A very interesting (read spot-on) assessment of where Obama stands, in relation to democratic values, by Jeff Cohen. (emphasis mine)

In a campaign almost as frenzied as the effort to get Barack Obama into the White House, liberal groups are now mobilizing against the White House and reported deals that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They accuse President Obama of being weak and willing to “cave” to corporate and conservative forces bent on cutting the social safety net while protecting the wealthy.

Those accusations are wrong.

The accusations imply that Obama is on our side. Or was on our side. And that the right wing is pushing him around.

But the evidence is clear that Obama is an often-willing servant of corporate interests -- not someone reluctantly doing their bidding, or serving their interests only because Republicans forced him to.

Based on some of what's been happening in D.C., I'd say Obama should be classified as a neo-liberal. But, I don't think he is, really. I believe he is far worse than that.

The simple fact is, progressive need a credible person to step forward and primary Obama. Or, alternatively have a third party put a strong progressive forward as a candidate. Our potential choices of the nutty extremist right (you know who they are so no links) or the so-called Democrat that has furthered some of Bush-the-Lesser's most heinous acts, is no choice at all. Yet, sadly, Glenn Greewald is spot-on:

[O]bama is now on the verge of injecting what until recently was the politically toxic and unattainable dream of Wall Street and the American right – attacks on the nation's social safety net – into the heart and soul of the Democratic party's platform. Those progressives who are guided more by party loyalty than actual belief will seamlessly transform from virulent opponents of such cuts into their primary defenders.

It's no wonder I've been so cynical, and getting more so as this administration ages.

Brian A.'s picture

I don't get it. I've been

I don't get it. I've been baffled at almost every turn of the negotiations.

bizgrrl's picture

I've been trying to follow

I've been trying to follow the process, but the negotiations are hard to follow. One mintue they are proposing to do one thing and the next minute they are proposing something else.

What I find scary is they will propose something at the last minute and we, the people, won't get a chance to review the proposal. They'll vote on something and say we had to do it, we didn't have time.

After giving tax breaks by reducting the social security tax, I have very little confidence in our representatives (including the president) decision making abilities.

CE Petro's picture

bizgirl, I don't think any

bizgirl, I don't think any congress-critter will vote the way the people want -- another sign of my cynicism -- and seriously speaking, no number of polls showing how the people DO NOT want SS cut has made any bit of difference to Obama, or his administration, much less the repubs. The only thing that matters is Wall Street.

David Dayen, who has excellent coverage and analysis on the whole debt ceiling thing, put up a post on how S&P is behind the huge cuts package hysteria. If you take this piece of news, and couple that with the Jeff Cohen piece (referenced in the op) you can see how Obama is just a tool for Wall Street.

All of which makes the far right sound like mindless, ignorant, morons when they use such terms as "Owebama" or that he is "just sooo liberal" when the reality is, Obama has gotten done the very things Bush couldn't get done, and wanted done.

Somebody's picture

Obama is a moderate. Always

Obama is a moderate. Always has been. For some reason people like to project their greatest hopes and/or fears on him, as opposed to listening to what he actually says or reading what he actually writes. He's a center-left Democrat who would prefer the reasoned compromise over the political purist position.

When people on the far left see him as a sell-out, corporatist, etc, and the folks over on the far right see him as a socialist bent on destroying free enterprise, you've got to figure he's probably somewhere in the middle, if you're capable of looking without partisan filters confusing things.

Stick's picture

The idea that he's a moderate

The idea that he's a moderate is predicated on accepting the rightward shift in American politics over the past 35 years as being natural. By historical and international standards, he is very much a creature of the political right. While he did project his "moderation" as a candidate, his campaign was also infused with the rhetoric of "progressivism" and a vague promise of "change." I was in no way under the delusion that he'd be a new FDR, but I am somewhat surprised by the extreme shift to the right he displayed as soon as he took office. History will not be kind to his presidency...

