues. So I’m not on his. The video provides a partial bill of particulars and ends by suggesting — or rather pleading for — the course of action in the title of this post: “Primary him.”  For a set of links supporting some of this, see my ongoing list gathered under the tag “obamadisappointsagain.”  After a while, of course, it’s stupid to be disappointed, but that’s how I felt at first, and the label remains convenient.

Last December, Michael Tomasky at the Guardian zeroed in on a DailyKos diarist’s similar plea and called it “deeply silly.” Yet it wasn’t “just” some DailyKos netizens who were and are grumbling; in the same month, Tikkun editor Michael Lerner laid out a good case for a primary challenge in the Washington Post: Save Obama’s presidency by challenging him on the left. Two key paragraphs:

With his base deeply disillusioned, many progressives are starting to believe that Obama has little chance of winning reelection unless he enthusiastically embraces a populist agenda and worldview – soon. Yet there is little chance that will happen without a massive public revolt by his constituency that goes beyond rallies, snide remarks from television personalities or indignant op-eds.

Those of us who worry that a full-scale Republican return to power in 2012 would be a disaster not just for those hurting from the Republican-policy-inspired economic meltdown but also for the environment, social justice and world peace believe it is critical to get Obama to become the candidate whom most Americans believed they elected in 2008. Despite the outcome of last month’s election, it is unlikely that the level of his base’s alienation will register with the president until late in the 2012 election cycle – far too late for society today and our future tomorrow.

Lerner believes — and I agree — that a challenge could galvanize activism on the left going into the 2012 general election.  And the point need not be to sink Obama’s ship — it will be good just to board it for the general election campaign; that might mean, say, switching Vice Presidents, or getting commitments for other cabinet posts.  And of course getting commitments to reverse the disappointing policies of his first term. If none of that turns out to be possible, though, there’s a real question in my mind whether electing a Republican in Democrat’s clothing is really all that preferable to electing one the left can actually organize against.

That leaves the question of “who?”, of course, and here Lerner suggests a number of possibilities. Tomasky indicates that the two I’d favor most — Feingold and Dean — have apparently ruled out anything of the sort. Yet situations can change. And at any rate, Obama himself was not a household word when his meteoric rise to power began. New leaders can emerge. I hope they do.

7 Responses to “Primary him”

  1. mick Says:

    I’m not at all convinced that a primary challenge is anything like enough but it’s a start, I suppose. It’ll most likely be ignored unless there are other primary challenges popping up all over the place. A pro forma protest at the presidential level isn’t going to scare anybody much unless a determined opposition has started to emerge across a broad spectrum.

    New leaders can’t “emerge” as long as the old ones are strangling the system. And that’s just what they’re doing. There are $$$Billions$$$ at stake, and no “new leader” who doesn’t appreciate that fact and go along will be allowed to “emerge”. To work for real, the challenge will have to come from way outside and be scary enough to worry them about somebody they can’t control.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    You’re right it isn’t enough by itself, but it seems to me like it’s necessary. Its success as a tactic depends on the polling math, I think. Obama had the wind at his back in ’08 — not so much this time around. He can’t afford to lose anyone — so I’m hoping he can be credibly threatened with that, enough so that he has to wonder whether enough people will lose their nerve and swing back into line in November ’12. But that would take both a remarkable primary opponent and a remarkable voting bloc for that candidate.

    So now I’m glum again. At any rate, I agree, the usual token opposition like Kucinich or Gravel or Nader won’t really do. I also don’t see a credible 3d party out there or even on the horizon, though I’m willing to be convinced. It seems to me like it mainly has to fission off from the Democrats.

  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Oh, should have added: HI, MICK great to hear from you! :)

  4. mick Says:

    Great to be heard from.

    Answer is more complete here. Hardly deathless prose but I think we need to stop being so fussy and support whoever we need to support to scare the bejesus out of the conservative Dem leadership.

  5. RobertNAtl Says:

    What about Alan Grayson? It would be quixotic/symbolic, but that probably would be true of Dean or Feingold as well. At least the target audience knows who he is.

  6. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Great idea — I’d go for Grayson. What’s more important, Grayson might go for Grayson!– I could see him considering it, like I wrote AFAIK Dean and Feingold have ruled it out. But that’s before doing any news research about it.

  7. newsrackblog.com » Blog Archive » Change we can accomplish Says:

    [...] of the 2010 midterms and the 2011 debt ceiling fiasco wouldn’t have occurred.  Obama deserved to face a primary challenger for any of those things –  but the left didn’t have the [...]

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> -- (comment rules)