"> ">

Sara Whitman

Obama: What Is the Alternative?

Filed By Sara Whitman | August 08, 2011 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Don't Ask Don't Tell, George W. Bush, Green Party, Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Times, president, START treaty

ObamaSalutes.jpgThere is a beautifully written piece in The New York Times, "What Happened to Obama?" I don't disagree with a single line of it. In fact, I've said all along Obama has been running for office since the day he took office. it is the nature of politics in America. Not one day, not one single day, without fundraising, without a careful eye on the next election.

My question is this: What is the alternative? Hillary Clinton won't run against Obama. that deal has been cut. And I'm fairly certain the country's obsession with Bill Clinton's penis would have made her presidency riddled with questions of less-than-important issues. Whitewater would look small in comparison. (Pardon the pun.)

Start another party? The Green party is already rife with corruption. It takes decades to make one that sticks and can compete on any real level against the Dems and Repubs.

We can't change to a parliamentary system. Could you even imagine? Anyone suggesting it would be tarred and feathered just like the British governors in colonial days.

Not vote for Obama? OK, so I stay home. I say, I cannot do this. Bachman is too extreme, but Romney sure knows how to walk the "moderate" walk. Then what?

No one riots in America. Greece passes an austerity plan and people riot in the streets. But here? They'll turn the channel. It's not that no one cares - I believe people are incredibly anxious and worried about the future, for themselves, for their kids - but people have been so stripped of any feeling that they could actually create any kind of change on their own, they roll over and wait for the next kick.

The Presidency is about more than just one thing. And that's what I'm trying to hold onto. The fact that we have hate crimes, the end of DADT, the START treaty (to disarm Russia and us from cold war nuclear warheads once and for all), at least a stab at health care reform, TARP (no, not perfect but something), two successful U.S. Supreme Court nominations (Because for me? That was the biggest crisis we were facing), thousands of changes in political appointments to rid the world of Bush appointees ... the list actually goes on.

And every word of The New York Times piece is true.

My question again: What is the alternative?

img src

(Cross-posted at Suburban Lesbian Housewife)


Recent Entries Filed under Politics:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


My recommendation goes something like this:

1. Each of us needs to take stock of our current levels of political and social engagement. We then need to prepare to double or triple our personal commitments, carving out time from other areas of our lives that are not as important -- the time we waste, for instance, shopping in the dollar aisles at Target.

2. We need to engage at radically higher levels for a number of reasons. First, national politics need our attention -- even though they merely deserve our derision -- more than ever. We can't turn our backs on campaigning for the White House and Congress, if only because we need to elect bulwarks against Republican rule. Second, we're only going to achieve a paradigm shift in our politics by engaging first at the local and regional level, changing the way we do business face to face, changing people's attitudes about government and civic involvement by showing how and when involvement works. National politics has turned into too much of a circus, wielding incredible and dangerous amounts of power and resources without true checks and balances. The average person has very little control over what goes on in Washington, but she has exponentially greater control over what goes on in her own community. And so we build from there.

I don't know if it's about another party or not about parties at all. I agree that the Green Party is not now a viable alternative, but instead of focusing so much on how to reform and persuade the Democratic Party to stand firm against unending conservative attacks, perhaps we should imagine different approaches to making a difference now. Engage in electoral politics at the national level to the extent that we need to in order to at least keep Democrats in office, but be incredibly real with ourselves about the policy outcomes likely to come out of this party at this time given the opposition. In the absence of true progressive politics from Democrats, take on that mantle ourselves in our own communities. Build it from the ground up.

"Obama - What is the alternative?" -- That will be the question of 2012 for LGBT and non-LGBT progressives alike.

Maybe Joe Salmonnaise would like to run for president?

Now ... wouldn't that be ... special?

Actually, Sara a great deal of the NYT piece is demonstrably false. More here:

In summary: "Westen is a good storyteller. There is real force to many of his charges. But modeling what he says Obama should have done, he tells a simplified morality tale -- highly selective, with a clear villain, and in some points demonstrably false. He makes copious use of political cliches about messaging that fail to take into account the degree to which economic conditions shape audience reception of a politician's message. Founded on the alleged timidity of the 2009 stimulus, his story fails to engage the question of whether Obama could have got a larger stimulus through Congress. And in the end, it devolves into an ad hominem attack with recourse to cheap psychologizing (notwithstanding Westen's protestations of scientific detachment) and unfounded impugning of motive. "

And another great take:
http://barthel.tumblr.com/post/8625682877/what-happened-to-obama#disqus_thread

first, most economists thought we needed twice the size TARP. it got us halfway there. and now it's slamming to a stop.

that's true and real and not about this one author.

listen, I've been waving Obama banners for weeks now. Please read. I don't think there is an alternative.

and that kinda makes me sick to my stomach.

