When Compromise Means Undermining The Logical Solutions To Our Most Serious Problems
When Barack Obama told the New York Times he was “like a Rorschach test,” after having just defeated Hillary Clinton in the Primaries, you have to wonder if he wasn’t already laying down a narrative he could lean on in defense of all the promises he intended to break.
Make no mistake about it, Progressives were NOT blinded by their infatuation with him. They were NOT merely projecting their own ideas of ‘change’ onto him, as he, his advisers and some in the MSM would have you believe.
Obama was not a candidate who spieled off a list of vague promises, leaving himself a vacuous space he could eventually wiggle away from. On the contrary, Obama was very specific about his platform. He eloquently explained to his supporters in precise details WHY his specific solutions were the most sound and the most logical for remedying the problems this country faced.
Unlike most politicians, Obama is blessed with a professorial ability to identify the cause of a complex problem and to articulately guide his listeners towards the most logical solution.
As it happened, his supporters equated his uncanny ability to brilliantly describe and defend each of his policy choices as evidence of his deep and profound commitment to them.
This is why Obama’s long list of betrayals have stung so many and in a way that differs from the all-too-familiar betrayals of the typical ‘talking points’ brand of politician. Obama was different. He made the intellectual case for the solutions he proposed.
An obvious example would be Obama’s promise that a public option would remain a vital component to any health care reform bill that he would sign. He explained it was the only way of injecting competition into a corrupt industry where none existed; that it was necessary for keeping the ‘for profit’ insurance industry honest, and would serve as a last resort for those who became unemployed, or who couldn’t, for whatever reason, afford the ‘for profit’ industry rates.
He had also described why a health care mandate — something his opponent, Hillary Clinton, favored — was idiotic. He stated “If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house. The reason they don’t have a house is they don’t have the money.”
As President, he championed the mandate, promised away the crucial public option in secret meetings with the hospital industry, and flipped on a good many of his other significant health care reform promises. And now — shocking! — Democrats worry about the political blowback in 2014 by middle-class families who will discover not only that they don’t qualify for subsidies, but that they will face financial penalties for not purchasing coverage, even if there are no policies they can afford.
Candidate Obama owes his alter ego, President Obama, one gigantic “Told You So!“
For this reason, there is a keen sense amongst many on the Left that President Obama has cunningly betrayed not just mere promises, but the public interest itself. That he sinisterly chose to enrich those same corrupt industries he spoke of so often, and to the detriment of millions of Americans.
Obama shifted very abruptly, once elected, from his commitment to ‘Change’ — as he had defined it — to something entirely different: a commitment to ‘Bipartisanship’. But this necessity for pragmatic compromise has cynically evolved into his chief rationale for pursuing the very opposite policies of the ones he once deemed imperative to solving our nation’s most vexing problems.
Here’s an exercise in simple arithmetic to help highlight the fallacy in Obama’s style of governance:
If Candidate Obama believed 1 + 1 = 2, and now faces Republicans who contend 1 + 1 = 5, should a President who quickly capitulates and decrees 1 + 1 = 4 still be trusted to solve our country’s problems?
Should he be praised for committing himself to something we all know is NOT a solution to the problem: (1 + 1 = 4), merely for the sake of projecting a token display of bipartisanship?
Many progressives believe that Obama’s commitment to compromise is nothing more than a cover to selfishly advance his own political interests. Because, we know from his campaign speeches what he himself believes to be the logical solutions for tackling these gigantic problems. And they are not at all what he has been fighting for since he was elected.
The Strategic Rationale Behind The Left’s Criticism Of President Obama: FEAR
There are essentially two major camps left-of-center in American politics, and the divisions between the two are often as deep and wide as the rifts between the two major parties.
One camp is composed of Democratic partisans — a group that goes to great ends to stifle any and all criticism of President Obama and other Democratic politicians.
