Six months after the Presidential inauguration in 2009 a not untypical progressive named Marie Marchand wrote in Common Dreams that "I want my money back" (from the Obama campaign):
I gave $20 a week for seven months, plus $60 every once in a while for a t-shirt and sticker. I gave of my modest purse joyfully. Once I add that all up, it makes a grand total of... $106 billion?! Wait a minute, I thought I was supporting change I could believe in, not more of the same bloodshed and war! [...] I expect the Republicans to throw money at the Military Industrial Complex. Yet, from the Democrats, I was promised a different direction (like OUT of the Middle East). Regrettably, there has been miniscule change. There is still nothing to believe in.Senator Obama's campaign proposals on the Middle East included proposals to "to ramp up the American military effort," in Afghanistan and "remove one or two brigades a month from Iraq." - exactly what he did.
But Ms. Marchand's angry "I was promised a different direction" is a typical complaint of the unhappy progressives. Complaints were on all issues - including the President's failure to support single payer health reform something he had not advocated either. In fact, we can take a look at Dennis Kucinich's platform in the primary elections to get a good idea of what the progressives seem to have expected (and remember Kucinich never polled at more than 7% among Democrats). The obvious question is why these "progressives" expected someone who ran as a moderate to become a hard line battler for the Kucinich agenda that was unambiguously rejected by Democratic primary voters and that had no chance of Congressional approval. Part of it has to do with the odd tendency of some "progressive" activists to imagine that they speak for all Democrats or even for 99% of the population. The Obama campaign received donations from three million people - why would it be that the donations from a progressive activist would determine policy more than the donations of many centrist or conservative or pragmatic Democrats? Obviously Kucinich Democrats are a small minority in the Democratic Party. But Ms. Marchand was likely also influenced by a deceptive line of attack by leftists who had always opposed the Obama campaign, a line of attack that dominated the progressive blogs and media and that was strongly amplified by the mainstream media. That attack has been carefully designed to try to break up the Democratic coalition and I want to look at that attack so we can see how the same people will act as they try to help the Republicans win the next election.
Here's an example from Matt Stoller:
Obama Betrays Us, Of Course - Matt Stoller 2007Note that Obama had already "betrayed us" in 2007 during the primaries, was unconcerned about the progressives who somehow had become the "people who voted him the nomination" during the general election, and still managed to surprise and disappoint his progressive supporters (especially those who never supported him) even before taking office! And Stoller was just one of the many disappointed-and-told-you-so progressives chiming in before the President took the oath of office. Consider this from Michael Hudson in an article called The Obama Letdown, published a full 20 days after the election and 2 months before the inauguration.
In the whole McClurkin fiasco, one interesting note here is that Obama seems to have built the opposite of the Dean coalition - Matt Stoller later in 2007.
If Obama wins, and I think he will, he will win like Jimmy Carter won. He'll win as an operational conservative, because that's what his campaign believes. [...] Obama and his inner circle are completely unconcerned with their responsibility to the people who voted him the nomination, so much so that they think nothing of openly lying on core Constitutional issues. - Matt Stoller 2008.
Obama always promised to throw progressives under the bus. It shouldn't be a surprise. But it is! Through lovely actions like this, Obama is accelerating the process of waking up from the dreamland progressives have been in for years [underline added]. - Matt Stoller December 2009
This is not what most people hoped for. But their hopes were so strong that it was easier to indulge in happy dreams and put one’s faith in a prince than to look at the systemic problems that need to be restructured in order for real change to occur.(it would be snarky to mention the quality of the writing - after all, restructure of a problem, systematic or not, is perfect middle manager memo material anyways ). A year later, Mr. Hudson had managed to maintain the Disappointed-and-I-told-you-so line:
I almost feel naive for being so angry at President Obama’s betrayal of his campaign promises regarding taxes. I had never harbored much hope that he actually intended to enact the reforms that his supporters expected - not after he appointed the most right-wing of the Clintonomics gang, Larry Summers, then Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke and other Bush neoliberals.Isn't is amazing that someone can pack a condescending slap at those naive starry eyed supporters just one sentence after a bellow of anger at being betrayed? How can you be betrayed by someone you had already named as an opponent? Hudson and people he collaborated with, such as Robert Fitch, were like Stoller - hostile to the Obama campaign from quite early. Their disappointed, outraged, betrayed, act never made any sense except as a rhetorical tactic to try to gain the sympathy of the people they saw as the naive suckers. But it got a lot of attention in the media. Here's Politico in December 2008 in an article with first author Carol Lee.
Liberals are growing increasingly nervous – and some just flat-out angry – that President-elect Barack Obama seems to be stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices.Here's what Media Matters had to say about a later article co-authored by Carol Lee
Obama has reversed pledges to immediately repeal tax cuts for the wealthy and take on Big Oil. He’s hedged his call for a quick drawdown in Iraq. And he’s stocking his White House with anything but stalwarts of the left.
It was the perfect Politico article: It focused on style over substance, it reflected the attacks Republicans like Dick Cheney were making on President Obama, and it forecast political struggles for Democrats based not on any actual data, but on outdated assumptions and stereotypes.And as soon as the election ended or before, "left" and "civil liberties" critics of the new Administration suddenly developed a mutual admiration club with the mainstream media they had previously lambasted. Glenn Greenwald stopped his typically harsh attacks on Politico and began citing them as a reliable source. People like Cornel West who couldn't have found a way on to TV unless they had taken a hostage, suddenly showed up all over cable. In fact, progressives, African-Americans, LGBT people, environmentalists, civil liberties advocates, women, Latinos, working class men, young people, dogs, cats - any identifiable segment of the Democratic coalition suddenly was appointed spokesmen who saturated both the "progressive" and main-stream media with complaints that their interests had been ignored and that they had been betrayed on what was promised. And oddly enough all these critiques "reflected" or complemented "attacks Republicans like Dick Cheney were making" about the courage and honesty of the new Administration.
The often ridiculous Poltifact exhibited this confluence of interests in a story on single-payer health care where they solemnly intoned about the President " We rate his statement False." The statement they were rating was "I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter because, frankly, we historically have had a employer-based system in this country with private insurers, and for us to transition to a system like that I believe would be too disruptive." There you go, the untrustworthy weak Democrats (GOP spin) once again betraying a promise to their deluded progressive supporters ("left" spin). Of course, the President opposed single payer during the Presidential election, during the primary election, in his book "Audacity of Hope", and during his term as a Senator - but in 2003, as a Illinois State Senator, he said he was "a proponent of single payer". In 2004, during the primary election for US Senate he said single payer was not feasible and has been absolutely consistent about this ever since, but Politifact, twisting themselves into a multi-dimensional pretzel shape interprets the President to be making a nonsensical claim just so they can call it false.
Why one might start to get the impression that the Democratic Party and the Presidency of Barack Obama came under a comprehensive and dishonest attack by enemies left and right aided by the corporate media from the moment that the election produced this unnatural result - a Democrat, a black Democrat, in the White House. And just for future reference and for a refresher on the language of these attacks, here's a quote from the second Carol Lee Politico article
The episode was a baffling, unforced error in presidential symbolism, hardly a small part of the presidency, and the moment at which yet another of the old political maxims that Obama had sought to transcend - the Democrats' vulnerability on national security - reasserted itself.
When you see language like that, or complaints about betrayal from people who either should know themselves not to represent the constituency or who know themselves to be pretending for effect, you should know what you are dealing with.