Oppose Barack Obama? How Dare Thee!!

Increasingly, progressives I talk with admit they are starting to get a little disgusted with the antics of Barack Obama, that great agent of change. It wasn’t too long ago when these same folks were overly optimistic that Obama would deliver on his varied promises, beckoning a new era of Washington politics. Nonetheless, they all plan on voting for the Democrat regardless of how dismayed they have become with him and his campaign.

Of course this isn’t the lofty hope their candidate has been talking about. After eight long years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it’s been a logical reaction, one that the Obama camp has done their best to exploit. But as Obama shows his constituents that he is far from progressive, the less likely he is to walk away with an electoral victory come November, and the more doubtful it is that he will make any real progress if elected.

It’s a pretty straight forward equation: centrist Democrats don’t have a great track record of winning national elections. Voters want simple, common sense approaches to handling the problems our country faces today, not posturing and political maneuvering for the sake of manipulation. For what it’s worth, John McCain shoots it straight. He supports more war and doesn’t know much about economics. Voters know exactly what they are getting if they punch the card for the old Arizona senator.

That’s not the case with Obama who says he wants an end to the war but has voted for its continuation and will leave troops and private mercenaries in the country to deal with the so-called insurgents — even threatening to shift US forces to Afghanistan and Iran, where he’s promised to bully our enemies into submission.

Obama says he supports our civil liberties but voted to reaffirm the PATRIOT Act and FISA. He says he will expand the Pentagon budget, and on Israel he promises to do whatever it takes to protect the country from “terrorists,” paying little to no attention to the plight of Palestinians and their suffering in Gaza.

The good senator also wants to put Americans to work with a neo-Keynesian economic plan, producing millions of “green jobs” across the country. Our addiction to foreign crude surely needs to be dealt with, but Obama’s call for diversified energy sources includes some not so great alternatives, such as nuclear power, clean coal, and more domestic oil production.

Obama also claims to speak for the underprivileged but has refused to support a cap on credit card interest rates and has spoken little about the ruthless prison industry, the war on drugs or the death penalty — all of which unfairly affect the poor.

I would call all of these postures a huge betrayal. But they aren’t. Obama has never been a true progressive. He’s another centrist Democrat that has done his best to appease all sides of the political spectrum; giving the corporate wing the hard evidence they need to trust he’ll protect their interests, and the left-wing, rhetoric and political bravado to ensure they won’t flee from the stifling confines of the Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, many Obama supporters know well of his pitfalls, and no matter how disastrous they may seem, they’ll still vote for him. As respected columnist Norman Solomon recently claimed,

“To some, who evidently see voting as an act of moral witness rather than pragmatic choice (even in a general election), forces such as corporate power or militarism are binary — like a toggle switch — either totally on or totally off. This outlook says: either we reject entirely or we’re complicit … Such analysis tends to see Obama as just a little bit slower on the march to the same disasters that John McCain would lead us to. That analysis takes a long view — but fails to see the profound importance of the crossroads right in front of us, where either Obama or McCain will be propelled into the White House.”

Solomon, who served as an Obama delegate at the convention in Denver and sits on the board of Progressive Democrats of America, has an agenda: to usher Barack Obama into the White House because he sees John McCain as leading our country closer to the sacrificial ledge. “Save the Country (read Empire) Vote Democrat” has become a common refrain among a certain segment of the left, one that echoes through progressive and even radical circles every four years like clockwork. Go ahead and acknowledge their faults, they sing from on high, just don’t you dare ditch the Democrats come Election Day, for the rapture will ensue.

Like others of his stature, Solomon has in the past dished out scare tactics in an attempt to threaten progressives into voting against their own interests, an approach not too unlike the Republican’s who consistently undermine the concerns and needs of their base.

One typical threat that is often levied with fury is the prospect of future Supreme Court nominations. No question the most recent selections to the Court depict a rabid rightwing shift, just don’t forget that it was the Democrats who overwhelmingly confirmed both John Roberts and Samuel Alito despite the collective power to halt their confirmations. And remember, the two best judges serving today, John Paul Stevens and David Souter, were nominated by Gerald Ford and G.W.H. Bush, Republicans both.

Barack Obama will not address progressive issues because he knows quite well he’ll have this segment of the voting block shored up no matter how far right he may turn. If one follows the Solomon line of logic, we will all just have to wait until Obama’s inauguration to pester him to the left. If you do it now, they assert, it will only embolden John McCain.