Bbeanster's picture

History also may be

History also may be considerably less than kind to Teddy Kennedy and liberal Democrats who set the stage for Ronald Reagan by attacking Jimmy Carter for not being Left enough.
This is where I get off the Progressive bus and wait for the Pragmatist Express. I love Bernie Sanders and am glad he's in the Senate, but anybody who doesn't recognize that he is a fringe figure in american politics better start figuring out a way to say President Romney.
Hell, Bill Clinton was more right wing that Obama. Just ask the kids who were raised by AFDC mothers who were forced to work double shifts at McDonalds when Clinton did away with "welfare as we know it," which was the crowning achievement of his first term.
What it did was create a generation of kids who raised themselves, with predictable results.
But I look at Scalia and Thomas, the EPA, DOMA and a bunch of other stuff and am 100% sure as hell that I wouldn't swap Clinton and Carter for Reagan and Bush 41 or 43, and neither would any of you.
Rant away, but American voters are center-right and drifting ever more right-ish – a candidate who is pure enough for Progressives doesn't stand a snowball's chance of getting elected, unless there's a Teaparty candidate to fragment the right.
Obama has a hellishly difficult course to navigate. He better pray for divine intervention.

GrannieAnnie's picture

Thank you Bbeanster!

We best wake up and stand with Obama/Biden quickly.

ANGRYWOLF's picture

I must agree with beanster as well...

a left leaning candidate who wears his liberalism on his sleeve doesn't stand a chance of winning.The US has sadly drifted to the right and we need a center-right dem to run or we forfeit the Presidency and the Congress to the republicans every time.
Maybe in some parallel universe or in some science fiction book I once read, we had a fascist USA out there because we elected some right wing nutcase to the White House (and made a prophet out of Stephen King.Dead Zone anyone ?) but I would prefer all that kind of stuff stay in the realm of fiction and not become a reality for us in the here and now.

CE Petro's picture

But I look at Scalia and

But I look at Scalia and Thomas, the EPA, DOMA and a bunch of other stuff and am 100% sure as hell that I wouldn't swap Clinton and Carter for Reagan and Bush 41 or 43, and neither would any of you.

While I look at these too, I also look at Obama's extension and expansion of Bush 43 warrentless wiretapping, Obama's war on whistle-blowers (equated with terrorists), giving the FBI additional powers to spy on American's, to name a few things. These are heinous acts all, as far as I am concerned.

Unfortunately, I don't think divine intervention will help.

calloway1972's picture

don't get your thesis

'hellishly difficult course' ... to what end ? Fool the drifting ever more right-ish ?

Somebody's picture

See, here's the thing.

See, here's the thing. Arguments can be had about whether the voting public is mainly center left, center right or somewhere in-between, and even about which direction they tend to be moving. The big thing to think about and remember, though, is that there's a great big bell curve on that graph, with the top of that bell somewhere in the middle.

Which way the political power goes next is going to depend on which side of that curve manages to eat their young first. The Tea Party crowd have their bibs tucked in and their forks and knives sharpened. Grover Norquist has everybody signed up for unsustainably rigid pledges of political purity. The Republicans have a wide field of candidates prepared to bloody each other in a frenzy to appeal to their rightward base, saying and doing things that will place them way to the right of that bump in the bell curve. The ingredients for self-destruction are all there, and 2012 could be a watershed year where the electorate abandons the subsequent right-wing nuttery in droves.

On the left, though, we see unrest and remarkable political amnesia. Despite Obama's achievements like clawing through a huge Keynsian stimulus bill that averted an economic collapse, finally breaking a century-long logjam on healthcare, enacting laws that have already changed and limited how predatory credit card issuers can be, bringing an end to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and so forth, stalwart progressives are still unsatisfied and forget all that, or at best point out how none of it went far enough, and list off the wish-list that hasn't been achieved. All this, while forgetting that, back in 2000, the left's complaints about Democrats being too like Republicans garnered Ralph Nader enough votes to throw the election into the statistical margin of error. When the dust settled, they didn't get the Democrat who was too much like a Republican, they got the Republican. While Mr. Gore might've been too corporatist for those lefties, you can be fairly certain he'd have never enacted Mr. Bush's tax cut for the wealthy, and as such, we wouldn't be having the current debt-limit debate.

This next election cycle isn't going to be won by either side, it will be more vigorously lost by one or the other. Which will it be?

Bbeanster's picture

This next election cycle

This next election cycle isn't going to be won by either side, it will be more vigorously lost by one or the other. Which will it be?


