The tipping point

Obama, Democrats have abandoned progressivism

| June 16, 2011

The 2012 election season is off to a running start with candidates popping up like mushrooms after our long spring rains. Thanks to a serious imbalance in American politics right now, we will likely see positions drift even farther to the right as the Tea Party and the religious right exerts their pull on already nervous Republicans. Meanwhile, running-scared Democrats will likewise drift farther right since they face no similar, countervailing force from the demoralized Left.

Were one to trace this right-wing revolution in American politics to its recent roots, the inescapable conclusion is that the Tea Party rose to power on one main issue—the mandate in the so-called "health reform" bill, that everyone must buy health insurance. While it's been dubbed "Obamacare" by the opposition, the truth is that it is actually Baucus-care. Obama didn't put the bill together or vote for it. The simple but ugly fact is that the health care debacle was strictly the product of a Congress in which both the House and Senate were controlled by the largest Democrat majorities in decades, which could have and should have delivered a better result to the president's desk.

But it was surely Obama who signed it into law and while doing so claimed it to be something it is not. It is not health care reform, it is health insurance reform and dang little of that. To try and put a fast one over on the American people is always a mistake. History is replete with outstanding examples. Bush's phony excuses for invading Iraq, for instance. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There were no nuclear bomb-making facilities, nor any yellowcake uranium to fuel them. When Obama offered voters a pledge of "change and hope," it was anger at Bush's deception and perfidy that he rode all the way to the White House.

How ironic is it, then, that almost in an instant the coin flipped and suddenly it was Obama on the hook for deception while the ascendant Tea Party rallied? Surely Montanans remember the summer of 2009, when Denny Rehberg ranted across the state at dozens of citizen rallies while Tester avoided constituents like the plague and Baucus was almost physically intimidated in his few public appearances.

Progressives, on the other hand, were given a pig in a poke to try and defend–a health care bill written by and for the insurance industry that would, by law, add tens of millions of new customers and billions of dollars in long-term profits to their corporate coffers. No public option, no single-payer, no assurances whatsoever that costs for the mandated insurance wouldn't soar into the stratosphere.

The Tea Party rallies threw Democrats into a frenzy as they watched their revolution dissolve only a year after it started. Their response, unfortunately, has further empowered the Tea Party and Republicans while alienating even more of their Democratic base. Suddenly, the promises to end the wars became excuses for continuing the wars and even expanding them. Who would have predicted that it would be the Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who would not just continue the controversial Predator drone strikes inside Pakistan but send planes, missiles, covert special forces, and more Predator drones to Libya, Yemen, and Somalia? Who would have predicted that the defense budget under Obama would get bigger, not smaller, as the nation plunged into economic collapse?

But that's not the worst of it. Given the opportunity to roll back the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, Obama instead decided to extend them. As billions of dollars in much-needed revenue was funneled to the top 1 or 2 percent of Americans, millions more were losing their jobs to the recession and their homes to foreclosure. Yet even now, Obama is courting the pirates of Wall Street for campaign donations as they forcefully resist the weak attempts the Democrats have made at reigning in their speculative excesses.

Congress now borrows more than 40 cents on every dollar it spends and faces yet another showdown over raising the national debt ceiling in the coming months. And once again, progressives are left in the virtually indefensible position of supporting more spending while the Republicans and their Tea Party cohorts raise the cry for fiscal responsibility by the federal government–a message that resonates broadly with angry and cash-strapped taxpayers.

Without the trillions lost to the wars and the wealthy, it's Obama who's left with the unsavory task of determining the long-term stability of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He faces an outraged public led by 78 million baby boomers who have paid into those social programs for their entire working lives and who expect to receive the benefits promised to them when the federal government took the money from their paychecks every week.

If anything will save the Democrats, it will be the excesses of the Tea Party and the Republicans. The calls by their congressional cohorts such as Rep. Paul Ryan to slash or eliminate Medicare, give more tax breaks to corporations, and lower tax rates for the wealthy are already engendering significant public blowback.

But where are the cries to expand the social safety nets in this time of need? Where are the calls to end the wars? Where is the Democratic plan to significantly aid the middle class? The Left seems to have left the debate–or been abandoned by the Democrats. And without that voice, to our peril, we drift ever more to the right, unbalanced and toppling into a morass from which we may never recover.

