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January 20, 2009

Obama's president. Now, make him do it!


Barack Obama, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Finally.

Okay, everybody: Back to work.

If you're a progressive, your work isn't supporting everything Obama does in the name of unity, or always deferring your agenda to what someone would have you believe is the greater good.

It's to keep on organizing to create constituencies that will compel Obama to govern like a progressive. I'm reminded of an anecdote about Franklin Roosevelt's relationship to his progressive base:

"FDR was, of course, a consummate political leader. In one situation, a group came to him urging specific actions in support of a cause in which they deeply believed. He replied: I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it," William J. vanden Heuvel, 2002.

Obama's opponents--the Republican hacks, the religious fringe, the crony capitalists, the corporate welfare bums, and the corporate state dead-enders--will never stop badgering him from the right. If the left doesn't keep up at least equal and opposite pressure, Obama will cave to the right every time as a matter of political necessity.

Lately, I've heard the leaders of liberal interest groups talking about shifting from being opposition groups to being power players within the larger Democratic coalition. Often, this means keeping up, or stepping up, their organizing efforts in order to consolidate their power. Good thing, too. It's not enough to have a seat--it's all about what you bring to the table and what you can take away, if you don't get what you want.

The Chamber of Commerce isn't powerful just because it represents a wealthy contingency, nor lot of powerful people were (and are) sympathetic to its agenda. The Chamber is powerful because it's well-organized.

Whenever a policy threatens the Chambers' interests, its supporters will call the White House and members of Congress and write op/eds and disseminate talking points and generally make a nuisance of itself until it gets its own way. It helps that the Chamber has a lot of money to pay for extras like ads and lobbyists and lawyers, but the basic pressure tactics are cheap and endlessly adaptable.

The Obama campaign itself is the ultimate proof of concept for small-dollar fund raising and online organizing.

Of all people, President Obama respects and understands the power of grassroots organizing. It's not enough to trust that he will follow through on his promises, we have to be in a position to insist that he does.

Progressives will always be the loyal opposition.

[Photo: Here's an image from what seems like a long time ago, when Barack Obama spoke to a small group of bloggers at Yearly Kos 2 in Chicago in 2007.]

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Comments

Very well said (and a great quote, too).

He wanted the job.

We gave him the job.

Now he has to DO the job.

If progressives were well-organised and represented a powerful and wealthy contingency, we'd have a lot better chance of actually getting politicians to do what we think is best...

Well, we're getting better organized all the time.

For me, today was about standing in solidarity with ordinary working people who have put their trust, hope and faith in Obama, more than it was about celebrating his victory (which of course, I fully support). Obama has already compromised his integrity in some of the decisions and appointments he's made. Reality has begun to set in. He'd better live up to his promise of transparency and integrity because hope is a lot thinner than cynicism in America now.

When my family was young I decided to go back to college and live the American dream. I was full of Piss and vinegar. Proud Democrat!
Working 40 hours or more a week and did carry a 15 hour load at the local University.
After College my dream career in healthcare. The Clintons came to power and I was in political Heaven. Then fire charged emotion, Hilary’s proposed Healthcare reform. We did see cuts in reimbursements over night. Hospitals closed or merged. The biggest layoffs in Healthcare history. Not to mention the decline in healthcare. Still Democratic Party was for the working man.
HA!
Now Obama has come to power and his proposed healthcare cuts …oh yes and there are many, will send the Healthcare system into a death Spiral.
Now I know you young idealistic democrats will sit back and scoff upon reading this blurb. Just relax take a deep breath and watch…its going to get much worse.
In a nut shell the Democratic Party no longer works for the people they just hide their agendas behind locked doors.
Get rid of the insane Democratic Party members starting with Nancy Pelosi and her influence and maybe just maybe Obama could do some good…but I really doubt it.

Issue number one for me is to see that the bailout of the financial industry comes with lots of strings and lots of accountability. The shitheads, liars, and crooks who created this mess are for the most part being held to no account at all.

I don't think progressives can be the loyal opposition, though I understand why you put it that way. U.S. military power is a model of U.S. influence that is under intense pressure to deliver results especially in Afghanistan that appear to me be hopeless. Obama commits himself to the historical post WWII position about U.S. power. That is not unpredictable but also puts him the position of doing the impossible. The ignominious loss in Gaza by the super powerful Israeli army is a smaller scale example of the global failure of U.S. power.

Under those circumstances the progressive position cannot be loyal opposition, but must carve out a shift in the U.S. stance that is unpalatable to a loyal stance in the U.S. To admit the war machine hinders U.S. interests is betrayal of huge economic interests who must be faced down in a strong way.

And while Obama compares his future to Lincolns' and the rest of the country sees the great depression as a looming possibility, the current national situation is not like either of the two historical points I cited for the U.S. This means going forward is not clear what will work even if Obama shifts radically over time. As I've seen some say, the significant loss of global U.S. economic power implies opening a door to chaotic international relations that no one can foresee an end to or a way to succeed in. Yet anyway.

A good model for activism is the religious right. They figured out exactly what they wanted then they got organized and got to work. They put their money and their effort where their mouths are and kept at it year after year without losing focus or zeal. The old Wall Street/Rockefeller Republicans could barely stand to be in the same room with the scripture-shouting hillbillies, but in the end they knuckled under and did their bidding. The bible thumpers may have run the Republican Party off a cliff, but that’s only because their agenda is obviously insane. They finally overreached with Sarah Palin, however until then their tactics and strategy were flawless.

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