Lonniewood's picture

President Obama has learned

President Obama has learned what most other Presidents have learned, its a lot harder to govern once you get in there. Its especially difficult for him with the nutty Republicans that are in Congress today.Democracy means compromise. Our government has always been about compromise.Nothing would ever get done without compromise. There is absolutely no way, in a two party system, that you can get all you want. That is what the Tea Party does not understand. Anybody that is serious about being elected President has to make a decision to compromise their principles to get elected and then compromise again to be an effective leader of all America. There will never be a President that can get his or her programs rubber-stamped by Congress the way FDR did in 1933. That was a different time. The Great Depression created an emergency climate in Congress and in the country. The newspapers and radio, with the exception of a few radio idiots like anti-semetic Charles Coughlin, were supportive of FDR. Today, there is a huge entertainment industry out there trying to destroy the President. The propaganda machine of Rush, Hannity, Glen Beck, Fox News, etc.have made it their top priority to stop President Obama's re-election. The Progressive agenda I would like to see passed by Congress is impossible under today's political climate. I would love to see a single-payer type national health insurance plan. I would like to see the top income tax rate on the wealthiest Americans at 50% or more. I would means test Social Security .I do not agree with the President's plan for merit pay for teachers. Most Americans do not agree with my views, but I am not running for re-election and it does not matter. The President needs to attract many independents, who unfortunately have not seen the light and do not agree with my liberal viewpoints. Also, supporting a Democratic challenger to President Obama would only weaken him for the general election and might cost him the election. Without Nadar in the race, Gore would have been a two term President and we would not be in the mess Bush created. President Obama has to compromise or risk being ineffective and a one term President. America needs Obama's re-election. We cannot stand another Republican President. I'm ready to sign up to volunteer for our President. If you know where I can get a Obama /Biden bumper sticker let me know, I will put it on my truck today.

CE Petro's picture

The only time Obama may have

The only time Obama may have been considered a moderate was during his community organizing days. While in 2004 he was a fabulous orator at the Dem National Convention, his actual voting record since entering the senate (sans procedural votes) was very much moderate to center-right.

His presidential campaign was laden with progressive ideas, which got many, many people excited, but the honeymoon after election was extremely short-lived for many lefties, especially when they were called "f'ing hippies" "morons" and other expletives, by him and senior members of his administration. As I have been fond of saying during and since his presidential campaign, he talks the talk but does NOT walk the walk, and as far as I am concerned, his time in the WH has made that clearer than ever.

But, Stick, while the argument you use to determine that Obama is somewhere in the center may work in many situations, it simply does not work for Obama, because what he says to the public and what he actually fights for are two very different things. (Another example from another contentious debate, he told the people for months that a public-option was on the table in the health care debate and it never was, in fact he fought hard against it made a back-room deal to take it out, and lied to the people for months afterward that it was still on the table)

How can one spin cutting SS/Medicare as being necessary to control the deficit, when it is NOT part of the deficit problem? If he wants $4 trillion in cuts, how about ending the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya as well as letting the Bush tax cuts expire? Problem solved. Instead, Obama is doing what every repub and Wall Street CEO has wanted to do, or tried to do, since he entered office, that is cut SS.

Stick's picture

To My Pragmatist Friends...

The problem with the "center-right" thesis is that many policies that have been dismissed as too liberal [and for which the president refused to put up even a token fight], such as Medicare for All, progressive taxation, protecting SS and Medicare, etc., all poll very well. The popular support was/is there. The question is do you have a leader with good rhetorical skills willing to fight for those policies?

For example... Link

ANGRYWOLF's picture

if they poll so well...

then why did the same people who love those policies then vote in a crowd, the freshmen repubs, who want to destroy or do away with those same policies ?

If people love social security, medicare etc etc why vote in people who philosophically hate those policies ?

The American public was very naive if they thought the repubs wouldn't try to do away with those policies that poll so well.

Stick's picture

I think the term you're

I think the term you're looking for is: low information voter. People vote for their team, not specific policies or even ideologies. They'll believe what their team tells them. The republicans ran on a save SS platform in 2010 and they're going to do it again if they can. Here's what RedState's Erick Erickson is telling folks: Link

Dear RedState Supporter,

It's the devastating truth that young voters will believe whatever Barack Obama tells them.