Again, though, that article fails to engage the question of whether and how Obama could possibly get a bigger stimulus through congress.

We don't need an alternative to Obama. We need an alternative to our erroneous thinking that a president is capable of solving all our problems for us.

@Sara,

I may be critical of the presient, sometimes to the extent of characterising him as BozObama (what I love about being an American is thatwe are free to be critical of our leaders without fear of being slammed into some gulag - or maybe I should start worrying, what with some of the provisions of the PATRIIOT Act still in effect).

He is still head and shoulders better than any of the current crop of Republican contenders for 2012. He is better than the undeclared Republicans (even Christie, who would be his toughest opponent, I think). He's not better than Hillary, but she's not going to run, even if she was drafted. He's likely not better than Andrew Cuomo, who is also not going to run until possibly 2016 (and despite a few of his moves in his first year, he has been extraordinarily successful with a divided New York legoslature that, if anything, is harder to deal with than the current Congress).

I'm seeing four more years of Obama, followed by a Cuomo/Christie 2016 (and I hope that Andrew comes out on top, then).

BTW, while I support Andrew Cuomo, I only graded him #2 during the gubernatorial debate in 2010, behind Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, who got a perfect score (Andrew lost a point on hydrofracking). Andrew still got my endorsement, because I knew he has the gravitas and leadership ability to deal with the legislature.

FurryCatHerder | August 8, 2011 11:28 AM

Thankfully the Democratic Party of Tip O'Neill and Ted Kennedy is dead.

The mistake is assuming that Obama is a Ted Kennedy, when thankfully -- in my opinion -- he isn't. He's also -- equally thankfully -- not Lyndon Johnson or Jimmy Carter.

Obama isn't Bill Clinton, and I am very glad we had Clinton, but he's more of a Bill Clinton style of Democrat than the Ted Kennedy style.

FurryCatHerder | August 8, 2011 12:01 PM

Thankfully the Democratic Party of Tip O'Neill and Ted Kennedy is dead.

The mistake is assuming that Obama is a Ted Kennedy, when thankfully -- in my opinion -- he isn't. He's also -- equally thankfully -- not Lyndon Johnson or Jimmy Carter.

Obama isn't Bill Clinton, and I am very glad we had Clinton, but he's more of a Bill Clinton style of Democrat than the Ted Kennedy style.

Alas, the past president whose actions and results are most like Obama's is JFK. I try not to sound like the old fart, but I was in college during the JFK years and remember how our hopes and expectations rose (the election), fell almost immediately (the Bay of Pigs or the misconceived and executed TARP exercise), rose again (on the hope of some civil rights actions), fell (as it became perfectly clear that he was no liberal in his presidency, just his talking), rose greatly (as he stopped the missiles in Cuba or managed to find and deal with Osama), then collapsed into utter disbelief as he temporized over the challenge of managing an effective Federal government in the face of growing public and partisan disenchantment with his policies.

Sound familiar? Could JFK have won the nomination and election in 1964? Quite possibly, but his replacement by Johnson pretty much guaranteed Dem success, and the major social programs that flowed from that. Johnson was also able (unintentionally) to demonstrate the comprehensive fecklessness of the drafted US military of the day, a situation that has not improved with a mercenary army.

Obama is clearly safe from the Curse of Tenskatawa, the Shawnee two-spirit who, after the defeat at Tippecanoe, ordained that every US president, starting with William Henry Harrison, the "hero of Tippecanoe", should perish in office when elected in a decade year. The curse held for Harrison, Lincoln, McKinley, Garfield, Harding, Roosevelt, JFK, and (except for the miracle of modern medicine and some snappy driving through DC traffic) would have gotten Reagan. Alas, the curse seems to have only been good for seven hits, so it proved useless when REALLY needed after 2000. Magic is so unreliable...

