Why liberals misread Obama

Sam Smith, Progressive Review, 2009 – During the campaign the Review pointed out a number of uncomfortable facts about Barack Obama, including that he:

Aggressively opposed impeachment action against Bush

Had argued that conservatives and Bill Clinton were right to destroy social welfare,

Supported making it harder to file class action suits in state courts

Voted for a business-friendly “tort reform” bill

Voted against a 30% interest rate cap on credit cards

Had the most number of foreign lobbyist contributors in the primaries

Was even more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain

Was the most popular of the candidates with K Street lobbyists

Was named in 2003 by the rightwing Democratic Leadership Council named Obama as one of its “100 to Watch.” After he was criticized in the black media, Obama disassociated himself with the DLC. But his major economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, was still the chief economist of the conservative organization. Wrote Doug Henwood, “Goolsbee has written gushingly about Milton Friedman and denounced the idea of a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures.”

Supported the war on drugs

Supported the crack-cocaine sentence disparity

Supported Real ID

Supported the PATRIOT Act

Supported the death penalty

Opposed lowering the drinking age to 18

Went to Connecticut to support Joe Lieberman in the primary against Ned Lamont

Lent his support, as Paul Street of Z Mag noted, ” to the aptly named Hamilton Project, formed by corporate-neoliberal Citigroup chair Robert Rubin and other Wall Street Democrats to counter populist rebellion against corporatist tendencies within the Democratic Party. . . Obama was recently hailed as a Hamiltonian believer in limited government and free trade by Republican New York Times columnist David Brooks.”

Endorsed US involvement in the failed drug war in Colombia.

Voted for a nuclear energy bill that included money for bunker buster bombs and full funding for Yucca Mountain.

Came in at 48th in the ranking of senators by the League of Conservation Voters

Supported federally funded ethanol and was unusually close to the ethanol industry.

Promised to double funding for private charter schools, part of a national effort to undermine public education.

Supported the No Child Left Behind Act

Favored expanding the war in Afghanistan

Supported Israeli aggression and apartheid.

Favored turning over Jerusalem to Israel

Wouldn’t rule out first strike nuclear attack on Iran

Called Pakistan “the right battlefield … in the war on terrorism.” Threatened to invade Pakistan

Opposed gay marriage

Opposed single payer healthcare

Supported restricting damage awards in medical malpractice suits

Favored healthcare individual mandates that would help insurance companies and banks but not citizens

Wanted to expand the size of the military.

Wouldn’t have photo taken with San Francisco mayor because he was afraid it would seem that he supported gay marriage

Dissed Ralph Nader for daring to run for president again

Called the late Paul Wellstone “something of a gadfly”

Was ranked 24th in the Senate by Progressive Punch

Said “everything is on the table” with Social Security.

That’s 38 reasons for starters why liberals might have been uncomfortable with Obama. Instead they treated him as if he had descended from heaven and heavily chastised those who failed to join their crusade.

Some of this was to be expected; for example, history and ethnic solidarity made black support unsurprising.

But even with Bill Clinton white liberal arguments on his behalf still had the tone of slightly embarrassed justification. With Obama there was nothing but idolatry.

Now, with a rapidity that surprised even this cynic, liberals are feeling uncomfortable with, and some even mad at, their instant hero. What went wrong?

Here are a few hypotheses:

– With the Clinton election, liberalism shifted from being an ideology to being more a combination of faith and socio-economic demographic that sought identity through favored icons rather than by preferred policies.

– The dominant white portion of the demographic found in Obama a black with whom they could identify – a handsome, well-spoken Harvard Law School graduate with none of the anger or aggressiveness of someone like Jesse Jackson. Obama was the black they had been waiting for: safe, suave, and soft spoken. They didn’t notice that ethnically Obama was actually only half black and in politics he was all white.

– Many of the traditional liberal causes were now considered radical and lacking in support. Economic issues have nearly disappeared from liberalism, while supporting civil rights or opposing wars are considered just part of history. Constitutional rights are left to a small subset or to libertarians.

– With the media’s help, liberals have learned to regard politics as a game rather than a cause. Pursuing a policy was the work of the naive; power is the goal, and it is assumed that once it is attained, the policies will take care of themselves.

The irony is that liberals didn’t even learn anything from their successful opponents. The right had reduced politics to a few issues, which though logically were of minor importance, had become powerful- if false – symbols of righteousness. On not one issue over the past two decades, have liberals even come close to raising serious hell.

So now some liberals are beginning to notice that they have been conned again. But not much will likely occur as a result, So if anyone feels like starting a new movement – one that centers on doing the most for the most – it wouldn’t be a bad time. Aside from a bunch of griping conservatives and grumpy liberals not much else is happening.

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