Commonly referred to as ‘Democratic loyalists’, ‘Obamabots’, ‘Obama Loyalists’ ‘Obama apologists’, ‘sheeple’ … they are fueled by a deep conviction that the Democratic Party — no matter what they do and how far to the right they swing — must have our full unflinching support to ensure their eventual reelection.
Anytime the Left criticizes Obama’s initiatives or policies, or calls for primaries or third party options, Partisans immediately condemn them as “helping to elect Republicans”.
Partisans have succumbed, fully and completely, to the ‘lesser of two evils’ rationale.
To fully appreciate how insignificant policies are to the partisan mind, consider that most of them absolutely loathed Ronald Reagan in the 80s, yet now ironically adore President Obama. Never mind that his actual policy record sits to the right of Reagan’s along the left-right political spectrum.
The second camp is composed of progressives — a group whose loyalties lie ONLY with progressive policies. These individuals relentlessly pursue the truth irregardless of which party suffers from their findings. Unlike partisans, they refuse to cherry-pick, or engage in historic revisionism, or even to pull punches as a way of sparing Democratic politicians embarrassment.
Commonly referred to as ‘the Left’, ‘the populist Left’, ‘truth-tellers’, ‘the professional Left’, ‘non-partisan Left’, ‘ideological purists’, … they tend to vote Democratic, but will at times — depending on the options available to them — consider voting for Greens and independents.
The Left has been especially critical of President Obama over the last three years. He won a decisive victory in 2008 having campaigned on the following progressive platform: a public option as the vital component to any health care reform legislation; allowing the re-importation of prescription drugs; ending Bush tax cuts; scrapping the Patriot Act, which he deemed ‘shoddy and dangerous’; ending the warring policies of the neocons; closing GITMO; ending ‘Too Big to Fail’ on Wall Street (so as to avoid future TARPS); rewriting job-killing NAFTA-like trade policies, etc. etc. Once elected, he instantly turned his back on all these campaign promises, instead cutting back-room deals with the wealthy entrenched interest groups who profit from the very deep structural problems he vowed to reform.
All this begs the following question: Whose Strategy (Partisan or Progressive) Is Most Likely To Yield Meaningful Progressive Change?
Again, Partisans preach that within the confines of a two-party system, you MUST ALWAYS support and defend the ‘lesser of two evil’ parties. And so as an extension of this belief, they view the Left — always shining a light on Obama’s betrayals and pro-corporate, non-progressive policies — as merely sabotaging his 2012 reelection prospects, thereby ensuring we get stuck with a Tea Partier President.
But this partisan assessment is both simplistic and naive.
To fully appreciate the strategy of Progressives, one must focus entirely on what motivates politicians to legislate the policies they do: FEAR. If politicians don’t fear you, they are free to ignore you.
Like all Americans, politicians fear losing their jobs. The two major competing groups that directly impact their reelection prospects are the powerful entrenched entities who fill either their or their opponents’ political coffers with millions of dollars, and the constituents who will actually cast the votes.
Why Politicians Fear Entrenched Corporate Entities Far More Than Voters
Deep pocketed special interest groups have only one objective: to ensure that all legislation passed and signed into law continues to enrich them and advance their own narrow self-interests (often to the detriment of the American public).
Of great significance, is their mercenary approach to influencing the legislative process. Their loyalty lies with whatever party legislates their agenda. One wrong vote and they will reroute tens of thousands of dollars slotted for one politician directly into his opponent’s war chest. Similar to Progressives, their loyalties lie with the policies being legislated.
Voting constituents, conversely, are largely too timid to provoke this same level of fear in their politicians, and this is a direct result of our deeply-flawed two-party political system. By punishing or even criticizing Democrats, partisans fear they risk empowering Republicans.
So naturally Democratic politicians factor their supporters’ reluctance to punish them into their decision-making process anytime their campaign promises meet resistance from the powerful entrenched-interest groups. It is precisely this ‘lesser of two-evils’ mindset that all but ensures Democratic politicians put entrenched corporate interests above their own supporters’ interests.