First he says he'll never consider cutting Social Security. Now he says he WILL consider cutting Social Security. And the young will go along with it. Just because he says it's right.

"Don't worry, Dad, President Obama says you'll hardly notice the cuts."

If I were counting on Social Security today, I'd be dead scared.

And the sad truth is that it could work... If you use "rational choice theory" to understand American politics you will always be at a loss to explain political outcomes.

cafkia's picture

then why did the same people

then why did the same people who love those policies then vote in a crowd, the freshmen repubs, who want to destroy or do away with those same policies ?

It is called politics. When they are talking to someone who is concerned about Social Security, they talk about the threat to traditional families posed by Gay marriage. When they are talking to someone who is concerned about Medicare, they talk about how "pro-life" they are. They bring up the terror threat. They mention a scary person of color. They get the votes because they do not admit to being what they are, instead they present themselves as being what you want on issues they have convinced you are hugely important (regardless of the negligible effect those issues are likely to have on your life either way). They play you like a bad instrument.

Is there anything else you would like explained?

ANGRYWOLF's picture

I certainly don't call it politics...

I call it lying, deception, misleading, falsehoods, misdirection and assorted other words that more or less mean ther same thing.
Throw in naivity and rampant stupidity and there's the answer in a nutshell.
But thanks for the explanation anyway.

EricLykins's picture

Rant away, but American

Rant away, but American voters are center-right and drifting ever more right-ish

Ok, then :)

According to American National Election Surveys and General Social Surveys data 1972 to present concerning questions of policy, that has been absolutely untrue across the entire spectrum of political sophistication from the ignorant to the elite except for one brief glowy morning in 1980. Furthermore, the recent trend in policy mood from 2003 to 2009 has bent sharply liberal but has admittedly given a scant amount of ground since then. Scant.

However, voter preference for "conservative" self-identification and symbols is another matter entirely, and they think liberals look silly in an American flag cape and mask.

I think a simple explanation for the paradox is that a majority of voters want progress, but they don't want to pay for it, and they've rarely trusted Congress to work together to do anything progressive in modern history. Clinton's ratings plummet in 1993 showed that even if they do vote in progressives they don't want a lot of it all at once, especially if it looks liberal (see self-identification and symbols), like taking away assault rifles and giving them to gays.

In another article in the Financial Times, Schoen contends that President Clinton's first two years in office constitute "a clear warning that a centre-left coalition can fall apart quickly if the policies are seen as too far left. In 1993, Mr. Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy, adopted the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy in the military, proposed and lost universal healthcare and adopted gun safety measures, banning assault rifles. In just two years his ratings plummeted to 35 per cent favorable and 65 per cent said they would never vote for him again. The mid-term elections brought a stunning loss of both Houses and the emergence of Newt Gingrich's Contract for America."

2012 side note: "techno-utopian political fantasy"?

Big names have quietly launched an Internet presidential race that will offer the winner a real election ballot spot in all 50 states.

EricLykins's picture

voters want progress, but...

voters want progress, but... they've rarely trusted Congress to work together to do anything progressive in modern history.

Or, if you'd prefer the high-dollar explanation..

Stanley Greenberg, polling advisor to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada of Bolivia and their national campaigns had more about this in the Sunday NYT, Why Voters Tune Out Democrats:

It’s perplexing. When unemployment is high, and the rich are getting richer, you would think that voters of average means would flock to progressives, who are supposed to have their interests in mind — and who historically have delivered for them.

During the last half-century or so, when a Democratic president has led the country, people have tended to experience lower unemployment, less inequality and rising income compared with periods of Republican governance. There is a reason, however, that many voters in the developed world are turning away from Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives...

In analyzing these polls in the United States, I see clearly that voters feel ever more estranged from government — and that they associate Democrats with government. If Democrats are going to be encumbered by that link, they need to change voters’ feelings about government. They can recite their good plans as a mantra and raise their voices as if they had not been heard, but voters will not listen to them if government is disreputable.

