A friend in need? Progressives and the Massachusetts special election

So it seems the Democrats might lose a Massachussetts U.S. Senate seat they’ve held since 1953 tomorrow. And it is amazing to see so many Democratic Party supporters all of a sudden appealing to progressives.

Nick Baumann argues that Republicans will spin Coakley’s defeat as a some sort of a mandate. I’m not sure for what–since the Republican strategy appears to seek an insurrection rather than an electoral victory–but it wouldn’t be good for Barack Obama’s program. In a display of dichotomous reasoning, Baumann writes, “It’s hard to see how crushing defeats for the more liberal party will somehow help liberals. The Democrats are the more-liberal party. If they’re losing, the Republicans (the more conservative party) will be winning.”

Repeating the dichotomy, Obama tried to tap into popular anger at the bankers he bailed out, campaigning for the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, asserting, “She’s got your back. Her opponent’s got Wall Street’s back.” Never mind that his plan for financial reform includes a tax that cuts the government in on some of the action for being “too big to fail,” but only until all financial bailout money has been recovered. As marijuana advocates in California know, you don’t tax something you’re seeking to abolish. You tax things you acquiesce to. And as for having ordinary people’s backs, Paul Krugman writes

The stimulus was too small; policy toward the banks wasn’t tough enough. . . . A number of economists (myself included) called for a stimulus substantially bigger than the one the administration ended up proposing. According to The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, however, in December 2008 Mr. Obama’s top economic and political advisers concluded that a bigger stimulus was neither economically necessary nor politically feasible.

As for the banks, Krugman continues:

The light-touch approach to the financial industry further entrenched the power of the very institutions that caused the crisis, even as it failed to revive lending: bailed-out banks have been reducing, not increasing, their loan balances. And it has had disastrous political consequences: the administration has placed itself on the wrong side of popular rage over bailouts and bonuses.

Obama has even helped to protect the banks from embarrassment, not even considering that maybe, just maybe, a little humility might do them some good. But the Obama administration didn’t even want to expose that it paid a health insurance expert to advocate the abomination that might make it out of Congress if Coakley wins. In fact, for someone who’s supposedly got our backs, Obama is keeping an awful lot secret.

Robert Freeman explains why Obama’s economic plan doesn’t make any sense at all. The fact is that Obama hasn’t even tried to do right by ordinary people and there are no jobs in sight for the unemployed. If you’re trying to understand Obama as trying to be bipartisan, he’s in fact had the opposite effect. The country is at least as polarized as it was under George W. Bush.

Jason Rosenbaum appeals “to the pissed off progressives over here: Don’t be Naderites. It’s a losing political strategy.” It’s a two-party system, he explains. Voting for a third party or not voting at all supports the candidate you like least.

But what amazes me most (and really shouldn’t) is how blatantly all these appeals to support the lesser of two evils appear just before this crucial special election in Massachusetts. It seems the only time that Democrats worry about progressives is at election time. Then, all of a sudden, Democrats are our friends (in need), pleading for patience and understanding.

Trouble is, that isn’t what I was hearing all last year. Any more than I heard it under the Bush administration.

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