From The New York Times to The Huffington Post, from Counterpunch.org to The Nation, the outcry is the same: Obama is not the man he presented himself to be.
As he now panders to seemingly any right-wing group that can fill a room, his staff is arranging fundraisers where the cover charge is $30,000. Bob Herbert of the NYT echos the “disillusion” of “many of Obama’s strongest supporters who are uneasy, upset, dismayed and even angry.”
Across the progressive spectrum, the consensus is that Obama has abandoned any prospect for a transformational presidency, breathed life into a moribund and discredited right-wing, and incomprehensibly placed his very election at risk.
Most crucially, Obama has made the utterly cynical calculation that there is no price to be paid for abandoning his base, that the mantra of Anybody But Bush seamlessly melds into Anybody But McCain, that progressives will simply surrender.
So sure is Obama that progressives will bear any insult that he has taken to channeling the odious Jeanne Kirkpatrick of the Reagan era, denouncing those “counter-culturalists” who opposed the imperial wars from Vietnam to El Salvador and Nicaragua as the “blame America” crowd.
If Obama’s analysis of progressives is correct, we can expect another depressing campaign, what Herbert calls “the terminal emptiness of politics as usual,” followed by a presidency that honors right-wing ideology while serving corporate power.
But what if Obama is wrong? What if progressives have a breaking point? We have seen a revolt against Obama’s FISA/Telecom betrayal play out on Obama’s website, but the candidate has already responded to those dismayed supporters by essentially blowing them off. Is this a “deal-breaker,” he asks, as if to say, “What are you going to do about it?”
There are some who suggest doing something. John Nichols of The Nation suggests a coordinated push to get Ralph Nader into a debate with Obama and McCain. Google and YouTube are sponsoring a debate in New Orleans this fall, and the bar is set at 10% support. Nader is at 6% according to CNN, and those who would vote for him if he were competitive was 14% in a recent Fox poll. It is vastly easier to go from 14% to 30% than to go from nothing to 14%.
Nader would be — to say the least — a formidable presence in any debate. Once one gets beyond the caricature of Nader promoted by the political establishment, one sees a candidate who has intimate knowledge of every aspect of our corporate government, because we learn about an institution not by yielding to it, but by opposing it, something Nader alone has done for decades. Further, he is a man who has never flattered us, never pandered to our baser instincts and never lied to us.
The prospect of such a debate would get Obama’s attention; the reality of it might shift the center of our politics as nothing else holds the promise of doing.
For those who do not wish to go gently, there is an alternative.
GREGORY KAFOURY is a trial lawyer and political activist in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.