Losing Liberals

artwork by nataliedee.com

There’s an emerging blog discussion on Obama’s dropping poll numbers in the Democratic Party base and the drop of yet another hippie bashing meme by OFA Director Ray Sandoval.  There’s a lot of people that think that the base has no place to go and will return to the fold, but I’ve noticed the increased number of Democratic Congress members that seem to have Obama fatigue.   You may have read BostonBoomer’s post on Maxine Waters who has been out with members of the black caucus in major cities trying to connect the jobless with jobs.

There’s also evidence that other members are equally disenchanted.  I’m not really sure what that will mean over the next year’s election cycle.  I just know that there’s a willingness now to speak up unlike the conspiracy of silence that plagued elected Democratic officials since early 2008.   I’ve got a few examples to share with you.

Here’s an excellent interview with  MA Representative Jim McGovern. The bolded sentence is my nomination for QOTD.

“We need to get the focus back on jobs,” said McGovern. “Here we are at the end of August, and Congress hasn’t done anything about jobs.”

McGovern voted “no” on the debt ceiling compromise, calling it “a catastrophe” that disagreed with both President Obama and the American people’s stance on revenues.

I didn’t run for Congress to dismantle the New Deal,” said McGovern.

The Massachusetts Rep is a loyal supporter of the president, but feels that the current political climate in the country calls for bolder leadership.

“The president needs to fight back,” he said.

Congressman Pete DeFazio says that Obama “lacks the will to fight” and that  may cost him Oregon. DeFazio says that his boldest defense of the President recently sums up to it could have been worse.  That’s hardly a resounding endorsement of bold leadership.

In his Eugene office Wednesday, Defazio accused the President of lacking the will to fight for the promises he made to get elected.

“Fight? I don’t think it’s a word in his vocabulary,” said the Springfield Democrat, who specifically cited Obama’s lack of follow-through in promises to restore Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

“He repeatedly said that. Then the Republicans telegraphed to him they were going to use a fake crisis over the debt limit in order to muscle some major spending reductions or other things on to him. And that was in December. And what happens? Suddenly he flip flops and concedes everything to the Republicans.”

Asked whether he thought the President had a shot at re-election, Defazio was skeptical.

“At this point it pretty much depends on how far out there the Republican nominee is. You know with a respectable–someone who is a little bit toward the middle of the road–Republican nominee, he’s going to have a very tough time getting re-elected,” said DeFazio.

He’s also not convinced the President will do well in Oregon.

“I believe Oregon is very much in play. I mean we are one of the harder hit states in the union, particularly my part of the state. I’ve just done six town hall meetings, have seven to go but people are shaking their heads and saying ‘I don’t know if I’d vote for him again.’” Defazio said.

Asked if he was surprised, the congressman shrugged.

“Not at all,” DeFazio said. “One guy asked me, ‘Give me 25 words what he’s about and what he’s done for me.’ I’m like, ‘It could have been worse.’”

So, those folks that were gaga over “No Drama Obama”  have suddenly found that translates into “No Guts and No Glory”.  Chuck Hobbs–a Florida Trial lawyer and writer for Politics365–has some interesting analysis on the thesis that President Obama is losing support from progressives.

Curiously, the president’s focus soon shifted from job creation to passing a sweeping health reform measure. What passed, known as the Affordable Care Act, was viewed by many progressives as a shell of the long desired single payer system in that the current act does more to provide incentives to existing insurance companies than containing costs or providing greater benefits to Americans.

Still, if most progressives are willing to concede that some form of universal care is better than none, few are as accommodating for other perceived missteps by the Obama administration. Chief among these include the president’s reticence to advocate government sponsored economic stimulation with respect to jobs—a modern day “New Deal” similar to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s public works programs. Others were concerned with the president’s escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan and willingness to attack Libya despite the fact that Libya’s civil war did not directly implicate any U.S. interests. Other progressives lament the fact that the president has taken a seemingly nuanced approach on the issue of gay marriage.

These concerns pale in comparison to progressives fevered pitch from the recent debt ceiling debate, one in which Tea Party conservatives’ unwillingness to compromise drove the president closer to the ideological right with respect to tax cuts.

