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How Progressives Can Move Obama to the Left

January 3rd, 2010 · 1 Comment · Politics, Social and Economic Justice

An article with that headline appeared the other day in Firedog Lake and was reprinted in Common Dreams

The writer, Cenk Uygur, believes Obama is good-hearted and sincerely wants change, but that he feels powerless.

Why? Because not only doesn’t the left get out there and make noise, and push the discourse overwhelmingly toward real change (as the right has done so horribly effectively for a few decades now)—but we don’t even “have his back” for the moderate changes he could have fought for. Of course, he hasn’t fought very hard, and he was careful to appoint Cabinet members who for the most part were not visionaries, were not even change agents, but were part and parcel of the status quo, some of them the same people who brought the economy crashing down and got us into illegal and immoral wars in the first place.

Here are a few (non-contiguous) paragraphs from the article:

So, what Obama does by his nature is find the middle ground. As an excellent innate politician, he will find the political center of any field and rush to it. That’s where elections are won – the center.
So, that’s why he sounded so progressive during the primaries, because that was the center of the left. And why he sounded like such a reformer during the general election because the great majority of Americans desperately wanted change…

The center of Washington is very different than the center of the country. The Washington bubble leans far more to the right than the rest of the country (poll after poll indicates this). The corporate media in Washington are pros at protecting the status quo and view people who challenge the system as fringe players…

So, our only hope is to move the island. We have to move his center. If we can move what he perceives to be the center, he will naturally flow to it. In Lost, when they move the island they move across time. In our case, when we move the island we need to move across the political spectrum.

Right now, Obama perceives the center of the country to be somewhere between Dick Cheney and Harry Reid. Do you know where that leaves him? Joe Lieberman. That’s why we’re in the sorry shape we’re in now.

Although it has a lot of gangster and violence metaphors that I don’t like and don’t agree with, the whole article is worth reading. And Uygur’s central thesis is absolutely on target: that it’s up to us to create a people’s movement that demands the change we elected Obama to bring, and that movement has to be loud and forceful and convincg—to the media, to the American people, and to the politicians.

Change historically comes not from politicians, but by the people who demand it from them. The Civil Rights movement gave Lyndon Johnson (no progressive) room to push through several major pieces of Civil Rights legislation. Earth Day and the environmental movement of the early ’70s gave Richard Nixon (not a progressive bone in his body!) a mandate for the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency. yet we on the left (and I include myself in that) have largely stood by while Clinton negotiated away health care and the rights of gays in the military, while Bush and Cheney stole the election and hijacked the country, and while Obama rolls the ball ever-rightward to pass something he can pathetically call health care reform, or climate change objectives, or any of the rest of it. Let’s “have Obama’s back” for standing his ground against the right, and let’s push him further to the left with public pressure. Lots of it.


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