In a quick update pointed out in the comments, Russ Feingold just kicked some sand in the Nader-West plan, and slammed down the idea of a primary.
At least thus far, Nader's spoiler heart had kept him away from the Democratic party. He ran as an independent, as a Green party candidate, but never really tried to recruit candidates in a Democratic primary, much less to challenge a sitting Democratic president. But after his 2000 rant about how Gore and Bush would be the same and after living through Bush, Democrats and liberals got smart and kicked him to the curb. So now, he's teamed up with Brother Dr. Professor [more titles?] West to get some more attention. Yippie.
Could ignorance be the reason why Nader and West are doing this? I don't think so. Ralph Nader, who's still selling himself as a consumer advocate for having done something good decades ago cannot possibly be ignorant about the fact that the President signed into law the nation's first ever federal agency dedicated to protecting consumers, can he? He can't possibly not know that the massive reforms the president has instituted can all be categorized under consumer protection - whether we are talking about insurance regulations in health care reform, the most significant banking regulations since the 1930s in Wall Street reform, credit card reform, or student loan reform - can he?
Could Cornel West, Mr. Poverty Tour, be simply ignorant of the fact that the president instituted the largest expansion of health care for poor children (SCHIP), that health reform will massively expand Medicaid, giving all people - including childless adults - in poverty access to it (up to 133% of poverty, and states would be able to expand it further with additional federal funds), that this president has extended unemployment insurance over and over again, that this president has protected programs for the poor from the debt ceiling deal?
Nope, that's not it. They even spelled out the reasons they are looking to do this primary challenge. The LA Times reports:
A partial bill of particulars, from a summary press release, includes "his decision to bail out Wall Street's most profitable firms while failing to push for effective prosecution of the criminal behavior that triggered the recession, escalating the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan while simultaneously engaging in a unilateral war in Libya, his decision to extend the Bush era tax cuts, and his acquiescence to Republican extortion during the recent debt ceiling negotiations."You see, Ralph Nader and Cornel West think progressives are stupid. Like, really, really, really stupid. They think they can control progressives like Rush Limbaugh can control conservative parrots. A better example of trying to have one's cake and eat it too has rarely been seen. Let me do a little translation.
Translation: we don't like the president because he rescued the American and global economic systems and saved them from massive collapse with a program that has not only been fully paid back but is making profit for the American taxpayer. Also, we think you are stupid enough to believe us when we say that deregulation was bad because it legalized a lot of what would otherwise be criminal acts (like selling off mortgage-backed securities in pieces and having no wall of separation between commercial and consumer banking), and also believe that when those acts, legalized by previous presidents and Congresses of both parties, don't get prosecuted (you know, because most of what banks did to crash the economy was, umm... legal), then the current president is to blame.
More translation: we are going to bitch and moan about how the president is not keeping his promise, and then bust a proverbial cap on him when he does. Yes, the president promised that he would in fact ramp things up in Afghanistan before winding it down, but we want you to forget that now. Yes, the president had public, loud debates against both Hillary Clinton and John McCain about his very clear intention to attack actionable terrorist targets in Pakistan. But now that he actually has done it and put a bullet in bin Laden's eye, pay no attention to those campaign promises.
As for the the budget deal in December and the debt limit deal last month, both were unadulterated victories for liberals and the president, though the victory in December - which gave a tax cut to the working poor for the first time in memory and extended unemployment benefits throughout this year - came at the price of temporarily extending the Bush tax cuts for the top income earners as the Republicans held the poor and the middle class hostage (something, one would think, the self-proclaimed advocates for the poor would actually be aware of). In the debt limit deal, Barack Obama left John Boehner holding a bunch of teabags, which, by the way, is what allowed the president now use a veto threat to force Congress' hand on revenue.
It can pretty much be categorically proven that this primary-fever among the uber-nuts of the pretend-Left has nothing whatsoever to do with the President's policies or actions in office. NOTHING. There is no question that the president's achievements are historic, transformative and unquestionably progressive. So if it's not about that, what is it about? It's about egos and hurt feelings. It's about the president's style. It's about the president's insistence that things get done instead of sacrificing at the alter of a certain rainbow and pony show larger progressive objectives. It's about fist-pounding. It's about a form of jealousy that the president has succeeded by following his model of governing rather than their model of destruction politics.
And it's about one other thing: It's about the idea that if the president aids them in tearing everything down by always taking a confrontational approach and never, ever compromising for anything, even if that means the Republicans would proverbially shoot the hostages (i.e. the poor and the middle class), magically, a new liberal utopia would awake from the ashes of a demolished country. In fact, many on the side of Nader and West believe deeply that we must make the people suffer to wake them up to a revolution. Even more believe in a Fight the People ideology for those who do not subscribe to their radical revolution ideas.
It's time we draw a line. Ralph Nader and Cornel West can be considered a lot of things, but they can no longer be considered progressives or liberals. No self-respecting progressive would ignore facts, ignore the president's transformational progressive achievements and think that primarying the most progressive president in a half a century (at least) is a good idea. No one worth their salt as a liberal would throw the president under the bus to fulfill their own ego. It's time to rescue liberalism from the rusty guard and death-grips of the Tea Party of the Left.