Sunday, April 10, 2011

The One Who Primaries Obama Will be the Next Democratic President

                During the Seventies, we had two ineffectual presidents unable to deal with the economic and other hard times that confronted them.   Both were primaried and both went on to lose the general election.  However, their parties had very different fates after those elections.

After Ronald Reagan lost to Gerald Ford, he did not stop campaigning and organizing.  Not only did he go on to win the next time, but his 1976 campaign is basis of the Conservative Movement that has dominated American politics ever since.  In retrospect, conservatives would surely say that the Regan Revolution and all that followed was worth it to suffer through four years of Carter.  Additionally, what most people remember of Gerald Ford is Chevy Chase’s imitation, and no one brands his failures onto the Republican Party.

Even thirty years after Carter’s defeat, we can’t use the word Liberal because the Republicans succeeded in branding him a “Liberal.”  Of course, Carter was a moderate at best and actually started the country on the road to de-regulation.  But for anyone old enough, his feckless “malaise” is forever mixed up with the word “liberal” and the Democratic Brand.

The question with Obama is, can we afford not to primary him?  If Obama continues on his present course and does not show real strength and leadership, he will lose.  In losing, his ineffectualness and lack of spine will become that of the Democratic Party and Progressives.  The Left will be redefined in terms of Obama’s positions, as the Republicans try to roll back even those small accomplishments.  And we will be out of power for another generation.

In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, a far-sighted scientist can see that the Galactic Empire is crumbling and is to be followed by a thirty-thousand-year-long dark age, but with the right steps, the darkness can be limited to only a thousand years.  There is probably no saving an Obama Presidency that stubbornly refuses to save the country and itself.  There may even be no way of preventing the Republicans from taking the White House.  But conducted properly, a primary challenge now can result in victory: if not in 2012, then in 2016.

Frankly, a 2012 challenge has a better chance of winning than conventional wisdom gives it.  The fight for a nomination is about the base and appealing to its parts.  At this point, what part of the base has Obama not disappointed and angered?  Challenging Obama may be like pushing on a partially opened door.

We saw in 2008 that organizing a primary campaign apart from the built-in support of the established party can create a national movement for change.  A successful campaign has to recruit and organize supporters around the country, it must create its own message machine and rapid response team, and it must create donors and fundraise successfully in order to support all of these efforts.  Modern technologies make this even easier than it was in the days of Reagan’s 1976 campaign.  But, to really succeed, the movement cannot be discarded at the moment of the Inauguration (just ask the poor folks trapped in the tunnel with the Purple tickets).  


  1. Elizabeth Warren & Howard Dean 2016?

  2. I need some help here, for this malaise doesn’t seem to be Obama’s alone, but appears to affect any number of Democrats. What is it about our time that turns those who were at least nominally liberal or moderate to turn out to be distinctly right-of-center — after they are elected? Two examples come to mind, but I’m sure you can think of many others.

    Governor Malloy, here in Connecticut, beat Ned Lamont in the primary, in part because he championed health care reform, the Sustinet program. Now he is backing away from it.

    Governor Cuomo, a vigorous attorney general, now governor of New York, appears to swing toward the right.

  3. i am not at all hopeful that any decent democrat would primary obama; third party runs will be marginal at best. nader was the best candidate in 2000 and idiots still blame him for al gore being a fool.

    i also don't think that any democrat with the stones to seriously primary obama, with the decent policy positions real americans crave, would get any traction with not just the mainstream media but even the mainstream democrats and professional left online. the obama-democrat true-believers aren't giving up on obama, not matter how much he acts like a conservative republican.

    i'd love to be proven wrong, but obama had the mandate and steadfastly refused to overcome his conservative foundation in order to truly lead. i don't see that opportunity coming again any time soon.

  4. BTW: Welcome! Put you in my feed.

    I'm a lifelong D. Worked on the Dukakis & Clinton camp's as a paid media stooge, despaired @ Gore's timid corporate lackey campaign which he won but neglected to serve. In desperation I vigorously & unenthusiastically supported Kerry. For the first time in my politically active life, I actually dared to hope that Obama represented something different than the weak tea Democrats have been serving since McGovern got his ass handed to him. Color me disappointed.

