Wednesday, September 07, 2011

friendly advice for centrist Obama supporters

 You are doing a piss poor job of convincing progressives to reelect Obama.

I believed you guys were actually Republican trolls until I heard the same words coming out of the mouths of top Obama aides and in only slightly milder form out of the mouths of the president and VP himself.

Does that persuade you and make you want to keep reading?

I didn't think so.

So why do you repeatedly insult the progressive majority of Democrats to try to keep them in the Obama tent?

I am not 100% pleased with Obama, but I will be voting for him again. Your efforts mostly make me feel like an idiot for doing so.

If you sincerely want to help Obama win reelection, here's some tips that might help you warm up the base.

Enough with the insults. You know what I'm talking about--calling anyone who criticizes Obama from the left ''far left'' (going as far as to say we are as bad as the far right), ''the professional left,'' ''hopeless idealists,'' and perhaps most aggravatingly ''Obama haters.'' That last one is just fucking lazy. You borrowed it from the Bush PR team.

Stop being crybabies. When you come to a discussion board, expect that people are going to criticize your guy as well as praise him. If you want undiluted praise, go to Obama's campaign website. If you come to a site like this expect to have to defend some of his actions and do so as if talking to your peers not your children.

Retire some of these talking points:
  • You don't understand the process--it requires compromise. Actually, we understand that perfectly well. What we don't understand is why the president we elected to pursue Democratic policies gives away half the pie before negotiations even start and then gives up even more to make a deal. That would make some kind of sense once Republicans took over the House, but Obama did this even when Democrats had majorities in both chambers. Either honestly explain why he did this or just leave it alone.

    Most of us also notice that this isn't the way the GOP negotiates, regardless of whether they hold the White House or either chamber of Congress. They start with proposals that are clearly conservative, excoriate the Democrats, and then grudgingly compromise at the end of negotiations (and sometimes not even then).
  • Obama has to be president of ALL Americans. Again, this one is an insult to our intelligence. We understand that he has to be president of ALL Americans, but we hold elections to decide what policies we want our president pursue. A solid majority of Americans thought they elected a Democratic president, not one who rarely mentions the name of his own party and blames it as much as the opposition that blocks everything and tries to destroy popular, effective programs, and not one who thinks every proposal has to include at least 50% Republican content. The Republicans certainly don't play that way when they take office, and even if they did, that would mean our vote would be meaningless since either party would do the same thing. With just the Democrats doing it, we essentially have a choice being 100% GOP policies or just 50% plus, which is barely a choice at all. So stow this shit.

  • Any Republican will be WORSE. progressives seem to know this better than you or Obama does. If they are so bad, stop agreeing with them and letting them set the agenda, as your points about process and bipartisanship prove.
  • Obama will be more progressive in his second term. Maybe FDR did that, but no president in my lifetime has. Bill Clinton was doing well to hold onto office and like Obama agreed with the GOP policies far too often. For good or ill, you have to run on what Obama has actually done (and not just the nice things he has said or will say during the campaign.

That brings me to the one thing you guys do well, the list of Obama's accomplishments. Even your presentation there has room for improvement though.

  • Edit the list for a progressive audience. The catfood commission, the Afghanistan surge, and certainly the recent debt ceiling deal are not things you want to brag about with a progressive audience.
  • Emphasize the radical and confrontational rather than incremental and bipartisan. So for example with health care reform, instead of talking about the market based exchanges and ''cost controls,'' the latter meaning controlling costs for insurance companies, talk about what the reform did to help the average American and bring insurance companies and big pharma to heel.
  • Give it to people in chunks instead of the big dump. Focus especially on progressive moves that aren't getting a lot of MSM coverage, like working to get Medicare Part D to negotiate drug prices.

There are a couple of points that you also avoid mentioning, like why Obama started with an economic team that included so many of the architects of our financial collapse, and why he lets firms like Goldman Sachs pick their regulators instead of picking their cellmates in the Federal pen.

Another area where you need to address progressive concerns is K-12 education. I'm glad Obama gave schools money to keep them from laying off teachers, but a lot of us who care about kids have trouble trusting him on this issue when he hired an education secretary who right wingers praise for his union-busting, mass firing of teachers, emphasis on repetitive standardized testing and privatized charter schools, all ''reforms'' backed by billionaire dilettantes rather than trained educators.

The problem with Obama's approach to Wall St, education, trade, and other aspects of foreign policy is that it is top down rather than bottom up--he appears to talk to almost exclusively the wealthy and largely does what they ask, rather than looking at the wishes of average Americans, who would like to see Wall Street subject to the rule of law and suffer the same kind of consequences a middle class or poor person would if they intentionally caused as much damage, and would like to have safe public schools that borrow the best practices of private schools, rather than privatizing public schools so our tax dollars can be siphoned off in profits and teachers treated like interchangeable burger flippers.

You must address these concerns if you want to get progressives in the tent, and address them in the way that Bruno Bettelheim laid out in his essay ''The Victim.'' He told about how as a concentration camp inmate he needed to get an SS guard's approval to get medical treatment for frostbite. He had to make his case to someone who had no sympathy, all the power, and a gun. So far, you guys have been arguing more like the guard than the inmate.