On October 7, OpenLeft ran a most charming piece by Mike Lux, Obama comes through on foreclosure issue: what’s next?
But then, that most delightful and rare of Washington moments happened: the system worked. Consumer advocates started raising hell on the blogs and in traditional media, the White House started looking more closely at the issue, and literally within a matter of hours, Obama announced that he was not going to sign the bill … As soon as the issue was raised, the White House team focused on it, and made the right decision quickly …
But I think it is fair to ask ourselves what happens next and how the progressive community should respond to it … The question now is how progressives respond if Obama does start to move in a more progressive direction … progressives should be ready to move to meet the President halfway and work with him in the areas where he does move our direction, and we shouldn’t always assume the worst. We should keep our healthy skepticism, push hard when we need to push, but be ready to engage when a door is opened to us to engage on.
In other words, the entire episode is a validation of the incrementalist, cooperative liberalism that has brought the progressive forces to the sorry state we are now in. More tactically, it is a plea for us now to go full steam with the Democratic GOTV operation.
Allow me to approach this somewhat differently. Had Obama signed the bill, in the midst of today’s massive foreclosure paperwork scandal, the Democrats would have been crucified come November. No telling how many (more) voters would have stayed home. In protest? In disgust? Or just bummed out? Such a deed would have followed Obama to 2012. While the Lux’s of the world would decry our holding grudges (I raise valid criticisms, you whine, he is an agent of Karl Rove), people would remember. Cranky, irresponsible, vindictive people like me would have made sure of it. Liberals would cry, how do we know there was a connection between signing this bill and loss of votes, as they are invested in protecting their own. But Obama and the Democratic leadership would surely have some idea. THEY can’t afford not to.
So where does Dump Obama come into it? Here’s how.
I initially took the position that a movement had to be created. I’ve been convinced by people’s responses to Dump Obama that such a movement already exists. It has many names. Dump the System. Dump the Dems. Dump Corporate Dems. None of the Above. Voting Is a Waste of Time. I Don’t Wanna Vote Cuz My Feet Hurt. Remember, a key element of a movement is, well, movement. A while ago, I thought, here we go with the usual Dem vs. 3rd party debates. But I was wrong. First, the volume and vehemence of the anger against the Democrats is unprecedented. Secondly, as the 3rd party vs. “work within the Dems” debate sounds familiar, there is not the personal disrespect that we’ve grown all too accustomed to. I don’t recall any progressive Dem being personally called a sellout for merely working in the Democratic Party. Third party folks are not being reviled for messing it up for everyone.
It’s weak in being able to take cohesive action, issue demands, count members, or have any discipline whatsoever. (My impulse to Dump Obama is an attempt to develop those.) But it has substantial power in the negative. It is a factor. They hate and fear us even as they deny our existence, or try to put us in the box of “usual mid-term dropoff.” Never has there been such a steady drumbeat of articles about the “enthusiasm gap,” touted in the MSM, crowed over by the Republicans, feared by the Democrats. The White House attacks on the left are driven by sheer terror. They honor us by their attacks.
And it is taking steps to make our impact explicitly felt. The GetEqual people are putting it right out there. You deliver on gay rights or we don’t deliver for you. Imagine an array of such groups. GetOutofGuantanamo. No money, time or votes until you close Guantanamo and renounce your grasp of presidential powers that exceed even George Bush’s. GetOutofAfghanistan. None of the above until you (the commander-in-chief) do. GetOutofOurWombs, demanding Obama revoke his Stupak inspired signing statement following the Healthcare bill’s passage. GetUsaJob. Not until I, my family and my neighbors all have decent-paying jobs. GetUsRealHealthcare, etc., etc. The possibilities are endless.
However many votes we influence one way or the other, we are having tremendous impact on how November’s results will be framed.
And finally, Dump Obama if all of the above aren’t done. I thought I was going out on a limb when I put out the idea. But events are passing me by (which is a good thing). Whether they like it or not, people are beginning to know what it means. There is now (and I’m sure I’m not responsible for this) a steady patter of “Will Obama be primaried,” and “How about Elizabeth Warren in 2012?” Mentions in passing. Initial reactions to Dump Obama were that it was out on some wild left wing, but at this point, it is beginning to look like the downright obvious move. Idle chatter at this point perhaps. But this point is only 2012.
Our surly negativity is having a real impact this time around. Real movement. But one thing about real movements is that they have to keep moving or they die. We are made up of many fragments. These fragments have to work hard to find more and more common ground.