07.06.08 Obama Supporter Agonistes

I promise I won’t let this new blog be only about the Obama campaign.  But here goes another installment.

agonistes adj. (ag′ə nistēz′)

designating a person engaged in a struggle

‘Tis I.  

I’m angry and disappointed in Obama — enough to vote third party in the safe state of Maryland.  But I still want him to win.  I agree with the arguments of those who say the Democrats lose by trying to be purists and with those who say they lose by trying to be centrists.  I share the frustration of Obama’s “loyal opposition” on FISA, but think they are fighting a lost cause and, ultimately, accomplishing nothing positive.  I am struggling.

To the substance . . .

In response to yesterday’s Post 2, Ed writes

POLITICS IS ABOUT COMPROMISE and if you don’t understand that you don’t understand anything at all.

Surely I get the part about compromise.  And, after all, one of Obama’s selling points all along has been his alleged ability to forge it.  Which means considering and adopting positions far from lefty purity.  And none of Obama’s supporters should be the least bit surprised by this.

So, some of the present Sturm und Drang is the result of folks waking up to a reality that was there all along; they are recovering from denial. 

On the other hand, Obama’s recent pronouncements seem to many of us less like compromise for results than joining the other side, a yielding of position that loses the game before negotiations have begun.

Furthermore, even if we are to be receptive to compromise, aren’t there limits?  All of us have a point at which we would walk away from negotiation.  Compromise on things like civil liberties, reproductive freedom, and separation of church and state are simply unacceptable to me.

Mark in VA comments

Democrats lose because they do not fight back against the successful stereotypes Republicans throw at them.

Democrats lose because they believe that there actually exists a 51% majority that supports liberal democrats on most every issue.

Democrats lose because they beat their chest over every transgression their candidate makes against liberal orthodoxy.

Democrats lose because they believe that living in a supposedly safe Democratic state means they can lodge a protest vote, ignoring the fact the MSM is just waiting to create a meme that Obama has lost his base and then creates a persistently negative tone of coverage, affecting the actual swing states.

Yeah, but: Bill Clinton won only 43% by being a centrist.  Al Gore and John Kerry couldn’t decide what they were, floundering around in the middle, impressing no one, and failing to reach 51% at all.  It’s one thing to move to the right.  It’s quite another to move to the right and keep losing, over and over again.

Furthermore, as Bob on the SenatorObama-PleaseVoteAgainstFISA listserv wrote yesterday:

We have all heard the corporate media and Republican spin that the US is a conservative country.  However, polls by the Pew Research Center and others find the majority of Americans are in favor of progressive policies.

[Note: you must be logged in to the Obama website for this and subsequent links to work.]

Isn’t this the year when Reaganism and reaction have finally been discredited — crushed by the weight of their own inconsistencies and the utter incompetence of the current cabal?  Don’t we finally have the opportunity to speak truth to power and get 55%?  Wasn’t that part of Obama’s hope?

As I alluded to earlier, an argument can also be made that what killed Gore and Kerry was less their ideological positions, than the appearance that they didn’t believe in anything at all.  There is no question that Obama flirts with such a fate, to the extent that he moves away from one position after another.

Mark in VA is right, though: the mainstream media play a key role in this.  It is they who create a story around “flip-flopping” and can magnify a rebellion by a small, but intense band of Obama supporters into an enduring narrative.  In fact, one view has it that Obama has not moved that far from his original positions at all, but rather, that the media has taken his recent statements (especially on guns and Iraq) out of context to portray them as flips (or is it flops?). 

(Liberals may not like it, but Obama has not been a gun-control proponent and has always maintained a relatively cautious line on Iraq: We have to be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.)


More struggle: There’s that new listserv put up – on the Obama website — by his supporters outraged by the candidate’s cave on FISA.  (And this is indeed a case where Obama changed his position 180 degrees from earlier pronouncements.)  Some 14,000 people are generating 1.5 MB of email per day, with declarations of support for Nader (UGH!), pleas to the candidate to switch his position on FISA back to “our side,” debates on the magnitude of Obama’s heresy, etc.

And what is the goal?

