by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash
The second Obama-Romney debate — when Obama plucked Romney's lying tongue out of his face and liquified it on national TV — was a highly satisfying spectacle. But this satisfaction may make one forget from where Obama's strongest opposition ought to come.
Not from the right. But from the left.
Now that Romney has decided he's not so severely conservative as before, how much difference is there between him and Obama? About as much difference as between Jerry Sandusky and an errant Catholic priest. Obama is in essence a moderate Republican, willing to put Medicare and Social Security on the block as negotiating chips in a loony effort to reach a Grand Bargain with the GOP about our debt. That makes him an un-Democrat. True Democrats know, down in the depths of their gonads and ovaries, that Medicare and Social Security are inviolate items not to be bargained over.
But Obama is prepared to compromise. Give me a teeny tax raise on the rich and I'll raise the age for Social Security. Let me wet my green energy dick a tad more and I'll take it up the ass on Medicare. Let's face it: what with kill lists, illegal detentions, taking care of Wall Street instead of Main Street, and so on and on, Obama is no different from what a country-club Rockefeller Republican would be like today. No wonder he admires Reagan so much — he's not that different from him, either.
Nor from Bill Clinton, perhaps the biggest wrecker of our economy ever. As a useful idiot of Robert Rubin, Clinton did two highly irresponsible Wall Street-enabling things during his presidency, and set the stage for the 2008 financial meltdown and our continuing Great Recession. Clinton signed the bill that repealed the Glass-Steagal Act that had kept investment banking and regular banking separate, and had given us financial stability for 50 years. And then he signed another bill that freed derivatives from any oversight or regulation; within a decade, mortgage-based derivatives blew up our economy. Today Obama follows Clinton's path as another useful idiot of Wall Street, relying on their stoolie Tim Geithner for his hands-off policies towards the big banks.
So where is the real progressive alternative to Obama's GOP-lite policies?
First there are the professional progressives, such as Rachel Maddow and her MSNBC cohorts; news outlets like The Nation; active groups like MoveOn; and folks like Howard Dean, Michael Moore, Robert Reich, and the inimitable Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi. And then there was the amazing Occupy Wall Street, who brought our 1%-versus-the-99% economic inequality to national prominence, and lodged this issue firmly in our political discourse.
But these folks sit outside the political process; like Fox News, they create atmosphere, not policy.
As far as actual political representation goes, the real alternative to Obama is neither Romney nor the Tea Party, but what one may call The Big Stealth Progressive Force in our politics. That would be the Democratic Progressive Caucus in the House, at present 76 members strong. This 76-member Caucus has continually come up with sane solutions to our biggest problems, yet they operate below the radar, since they're more or less ignored by the media. They're just not crazy enough to be big news. Witness their recent sensible budget plan, which did not get a scintilla of the ink garnered by the ludicrous Ryan plan, despite the fact that it is the sanest budget proposal out there.
Real change in America can only come when this Progressive Caucus becomes a fat enough tail to swing the entire Democratic dog. Howard Dean used to say he represented the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, and those are the folks we're talking about. To mention just a few prominent congressional progressives: Maxine Waters, John Lewis, Denis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Nancy Pelosi, Al Franken. And this leaves out two very promising progressive newcomers: Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson. Besides the indefatigible Nancy Pelosi (without whose never-say-die guts Obamacare would've been a lost cause), these two individuals are just what we need to forge a progressive American future.
For a start, they've got persuasive charisma in spades. And they're willing to fight like tigers on steroids. To my mind, Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson are the only Democrats who have the big mouths and the don't-back-down balls required to move a second-term Obama leftward. It is vitally important that Grayson gets back into Congress, and that Warren becomes a Senator. These two fighters are the brightest stars in the progressive firmament: the only two Democrats who have what it takes to inspire the nation like Obama once did, and who, unlike him, could become presidents who'd enact out-and-out progressive agendas.
If we had a dominant Progressive Caucus in Congress, and a truly progressive president, we'd see some sharp shifts for the better in these United States. Only four presidents have made a progressive difference that brought about real change in America: Theodore Roosevelt with his trust-busting, FDR with Glass-Steagal and Social Security, Richard Nixon with the EPA, and LBJ with Medicare, Head Start, food stamps and civil rights. Obama took a step in the right direction with Obamacare, but without the public option, it's still a major suckup to the health insurance industry and Big Pharma.
Two eager warriors like Warren and Grayson may help spur Obama to become the fifth progressive president. And should Obama resist doing anything progressive in his second term — say about climate change, or immigration, or re-adjusting the Supreme Court from its rightwing bias to a leftwing slant — there is always 2016. If Hillary doesn't run then, imagine a Warren-Grayson ticket. Imagine electing a President with progressive convictions, instead of the compromising Blue Dog that Obama has turned out to be.
Warren-Grayson 2016. Something to hope for, folks. Unlike Obama, that's a real change one can really believe in. The solidly progressive change our country desperately needs to keep the American Dream alive and kicking.