Obama The Progressive

Matt Yglesias writes:

Every time I read Ezra Klein pooh-pooing Barack Obamaís domestic agenda, I feel a bit baffled. . . . Is it as left-wing as what John Edwards ran on in the primaries in 2008? No. But itís much more robustly progressive than what John Kerry offered in 2004, what Al Gore offered in 2000, or what Bill Clinton offered in 1996, and somewhat more ambitious than the Clinton Ď92 program. Presumably, that entire agenda wonít actually be enacted. . . [O]ne key element in the struggle to prevent [the Obama agenda] from happening, will be the effort to argue, if Obama wins, that, eh, he didnít really run on a bold progressive agenda. Under the circumstances, I think itís important to argue that, yes, he in fact did run on strong progressive agenda . .

It also happens to be true that Obama ran a progressive general election campaign. It is one of the ironies of this election season that Obama flipped the usual formula - run to the Left in the primaries and run to the Center in the GE. Obama has done the opposite. He ran to the Center (really he ran to nothing - he ran to the Post Partisan Unity Schtick) during the primaries and to the Left during the general election.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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    Personally I think John Kerry would have been (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by andgarden on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:01:21 AM EST
    a more "left wing" President. You think he could have said no to Teddy Kennedy?

    OTOH, I'm not really sure how significant the distinction is.

    Well, there's what you "can" do, (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by andgarden on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:08:56 AM EST
    and then there's John Kerry. . .

    Well.... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:10:13 AM EST
    ... Kerry did run as a centrist, even if his true instincts are more liberal. And he would not have inherited the Congress that Obama is likely to get.

    The Congress makes a big difference (none / 0) (#10)
    by andgarden on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:17:19 AM EST
    No question.

    Ugh (none / 0) (#23)
    by coigue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:29:09 AM EST
    don't dis my Kerry.

    Hell, I voted for him (none / 0) (#27)
    by andgarden on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:31:48 AM EST
    but Democratic losers are doomed to be whipping boys for eternity.

    I guess I am wierd that way (none / 0) (#30)
    by coigue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:39:47 AM EST
    I always will believe that Kerry would have been an awesome president for the time.

    What we needed this past eight years (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by Fabian on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:53:36 AM EST
    was an economic wunderkind.  Because what happened with the housing bubble was going to happen.  The financial mess?  Hard to tell - I think it would have happened unless there was some serious regulation, oversight and enforcement put into place.  

    Bush just made all the problems we had and were coming down the road worse.  

    So I don't think anyone in the White House for the past eight years would have been hailed as awesome because they would have been dealing with a similar economic mess.  If they had been incredibly talented, the housing bubble would have burst gently, the manufacturing jobs loss would have been smaller and the hedge funds and similar would have been crying rivers of tears at the cruel, cruel laws imposed on them.

    What we need now is someone who can pay lip service to demands for a quick fix, while educating us on the need to a solid, long term rebuilding of the economy/infrastructure.  Quick fixes are never meant to be long term solutions - just stop gap measures until the long term solution is ready.  If you ignore the need for the long term solutions, then the quick fixes will be doomed to fail, over and over and over again.

    Meanwhile, you are wasting valuable time and resources.


    Agreed. (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by coigue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 11:57:18 AM EST
    I depends on who he had as his economics team. He really was running on foreign policy, IIRC, so I don't remember what he said about the economy.

    Having said that, there is much to be said for making the last four year "less bad"


    Theresa! (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by mmc9431 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 11:05:32 AM EST
    I wanted to see Theresa as 1st lady. I think she would have been a fantastic asset for Kerry and the country. Michelle Obama's admiration for Laura Bush doesn't give her any points in my book.

    I was a big fan of THK! That (none / 0) (#42)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 11:14:36 AM EST
    lady had a lot of style and intelligence, and she is one thing I remember when I chafe at the "elitist" attacks on Obama. The anti-intelligence, neanderthal segment of this country needs to catch up with those who are trying to evolve.

    Ted Kennedy (none / 0) (#39)
    by CST on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 11:03:31 AM EST
    Would probably have been the best thing about a Kerry Presidency.  I am kinda worried about Kerry if Ted's not there to keep him in line.

    Uh...to the left of what? (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Stellaaa on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:09:30 AM EST

    Insanity? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:10:13 AM EST
    Respectfully though (none / 0) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:13:49 AM EST
    When I fall asleep with the television on and it reverts to the "Obama" channel, he has committed to alternative energy and freeing America from imported oil in 10 yrs.  That's pretty progressive.

    Progressive or common sense? (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Stellaaa on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:14:50 AM EST
    On the way to Montgomery on 231 (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:20:28 AM EST
    there is a billboard up that reads 'Right on Sarah.....drill baby drill'.  Many many people think that this common sense as well.  Obama is not committing to drill baby drill while also committing to alternative fuels.  I do see his committment as more progressive than common sense.