The fact that no new revenue sources were created particularly vexed perennial third party challenger Ralph Nader, who now calls for a primary challenger to Obama in 2012.  Nader recently stated that he “would guess that the chances of there being a challenge to Obama in the primary are almost 100 percent.”

Nader also averred “when (Obama) surrendered the continuation of tax cuts for the rich last December, the least he could have gotten was the debt ceiling increased. He didn’t even do that. So he set himself up for this hostage situation by the Republicans and it’s his own fault. And the country and the workers are paying the price.”

Obama’s advisers are trying to position the President as the calm voice in Washington that seeks compromise and stays above the fray.  He’s got some room with that posture while the Republican primary contenders eat each other alive for the position of who can pander most successfully to the crazy right. It seems clear to me that Obama will never place himself in the position of pandering to the left or center left.  His strategy is appears to follow DeFazio’s characterization. Hey Vote for me! It could’ve been worse.

My thought is that line of reasoning will not hold water as the economy continues to crumble, joblessness remains high–especially among minorities and young people who are a core constituency of the President, and Republicans solidify behind a candidate.  Will Democratic voters sit this election out now that it’s unlikely to be viewed as historic?  Let me quote one more Democratic Congressman and examine a recent Obama policy morph.  This is from Luis Guitterez on Obama’s lost pledge to Latinos.

To understand why I chose to participate with others in an act of peaceful civil disobedience over President Obama’s record-setting pace of immigrant deportations, you need to go back to 12 July 2008. In San Diego, then Senator – and Democratic candidate for president – Barack Obama’s spoke to the annual national conference of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organisation. He told the mostly Latino audience:

When communities are terrorised by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel, when all that is happening, the system just isn’t working and we need to change it.

He received thunderous applause and went on to promise to address immigration reform to protect immigrants from deportation in his first year in office, and pledged he would not walk away even if it was politically difficult to keep moving forward. He won the election with an overwhelming and unprecedented 67% of the Latino vote – which had expanded by 2 million new voters since 2004 – and won key states like Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada (and, therefore, the White House) on the strength of the Latino vote. Indeed, the slogan adopted by his campaign, “Yes We Can”, is an adaptation of the iconic chant of the Mexican American farm labor movement of the 1960s, “Si Se Puede,” led by César Chávez.

Flash forward to now and Barack Obama‘s record on immigration as president does not match the rhetoric or the huge expectations he created in 2008. A million people have been deported by President Obama – approximately, 1,100 per day; most of them Latinos – far more than his predecessor George W Bush or any American president. Without being prodded by Congress, he expanded the use of the military at the border with Mexico, mandated the use of an electronic employment eligibility system for all firms doing business with the government and, most controversially, expanded a programme misnamed “secure communities” that enlists state and local law enforcement in federal immigration matters. Such programmes erode trust between immigrants and their local police because reporting a crime or domestic abuse could lead to deportation (which has, indeed, happened). When the governors of New York, Massachusetts and Obama’s own State of Illinois – solidly Democratic Obama territory – tried to withdraw from the program, the president told them participation by their states, counties and cities is mandatory.

The response to this has been interesting.  US Today has labelled the Obama deportation policy as “Smart Politics”.

President Obama’s new policy on deporting illegal immigrants won’t just help those immigrants without criminal records. It could help Obama as well.

The policy, announced by the Department of Homeland Security Thursday, places priority on deporting criminal aliens and other priority cases. Those who arrived in the United States as children, received college educations or served in the military will be less likely to get deported.

The decision is sure to be reviewed by Congress. In particular, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, argues the administration is overstepping its authority by picking and choosing among those who entered the country illegally.

But one thing seems clear: The move will help Obama among Hispanics, many of whom have long argued that he was being unnecessarily tough on deportation policy.

This is clearly another example of a White House policy that triangulates rather than shows any bold vision. This does appear to be a White House that plays 11th dimensional chess with itself and then loses.  So, my question of the day is how many folks will be willing to show up and vote for the President based on “it could’ve been worse”?