Such a political philosophy (bigotry) is void of historic truths. One need look no further than Cintontime to grasp the amount of abuse the Democrats are allowed to commit because they are not Republicans. It’s the political version of the battered wife syndrome. Once Democrats are elected and things don’t change, progressives are still silent. And Clinton’s legacy is a long, ugly list of betrayal indeed: NAFTA, Welfare Reform, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty and Iraq Liberation Acts, the Salvage Rider, and the shattering of Glass-Steagall, which is greatly responsible for the current market meltdown.

So don’t fear standing up and voting for what you believe in, no matter how fringe or foolish you are made out to be by others who claim to know better than you. Our democracy is in peril. War rages on. Jobs are scarce and the environment is being destroyed at an exponential rate. Voting on the likelihood of perceived social gains in the short-term is not only erroneous; it is without a true understanding of what it is going to take to bring about real change in this country.

Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published by AK Press in June 2008. Check out the Red State Rebels site. Read other articles by Joshua.

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar bob balkas said on September 24th, 2008 at 6:37am #

    to me, it makes no difference who gets elected, since the basics (all of them?) will not change, i assert.
    we wld still live on planet USA. US wld still wage warfare based on rationalization, lies, half truths, evocation of perils, etcetc.
    causative factors for US warfare wld be nonexistent, rationalization sufficing for all? future US wars.
    (in)direct expansion by all means (includes use of wmd) wld in most likelyhood still continue if for no other reasons then because the planet is getting poorer, hatred, rage, supremacism.
    in short, reason(s) will always be found to go to war.

  2. Jeremy said on September 24th, 2008 at 7:01am #

    “Obama also claims to speak for the underprivileged but has refused to support a cap on credit card interest rates and has spoken little about the ruthless prison industry, the war on drugs or the death penalty — all of which unfairly affect the poor.” -And Minorities!
    Great post! The powers that be have learned that the best way to control people is to give them the illusion of choice. They’ll always go for what they see as the least bad option, but, gradually, they’ll find themselves becoming more and more bound by their own choices. The Nazis used this technique to control the Jews, advertisers use it to control consumers, and now the American people are being herded toward their own destruction like cattle to the slaughter.
    It’s time for a real change. Both Democrats and Republicans are too heavily invested in maintaining the status quo. We need to look outside of the two-party system, and, what’s more, we need to look outside of politics in general. Real change will come, not from empty promises of Hope, but from ordinary people actively engaging with the power structures in order to dismantle those that have become old and worn out and to build new, more reliable, more just social networks.

  3. Max Shields said on September 24th, 2008 at 7:44am #

    bozhidar bob balkas “in short, reason(s) will always be found to go to war.”

    While I agree with your general points, I say NO to the impotence of this statment

  4. Max Shields said on September 24th, 2008 at 7:57am #

    To Josh’s great post, I can tell you that until you feel the boot on your throat your can’t begin to feel the tyranny of the duopoly.

    Locally, in CT, the “third” parties and independents have been shut out of every debate; even after begin told they’d met the criteria and were in. This election is all about saving the Empire. All other contenders are denied entry!

  5. Donald Hawkins said on September 24th, 2008 at 8:18am #

    Joshua what you said about Obama’s not some great alternatives plan is true. When I first heard him talk about climate change and what was needed I could tell he didn’t know his stuff. Say he wins the election will he learn the problem and what needs to be done? He will learn more and I’ll bet he will also learn that these so called elites have decided to go out in style and to do what is needed means a new system and that kind of doesn’t work into there plan. It’s not to late and can be done but anything but easy and will take in many way’s a new system. Will this happen good question.

  6. Donald Hawkins said on September 24th, 2008 at 8:43am #

    Let me say in today’s age to get wiser is really not that hard to do. A guest on one of the financial channels and his energy plan was a band-aid. Yesterday I think on CNN someone said there will not be enough money for programs you know the big change over. Then today another guest said the same thing on that financial channel. HUMMMM so not enough money for the change over in this present system well maybe we need to change the system. One way or the other it must be done and done soon. 10 years and we just might make it and what is make it that would be the survival of the human race. Let me say that again the survival of the human race. Afraid of the unknown don’t be what we should be afraid of is the World we see today the known have you looked at it lately? I think mumbo jumbo puts it right there be a good name for a book. Let’s see you could start the book off with, Welcome to mumbo jumbo World where stupid is the answer and a lie is better than the truth. In mumbo jumbo World 1+1 is not two but 35 welcome to mumbo jumbo World.