    I am not particularly sanguine about the Donkeys redeeming themselves. I fear that the corporate influence has abolished any meaningful distinction between D & R. The only hope is a genuine Populist party that addresses the inequalities of the current power structure and doesn't waste time time attacking or defending the nettlesome social issues that turn out minuscule but vocal cadres and have vitally no meaningful impact on most people's lives.

    If there is any hope to be found it would be sincere insurrection w/in the Party. It will take a long time, just like it took 2 Generations & a pantheon of evil genii to turn the Party of "I Like Ike" Babbits into the fire-breathing Birchers & Birthers that are so effectively destroying our country. So it is encouraging to see you raising these questions. Thank you.

  5. "What is it about our time that turns those who were at least nominally liberal or moderate to turn out to be distinctly right-of-center — after they are elected?"

    could be they're liars, who would say anything to get elected because they crave power and attention, but that would mean they're vile people.

    could be that they don't have the guts to follow their principles; see above.

    could be they get lobbied--or bribed--by the true rulers of the land; see both above.

    could be that both parties are quite conservative, so any liberal pretensions are b.s.; see all above.

    mostly, i think it's that anybody who works their way up far enough in either of the major parties to become governor has more than proven their fealty to the status quo.

  6. I am SO IN on this movement. I worked for Obama in Oklahoma, but NOT ANOTHER PHONE CALL and NOT ANOTHER CENT. I don't care if he goes down in flames. I'd rather see the village burned down by teabaggers then give to that Plutocrat enabling milque toast.

  7. I am so disappointed in Obama..

    so many chances.. so many sellouts or fuckups.

    but what if we do allow a Palin/Trump ticket to win?

    gah how could we stand by and allow that>?

    this it the Obama campaign strategy...

  8. In '08 I waited, and I'm still waiting to hear Obama explain why he reneged on FISA/Telecom Immunity vote. That was my "He's not a leftwinger" moment. His atrocious record on privacy rights have done nothing to prove my distrust wrong. Adding Sachs/Citigroup executives to his cabinet has only compounded my disgust.

  9. How sad. As Tom Wellington clearly knows, there's no place for open debate in the Democratic party. Ideas not in sync with the party elite are subversive. Woohoo Democrats, really makes me want to participate in your farce.

    As for Wellington's ideas, there's no way that the Democratic leadership will allow a primary challenger to knock Obama off the ballot. We saw last time that the outcome of the Democratic majority is completely irrelevant and can be easily ignored.

    Dear Tom, the only way for you to accomplish what you want is with a 3rd party.

  10. Adding this to my feed right now...

  11. I love how people all start getting fired up before elections. This time it's even more interesting, because most of these people were so excited about Obama the last election. The only reason Obama was allowed to win the election is Wall Street figured out he was their boy, just like all the rest of them. Primary all you want, it aint happening. Politics in America is broken. The sooner we all admit and accept that, the sooner we can start on real solutions.

  12. This is -- literally -- delusional.

  13. I'm not going to claim a primary challenge is winnable -- but if we think working in elections is part of the mix of activity that it will take to win our country back to the interests of its majority, then we need as good a one as can be. The true product of campaigns is the people who learn the instincts and skills of democratic participation, of organizing, of working 24/7 when you ache for sleep because the fight must be made.

    Our side has a long way to go to develop a large enough base of such people to make an impact.

  14. To paraphrase Timothy Beauchamp "I worked for Obama in Nevada, but NOT ANOTHER PHONE CALL and NOT ANOTHER CENT."

    I was just commenting today on another blog that I wish we had a viable candidate to primary that weak fraud. But who? Is there really someone who could rally a demoralized base?

    I thought that the whole grass roots movement that emerged to elect Obama was just everything falling into place just right. If he had done anything at all to accomplish his campaign agenda, we probably would have carried the momentum forward. But now that he has let down so many people, is it possible for anyone else to generate the kind of enthusiasm necessary to replace what he has destroyed?

    If so, I would be happy to return to the polls and donate more dollars. But, again, who?