In Defense of Obama
It’s 2006, we have a Republican majority in the House and Senate, a bird-brained NeoCon president and a right-wing media shilling 24 hours a day.
Here’s a good idea, leftist bloggers: let’s attack Barack Obama!
Obama has faced criticism throughout his career, but lately the harshest is coming from his own party, particularly the far-left activists who dominate most of the liberal blogosphere discourse. He has been disparaged predominantly for perceived support of Joe Lieberman, but also for his attempts to make bi-partisan progress on Senate legislation.
I spoke with a member of Obama’s staff to clarify some of his positions, and also discuss how the Democratic party can increase its overall power. The responses were insightful, and should serve as a reminder of what our goal should be as members of the minority party: to erode the Republican majority and help Democrats regain control of the government.
First, specifics and semantics.
1.) Newly elected Senators are assigned a “mentor” in the Senate. Obama was assigned to Joe Lieberman. They have had lunch once. Obama’s closest guide as he begins his career in the federal government is Dick Durbin, the senior Senator from Illinois.
2.) Obama has appeared at countless Democratic fundraisers and will continue to do so in all states in order to help regain control of the House and the Senate. How many other Democrats get invited to Nebraska to campaign? Obama is the single most popular speaker at Democratic fundraisers. He is a staunch supporter of the party, and last year raised over $6 million dollars for compatriots. He’s stumped for everyone from Bernie Sanders to Ben Nelson. Why? Because electing Democrats is the first step to regaining control, taking chairmanship of committees, nominating justices, writing laws. So while you’re ragging on his failure to adhere 100% to an extreme leftist ideology, he’s out trying to rescue your government from the Republicans, who are controlled not by centrists, but by far-right NeoCons.
3.) Supporting other candidates: Obama supports the candidate that he personally believes can win the race. In the case of Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, he’s still better than Rick Santorum. Furthermore, Pennsylvania’s voters aren’t that liberal – in fact, they constitute a rather conservative bunch for the East Coast. You, me, your brother, your roommate, we might all love the talking points of Chuck Pennaccio. Do the voters in Pennsylvania? And can you give Chuck $2 million so that he can try to win them over? Obama evaluates each race on its own terms, and when he does not or cannot support a particular candidate, he declines to take a position in the race. However, in the case where Obama does believe that the candidate has a chance, he acts early to help them out. Obama’s campaigning for Duckworth, Casey, etc. allows them to make great strides in prominence and fundraising. Nowadays you can’t wait until after the primary to start fundraising – you need to have lots of cash early on if you want to stand a chance. That’s why Democrats of every stripe want Obama at their side – he’s well liked, respected, and worth the $200 fundraiser ticket.
Ultimately, it comes down to that old “government for the people, by the people.” The far-left community that populates blogs tends to want “government for the people, by the ideologically pure.” Frankly, there is not one Senator out there who meets the criteria the far left has set – just a few months ago, Feingold was getting railed on for voting for Roberts in the Judiciary Committee. Now, his call for censure makes him a hero. What’ll happen next month?
Obama was one of thirty Senators to stand up against the weak lobbying reform bill that got passed last week. His vote was meant to demonstrate that the reforms were not enough, and that our government could do better to curtail outside influences. He pushed for extremely strong limitations on lobbysists – sensible limitations designed to keep Congressmen from waltzing off the Hill and into multi-million dollar lobbyist jobs. These efforts were ruled “off topic” by the bi-partisan group that controls what Senate amendments make it to the floor.
Triangulation, Math, and How the Senator Works; or Obama accused of working with centrists and Republicans in order to get things done.
Now, I’m going to explain a little bit about the Senate. Bills in the Senate need a majority vote to pass. Right now, there are a majority of Republicans in the Senate. So, if any Democrat, from the hated Lieberman to flavor-of-the-week Feingold is going to get a bill passed, he’s going to need the support of a few Republicans, not to mention all of the Democrats. So you can’t criticize Obama – or any other Senator – for working with people you don’t like, if you also expect Democrats to get anything done.
A note on alliances: Obama’s staff member explained that if Obama disagrees with another Senator 99% of the time, but agrees with him/her 1% of the time, and that 1% on which they agree allows the two of them to work together to pass a beneficial law, he’ll do it.
I understand that the aim of leftist bloggers is (or should be) to help the Democratic minority become the majority. However, this isn’t going to happen over night, and won’t ever happen if the most vocal members adhere to a requirement of ideological purity that few Senators will ever meet.
So. Obama’s efforts are to win a majority of Senate and Congress seats for Democrats. Go ahead, far left, and attack him for it. Or, if you want to use your voice for good, then work to get a Democratic majority first. Once we have 51 Democrats, I welcome any and all criticism of those who aren’t ideologically pure enough for you. Unless, of course, you think we might instead take that opportunity to use our voices to undo the past few years of W? Your choice.
Obama himself has made many comments to this effect, on his website blog and on DailyKos as well. Also check out this press release for an example of how Obama can work with a Senator who is otherwise 99% reprehensible.
As for the leftist bloggers who continue to harass Obama and think that the anti-Obama backlash is “cool” – you’re wrong. Anti-Bush invectives are cool. Supporting health care for all Americans is cool. Working to regain control of even one branch of government is cool. I suggest that you take your rancor and direct it towards Pat Richardson, Rick Santorum, Saxby Chambliss or Jeb Bush.
I read this post by Grand Moff Texan, which in short criticizes members of the left for playing to the right’s own game. The same is true when we waste valuable time criticizing members of our own party, save for the very few (Lieberman) who genuinely deserve it.
Face it. The left has done as much to demonize Hillary Clinton as the right has. Who are we helping? We could be discrediting the opposition. Instead, we’re discrediting ourselves. So let's not jump all over Obama, who happens to be the most popular kid in the class right now, at least as the public and his peers seem to see it.
So my charge to you, leftist bloggers, is this: DO SOMETHING. Take that energy you pour into comments-section rants and do something. Write letters to voters in swing states. Make phone calls urging registered Democrats to get out and vote. Take voter registration forms to underrepresented neighborhoods and help people register. Pass along petitions and senator contact information to your friends, urging them to get involved.
See, I’ve done all of these things, and it feels a hell of a lot better than sitting in your desk chair whining about the Democratic senators who don’t toe your line on every last issue.
You cannot expect every member of your political party to agree with you 100% of the time. You can, however, recognize that attacking members of the Democratic party who are otherwise faithful members of the party is simply doing more harm than good.