    More like "Move it or lose it!" (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Fabian on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:20:35 AM EST
    Analyst on NPR said of oil prices: "Once the economy recovers, they'll shoot back up as fast as they dropped.".  Just in case anyone is thinking the lower energy prices are a long term trend.

    Diversity is key.
    Conservation is key.


    Common sense to you and I (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:21:42 AM EST
    but if you've been living in America for the last 30 or so years you know it's not common sense to 40 to 50% of America.

    "But we've always lived in the castle.." (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Fabian on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:29:11 AM EST
    Or the suburbs...
    Or driven gas guzzling behemoths...
    Or driven lengthy commutes...
    Or taken our heat/AC/water for granted...

    what's the difference? (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by coigue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:29:47 AM EST
    and just how common is common sense, anyhow?

    Heh, how much sense does (none / 0) (#26)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:31:28 AM EST
    "the common" have at different times in history?

    good sense gets worse the farther (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by coigue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:38:56 AM EST
    you are from your immediate concerns.

    i.e., if you are busy keeping your own life moving, it's hard to look up and see the bigger picture.


    As a former Green (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Xclusionary Rule 4ever on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:19:21 AM EST
    who voted for Nader in 2000, I have learned the error of my ways.  I believe BO is progressive in his heart but also practical and clever.  He had to say a lot of this stuff to get elected.  Remember he's a black man running in an uptight, bigoted, undereducated, police state.  With a sympathetic congress in a time of crisis, this could be the Shock Doctrine in reverse.  He may not be anti-death penalty, but he's going to appoint decent judges to the Supreme Court.  He may not be anti-capitalist, but he was behind the pro-union bill.  He doesn't back single payer health care, but unlike Dennis Kucinich, people listen to him and he will be in a position to assure coverage and lower costs for all.  I also think we are on a gradual path toward a European-style blend of national and private control of the economy.  It will take a while, but defeating the Bush/PNAC regime is an important first step.  Looking 10 years down the road, we could have a much kinder, gentler America that values peace and equal rights.  It depends on whether we progressives are willing to forgive Obama's shortcomings and work within the system with our eyes on the prize.

    Obama is doing something I have been waiting for (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by coigue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:35:21 AM EST
    a Dem to do for a looooong time. And the times allow it now when it would never be allowed before.

    Obama is telling people to put aside their petty differences, and calling the GOP out on trying to divide us.

    So simple it seems a platitude. However, these divisions between working urban and rural, between natives and immigrants, among races and religions, etc. are exactly what distract us from changing the status quo that benefits those that screw us over every time.

    And Obama has the talent to convey this and make it sink in for many.

    My impression (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by lilburro on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 11:00:03 AM EST
    from Obama's TV cronies is that they push the "yes, he did in fact run on a strong progressive agenda" less than they should if that is indeed the line they want to go with once he's elected.  Hillary's aides (Wolfson, Terry McAuliffe) were a little more effective at that kind of thing with their many conference calls and TV appearances, etc.

    And what kind of comparison is Yglesias making anyway?  Am I really supposed to be impressed that Obama has moved us forward from 1992?  Or is he measuring some "level of progressivism" relative to each campaign?

    Flipping the formula (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by s5 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 01:55:43 PM EST
    In retrospect, I think this makes sense. Dems in the primary seem to be obsessed with "electability", which basically means running scared from anything remotely progressive. But Obama seemed to understand that progressive values are smart values, and the public has simply been waiting for someone to sell them in the right way. If he had run as a progressive in the primary, it's possible that Democratic voters would have rejected him out of fear of losing to the big, bad conservative juggernaut.

    Exactly right... (none / 0) (#53)
    by LogopolisMike on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 02:41:38 PM EST
    When BTD says Obama ran on "nothing" or on "post-party..."-whatever, I have to respectfully disagree.  He focused on many things -- different things in different states -- but the overall theme was always, quietly, electability.  It was one of the many sad reasons why Dean lost the nomination.   It's probably the main reason why Kerry on it.  And it was Obama's biggest obstacle to overcome.  

    What "progressive campaign"? (5.00 / 1) (#58)
    by BrianJ on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:56:28 PM EST
    Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in mid-September, Obama really hasn't talked about much in policy terms (other than promote a tax cut that will never make it to Congress).  He's let the avalanche fall on McCain, run eight million TV ads, and run out the clock.  It's hard to criticize this strategy since it's obviously working, but "progressive" it's not.

    The Obama perception (none / 0) (#8)
    by Stellaaa on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:13:56 AM EST
    I find a strange parallel between the progressives and the conservatives dingys.  They both  have convinced themselves, that when elected, Obama emerge as the great hope of the lefty movement.  It seems both extremes do not believe his centrism and the centrism of the Democratic party.  