  7. Martha said on September 24th, 2008 at 9:42am #

    I love Joshua Frank’s mind. Be sure to pick up Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland. (I’m not related to Mr. Frank.)

  8. Deadbeat said on September 24th, 2008 at 10:16am #

    I agree that people should vote for what they believe in. If that was the case then why didn’t the Green Party vote for Nader in 2004? Also if the Green Party is against war then why is the Green Party supporting Cynthia McKinney who voted for the War in Afghanistan? Let see Joshua Frank believed in voting for a Republican capitalist libertarian during the primaries. There seem to be some inconsistencies here by Mr. Frank.

    What I think is that the both the “Left” and the “Right” are in a very divided situation. We had some Ron Paul supporters here on DV recently and from that discussion I think what is happening to the Libertarian Party this year is almost a mirror image of what happened to the Green Party in 2004.

    I think the real story here is that there is a concerted effort to disrupt third party challenges by sabotaging the parties from within. This is clearly meant to frustrate people from exercising their rights.

    The reason why Nader was sabotaged in 2004 was because he represented a real threat then especially after he grew the Greens during from his 2000 run. The Libertarian looked liked a threat this year being energized by Ron Paul’s efforts and somehow Bob Barr became their standard bearer and was clearly not the choice of party loyalists.

    Somehow the internal structures of theses third parties are very weak that allows this kind of Trojan Horse disruption. This begs the question of how third party internal structures can be strength so that it can provide a serious challenge to the duopoly.

  9. bozhidar bob balkas said on September 24th, 2008 at 11:39am #

    max, more on “reasons to go to war will always be found”
    to me, all wars i know of were waged on the basis of reason(s) or as i say a rationalization.
    and, naturally w. plenty of delusional thinking, lies, half truths, predictions, etcetc.
    in fact, how is it possible to attack even a person let alone mns while basing justification of an attack on knowledge, fairness, truth, etc?
    to me anyone who makes promises or predicts is a liar. why predict, if noone can know the future.
    and why ‘promise’? when i don’t know even the next moment let alone yrs from now.

  10. bozhidar bob balkas said on September 24th, 2008 at 11:50am #

    after sending to u the explanation of “reason to go to war” i caught on what u meant.
    u evaluated the word “reason” as justification, cause, etc. i used the word as a synomin for “excuse”, “pretext”, etc. sorry about abot the mixup. thx

  11. Gliscameria said on September 24th, 2008 at 12:51pm #

    I have a wierd faith about Obama. He seems like a smart guy who know what he has to do to get the money he needs to get elected. Naturally right now he has to pander to the right wing and especially the big money that is running his campaign, but I’m feeling that once he’s in office it’s going to be a whole different story. I’m probably wrong, but damnit I’m looking for some light.

    The dems could have won with a moderate white guy who said nothing but, ‘I’m not McCain’ and won by 20%. I don’t think all the candidates are going to make it to election day anyway. This whole election feels like a midnight shyamalan movie. I’m betting McCain has been dead the whole time and Palin’s only weakness is water.

    I’m starting a pool to buy land in Canada… just in case.

  12. Thomas Mc said on September 24th, 2008 at 1:26pm #

    If you vote for the lesser of two evils, all you can expect is evil.

  13. rosemarie jackowski said on September 24th, 2008 at 2:39pm #

    Josh Frank has written some very informative articles about corruption in Vermont. Hey Josh …It keeps getting worse up here. The local newspaper will not even report that I won the Primary for Attorney General. Anyone without an R or D behind their name is censored out. We are the ‘invisible candidates’.

  14. Michael Dawson said on September 24th, 2008 at 3:02pm #

    Yes, and Obama’s proposal for “green” energy production is not just a Trojan Horse for nukes and coal, but also a pathetic drop in the bucket — $60 billion over ten years, aka $6 billion a year! This, in a nation that’s now spending well over $400 billion a year on gasoline, fuel oil, and other energy goods! The bold new Obama idea is a whopping 1.5 percent of current spending, in other words.

    Yeah, that’ll do the trick…

  15. Poilu said on September 24th, 2008 at 5:27pm #

    “For what its worth, John McCain shoots it straight.”

    Joshua: Even within its context, I’d say that remark VASTLY overestimates McCain’s “candor” to date. While it’s true he openly appears an unabashed hawk, his assertions of “fact” and position during this campaign have spun more revolutions than my old record turntable ever did.

