Like many, if not most, liberals, and probably more than a few moderates, I am sickened, or at least saddened, by the so-called “debt deal” on the verge of passage. It was pure political/economic terrorism. And one can argue ad infinitum about President Obama’s negotiating skills, lack thereof, whether he’s a true progressive, a centrist, a closet Republican or simply so fixated on “swing” voters that he risks alienating his entire base in the belief that, come Election Day, it’ll fall in line. Or how this manufactured “crisis” played out entirely on Republican turf—how the Beltway media, and our politicians obsessed over long-term deficits at a time of high unemployment and lame economic growth.
Indeed, worst of all is what the deficit mania, and this deal, may do to the economy, specifically to the middle class, the poor, the unemployed and the soon-to-be-unemployed. Obsessing over deficits at this economic moment is like cutting back on cement while the dam is bursting. You might save some extra cement for those “children and grandchildren” in the pols’ talking points—but nobody will be around to care.
And yet, disappointed as I am, I am also realistic enough to know that if a Republican were in the White House—especially the GOP Version 2011—the outlook would be exponentially worse. Of course, one could reasonably argue that under a GOP president, the Republicans in Congress would simply have raised the debt ceiling, just as they have myriad times in the past. But we have a Democrat at 1600 Pennsy—and everything the GOP does, especially ensuring that the unemployment rate remains elevated, is in the service of destroying Barack Obama’s presidency. The owlish legislative master Mitch McConnell told us as much, in a rare moment of absolute candor.
Aside from destroying Obama, the far Right—backed by the likes of the Koch boys—hopes to dismantle our safety nets, expand the growing chasm between rich and poor, and whites and minorities, and take us back to the Gilded Age, when workers had no rights, Big Business ruled unchallenged, and Black folks were lucky to get jobs as maids and sleeping car porters. My father-in-law worked his ass off for 50 years as a salesman; he lives on a piddling pension and Social Security. Without that safety net, and especially without Medicare, he and his wife would either be dead or on the street today. And that’s where I’ll be when I’m his age, if the Teabagger fringe has anything to say about it.
Look at what the Republicans are doing on the state level, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere. Assaulting union and women’s rights, and suppressing voter turnout in minority areas, among other outrages. They are out to remake America in their image—or, “take their country back” as they like to say.
But the Progressive backlash against the Walkers, Kasiches, Scotts and Snyders, should be inspiring. And instructive. Now is the time to vent. If you’re pissed off at Obama, go write a blog post. Tweet your ass off. Get it out of your system. Then mobilize in productive ways and fight for progressive change.
Criticize and push and prod the President, sure. But whatever you do, don’t attack him so hard, so viciously and for so long, that you help take him down. He still boasts more progressive achievements than any President since LBJ. And if there is one lesson to be learned from the debt debacle, and the attempted Right Wing takeover in the states, is that elections have consequences. To the extent that liberal and moderate Democrats’ apathy, or exasperation with Obama, led to the 2010 “shellacking,” perhaps the most disastrous election of my lifetime— not for liberals, but for the nation as a whole—those who stayed home, or registered “protest” votes bear some responsibility.
Next time will be even worse. Don’t fool yourself, throw up your hands and say “Meh, Obama, Schmobama, might as well let Romney win.” I remember how ticked off a lot of liberals were at Bill Clinton, how he was viewed as a Republican in Democratic clothing, how he triangulated and dissembled and moved rightward. If there’d been a blogosphere then, God only knows the level of vitriol he might have absorbed from his left. Then, thanks in part to the Ralph Nader candidacy (as well as outright thievery and the stacked Supreme Court), we got Bush-Cheney. And in the depths of that catastrophic administration, I would bet most liberals would have begged to have ol’ Bubba back, warts, stained dress, and all.
And so it will be if we help the Teabaggers take down Barack Obama. But far, far more frightening.