The Media’s Role in Ensuring America Remains Partisan
The main-stream-media (owned by these same entrenched corporate interests) helps to do its part to solidify a public partisan mindset by largely replacing serious news coverage and thoughtful policy discussions with a focus on partisan gamesmanship and the most extreme elements of the ‘other’ party. This blatant distraction — a refocusing of the public attention away from the issues that matter — lulls each side’s voters into complacency. It grants a non-principled President even more leeway to betray the interests of his own supporters. He can quietly serve the entrenched interests, in exchange for millions in campaign contributions, and yet still remain confident his constituents — shocked by the nightly broadcasting of extreme Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh rhetoric — will continue to support him.
Is it a mere coincidence that Fox News Chairman Roger Aisles — who serves as the Republican Party’s propagandist-in-chief — decided to cancel Glenn Beck just before the 2012 Election cycle? Aisles understood better than anyone that Beck provokes fear and disgust in Centrists and Leftists alike. And that fear has a way of overshadowing the deep-seated feelings of betrayal shared by MANY who campaigned for Obama in 2008. Aisles knew that MSNBC and CNN would continue to devote an exorbitant amount of time each night focused on Beck’s crazy conspiratorial rants, and that this could only frighten and energize a largely disenchanted electorate to vote Democratic.
Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et al actually steal the spotlight away from Obama’s right-of-center policies. Obama’s Milton Friedmanesque initiatives have failed to spark outrage amongst many Democrats, because they are completely captivated by the circus clowns on the far-Right. When liberal pundits roll clip after clip after clip of antics from the fringe-right, they divert their viewers’ attention from things such as the NAFTA-like ‘free trade’ deals Obama is quietly pushing through — gifts to multi-national corporations which will result in the exportation of hundreds of thousands more American jobs, and during one of the biggest unemployment crises since the Great Depression. They neglect to remind their viewer that Obama routinely slammed these very NAFTA-like trade deals during his campaign, promising his supporters he’d rewrite NAFTA if they elected him.
Why The Progressive Strategy Is Our Only Hope For Change
Progressives are of the mindset that the only way to transform this country into a more progressive one, is to heighten politicians’ FEAR of their own constituents in a way that rivals the fear instilled by deep-pocketed interest groups. Progressives know that politicians strategically move towards their ideological base, whenever confronted with political insecurity.
When the Left calls Obama out in a way that penetrates the inner-beltway bubble — and becomes quantifiable by corresponding poll numbers — the President’s political advisers interpret this as voter repudiation. They realize his policy pendulum has swung too far Right in favor of entrenched interests and to the detriment of his own political stability. And it’s at this moment he begins to fear his supporters — the ones who elected him, and who will actually cast the votes in 2012. This leaves him with little choice, but to pivot towards his base and attempt to diffuse rising populist dissent.
Therein lies the key crucial difference between the two camps:
Progressives understand that when a President’s poll numbers drop he is more likely to push progressive priorities to appease his supporters. As such, the Left doesn’t believe its criticism of Obama in any way threatens the ends it hopes to achieve: progressive policies. If Obama stubbornly refuses to pivot to the Left then he has only himself to blame for a disenchanted, unenergized base come election time.
Partisans are always in campaign mode — viewing actual governing as little more than the muddy tracks of a perpetual horse race — and thus equate lowering poll numbers as a precursor to defeat. Therefore, as a group, they are incapable of ever pressuring their politicians to champion progressive causes or to promote meaningful change.
The message partisans continue to send to their Democratic representatives is this: “Just ignore me and everything I want, because I intend to campaign for you and vote for you regardless of what you do. I’ll even lie for you and cover up how you’ve screwed me every which way til Sunday — anything to ensure those scary Republicans don’t win.”
The Left hopes to send them the exact opposite message.
The US founding fathers, like today’s Progressives, understood that the one vital ingredient for maintaining a robust democracy is nothing less than FEAR itself:
“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
Well, today, we find ourselves living in a state of corporate tyranny, where change has become nothing more than a campaign slogan. Partisans have no one but themselves to blame for this sorry state of affairs.
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