Matt Stoller has a very long and very thorough response to some of the criticisms levied against his progressive argument against Barack Obama. It’s long and there’s a lot worthy of consideration. But I think this passage on the need to generate real resistance to what is happening with the climate crisis, with the entrenchment of oligarchy in America, and with the ongoing class war against the 99% is so important:
Moving policy to save our civilization has nothing to do with voting on Tuesday, and this is obvious when you consider Sandy as a moment to define man-made global warming as the key challenge of our society, as the Cold War was after World War II. Progressives are obsessed with reelecting Obama instead of governing, so there is silence in response to a massive leverage point (except on CNBC, where the anchors are screaming for more refining capacity in response to Sandy). We the people need to protest and demand the solutions that might have a chance at saving our civilization from the many Sandy’s to come. Indeed, global warming fueled Hurricane Katrina killed 3000 people, and we did nothing except allow the privatization of the New Orleans school system. But as we see now, this is not just because of George Bush, it is because our theory of change, of looking to right-wing politicians entrenched in the Democratic Party as an answer, was an utter failure. It is the politics of self-delusion, and catastrophe. Voting third party is a way of indicating, to yourself and your community, that you will not be party to this game any more. Voting third party is a way of showing, to yourself and your community, that you consider Barack Obama an opponent, and that you oppose his policy. This is a profound admission, and it creates the space for real opposition, for real resistance.
Also regarding third parties, Ian Welsh observes that, “making a third party viable starts with, oh, voting for it.”
The 2012 election hasn’t really been a watershed moment for the creation of progressive infrastructure outside of the Democratic Party. That’s why I think these posts written by critics of the President are so important. If the debate about where we are going as a country isn’t really front and center, then the intellectual arguments of activists as a community become much more essential. Tomorrow the country will go vote on two candidates – one from the far right, the other center right. In the absence of an electable left wing candidate, the sole source of consideration of left wing critiques on where our country is headed is through commentators like Stoller.
As Stoller notes throughout his piece, his critics are not disproving or discounting the factual arguments against policies that have done damage under President Obama. I really wish that this wasn’t the case. The absence of earnest debate over things which really are happening in this country – and will likely continue to happen – serves to completely level-down these policies. They are normal, accepted, and acceptable. The long term consequences of this are not pretty, as they represent not only a rightward shift under Obama, but the normalizing of the worst Bush era policies and the neutering of the Democratic Party and professional left as a source for criticism of them (as noted by both Welsh and Stoller).
All in all, I think the critics of Obama from the left have done a far better job articulating their criticisms in response to the President’s policies and actions than his defenders have articulated why these policy choices are good or right or necessary. But your mileage may vary.