A Plea to Liberals


Obama is the best President we could hope for

I am delighted with Barack Obama. He is very intelligent and wise, intellectually curious, has the patience of a saint, and knows the arts of friendship and compromise.

Also I find that I agree with him on almost every issue. He supports tort reform, an issue very unpopular with liberals but, as I explain here, an issue where progressives should be in the vanguard of reform. While many Americans got caught up in the emotion of 9/11, Obama was one of few who opposed the invasion of Iraq -- not because it was an "immoral" war (what could be immoral about rescuing a people from such an unusually heinous butcher?) but because it was a stupid war, a war with enormous cost in blood, goodwill and treasure and with no certainty of a good outcome.

I consider myself a "moderate" and since I agree with Obama on almost every issue, I was very surprised to learn he had "the most liberal voting record" of any Senator! My conclusion from this is not that I'm a "liberal" after all, but that politics in America has become so twisted that those branded as "liberals" are often moderates, those called "moderates" are actually right-wingers and those called "right-wingers" are funny-farm material.

... Or is he?

Many progressives do not believe Obama is the best President we could hope for, and in fact are calling him a hyprocrite, a traitor, and a neocon! As if he were a "Manchurian candidate" who was bought-and-paid-for by the Jewish-Arab-banker conspiracy and deceived the voters all along!!

I am a fan of Naomi Klein, have much sympathy with left-wing positions, and would be happy to see our government impose a large carbon tax (with commensurate reduction in payroll taxes), double the maximum tax rate, nationalize the egregious banks, abandon Israel if it doesn't rein in its extremists, and provide free health care for all Americans.

But while we're at it, let's invent a station wagon that gets 300 miles to the gallon, outlaw war, bring extinct species back to life, and give everyone in the world a million dollars and a brand-new refrigerator.

Get a clue, you "progressives", anyone who thinks Obama is selling us out needs his dosages adjusted! Do you honestly believe "the American people" elected Obama because he was a "liberal"? Obama is having great difficulty passing moderate (or even slightly right-of-center) legislation; do you think that's because these programs aren't "liberal" enough??

I've said it before; I'll say it again: Liberals are their own worst enemy.

Where do we go from here?

My best hope, and I'm afraid it's a long-shot, is that a moderate Obama Presidency will be successful enough that Americans will become a little more rational: "Hey, I used my government health insurance, and they didn't even cut off the wrong leg!"; "Hey, a gay couple moved to our town, and they didn't even rape our little boys!" If all goes well, America will be on a (slow) road to change, becoming more like Canada rather than the caricature it's become.

I can understand why progressives would prefer faster change. Yes, and Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy might be a better President, but try to be real!

I can understand pessimism. As I say, it's only a long-shot that the U.S.A. will even begin a gradual path towards a rationality like that of Canada. And the world has important problems which are growing worse every day. But don't blame Obama! He's the best President we could hope for, given present-day American politics. The only faster path to political change that I can imagine would involve armed citizens turning to terror tactics. And I think we know which side would win that fight.

Please read
My rankings of
the U.S. Presidents
    Please read
Some comments
by Frank Rich
    Please read
Some comments
by Paul Krugman
Please read
Some comments by
Sen. Robert Byrd
    Please read
about a
Guantanamo prisoner
    Please read
Why we really
went to war in Iraq

Green Party?

On an Internet blog I had a brief debate with Charles Newlin, a Green Party organizer. That party, however good its intentions, is not the solution for America now, simply because the vast majority of Americans are still uncomfortable with radical ideas. Al Gore would certainly have won in 2000 without the competition from Ralph Nader and the Green Party; since I regard the Cheney Administration as a misfortune of almost biblical proportions, I suggested that the Green Party should feel guilty!

I promised to post Mr. Newlin's response here. Here it is. (Since this is my page, let me say right now I agree with very little of it.)

Comments by Charles Newlin

In reality, Nader voters and many Greens, like myself, are DISCARDED voters, driven out of the Democratic Party by its own policies and its arrant contempt for them (still flagrant). Some, of course, never bothered with the DP, or were brought into political activity when they saw a real alternative. I repeat that this is really the fault of the Democrats; we're there to give those voters a voice. Do you think they shouldn't have one?

Florida in 2000: a truly bizarre election. Remember, first, that Gore actually WON, but failed to defend the vote effectively (Kerry refused to defend it at all; he left that for the Green Party and Libertarians.) Next: The official margin in Florida was just over 500 votes. That means EVERY SINGLE "3rd" party could have made the difference. Why pick out the Greens?

Further: don't assume that Nader voters would otherwise have voted for Gore. Many wouldn't have voted at all without that option, others would have chosen another protest vote, and quite a few were Republicans. Are we up to 500 yet? I think so. And far more Democrats (10's of 1000's) voted for Bush than anybody voted for Nader. Whose fault was that?

It's pure speculation that things would have been so much better under Gore. He is very different out of politics. Most of Bush's worst policies began under Clinton (bank deregulation goes clear back to Carter, as another commenter reminded us further down the string), and Obama is perpetuating most of them, plus escalating Afghanistan. There are two articles about that on today's Alternet, both on "national security" issues. In some ways, he's worse. I don't share your hopes for him, but then, I wouldn't.

Delving a little deeper: The events of 2000 and 2004 are so bizarre, such a departure from normal political behavior, that they drive me to an admitted conspiracy theory: I think the major parties have a little deal, and they take turns, 8 years at a time. Note that that's the pattern since Bush I lost to Clinton, and it's holding up very nicely. In other words, I think Gore and Kerry deliberately threw the election. It's the only explanation that strikes me as plausible; how else could Bush have won, let alone twice? And their acquiescence in fraud only underlines the point. Keep in mind: if the Republicans can steal elections, so can the Dems. They used to make quite a practice of it, and I doubt they've forgotten how. The mayor of Chicago is still named Daley.

Overall, I'm unapologetic about our "spoiler" role. We don't make the rules, though we're the only party working for reforms (IRV) that would eliminate the spoiler problem. In many states, including Oregon, the DEMOCRATS make the rules; they could fix the problem if they wanted. If you don't want to be "spoiled," don't betray your base. And I didn't see Dems whining when Perot handed to elections in a row to Clinton. (IRV has been around at least 100 years; it's in the Oregon constitution - but not in use. So if there's a "spoiler" problem, it's because the major parties want it that way.)

We'll see rioting, all right, if the recession gets worse, as many are predicting, or even just if foreclosures step up, which is almost inevitable. What I'm HOPING for is a rebellion at the ballot box, when people see BOTH major parties as responsible for disaster. That's what happened in Iceland, and it's long overdue here.

Charles Newlin

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