We know that there isn’t much “Hope” for “Change” — at least for progressive change — should President Obama win a second term as president.
Even when he had the chance, with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress during the first two years of his presidency, and with a solid mandate from the voters to act on restoring civil liberties, taking significant action against climate change, ending the wars and defending Social Security and Medicare, he did nothing.
There are some Democrats still caught up in the fantasy, imagining that if the president is re-elected, and doesn’t have another term to worry about, he will finally show his “real colors” and become the progressive they imagined him to be in 2008.
The evidence that this is not the case, though, is clear in the way he is campaigning. You don’t hear, and did not hear in either of the first two presidential debates, any call for voters to give the president a strong Democratic majority in House and Senate. In fact, there was not a word in either of those debates from the president about the importance of getting rid of the Republican control of the House, and of solidifying the Democratic grip on the Senate to prevent Republicans from again blocking any progressive legislation.
If the president really planned on being a progressive, he would have taken the many opportunities handed to him by Romney in those debates, and by questions from the moderator and the audience in the second debate, to blame Republicans in Congress for the failures of his first term, and would have told the 65-70 million viewers to get out there and elect Democrats to Congress — especially progressive Democrats. He had a chance to single out the Democrats in tough races where a win would really have shifted the balance not just to the Democrats, but to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, for example Elizabeth Warren over Scott Brown in Massachusetts, or Tammy Baldwin over Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, or Alan Grayson over Todd Long in Florida.
Instead, the president was silent about the congressional races.
What this tells us is two things. One, the president and his staff don’t really care about Congress, and in fact think that the way to win the White House for a second time is to back away from progressive positions as much as possible, in order to win those so-called “middle of the road” voters who, for the most part, are swayed by weird, meaningless things like appearance, demeanor, and image. And two, the president and his handlers probably don’t even want to have a progressive, or even a Democratic majority in Congress, because if they had such a thing, then the president would be compelled to do progressive things in his second term, and he doesn’t really want to do that.
This is a president who is happier coddling corporations, massaging the military-industrial complex, and ignoring the indigent. That’s easy to do when you have a Republican Congress. You can pretend to be a nice progressive guy trying to do the right thing, only to be stymied by the troglodytes in Congress. But if you helped elect those trogs by not fighting for a Democratic majority, it’s really not honest to then blame Congress.
The blame has to be with Obama and his campaign. Instead of making this campaign a movement for real progressive change, it has been a single-minded struggle to re-elect the president — a president who has little to show for his first four years in office, and who is asking for four more years in which he will deliver little more, except for perhaps more military actions, more assaults on the Bill of Rights, and more undermining of the nation’s already shredded social safety net.
I’m not saying things wouldn’t be worst under a President Romney — especially a Romney gifted with a Republican Congress, or a Congress with a Republican House and a Senate with a depleted and further demoralized Democratic majority. But at least with Romney as president, ordinary Americans would quickly be able to identify where the enemy was. With an Obama back in the White House, confusion would continue to reign as the assaults on the New Deal and the Constitution continue, and as the imperialist wars go on, and as the despoilation of the earth continues apace.
Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.