The Vision Thang

I wrote a few days ago that I find it odd that Democrats don’t seem to be able to articulate a clear vision with specific

Dear Liberal Democrats:

programs and agendas they’d like to support given the absolute fanaticism articulated by Tea Party extremists.  The voting populace seems eager to listen at this point.  You would think in the obvious Republican war against Women, Family Planning, Collective Bargaining, and economic recovery that certain Democratic politicians known for their speeches would be able to find some fighting words. It’s not happening.  It’s a pattern.  It’s time for other Democratic leaders to stand up and fill the void.

It was interesting to read similar thoughts expressed by NY Congress Critter Anthony Weiner who is quickly becoming my favorite outspoken liberal. He was interviewed recently by Amanda Terkel writing for HuffPo.

“On our side is this weird squishy affirmative sense of what government should do and how we’re opposed to this cut and that cut, rather than saying, ‘Here are the things: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, environment and education. We’re not cutting those. Those are off the table. That’s non-negotiable,'” said Weiner, adding, “We haven’t really done that very well. That’s because the president fundamentally — he’s not a values guy. He wants to try to get the best deal for the American people and that’s virtuous in its own right, but it becomes very difficult to make a strategy. There’s been much greater global strategy thinking on [progressive media] outlets, frankly, than at 1600 Pennsylvania.”

When asked by The Huffington Post whether what’s happening at the state and local level with labor unions and budget battles would rise to the national stage, Weiner said that the leadership of national officials — including the president — will be essential to push the issue forward.

“We’ve spent a lot of time waiting for Godot when it comes to the Obama White House, and we kind of — to some degree — have to internalize the idea that, you know what? That’s probably not the way to go,” Weiner said. “We have to start initiating some of this.”

Continued Weiner: “It is now pretty clear to me — I’m not saying this is pejorative — the president, he doesn’t animate his day by saying, ‘All right, what is the thing that has me fired up today? I’m going to out and try to move the ball on it.’ He kind of sees his job as to take this calamitous noise that’s going on on the left with people like us and on the right on Fox News, and his path to being a successful president, in his view, is taking that cacophony and trying to make good, level-headed, smart policy out of it and moving it incrementally down the road. That’s nice. That’s a good thing. We need that, obviously. The problem is there’s no substitute for someone really leaning into these values questions. “

The wall of reality between campaign rhetoric, action, and policy has become so noticeable now that even the most loyal partisans see the complete disconnect.  The problem is that they’re standing around waiting for the President to do something. I contend that’s not going to happen.

Republicans on the right wing are now making political hay of the presidential preoccupation with March Madness and the endless dithering on the no-fly zone over Libya, further efforts to encourage job creation in the country, and the lack of engagement on basic Democratic base issues like the assault on collective bargaining happening in states like Wisconsin.  Obama isn’t even standing up for Big Bird. (Unless you count this just released press ‘statement’.) Maybe our old yellow friend needs to dress up like a Jay Hawk to get some attention these days.  Terkel finds other Democratic pols with similar views that are willing to go on record.  I’m hoping this is the start of a few brave souls finding their voices and spines.  It seems some of them are still in some form of denial.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was also at the gathering and later added, in reference to labor and budget battles, “The only regret I have is that the White House isn’t fighting back against this. It’s one thing to say, ‘Well, I stand behind the workers — how far behind, I don’t know.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘I stand with them and in front of them to protect their rights.’ And I’m waiting for that to happen.”

Frankly, I think Kucinich is going to be waiting for Godot.  I have a lot of problems with Kucinich who caved into White House pressure on health care reform after a few flights on air force one.  I also think that he’s still in denial that the President shares Democratic values. Defazio of Oregon appears to have a bit more of a realistic perspective.

DeFazio added that he hopes Obama stands with congressional Democrats rather than agreeing to a compromise with the Republicans, as he did a few months ago on the tax cuts.”The problem is the negotiator-in-chief and where he’ll end up, and whether we can put some steel in his spine,” he said. “I assume he caved in on taxes in December because he was blackmailed on the treaty with Russia with nuclear weapons, which was absolutely critical. But that’s pretty pathetic also.”

We’re beginning to see voices critical of the President coming from within the party itself.  This is something that has been seriously missing for years.  I’m not sure that any amount of steel spinal fortification is what’s at issue here.  No-Drama Obama shows a lot of enthusiasm when the topic suits him.  He lights up like a christmas tree when speaking about himself or the Chicago Bulls.  He just isn’t enthusiastic about basic human rights and Democratic values.  He’s surrounded himself with Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street insiders. This alone should signal his priorities.

The Republicans definitely are a divided party right now.  The budget battle is highlighting the struggle between Tea Party purists and the wheeling dealing business enablers on the right. Boehner’s the one that’s herding cats right now. The 2012 election appears to be shaping itself towards a Democratic resurgence.  Polls show significant buyer’s remorse for the recent crop of Republican governors and legislators.  This is at least true on the local level. But, they’ve blown it before. Just look at the legislature that came out of the pre-lameduck congress. It was loaded with business deals like tax cuts and business subsidies instead of expansion of middle class and main street priorities.  Each bill started from the negotiation process from a center right perspective and moved farther right.  Liberal Democratic senators didn’t even fight to get an optimal stating position.

The biggest problem is that the President is more than just the titular leader of the party and has a responsibility to provide the Vision Thang.  Obama’s vision only seems to go as far as his personal interests and whims.  Any one interested in social justice or economic justice issues has to be increasingly disturbed about this.  I don’t want to fall into the Republican meme machine that’s using this opportunity to create yet another urban myth around Obama.  Yet, it does seem to me that Obama is giving them far too much material to grease the wheels of their machines.  There’s an angry electorate that just eats that up if they’re not given substantive things to think about.

We need more Democratic politicians that are willing to articulate Democratic values and an agenda that forwards issues that concern most Americans.  If the President doesn’t appear interested in doing it, then I wish we could put people like Anthony Weiner in better positions to articulate the vision thang to the public and to the press.  He might be in a better position to really do this than popular lightening rods like Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. I think they have to stop waiting for the President to “steel” himself or say something.  By now, it ought to be obvious that it’s not going to happen.