    Nevertheless, this campaign IS a sorry spectacle in general. I never did catch “Obama Fever”, though I liked the candidate early on, when he was still merely a nominee. But his own astounding reversals constitute an incredible betrayal of the grass roots constituency which pushed him to the pinnacle.

    He MIGHT still (marginally) constitute the “lesser of two evils” — McCain is simply unacceptable to me — but America certainly deserves FAR better choices after 8 years of this despicable Bush Reich. Though I DOUBT that a third-party victory is any more probable this election than it has been in previous ones, I will probably pursue that option, if anything, rather than cast a vote for either of the “Republocrat” candidates.

  16. Max Shields said on September 26th, 2008 at 5:38am #

    I don’t think there is a “lesser” evil in this campaign; unless one considers style and personality and in that case its preference over rationality.

    There is the delusion of difference which is even more irrational than the above “reasoning”.

    As far as which of these candidates is acceptable or unacceptable, that’s really a false choice, but it may make some of us feel better to draw a “line ” in the proverbial sand.

    Poilu a third party doesn’t have a chance because the power structure of the American political system only allows two parties. Third parties can only exist when they eliminate through some kind f coalitional magic the Dems or Repubs. My point, only a different system will allow an array of parties.

  17. Deadbeat said on September 26th, 2008 at 10:13am #

    Poilu a third party doesn’t have a chance because the power structure of the American political system only allows two parties.

    Clearly the power structure impede the chance of a third party but recently the third party harm themselves. The Green Party deliberately sabotage Nader in 2004 and lost ballot lines where you had Trojan candidates like David Cobb and infiltrators like Medea Benjamin to disrupt the Greens.

    It seems this year that the Libertarians are facing a similar problem with Barr as their standard bearer.

    Thus while the system does throw up huge barriers it seems that the third parties themselves have not been able to construct themselves to build the necessary cohesion that can prevent these kinds of internal disruptions.

  18. Max Shields said on September 26th, 2008 at 10:41am #


    The problem is systemic and is as prevelant at the local as it is at national level. Green candidates in CT have been banned from debates (in spite of obtaining ballot agreement from the office of the SoS which required hundreds of hours and thousands of signatures).

    In the grand scheme Barr and Cobb are pimples on the ass of an elephant.

    I would agree that a Green Party has no chance unless it is willing to build a coalition with labor, independent progressives, and progressive libertarians. Some elements of conservatives may join in in this coalition and create a real threat to the existing duopoloy. But in the end without deep structural changes, it will be just one duopoloy for another.

  19. Poilu said on September 26th, 2008 at 6:43pm #

    Max: I think I’m generally in total agreement with you. As I attempted to emphasize, my “hip shoot” assessment of Obama as a (potentially) marginally “lesser evil” IS decidedly thin. And agreed, it’s based primarily on my wholly subjective perception of him as relatively rational and cool-headed, versus McCain’s now notorious, “guns blazing” hot-headedness. In expressed “positions” (FWIW) on issues of import to me, I can see little substantial difference between the two, the biggest distinction falling more along the lines of who I would rather see with his finger on the “button”.

    While Obama COULD conceivably launch a nuclear war out of dispassionate “rationality”, McCain seems FAR more the type to “shoot first and ask questions later”, as he’s often demonstrated. He truly does appear a bit “tetched” at times, MUCH too headstrong — and bedeviled by the ghosts of his past — to occupy such a position of awesome responsibility.

    I wouldn’t expect “great things” from either man, only the prospect of survival and relative betterment under Obama. But having many times uselessly voted for the duopoly’s proffered “lesser” evil, I’m now content to simply vote my conscience, rather than any perceived “practicality”. For all the “integrity” our E-lections have exhibited this century, it hardly matters, at that! So, why not? I voted for Jon Anderson in the past, and he did relatively well, though he didn’t win. George Wallace and Ross Perot (neither of which I voted for) genuinely threatened the survival of that 2-party stranglehold on electoral democracy.

    Does the system suck? You bet! But sadly, it’s the ONLY one we’ve got right now. And without an outright revolution, it’s the only one we’re LIKELY to have, barring some miraculous reform from within. So I’ll likely vote Third Party, hope for the best, and expect the worst (as usual). BOTH of the candidates I voted for in 2000 and 2004 legitimately WON their respective elections, as far as I’m concerned. Yet NEITHER was ever installed in the White House. “Welcome to Amerika!”