While presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama appealed to evangelicals–some of whom may actually prove receptive–some progressives are demanding that Obama reaffirm core values. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, Eric Chivian wrote:
Senator Obama’s apparent willingness to adjust some of his seemingly deeply held positions to match the perceived political winds, whether it be about spying on Americans or drilling for oil in coastal waters off states where it has been rightly banned for environmental reasons, makes him look like the same old kind of candidate we have all become used to; undermines the passionate belief felt by tens of millions of us in him and his candidacy, with many of his strongest core supporters feeling deceived and angry; and could cost him the election.
Progressives aren’t the only ones howling; the notorious Karl Rove wrote for Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal that “Sen. Obama has shifted recently on public financing, free trade, Nafta, welfare reform, the D.C. gun ban, whether the Iranian Quds Force is a terrorist group, immunity for telecom companies participating in the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the status of Jerusalem, flag lapel pins, and disavowing Rev. Jeremiah Wright.” Rove continues, blasting Obama for a series of shifts on the war on Iraq.
On Counterpunch, however, John Walsh points out that Obama “has voted for hundreds of billions of dollars to fund the Iraq war and to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis,” indeed, a far cry from Rove’s characterization of Obama as having “pledged [throughout 2006 and early 2007] to remove all U.S. troops, even voting to immediately cut off funds for the troops while they were in combat.” Walsh rather sees Obama as having “made it clear long ago in one of his few clear statements on the war that he does not oppose all wars and in fact supports ‘smart’ ones” like another one the U.S. is losing in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party front and faux-Progressive organization, MoveOn.org, offers free Obama buttons.
What will matter in November, however, is not whether Obama sold voters a bill of goods, but whether voters perceive that he sold them a bill of goods. They voted for Democrats in 2006 to get us out of Iraq; Democrats have instead capitulated to the Bush administration on every vote that mattered. When pressed, they blame members of their own party, a coalition of 49 Blue Dog Democrats.
But I don’t see Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listed as a member of that coalition. It was Pelosi who famously took impeachment of President Bush “off the table.” Blue Dogs claim their goal is “representing the center of the House of Representatives and appealing to the mainstream values of the American public,” and Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, and Obama are a part of the Democratic Party mainstream. Walsh writes:
The war is wildly unpopular and close to 70% of Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq asap. What is “centrist” about moving away from a landslide majoritarian position? And what is the “peace”candidate doing when he calls for 100,000 more active duty army and marines, when he calls for more military spending, when he calls for stepping up the war on Afghanistan, when he talks belligerently about Iran, and when he equivocates on how many tens of thousands of troops are to be left in Iraq? All these are positions that the “peace”candidate took during the primary. They are not new.
Progressives should know by now that the Democratic Party is not, and never will be, a party of “change.” Gore Vidal said it best when he said that the U.S. has a one party system with two right wings. The election in November is not about getting the U.S. out of Iraq, nor is it about restoring civil liberties or the checks and balances intended in the Constitution, or even of relief for a struggling economy. It is about passing control of the power that the Bush administration has amassed in the executive branch to a different faction,a different “right wing,” and a different subset of the wealthy who, alone, remain enfranchised in this country.
A vote for Obama in November is a vote for the status quo, just as surely as would be a vote for John McCain or as would have been a vote for Clinton, just as surely as was a vote for John Kerry in 2004. Progressive ire should be directed not so much at McCain or even George Bush as at a political system that deprives any true opposition of a voice. The so-called two-party system is the problem, but a vote for either mainstream candidate affirms that system.
And if Obama wants to be a voice for real change, he should reject the establishment that secures his position.