But if we did not have Obama, there is no obvious Lyndon Johnson to take his place with far greater competencies in government, if a great deal less inspiration. I like Joe Biden, by the way, but not necessarily for this job.

So I ask you if Obama so far is not a lot like JFK, if you put aside the hagiography that followed Dallas? Perhaps we shall yet see a change for the better, assuming he is reelected. At the moment, Obama looks like GWB with a rainbow scarf wrapped around his neck and his indenture to Goldman Sachs safely tucked into his breast pocket.

Alas, the past president whose actions and results are most like Obama's is JFK. I try not to sound like the old fart, but I was in college during the JFK years and remember how our hopes and expectations rose (the election), fell almost immediately (the Bay of Pigs or the misconceived and executed TARP exercise), rose again (on the hope of some civil rights actions), fell (as it became perfectly clear that he was no liberal in his presidency, just his talking), rose greatly (as he stopped the missiles in Cuba or managed to find and deal with Osama), then collapsed into utter disbelief as he temporized over the challenge of managing an effective Federal government in the face of growing public and partisan disenchantment with his policies.

Sound familiar? Could JFK have won the nomination and election in 1964? Quite possibly, but his replacement by Johnson pretty much guaranteed Dem success, and the major social programs that flowed from that. Johnson was also able (unintentionally) to demonstrate the comprehensive fecklessness of the drafted US military of the day, a situation that has not improved with a mercenary army.

Obama is clearly safe from the Curse of Tenskatawa, the Shawnee two-spirit who, after the defeat at Tippecanoe, ordained that every US president, starting with William Henry Harrison, the "hero of Tippecanoe", should perish in office when elected in a decade year. The curse held for Harrison, Lincoln, McKinley, Garfield, Harding, Roosevelt, JFK, and (except for the miracle of modern medicine and some snappy driving through DC traffic) would have gotten Reagan. Alas, the curse seems to have only been good for seven hits, so it proved useless when REALLY needed after 2000. Magic is so unreliable...

But if we did not have Obama, there is no obvious Lyndon Johnson to take his place with far greater competencies in government, if a great deal less inspiration. I like Joe Biden, by the way, but not necessarily for this job.

So I ask you if Obama so far is not a lot like JFK, if you put aside the hagiography that followed Dallas? Perhaps we shall yet see a change for the better, assuming he is reelected. At the moment, Obama looks like GWB with a rainbow scarf wrapped around his neck and his indenture to Goldman Sachs safely tucked into his breast pocket.

Alas, the past president whose actions and results are most like Obama's is JFK. I try not to sound like the old fart, but I was in college during the JFK years and remember how our hopes and expectations rose (the election), fell almost immediately (the Bay of Pigs or the misconceived and executed TARP exercise), rose again (on the hope of some civil rights actions), fell (as it became perfectly clear that he was no liberal in his presidency, just his talking), rose greatly (as he stopped the missiles in Cuba or managed to find and deal with Osama), then collapsed into utter disbelief as he temporized over the challenge of managing an effective Federal government in the face of growing public and partisan disenchantment with his policies.

Sound familiar? Could JFK have won the nomination and election in 1964? Quite possibly, but his replacement by Johnson pretty much guaranteed Dem success, and the major social programs that flowed from that. Johnson was also able (unintentionally) to demonstrate the comprehensive fecklessness of the drafted US military of the day, a situation that has not improved with a mercenary army.

Obama is clearly safe from the Curse of Tenskatawa, the Shawnee two-spirit who, after the defeat at Tippecanoe, ordained that every US president, starting with William Henry Harrison, the "hero of Tippecanoe", should perish in office when elected in a decade year. The curse held for Harrison, Lincoln, McKinley, Garfield, Harding, Roosevelt, JFK, and (except for the miracle of modern medicine and some snappy driving through DC traffic) would have gotten Reagan. Alas, the curse seems to have only been good for seven hits, so it proved useless when REALLY needed after 2000. Magic is so unreliable...

But if we did not have Obama, there is no obvious Lyndon Johnson to take his place with far greater competencies in government, if a great deal less inspiration. I like Joe Biden, by the way, but not necessarily for this job.

So I ask you if Obama so far is not a lot like JFK, if you put aside the hagiography that followed Dallas? Perhaps we shall yet see a change for the better, assuming he is reelected. At the moment, Obama looks like GWB with a rainbow scarf wrapped around his neck and his indenture to Goldman Sachs safely tucked into his breast pocket.

