Obama is no progressive. Not even close.
A progressive wouldn’t load up his front office with corporatists like Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel; he wouldn’t look the other way when Chief of Staff Emanuel calls progressives “retards”; he wouldn’t spend years prior to his Presidency being mentored by, of all people, Joe Lieberman – every corporatist Republican’s favourite “Independent” “Democrat”; he wouldn’t give up the public healthcare insurance option (which had massive majority support of Americans across the political spectrum, which by the way, he rarely or never mentioned) without a fight; he wouldn’t support corporatist/Republican efforts to cut Social Security, MediCare and Medicaid, three of the most popular social programs in American history; he wouldn’t continually accept Republican framing of issues and perpetually treat Republicans and “Conservative Democrats” (read: corporatist Democrats) as honest actors whom sincerely want to do what is best for America; he wouldn’t hire on the people who broke the banks to run the banks; he wouldn’t waffle and wain over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; he wouldn’t pretend to close international CIA black sites and then turn a blind eye to those in Somalia; he wouldn’t continue and escalate Patriot Act policies; he wouldn’t pass Financial Reform that fails to put a stop to many of the most risky and system-threatening financial practices (e.g., bank over-leveraging, intermixing of depository and investment banking, continued poor regulation of derivatives trading); he wouldn’t outspend Bush on defense; he wouldn’t extend the unpopular “temporary” Bush tax cuts to the rich; he wouldn’t further lower corporate taxes; he wouldn’t continue funding Faith-Based Initiatives; he wouldn’t derisively refer to progressives like Bernie Sanders as “you progressives”; he wouldn’t escalate the fight in Afghanistan at a time when there were no more than 100 Al Qaeda operatives remaining there; he wouldn’t largely ignore and completely excuse the egregious economic mismanagement, international law debasing and civil liberties destroying practices of the previous administration and then continue the very same practices himself; he wouldn’t pretend that the Dems and Republicans are equally at fault when policy discussions come to stalemates when only the Republicans are being obstinate.
It’s not his lack of success in advancing progressive causes that make him not a progressive. It’s his perpetual lack of effort and capitulation. There is nobility in trying and failing. There is no nobility in playing the role of the jobber in professional wrestler: the pre-determined loser of every match.
Some may say that it is unfair to call Obama a fake progressive, or a fauxgressive, because he so clearly distances himself from progressives and progressivism. But throughout his campaign he clearly accepted and embraced his broad progressive appeal, though often working to have it both ways – as being viewed as both a progressive and a centrist. One may also reasonably argue that more than being a progressive, he has billed himself as The Great Compromiser. But where is the compromise? What on earth has he gotten in the way of compromise from the Republicans, Corporatist Democrats and powerful lobby groups (e.g., Wall Street, the Chamber of Commerce, Department of Defense and the Pentagon) in the interest of not only progressives, but the American people as a whole.
America is Historically and Presently a Progressive Nation; Just Not in Name.
The US Constitution was the most progressive inscription of an overall national governing system of its day. Over the past couple of years, many reputed polls have consistently shown that progressive policy positions such as a government-run health insurance option, protection of Social Security, Medicare, or MedicAid, withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, legalization of marijuana, increased taxation of the ultra-rich, legal and accessible abortion, gay marriage equality, military equality for gays, and reduced defense spending have majority popularity among the general US populace; in many cases the majorities are overwhelming. By contrast, when you ask Americans “are you liberal” or “are you progressive”, the country looks much less liberal and progressive. Why? Because liberalism as a social/political concept has been getting dragged through the mud by conservative media and political figures for years.
Many Americans, when it comes right down to it, are self-hating progressives; they just don’t know it.
When a majority of Americans support progressive policies, what does that mean in terms of the political spectrum? It means that these progressive political positions are not left-wing. They are centrist. That they are considered left wing in the mainstream news media and houses of government show how skewed to the right and toward corporate interests that these vital democratic institutions are.
Back to Barack Obama
If Barack Obama was truly a progressive, he would not be where he is today. Many people who defend Obama say that he is doing the best he can within the system he’s in, which they accurately recognize as being fundamentally corrupted by the role of lobbies in financing elections, in participating in Washington-Wall Street revolving doorism, and so on. But this corruption is precisely why we should not believe that he is a progressive. If he was a progressive, he would not have gotten within 50 miles of the White House. He would have been vetted out.
It’s also clear that Obama is not a progressive is somehow managed to sneak past the goalies of the Washington/Wall Street Establishment. If he was, he wouldn’t be what Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks calls the world’s worst negotiator.
Despite having less national popularity, far fewer party members in the Senate and Congress, far lower public support for particular policies, and consistently having the relevant evidence against them, Bush, Cheney & Co. managed to wage an immensely costly and national security compromising war on Iraq, to shred civil liberty and privacy laws enshrined in the Constitution, to cut tax on the rich, block government funding of stem cell research, …. Meanwhile, Obama can’t nudge through policies that he was elected to champion?
Game over. He is not a progressive. The only question is he simply not a progressive, or is he a fauxgressive?
As election time draws near, expect him to jack up the fauxgressivism.