    I also just remembered (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:17:23 AM EST
    that he is currently advertising and committing to take on the lobbyists.  He talks about how our tax code is 10,000 pages long and is full of singular items enacted for all sorts of special interests.  He says that Washington currently listens to lobbyists before it listens to the people at this time and that must end.

    this is just silly (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:18:37 AM EST
    Obama has run to the Left during the GE campaign. That is a GOOD thing.

    You are now drinking the anti-kool aid.


    How hard is it to run to the left (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Stellaaa on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:22:14 AM EST
    of any Republican?  To the left of McCain, is centrist.  And what is wrong with that?  His position on gun control, his position on the Supreme court death penalty, his position of not wanting to do anything for homeowners, etc. etc.  

    I don't believe that Obama (none / 0) (#21)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:26:56 AM EST
    is not wanting to do anything for homeowners.  He currently isn't in a position to do much for them at this point though, and focusing a fight on that when he really has no power to finish that fight only gives McCain fodder to mount some sort of rhetorical stance upon.  McCain's current rhetoric has starved itself and has been revealed to be the stinking corpse it has always been.  I'd prefer to leave it that way for the next few days.

    To the left of McCain is Center Right n/t (none / 0) (#57)
    by bridget on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:30:58 PM EST
    Obama (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Makarov on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 11:10:14 AM EST
    has engaged in some populist rhetoric, but I wouldn't call it a run to the left. The only thing that's changed about Obama is the stump speech - less hope and change and more fighting for middle class. His commercials in Pennsylvania have been very centrist - that he's against "government run health care" as an extreme and just wants to lower costs for insurance, and wants to give the middle class a tax cut.

    If anyone's run to the left this general election, it's McCain and his (probably false) support for some form of HOLC, support Obama hasn't embraced.

    We probably won't know how progressive/liberal Obama really is until we see who he places in his transition team and cabinet positions. My expectations are those from the Daschle and Blue Dog wings of the party will be in the former, and those supporting Friedman economists in the latter.

    I will be very happy to be proven wrong.


    McCain to the Left? (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by WS on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 11:54:27 AM EST
    You've got to be kidding.  McCain's "HOLC" is a lending industry bailout he named a new "HOLC."  

    Obama ran to the left during the GE? (none / 0) (#56)
    by bridget on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:28:48 PM EST
    HOW? When?

    What did he do during the GE to make you think that?

    Just asking
    because I am surprised that Obama the Progressive is still a subject on the blogs. Again.
    Cause He isn't. Thought everyone knew that by now.


    For goodness sake can (none / 0) (#12)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:18:14 AM EST
    someone help me out here with the "Obama's not a Progressive" meme? I'm honestly confounded with this and I just want to understand because imo there are no unintelligent regular posters on this site, which is why it's my favorite. It's not the criticism that I take issue with, it's the comparison in relation to other Dems. I hear a lot on TV that Obama is one of the most liberal blah blah blah and then I come here and get contrast. Could someone be specific not about the instances where Obama isn't purely liberal (he isn't) but that he's more conservative than any other mainstream Dem? Not looking for an argument, just a rationale. Your responses (or silence) would be appreciated and informative.

    McCain lists Obama, Reid and Pelosi (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by Fabian on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:24:11 AM EST
    as the Librul Triumvirate who will rule Washington!

    We know Pelosi is no Librul.  I'm not sure about Reid.  I'm not sure about Obama.

    They all seem to be on the skittish side to me.


    I don't think there's any question.... (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:25:29 AM EST
    ... that Obama's views are liberal/progressive. I think people who doubt his credibility in that regard are more concerned about his cautious, calculating, often evasive personal style, and aren't convinced about his willingness to fight for those views.

    Personally, since Obama's to the left of me, that aspect of him isn't something I find troubling, but I can see how more progressively inclined people could have some doubts.


    Ahhh good point about his style (none / 0) (#33)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:44:57 AM EST
    maybe being more of a problem than his substance. Thanks.

    I believe that Obama's positions. . . (5.00 / 4) (#22)
    by LarryInNYC on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:28:08 AM EST
    on taxes (keep Bush tax cuts below $250K), guns (little or no additional controls), the death penalty (supports in at least some cases), government support of religion (supports faith based groups), and health care (no mandates, for starters, are all to the right of many Democrats -- certainly many people who consider themselves "progressive", whatever that means.

    Yes but what Dem contender has ever (none / 0) (#31)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:43:04 AM EST
    contenderbeen against middle class or lower class tax relief, for even more gun restrictions, for pro gay marriage, is a pacifist, etc? I assume most if not all on this voted for someone that doesn't belong to the Kucinich/Sanders/Gravel wing of the Dem left, so what's the deal? My criticism of Obama is he looks like a boilerplate progressive instead of the fundamental "change" he portends to offer.