He will be going from running for re-election from day 1 of his first term, to being a lame duck from the moment the 2012 election takes place. If he is going to do anything really positive, it is going to be in his second term, when he will be doing it for the history books.

While I have been pleased about the crumbs (including not only progiding non-discrimination in hiring, but actually hiring a couple of trans people, getting the Matthew Shepard Act through, and his eventual repeal of DADT), I have been disappointed with how "Bush III" he seems to have been - continuing the wars, continuing the Wall Street bailouts without providing real foreclosure relief to the victims, and even his handling of the contrived issue over the debt limit (I grant that he didn't create the problem, but he could have shown more leadership).

Lyndon Johnson knew that we couldn;t have "guns *and* butter" and yet tried to do both. Obama is clearly choosing guns over butter, and so is Congress. Standard and Poors calls for more cuts to butter but is silent on guns. The *only* way to break the military/industrial complex and reduce the military is to redirect the resources toward peaceful endeavors. (When I want to cut the military by 90%, I really want to repurpose much of the military, and the industry that services it, to other areas. It will involve enough cutting to spare the butter programs, and the primary focus over the next decade itself wiould be an ultimate "butter" thing - rather than a symbolic "race to the moon," we need to do something practical in space - build solar power satellites and the earth-based infrastructure to receive the low-wattage micowave beams over a large area and to convert our fossil-fuel economy to electricity. Once we have our own, there's no reason to stop building - for the third world, with the help of the Europeans and the Chinese, who should be challenged to "join" in such a "space race."

Rather than warmaking, it is necessary to channel resources into making the whole world a better place. It won't solve ethnic and cultural divisions, but if everyone on earth had clean water, access to decent health care and a means to be productive, there would be less violence and more prosperity. It means making a biger pie, and considering how the US uses 25% of the world's resources with about 4% of the world's population, it's time we did something to make the pie big enough so that we can eliminate poverty in the whole world. It's what we have to do if we ever want to become truly civilized.

So - who's the alternative to Obama? I wish I could say "me" but that isn't realistic. I'd just as soon peddle the ideas.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | August 8, 2011 3:07 PM

President Obama should seriously consider behaving as if the good of the country were more important than being a second term president. If he did that and people realized he really meant that, then it would likely help help produce the second term of his presidency.

Don strikes gold!
Excellent, spot on comment.

Wilberforce1 | August 8, 2011 8:55 PM

The real problem is the ignorant democratic rank and file. They repeat what elites tell them without evidence, and they wouldn't know serious policy if it took off its clothes in the bank.
They're still repeating that the stimulus was too small, without even having read it. It was a Keynesian hog fest that mindlessly threw money in every direction. That was deliberate because both parties are pledged by large financial interests to drive the government ever deeper into debt.
Obama should have used fically responsible Clintonomics, or neoliberalism as he promised: trimming government waste, slight tax increases on the wealthy (to pay down the debt but also leave private capital for investment), strategic investment in key industries and infrastructure.
Obama also wasted a year on healthcare, which he could have done in 3 minutes using reconciliation.
And he threw a ton of political capital out the window with the stimulus, which allowed the repubs to re-take the house.
All this while the rank and file sat on their butts, believing whatever the 'liberal' elite told them.
Obama is exactly the president the intellectually lazy masses deserve.

Jay Kallio | August 9, 2011 3:34 AM

I believe the question of "What alternative" being discussed here, whether you wish to debate the two party system, or the particular personality or ideology of a potential president, is ultimately irrelevant. Any one who is elected, from any party, is facing an election process that is dominated by Big Money, and their policies and decision making is beholden to them. The election process must change, and we must have exclusively public financing of campaigns, with no outside contributions permitted. There will always be the problem of corruption behind closed doors in every government, but ours makes it far too easy.

I wish we could design a one issue political party with only one stated goal; Elect candidates pledged to institute a rigid, regulated limited public campaign finance structure as a constitutional amendment.It would not take positions on other issues, so as not to alienate any voting citizen who wants public elections and a return to representative democracy. If this were ever enacted, much political party structure, devoted mostly to fundraising, would become moot, and I believe we would overnight sprout a multiparty system that functions more like a stable parliamentary system, with minority constituencies exerting the power of coalition, so that many more would be actively engaged in civic life and the political process, instead of disassociated apathy, as we have now. Voters would have power again, and a vote would mean something. I doubt we will have any significant change until that one issue is dealt with. I believe it is the linchpin.

