Sunday, January 25, 2009

Creative Tension, Obama & the Left

Perhaps no three sentences better define the big lie ethos of predatory conservatism than George Orwell’s,
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
All these years we liberal bloggers/activists struggled against an alternate reality that claimed global warming wasn’t real, health care in America was just fine, Iraq was the central front in the war on terror, we do not torture, we can maintain an empire on the cheap forever, all free trade agreements are good, tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone, privatization is always wonderful, Social Security belongs in the stock market, the free market makes regulation unnecessary, government belongs in our bedrooms, religious doctrine supersedes the Constitution, conservative politicians are morally superior to Terry Schiavo’s husband, Brownie did a great job, homosexuality is a deviant lifestyle choice, sex education should be entirely abstinence centric, evolution never happened, Sarah Palin is brilliant and reality can be ignored.

For too much of this struggle the Democratic Party was a self-gelding machine of ineptitude. Indeed, too many Democrats were collaborators and have blood on their hands. Hence, Howard Dean spoke for so many of us in March 2003 with his famous “What I Want To Know” speech in Sacramento.

Understandably, the scars remain for many of us on the left even after last week’s joyous celebration. Heinous crimes were committed in our name as an unpatriotic elitist plutocracy went on a grand larceny rampage under the guise of “national security,” “God,” “country” and “values.” Now the chickens have come home to roost.

Many of us warned that America was on a collision course with calamity and were either ignored or ridiculed. We therefore toiled to change the political landscape and since 2006 helped deliver Congress, the White House, as well as many statehouses and state legislatures to the Democrats.

Now we’re impatient for change. And we want accountability for the past. Whereas America’s old guard nomenklatura lectured about the “moral hazards” of bailing out homeowners and saving the jobs of auto workers, we rail against the moral hazards of allowing the highest officials in the Bush Administration to evade criminal prosecution. President Obama understandably does not want to get bogged down in prosecuting the past. We however believe that ignoring yesterday’s crimes risks them being repeated by future presidents of either party.

Many on the left, like myself, respect and admire President Obama. If nothing else it’s a relief to have a president that is well intentioned and intellectually curious. Nonetheless, our higher allegiance must remain with promoting peace, prosperity, human rights and social justice. In that spirit, many have cited Franklin Roosevelt who legend has it once told a group of reformers,
"I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."
President Obama needs a strong, assertive political left to help him push the barriers of change. Indeed, our passion is even more important under a Democratic President than it was in opposition to predatory conservatism because now we have leverage to influence policy. Yes, we really do.

We don’t have to be shrill or disrespectful about it. Under President Bush our default posture was to question his motives. I don’t question President Obama’s motives. I believe him to be honorable but results are the bottom line.

Too often Democrats have been willing to be “reasonable” at the onset of negotiations with predatory conservatives. The best negotiators start out by drawing lines in the sand, especially when they hold the high cards. Last week, President Obama admirably stood his ground against the Republican leadership that complained about his “Make Work Pay” proposal as he politely reminded them who won the election and I praised him for it.

Regrettably though, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin confirmed today that President Obama caved with respect to including bankruptcy “cram down” mortgage relief in the stimulus package. This is important.

As recently as Friday, President Obama was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with congressional Democrats and supported including legislation that allowed judges the authority to alter loan terms for primary residences. The banking industry who helped create the mess we're in are naturally opposed.

The very same industry that has wasted billions of tax payer bailout dollars now has the chutzpah to pressure congress to not include bankruptcy relief for out of work wage earners struggling to keep their homes. Even worse, they’re spending $83 million in lobbying Washington to not provide any bankruptcy relief to homowners. I wonder how much of that TARP bailout money was allocated for these lobbying efforts against struggling out of work home owners?

President Obama has indicated he will push for mortgage terms/bankrupt relief in separate legislation. However, passing separate legislation to provide this sort of relief for homeowners will be far tougher. President Obama has maximum leverage in a comprehensive economic recovery bill because Republicans don’t want to appear obstructionist with the country on the brink of an economic depression. Hence, the most effective negotiating posture is to dare Republicans to obstruct economic recovery just so the banks that refuse to extend credit can avoid any pain.

Republicans are taking Obama’s measure and for him to cave this early in his administration as well as the negotiating process is troubling. If Obama is rolled this easily with his political capital at its apex, what else will he cave on once the going really gets tough? Does President Obama really believe Republicans could obstruct comprehensive economic recovery without the entire country turning on them? What is he afraid of?

I realize that when President Obama reaches out to Republicans it's really about giving 80 conservative House Democrats political cover. Furthermore, I appreciate that maintaining the viability of a working majority requires some flexibility. Governing requires a broader coalition than Dennis Kucinich. I appreciate those realities and am prepared to enthusiastically praise the Obama administration when they deserve it. Indeed, I am already proud of the leadership President Obama has shown in his opening week.

Nonetheless, we must loudly oppose this surrender to the banking and lending industry. My sympathies are with laid off autoworkers and small business owners, struggling to make their mortgage payments. Not the money-lenders who irresponsibly created the housing bubble and refuse to absorb any pain while millions of Americans are confronting destitution and homelessness.

Call your representatives in the House of Representatives and the Senate and insist that mortgage terms/bankruptcy relief be included in the stimulus package. Moments like this require creative tension from the left. That’s not being disloyal to President Obama. Rather it’s saving him from himself.


DB said...

Interesting. I just wrote a post about "bipartisanship" and I approach it with skepticism when the calls for it come from the minority party. I hope Obama compromises when the other side offers a good idea, but I hope he also realizes that a lot of them are looking to cover their asses in the next election and have no interest in what is good for the country. He needs to distinguish the good from the bad and move on from there. said...

If helping the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed and other people less fortunate than ourselves with government appears partisan then call me acting partisan.

I don't usually advocate writing your congressman but I have created a letter that people can send to their congressman and 2 Senators and Senator Mitch McConnell that I do approve of. Go to and send this letter to congress. Get others to send it to congress by giving out the URL, and for those who don't have the net then print it out for those people. said...

Oooops make that

Tango daddy said...

He agrees with you, he wants to do, it now make him do it. net roots like this is how he got to where he is and it is posts like this that he will hear. The corporate media is not going to do the Bloggers job!