    Obama talks a lot bigger (5.00 / 2) (#36)
    by Fabian on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:55:52 AM EST
    than he's ever delivered.

    And he'd have a LOT more supporters if he really had filibustered that FISA bill.


    Just for the record (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 12:21:59 PM EST
    Obama is opposed to gay marriage and is certainly not a pacifist.

    Middle class. . . (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by LarryInNYC on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 12:34:01 PM EST
    does not include people making $250,000 a year -- not even in New York.

    You asked what positions run counter to the belief that Obama is a "progressive" (wtm).  I tried to state a few that spring to mind immediately.  It's true that we haven't recently seen a true liberal as a Democratic contender.  But that's because we live in a center-right country in which the adjective "liberal", and the policies it denotes, have been demonized and driven underground.


    That $250,000 must mean (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 12:40:48 PM EST
    a couple, filing jointly, who gross $250,000 together?  Still doesn't really qualify as "middle class" as the term is commonly understood though.

    I believe. . . (none / 0) (#50)
    by LarryInNYC on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 01:41:30 PM EST
    it applies to all income over $250,000, whether reported on a joint or single filing.  I could be wrong.

    I think there are a lot of expectations about (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by imhotep on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:44:28 AM EST
    the Obama presidency that may not be fulfilled and will result in some big disappointments.  

    He will be have a difficult time trying to undo all the conservative crap that Bush put in place during his 8 years.  And I'm not sure that, with the moderate position he's taken since the primaries, he will even try.

    And unless people like McConnell get voted out, there will be even less chance that some progressive legislation will get through.


    FISA vote. (5.00 / 4) (#35)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:55:11 AM EST
    With the economic thrust (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by KeysDan on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 11:35:18 AM EST
    that the general election has taken,  it seems like Senator Obama's FISA vote was unnecessary, after all.   He should have joined up with Mrs. Clinton on that issue, and educated the electorate to its undermining of civil liberties.  Hopefully, the Obama administration will hem in its potential for damage, if not relegate it to the ash bin of history.  

    Talk is cheap (none / 0) (#37)
    by Fabian on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:57:36 AM EST
    votes are veddy, veddy expensive.

    By the standards of non-US western democracies... (5.00 / 4) (#44)
    by marian evans on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 11:43:09 AM EST
    of course, Sen Obama is definitely not a "left" politician.

    His health care and social welfare policies would not be seen as left...and many of his social attitudes are definitely NOT progressive - e.g. the intrusion of religiosity into politics or into the abortion/choice issue (every single time...every single time...Sen Obama discusses it, we are back with women "talking with their husbands and their pastors"...it's like waiting for Sen McCain to say "my friends", you know it's coming, it's just a matter of time).

    I have to say that I find the ad on this page that says "Is this what a feminist looks like?" unintentionally ironic.

    Feminism has got short shrift in this election. The clearest message from this election is that women don't count - they don't count as candidates, they don't count as voters.

    When that attitude has changed, you'll have progressive candidates. From my point of view, right now, it looks like the same old, same old to me.


    Easy, read Matt Gonzalez article on (none / 0) (#61)
    by suzieg on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 02:28:35 PM EST
    www.counterpunch.com/gonzalez10292008.html, named "What do they have to do to lose your vote? The trail of broken promises" and Alexander Cockburn's "Change you can see" with the following excerpt:

    And Obama? Here are some excerpts from what I wrote about him recently in The Nation.

    "In these last days I've been scraping around, trying to muster a single positive reason to encourage a vote for Obama. Please note my accent on the positive, since the candidate himself has couched his appeal in this idiom. Why vote for Obama-Biden, as opposed to against the McCain-Palin ticket?

    "Obama invokes change. Yet never has the dead hand of the past had a "reform" candidate so firmly by the windpipe.


    Oh rly? (none / 0) (#52)
    by DancingOpossum on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 02:07:58 PM EST
    he's going to appoint decent judges to the Supreme Court.

    You mean pro-torture anti-abortion Cass Sunstein? Or maybe pro-life pro-Bush Doug Kmiec?

    So, we (the taxpayers) (none / 0) (#55)
    by NYShooter on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:19:41 PM EST
    ponied up 700 billion dollars and are giving it to "The Banks" to prevent the world from coming to an imminent end. As I've posted before, and the NYT editorializes today, "The Banks" said "thank you very much, now we won't have to use our own money to buy other banks and grow even more rich, powerful, and irresponsible. Oh, and by the way, if any employee even thinks about loaning any of this gift to the stinking public or lunatic small business, please show them the way to the unemployment line."

    Any clue as to why neither candidate has picked up on this latest betrayal by the Bush folks?

    Because... (none / 0) (#59)
    by kdog on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 05:37:15 PM EST
    they both plan for more of the same?