Obviously I am dreaming that any of this will ever happen, but I would be willing to sit and work with raving anti LGBTQ bigots if they, too backed this cleansing of our election process. I would put the entire rest of my socialist/social justice agenda on pause, long enough to get this done, because if we could just open that door, I believe all else would follow.

We would need to do something to reinstitute a free and independent press, because a functioning, trustworthy Fifth Estate is critical in any democracy, but with the capacities of the internet to convey information I am not yet hopeless on that issue.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 9, 2011 4:07 AM

Obama is certainly not much worse than Bachmann or any of the other Republican candidates and and there's no good reason on earth to vote for any of them.

Obama was the most successful Republican President since Bill Clinton. Now, by accepting the Bush's tax cuts for the rich for a second time and allowing Teabaggers to cut deeply into Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid he's become our first Teabagger President.

The human cost of Obama's capitulation to the Teabaggers is already incalculable and it'll get much, much worse when the Super-Committee meets to slash and burn Social Security, government employees retirements, unions, Medicare and Medicaid to avoid the Trigger.

The problem of deficits could be solved very easily - tax the rich. Tax rates for the rich were at their lowest from 1924 to 1929 when they were less than 25%, and again from 2000 to 2011, when they dropped to about 35%, not counting tax loop holes. Both of those rates of low taxation were triggers for depressions. The tax rate for the rich climbed to 79% under FDR and Truman (with a brief jump during the war) and then were raised again under Eisenhower to 90%. They were steadily lowered until they again reached into the mid 20% range in 1988 which triggered the Crash of 1988.

There are no problems with a deficit that can't be solved by taxing the rich at a rate of 90% and total and immediate withdrawal of US forces to their home bases followed by demobilization.

Unemployment could be zeroed out with a multi-trillion dollar program to green the economy organized through AFL-CIO hiring halls.

Obama is invading, attacking, and colonizing new countries at a dizzying rate. A vote for Obama is a vote for the continued murder of GIs and civilians in Libya, Sudan, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan - which is in aid of one and only one goal - to make the world safe for BP and Haliburton.

On November 6th, 2012 vote for the left, vote against Democrats, vote socialist, vote against Republicans or simply sit it out. Our energies should be focused on building a mass movement with an open ended campaign of mass actions to compel them to make our agenda a reality. Only workers parties and a workers government have the ability to reverse the depression and end the US's colonial wars. The only way to get there is to break with our enemies in the Democrat/Republican/Teabagger Party and organize mass campaigns to re-write the constitution to guarantee good wages, housing and educations, socialized medicine and world peace.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | August 9, 2011 5:25 AM

Bill Perdue says:

"Rewriting the Constitution to guarantee good wages."

Presto, zippo, that's all it takes......a few strokes of a pen and ratification and utopia is here and we can all go to the beach. Whey didn't we think of that before?

Alan Grayson, former Representative, one day, someday, after President Obama has had his day.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | August 9, 2011 3:25 PM

Alan Grayson? Oh yes, by all means immediately qualified, much more so than Obama. A summa cum laude in economics, but then became a lawyer. No executive experience. At least maybe he understands Alan Greenspan, though, because of his degree AND the fact that (1) their first names are the same, and (2) the first and last letters of their last names also match. Prepare the fifth slot on Mount Rushmore....The stars would certainly be aligned here. (Sorry for seeming cynical, but this kind of logic seems to be how we come up with candidates on both sides these days.)

My 'kind of logic' is an opinion formed by an informed, active voter, who has been watching and listening to the man for a few years now. He has shown himself to be a man of rare character and integrity, the kind of leader we look for. His background and bio is strong. I would encourage anyone to check him out. Raised in the Bronx, graduated Harvard College in 3 years while working cleaning toilets and as a night watchman. No child of privilege here. Tackling the war profiteers as an attorney, fiercley advocating for health care and education as a Congressman. His bio and website speak far better than I can. I see a strong leader with a brilliant future, but that is just my humble opinion. Cynical? Snide and snarky is more like it.