Save Obama's pres­i­dency by chal­leng­ing him on the left

The Pak Banker - - Editorial5 - Michael Lerner

Peo­ple who used to say, "Give Pres­i­dent Obama more time" when the pres­i­dent was crit­i­cized for ca­pit­u­lat­ing to the right, or who ar­gued that Obama must have a plan to turn things around, are now largely de­pressed and an­gry. To many lib­er­als and pro­gres­sives, the pres­i­dent's un­will­ing­ness to veto any mea­sure that in­cludes con­tin­ued tax re­lief for bil­lion­aires is the last straw, build­ing on a record of spine­less­ness that in­cludes his es­ca­la­tion of the war in Afghanistan, aban­don­ment of a pub­lic op­tion for health-care re­form, re­fusal to pros­e­cute those who tor­tured in Iraq or lied us into that war, and un­will­ing­ness to tax car­bon emis­sions. With his base deeply dis­il­lu­sioned, many pro­gres­sives are start­ing to be­lieve that Obama has lit­tle chance of win­ning re­elec­tion un­less he en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­braces a pop­ulist agenda and world­view - soon. Yet there is lit­tle chance that will hap­pen with­out a mas­sive pub­lic re­volt by his con­stituency that goes be­yond ral­lies, snide re­marks from tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties or in­dig­nant op-eds.

Those of us who worry that a full-scale Repub­li­can re­turn to power in 2012 would be a dis­as­ter not just for those hurt­ing from the Repub­li­can-pol­i­cyin­spired eco­nomic melt­down but also for the en­vi­ron­ment, so­cial jus­tice and world peace be­lieve it is crit­i­cal to get Obama to be­come the can­di­date whom most Amer­i­cans be­lieved they elected in 2008. De­spite the out­come of last month's elec­tion, it is un­likely that the level of his base's alien­ation will reg­is­ter with the pres­i­dent un­til late in the 2012 elec­tion cy­cle - far too late for so­ci­ety to­day and our fu­ture to­mor­row. But there is a real way to save the Obama pres­i­dency: by chal­leng­ing him in the 2012 pres­i­den­tial pri­maries with a can­di­date who would un­equiv­o­cally com­mit to a well-de­fined pro­gres­sive agenda and con­trast it with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion's poli­cies. Such a can­di­dacy would be pooh-poohed by the me­dia, but if it gath­ered enough pop­u­lar sup­port - as is likely given the level of alien­ation among many who were the back­bone of Obama's 2008 suc­cess - this cam­paign would pres­sure Obama to­ward much more pro­gres­sive po­si­tions and make him a more vi­able 2012 can­di­date. Far from weak­en­ing his chances for re­elec­tion, this kind of pro­gres­sive pri­mary chal­lenge could save Obama if he moves in the de­sired di­rec­tion. And if he holds firm to his cur­rent track, he's a goner any­way. The ba­sic plat­form for such a can­di­date is clear: Un­equiv­o­cally call for an im­me­di­ate end to the pres­ence of U.S. troops, ad­vis­ers and pri­vate U.S.-based se­cu­rity firms in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pak­istan, and re­place the "war on ter­ror" with a Global Mar­shall Plan that roots home­land se­cu­rity in a strat­egy of gen­eros­ity and con­cern for the well-be­ing of ev­ery­one on the planet. Do­mes­ti­cally, call for a mas­sive jobs pro­gram; a freeze on mort­gage fore­clo­sures; a na­tional bank that would of­fer in­ter­est-free loans to those seek­ing to cre­ate or ex­pand small busi­nesses; im­me­di­ate im­ple­men­ta­tion of the parts of the Obama health-care plan that would ben­e­fit or­di­nary cit­i­zens and build sup­port for a health plan for all cit­i­zens; dra­mat­i­cally lower prices for drugs that treat crit­i­cal dis­eases such as AIDS and can­cer; a strong tax on car­bon emis­sions; and im­me­di­ate pros­e­cu­tion of those govern­ment em­ploy­ees in­volved in tor­ture or cover-ups to jus­tify the in­va­sion of Iraq. This can­di­date should push for the me­dia to pro­vide free and equal time to all ma­jor can­di­dates for na­tional of­fice as well as for con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments re­quir­ing only pub­lic fi­nanc­ing in elec­tions and, sep­a­rately, for cor­po­ra­tions to prove ev­ery five years to a jury of or­di­nary cit­i­zens that they have a sat­is­fac­tory his­tory of en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity (much like the En­vi­ron­men­tal and So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity Amend­ment, or ESRA, ad­vo­cated by the Net­work of Spir­i­tual Pro­gres­sives). This pol­icy plat­form must be matched with a will­ing­ness to talk un­equiv­o­cally about the spir­i­tual and eth­i­cal need for a new bot­tom line - one of love, kind­ness and gen­eros­ity. We need a pro­gres­sive push for a new New Deal, which in the 21st cen­tury could be the Car­ing So­ci­ety: "Car­ing for Each Other and the Earth."

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