Helena's George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at

Comments (11)

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to democratsarefacists: I don't know if I'm more impressed impressed with your noxious views or that fact you know how to spell all those BIG WORDS

Posted by captusa on 07/07/2011 at 4:07 PM

Everything new is old again. Why has there been NOTHING about a new WPA. Not only does it CREATE JOBS, but it takes care of the crumbling highways, bridges and National Parks, things that make and could keep this country great. What the hell is the White House afraid of?

Posted by captusa on 07/07/2011 at 4:02 PM

How is someone "almost" physically intimidated? Maybe you should look up some of the incidents of unions thugs who actually physically attacked people, before decrying the "almost" intimidation of the right...

Posted by tadams on 07/03/2011 at 1:16 PM

ROTFLMAO. You leftists are so gullible. You just parrot whatever your Marxist professors excreted into your brain pans. Here's a clue. It's not 1968 and it never will be again. Crawl back into the basements where you build your bombs and quit whining. Obama's the most Communist POTUS you will ever have, but you blew it. You showed your true faces. America hates you. It's over. Deal with it.

Posted by democratsarefascists on 06/21/2011 at 9:58 AM

This is nothing more or less than the infamous "nullification" argument. I've pointed out many times that Democrats in the Legislature should have strongly supported the Nullification bill. There are many issues besides the DEA and marijuana prohibition which we could fruitfully nullify (besides wolves as an endangered species, but I happen to agree that wildlife on anything but federal land should be under state control).
I would especially like to see the Clinton Era atrocities such as federalizing the National Guard so they can be deployed in undeclared wars "nullified," as well as the Federal Reserve Act and many other federal usurpations of state rights and the 9th and 10th amendments to the Constitution, which prohibit the exercise of any "unenumerated" powers by the Feds. Certainly The USA Patriot Act should be nullified, along with Baucus-Obamacare, etc.
It looks like the compulsory "insurance" racket participation will be nullified by the federal courts. But of course the federal farm programs and all other forms of federal "corporate welfare" as well as "corporate personhood," itself, should be nullified, as well. Apparently, we need a federal Constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to self-medicate, and to grow/produce any substances we feel we need for our health and well-being. Whether or not they should be allowed in interstate trade and marketing is the only issue the Feds have any business addressing.

Posted by Paul Stephens on 06/20/2011 at 5:32 PM

Well, Nathan, I like to think that Al V's got a lot of it right. Your name-calling adds absolutely nothing to the discussion, and if there were an option on this blog to report a comment for using one's comment to soap-box an insult at someone else, I'd report your comment for that. I imagine you listen or have listened to Rush Limbaugh and FOX news, but I can't unequivocably derive that information from your limited input. However, in contrast, Al V has a lot of "information," which, unfortunately for all of us middle class and lower folk, will be found to have a strong basis in fact in due time. Don't you wish you could waste your brain matter so creatively? That is, if you were capable of any free thought on your own (Ah, there we go. You KNEW I was probably coming to something of a put-down of you personally, eventually, didn't you? How's THAT feel?)

Posted by Gandalf the GreyEminence on 06/17/2011 at 12:38 PM

JConrad sounds like Sarah Palin when she said Paul Revere was warning the British. Granted we were all British back then. Now FDR saved the Republicans. I guess that is why they still hate him today and try to kill Social Security. IF not for FDR, they wouldn't even be around. Obama got OBL, that was a promise, he also got some major health care reforms, another promise. He put an end date on the wars, another promise. The game plan from day one, two years before Bush was selected, was to deliver Iraq as a plum for Wall St. The fact that it hadn't completely played out until 2011 is no big surprise. There are Republicans that have said on the House floor that the Iraqis should have to pay for the wars. It wasn't that long ago, like 2002, that neo-cons were saying that Iraq would pay for the wars. They would have if Cheney/Halliburton wasn't stealing all the oil after 2003.

Posted by Al V. on 06/17/2011 at 12:30 PM

Al V is freaking loonie. That is the most incredible bs I've ever heard. Soro's must be your hero... There's no sense arguing with are too far gone. What a waste of brain matter.

Posted by Nathan on 06/16/2011 at 2:12 PM

In a nutshell we are witnessing ongoing class warfare and the rich and corporations are winning with no "leaders" in either party representing the best interests of the majority of Americans.

When McGovern was defeated in a landslide, the Demos abandon populist policy. But, even F.D.R. was a defender of his class while giving the poor only the drippings from the feast. So many "progressives" make a hero out of FDR, but when our country was demanding real reforms FDR managed to salvage a system by and for the elites

Yet, the few changes that he did create for the public are now slowly being taken away. Our Social Security trust funds, our money set aside from our earnings, are now called an "entitlement" after Congress has borrowed from or rather looted the fund to the tune of $3 Trillion.