Regarding FISA, there certainly isn’t one that is attainable.  Sorry, folks: the horse has left the stable on this.  Eighty-five Senators voted for cloture on the FISA bill a bit over a week ago.  The overwhelming number of those will vote for final passage of the bill itself.  Even if Obama were to come through and vote “nay,” it wouldn’t change the outcome.

And, are we sure we even want Obama to switch sides again?  Andrew Sprung writes

As an Obama supporter disturbed by his FISA switch, I still can’t agree with the founding premise of this group – though I salute the group for its novel challenge to the candidate.  To switch back now would be political disaster.

I couldn’t agree more.  Just wait ‘til the media and GOP get ahold of this one: “OBAMA CAVES TO EXTREMIST LEFT, SUPPORTS TERRORISTS.”

There’s plenty of torment on the listserv, that’s for sure.  Check this out from Deirdre Des Jardins

It’s getting to where this may really hurt the Obama campaign.  We have to be careful what we do, because the Republicans are all over this.

Internal discussions – good. Letting the Obama campaign know directly – good.  Organizing a strong progressive voice in the presidential election – good.

Publicly blasting Obama – maybe not so good.

Let’s fight hard, but not shoot ourselves in the foot.

This renegade group has gotten the campaign’s attention, but will not change Obama’s position.  It has gotten the media’s attention, but (as Mark in VA points out) this is merely contributing to the developing meme of a campaign in turmoil with a flip-flopper at its head.

What’s the point?  And what else can be done? I’m at a loss.


Back to me.  What am I going to do? 

In response to yesterday’s post, I am getting congratulations from Greens, who are praising me for waking up to the horrors of the Democratic Party and the real right-wing nature of Obama.  (Of course, they’re also pushing me to accept Nader as Savior of the Universe.  UGH!)

And I’m grappling with the reality of needing the Democratic candidate to win in November, as disappointed in our candidate as I am. 

And I’m standing by my decision to cast a protest vote in Maryland.

And I’m wondering if, just the same, I ought to go back to phonebanking and doorknocking for Obama in neighboring Virginia and Pennsylvania, where protest votes could give us Bush Term III.

How about you, dear reader?  Where do you stand?  What actions are you taking?  Please let me know, whether by comment on this blog or directly: lefthandview@kberner.us

©2008 Keith Berner

Explore posts in the same categories: Politics, Presidential Campaign 2008

2 Comments on “07.06.08 Obama Supporter Agonistes”

  1. Mary P Says:

    I’m in Ohio, so I’m voting and campaigning for Obama.

    I’m totally freaked out by the reversal on FISA and telecom immunity and what it spells for our civil liberties over the next four years. I was kinda hoping we could go in the other direction and start limiting executive powers again, but it doesn’t look that way now, does it?

    I’m far left on issues like abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty. I’m centrist on gun control, the economy. I’m against the war in Iraq, but I agree we must be careful pulling out, lest the condom slide off and we lose the small amount of protection we have.

    I’m willing to support a candidate who doesn’t agree with me on issues like these. I’m willing to support a candidate that will defeat John McCain, because I think that’s the best way to help my country right now.

    However, I have begun to seriously look into immigrating to a more progressive country. After years of being told to leave the U.S. if I don’t like it, and not seeing any positive change here, I feel that’s probably my best option. The “center” here in the U.S. is too far to the right and the grassroots movement to swing the pendulum back lacks any real power or authority over the corporate hegemony.

    I often feel like I’m jousting with windmills.


  2. Hello Keith:

    The FISA bill is a compromise. It may not be the optimal compromise, or even a good one, but a compromise it is. For the first time, a warrant is required to spy on any American, whether overseas or at home. There was a tradeoff in that McConnell et al wanted broader authority to sweep up overseas communication without warrants (if the call passed through the US or was listened to in the US) for individual overseas targets, and Congress compensated by adding the extra warrant requirement for Americans oveseas. And of course, the Dems yielded big-time on telco immunity — possibly in large part because McConnell and Mukasey asserted loudly and often that telco cooperation has already been inhibited by fears of further legal liability.

    My own beef with Obama is not so much that he supported the compromise, but that he reneged on past promises to filibuster over immunity without explaining why he’s changed his mind. His current position, taken out of the context of his past statements and promises, is at least coherent.


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