Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why Does Obama Placate the Right and Take the Left for Granted?

Why does Obama placate the Right so zealously? One thing is sure. It’s not because their ideas have merit. That’s the one thing that unites “moderate” and “conservative” Democrats, and all Republicans. In a sane world, no one would bother with what they have to say. But in our world, the two party system is quasi-institutionalized. Therefore, the Republican Party cannot be ignored; it is an unavoidable pole of attraction. Morally and intellectually bankrupt as it may be – and how else describe a party that gets marching orders from Rush Limbaugh or that contemplates putting Sarah Palin in the White House! – Republicans drag the political process rightward. Then there’s the sorry fact that Obama chose to govern through Clintonite apparatchki – in other words, through right-leaning opportunists. Rahm Emanuel is among the worst of them, but they are all bad news. Clintonites are disposed by nature to pander to the powers that be. Then, of course, there are the well-funded “special interests” Obama feels obliged to flatter, even when he does not altogether obey their demands. His speech yesterday in Chicago before the American Medical Association is the latest example. [It should be noted that the AMA has, for decades, menaced public health by supporting healthcare profiteers egregiously. It is and always has been part of the problem, not part of the solution.]

Those are reasons why Obama placates the Right. But why does he hardly bother even to address the concerns of those who favor positions to the left of his own? The short answer is: because he can. There are plenty of self-identified “progressives” in the House of Representatives and a few in the Senate as well. But, as I have been arguing in countless postings, they are singularly unwilling to leverage their power, much less to wield it effectively. The contrast with the Right is striking. If “conservatives” know anything, it’s that whoever is the most obstreperous will usually get his (or sometimes her) way, no matter how stupid the cause. Liberal Democrats should learn this lesson. In a world where nice guys finish last, they’re not nearly mean enough.

And even in those rare instances where they do rise to the occasion, the Pelosiite leadership in Congress is there to quash their efforts. Pelosi and Company are at it this very moment: working to assure that progressive Democrats -- along with Republicans opposed to Obama’s plan to sink more taxpayer money into the International Monetary Fund -- won’t succeed in defunding the Bush, now the Obama, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

[This is one area, by the way, where, for the wrong reasons (xenophobic animosities and ill-conceived fiscal worries), Republicans may actually be doing the right thing. What they’re opposing is, in effect, a bail out for foreign banks (and bankers). It shows, yet again, how even a stopped clock is right twice a day!]

These are reasons why progressive legislators must be compelled by their constituents to act effectively; why otherwise they will remain feckless. Only “we, the people” can get them on track. But with Obamamania still rife, where will we find the will, much less the means? That is, as they used to say, the $64 (later the $64,000) question. Until we figure out the answer, we’ll continue to be mired in a situation where the majority of Americans support positions to the left of Obama’s, but where legislators who represent their views can be and usually are ignored with impunity.

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