These days Nixon would be more liberal than Obomber. And oddly enough, Nixon had a sense of right and wrong as his Watgergate guilt tore him up. Obomber has no conscience of any kind as far as I can tell. He talks populism yet has not delivered any of his implied promises. Very much like past President Clinton, he is a conservative hiding behind the dead rhetoric of what was once the Democratic party.

These are cultural and moral mutations with no end in sight.

And the far right folks began a media and cultural conditioning program back in the late 70's and never let up. Reagan mania is stronger than ever today despite his terribly corrupt administration, criminality on his part and record deficits. At least "they" have not figured out how to make a hero out of The Shrub...but wait 20 years...they may re-write history on that war criminal and economic criminal.

Unfortunately, the corporate power structure has unlimited resources to promote their right wing economic agenda and corrupt our elected officials.

And as our economy and standard of living declines, $Trillions of our tax dollars are being used to subsidize global corporate profits via illegal wars. Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Libya are about corporate imperial interests. It's all about hydrocarbon resources and private profits.

Imagine that...our economy is dying and deficits are rising and Washington is saddling the public with $Trillions in war debt to further the private interests of American corporations around the world at a time when they are making record profits.

Published on Saturday, June 11, 2011 by…

"Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton hosted a meeting of top executives from a wide array of corporations -- Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Halliburton, GE, Chevron, Lockheed Martin, Citigroup, Occidental Petroleum, etc. etc. -- to plot how to exploit "economic opportunities in the new Iraq." And one WikiLeaks "diplomatic" cable after the next reveals constant government efforts to promote the interests of Western corporations in the developing world. Nonetheless, the very notion that the U.S. wages wars not for humanitarian or freedom-spreading purposes, but rather to exploit the resources of other nations for its own large corporations, is deeply "irresponsible" and unSerious. As usual, the ideas stigmatized with the most potent taboos are the ones that are the most obviously true."


Posted by JConrad on 06/16/2011 at 12:37 PM

When the Bush/Cheney cabal engineered this economic recession of epic proportions they needed a fall guy to make it work. It actually took a very good Fox Propoganda machine to make it work even better. They couldn't lose with a black guy as president because they could rely on the overwelming racism long dormant in our society. The recession that had been going on since 2003 was the perfect fog machine to cover the great ripoff. Since the really rich people had most of the money they could expand their grasp around the throat of the middle class by cutting employment therefor slamming the unions. Progressives, Democrats, and the Middle Class have never experienced this kind of well financed attack. The Koch brothers, billionaires in their own right, hijacked the Tea Party, a perfect tool for their dirty works. The Tea Party was originally formed as a response to Bush's TARP bonanza for Wall St. The Koch brothers bought the name Tea Party Express and with free publicity from the cable news propoganda machines have wreaked havoc on the progressive-Dems, and the middle class. The irony in all of this is that the original Tea Party in 1775, was an attack on a huge multi-national corporation by middle class citizens because they resented the huge tax breaks that were making small business tea importers unable to compete with the huge multi-national corporate tea importer. Today the old white men on Social Security, Medicare, and Veteran's benefits, are all tea baggers advocating the cutting of Social Security, Medicare, and Veteran's benefits. They are being told that cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Veteran's benefits is all necessary to cut spending. Why is government spending so bad? Because they need to preserve the tax cuts for the rich.

Posted by Al V. on 06/16/2011 at 9:22 AM

Couldn't have said it better. I feel like the victim of the old bait&switch routine-I gave up my retirement to come back and work for obama & dems and they have just abandoned me-from veteran's issues to the war to Medical cannabis to tax cuts. The only folks who were swindled more were those who voted Republicans into office thinking they were going to get "JOBS as a #1 Priority!" and instead have seen nothing but the same old abortion/pro-gun/anti-union agenda. I'm sure the union workers who voted republican will correct their mistake in the next election but it may well be too late by then. I say screw the debt ceiling, let the economy crash! I'm already so damn poor it can't get any worse for me-I've already lost everything I own after getting arrested with $200 worth of pot and doing 34 months in prison with mandatory minimum $50,000 fine. this was my first offense at age 43. Land of the Free indeed.

Posted by bob petersen on 06/16/2011 at 9:13 AM
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