Originally published on The Agonist
Disclaimer: The Economic Populist is a politically nonpartisan blog. The author's views below are not necessarily those of the editors of EP or of other writers who contribute to this blog.
"This is a political crime of deception, an enormous bait and switch, in which liberals and quite a few independents were misled by a serial liar who purposely characterized himself as a reformer…" Numerian
Did you receive your email from Barack Obama yet? If you are a Democrat, or on his campaign mailing list, the president has promised you are going to be the first to know when he formally launches his reelection campaign. It could be any moment now; apparently the White House is waiting for a slow news day when Libya and Fukushima and Congressional budget negotiations aren’t dominating the media agenda. Once the news is out, you are expected as a loyal Obama supporter to start sending in campaign donations and begin attending campaign organization meetings.
The problem is, if you are a liberal, the chances are pretty high that you haven’t forgotten that the White House thinks of you as "fucking retarded". That’s at least how Rahm Emanuel described liberals when he used to work in the White House; he was a bit less patronizing during the recent Chicago mayoral election when he needed their votes. Still, everybody knows he holds the left wing of the Democratic Party in contempt, and he will probably never forgive them for not aggressively supporting all those beloved Blue Dog Democrats who got wiped out in last November’s mid-term election. Rahm Emanuel maintains the quintessential Democratic Party insider attitude regarding liberals – they are doormats to be walked upon day in and day out, except around election day, when they are expected to rise up, stand upon some real doormats, and convince people to get out and vote for whomever the party has put up for election.
There is no evidence so far that the White House has changed its opinion about liberals. President Obama has never really taken back the comments his previous press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said about liberals in an interview with The Hill:
These people ought to be drug tested. They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and when we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality. They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.
As a liberal, I’m not sure Dennis Kucinich would make a very good president, though I like a lot of his ideas. And try as I might, I can’t find any quotes from liberals calling for the elimination of the Pentagon. But I damn sure would like me some of that Canadian healthcare. For some mysterious reason, ever since President Obama’s healthcare bill was passed by Congress, my health care premiums have gone up twice, and not by small amounts. Call us drug-addled – send us off for drug testing – but we liberals warned President Obama that a health care bill without a public option was guaranteed to solidify, and not weaken, the power of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies to charge as much as they wanted, even if that meant millions more Americans had to go without healthcare altogether.
No Options for the Public
President Obama used to like the public option as a basis for healthcare reform, but that was when he was candidate Obama. Liberals have a very hard time recognizing the person now in the Oval Office as the same man they campaigned and voted for. Candidate Obama promised to eliminate torture, close Guantanamo, shut down the war in Iraq, restore civil liberties like habeas corpus, bring banksters to justice, make affordable healthcare available to all, eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, put strict limits on greenhouse gases, defend Social Security and Medicare, and open up the White House to greater public scrutiny. President Obama, the candidate’s doppelgänger who actually sits in the Oval Office, approved the torture of Bradley Manning, sentenced the prisoners in Guantanamo to life terms there even though they have never been charged or tried for any crimes, shifted the war in Iraq over to Afghanistan, added to rather than eliminated the Bush catalog of civil rights abuses, failed to indict even one bankster when evidence of massive fraud in the financial industry abounds, caved to the Republicans on healthcare reform after showing no leadership on the matter for over a year, extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, gave up on global warming legislation, undermined Social Security and Medicare by siding with conservative hawks who insist the only solution to trillion dollar deficits is to slash entitlements, and shrouded the White House with a cloak of secrecy that would make Dick Cheney feel right at home.
This is not simply a litany of disappointments for liberals to stew over. This is a political crime of deception, an enormous bait and switch, in which liberals and quite a few independents were misled by a serial liar who purposely characterized himself as a reformer, when in fact he has proven to be nothing more than George Bush with a hint of eloquence. In the face of this deception, what will liberals do when the White House sends out emails asking for support?
Obama on Thin Ice
The first worry the White House has is whether liberals will abandon the president the way independents have. According to the most recent Quinnipiac Poll, 37% of independents feel President Obama deserves reelection, but 52% do not. Among all potential voters, 50% do not feel Obama deserves reelection against 41% who do. Obama’s overall approval ratings have fallen to an all-time low for his presidency – only 42% approve of his performance.
This is not a good situation from which a sitting president should start a reelection campaign. Even worse, voters right now rate it a toss up as to whether they would vote for President Obama or an unnamed Republican candidate. This clouds the question as to whether Obama can win reelection, but that picture clears up a bit when specific Republican candidates are matched against President Obama. None of the Republicans stands up well, which shows how weak the Republican field is at the moment.
Similarly, the polling results show that overall Democrat support for the president remains high, at 79%, though this is ten points lower than after his election in 2008. Within these numbers, Obama scores less favorably among Democrats who identify themselves as liberals or union members. This is the second worry for the White House. The Obama team knows that liberals aren’t going to vote for Republican candidates of any sort, but they are counting on liberals to come around and serve as the ground troops for the campaign, as well as a major provider of individual donations. Liberals are definitely out in force, but in places like Madison, Wisconsin, and Columbus, Ohio, where attacks are being waged at the state level against unions and collective bargaining. It has not gone unnoticed among tens of thousands of people who attend these events that candidate Obama promised to be among the protestors if unions were ever threatened, and that this is yet another campaign promise that has been forgotten by the president.
Let's Make Up
The 2012 election promises to be a lot closer than the one four years ago, and in close elections, Get Out The Vote efforts, and an effective ground campaign, can make all the difference. This White House is seriously behind in generating support and enthusiasm from independents, and it therefore cannot afford to see any slackening in support and enthusiasm from the Democratic Party faithful, who are by and large liberals. A point is going to come when the White House and President Obama realize how much damage has been done to the liberal base, and President Obama is going to have a John Kerry moment. This refers to the point in the Kerry campaign where he turned decisively against the Iraq War, and his poll results and campaign effectiveness began to improve as his own party finally rallied to his cause.
President Obama will go all populist, and start talking about greedy bankers and obstructive Republicans. He’ll do it in a nice way, of course – he has to maintain his cherished reputation for bipartisanship and political decency. He’ll expect the liberals to come around like they always have in the past. If they do – if they start pounding the streets and sending in those $100 checks - Rahm Emanuel will be right, but in a way he did not expect. Liberals will indeed be “fucking retarded” for coming out in support of a party and its candidate who is more at home in George W. Bush’s Republican Party and who desperately needs liberals to forget this fact.