Oddly, many voters prefer the policies of Democrats to the policies of Republicans. They just don’t trust the Democrats to carry out those promises...

Recently, it has been the conservatives, the Tea Party members and the anti-immigrant groups who understand the anger with government, and rush in to exploit it. Perhaps now, with the debacle in Washington, liberals will become instinctively angry with this illegitimate government and build their politics from there.

We he mentioned that "progressives should embrace the liberal think tanks’ bold deficit plans," a link to ourfiscalsecurity.org may have been helpful. Click "blueprint" at the top.

Virgil Proudfoot's picture

People vote for people who look and sound nice on TV

Unfortunately, we have low-information, low-intelligence voters voting for guys who look good smiling with their families on TV commercials. Never mind that so many of them want to destroy Social Security, Medicare, and everything else that helped to create the middle class.

Unfortunately, that category of politician now includes our friend Barry in the White House.

Polls indicate that half of those on Social Security believe they have never benefited from a government program.

rbeen's picture

There are two sides

There is their side, and the money they work for, and there is the peoples side.

The contest is actually them, against us, and always has been (at least as long as any of us can remember).

What I find most disappointing is how people still believe in the left-right fairy tale, how we are told politics works. It only works that way for the things which do not matter - when it comes to what is really important, what is really killing us (like the wars for israel, like bailouts for wall street criminals, generally cousins those who want the wars for israel to continue).. then there is no debate, there is no fight except for the real one which is them against us.

A child can see the real contest, but the adults run around pretending, and waving their plastic Chinese-manufactured American flags. Its pathetic that anyone is "disappointed" in Obama, just like it was pathetic that anyone was "disappointed" by Bush. (Maybe one could be surprized by his extreme display of willing malice against the populace in order to start a few wars)

"Disappointment" in these front men indicates a serious lack of honesty with ones self, or a serious case of brainwashing.

bizgrrl's picture

"...the rulers of the

"...the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."

rbeen's picture

You guys just watch and see, you'll see

Whichever side "caves", or whatever theatre is played out, the only things NOT on the chopping block will be anything that may effect the ongoing wars for Israel, or the protection and infrastucture being built to protect those who want those wars. (homeland security services for warmongers and their fans, the continuing palestinianization of the populace by the TSA and continuation of plans to expand checkpoints beyond airports, protection of the criminals in the banking and financial sector, etc.).

Everything else is fair game, like your bridges, your grandmother, your children's future.

Just watch and see - it wont matter which side "wins" - just watch.

R. Neal's picture

I have been studiously

I have been studiously avoiding the budget debate. It's bad Kabuki theater and we all know how it will end.

The terms of the debate are real simple. The debt and deficit are a big problem. The only way to fix it is to cut wasteful spending and raise taxes.

The argument is about what spending to cut and what taxes to raise. It's that simple.

The problem is that there's too much special interest influence and not enough leadership to reach a realistic solution.

It seems hopeless at times.

trobinson's picture

Things that wouldn't have happened under Repub pres.

If McCain had been elected these things would not have happened:

  • lowered income tax
  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
  • Public lands bill
  • Credit card reform
  • Stem cell research restrictions eased
  • Don't ask, Don't tell repealed
  • Ben Laden killed
  • End of media blackout on war casualties
  • Moved Net neutrality in the right direction
  • Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan appointed (That's enough right there for me)
  • Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions
  • Seek verifiable reductions in nuclear stockpiles
  • John Duncan pissed off
  • health care bill...

There's a lot more, AND a lot of missed opportunities. But I'm willing to give him another 4 years. I guess I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. Especially since the opposition wants to take the glass, throw the water in my face and beat me with it.

See you on the Pragmatist Express.

Stick's picture

Perhaps this will shed some light...

Dean Baker offers some perspective on our rightward shift...


CathyMcCaughan's picture

"It is invariably up to each

"It is invariably up to each citizen to know what the limitations of a president entails so they are able to make informed decision when it comes time to vote. There are calls for making primary challenges to President Obama for the purpose of “pulling him farther left,” but the only outcome will be a divided voting bloc in 2012. It is telling that the usual list of primary challengers includes self promoters and long shots who could not win a presidential election."

Read the article here.

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