Obama Needs a Major Course Correction to Excite Voters

First Step: Re-make the White House to get on the right side of corporate elites vs. the people Second: Make challenging corporate power the 2010 election year issue

The Democrats are on the wrong side of a battle between big business elites and voters. If they stay on the side of the elites Massachusetts will not be the final defeat they suffer.

President Obama needs a rapid and major first-year course correction. He needs to learn from the Massachusetts senate race and two gubernatorial defeats in New Jersey and Virginia last year. The lessons: stop taking progressive voters for granted and make challenging corporate cronyism a top priority.

Obama campaigned in all three states; the results three Democratic defeats. The magic has worn off Obama’s elegant eloquence. People are seeing his policies are not “change” but a continuation of corporate domination. Rather than challenging the corporate cronies who pay off politicians with campaign donations, the Democrats are rewarding them. Corporate power dominates every issue whether it is war and militarism, Wall Street bailouts and health care, housing and jobs – corporate power rules in Washington, DC.

The Democrats have turned off their voting base. In all three elections the reason for defeat was turnout. People who voted for Obama in 2008 stayed home in 2009 and 2010. Unlike Republicans, who work to excite their base with red meat, right wing issues, the Democrats take their base for granted assuming they have no where else to go. Now they are paying a price, but the price will get higher if they do not learn the obvious lessons from these three elections: excite your base, challenge big business and demonstrate the change in direction by re-making the White House.

Where should Obama start? He should start with his first appointment, the White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel embodies corporate power; the former head of the corporate Democratic Leadership Council has been a corporate, militarist Democrat throughout his career and his politics have cost the Democratic Party repeatedly. He was the architect of NAFTA in 1993, resulting in unions staying home in 1994 and the Democrats losing 54 House seats. As anti-war sentiment raged in 2006, Emanuel, then head of the DCCC, recruited pro-war Democrats. The result, only nine of his hand picked 22 candidates won almost costing the Democrats the majority in a year they should have won a landslide. His unimpressive track record has continued with the Dems going 0 for 3 since Obama took office. Keep Emanuel in the leadership and 2010 will be a Democratic Party disaster.

He is wrong on the issues because of his personal and corporate connections. Emanuel is the bankers lobby favorite. He was the top recipient of donations from hedge funds, private equity, investment and securities firms when he served in Congress. Personally, he earned $18 million in 2.5 years between government jobs at a hedge fund firm. He served on the board of Freddie Mac from 2000-2001 when its decision making helped bring on the housing crisis. It is no surprise that health care reform turned into an insurance company giveaway, while banking reform is giving Wall Street everything it wants and the foreclosure crisis continues unabated.

Emanuel is also a hawk. His father was an Irgun terrorist for Zionists. Emanuel volunteered for the Israeli Defense Forces during the first Gulf War while serving in Congress. He endorsed Obama after the candidate gave a hawkish, pro-Israel speech before the right-wing Israeli lobby, AIPAC, and then introduced Obama to their executive board of major donors. In 2006, when the Democrats won with a mandate to end the war Emanuel made sure ending the war was off the table. It is not surprising he is chief of staff of a White House that has broken all war spending records and has escalated militarism around the globe.

He gained notoriety during the health care debate when he essentially said – take liberal legislators for granted. Emanuel’s strategy to get 60 votes in the Senate was bring the left of center Democrats on early to generate enthusiasm, then turn on them to woo conservatives in the end game. Newly elected Scott Brown began to overtake Coakley when he said he would be the vote that stopped health care. Opposing the Insurance Enrichment Act, aka health care reform, began to turn the election around for Brown.

The White House took the most popular reform, single payer health care, Medicare for All, off the table and then proceeded to craft a bill that did more for insurance and pharmaceutical corporations then it did for reforming health care. In his book “The Plan,” Emanuel urges Democrats not to pursue universal health care or real reform. He is so out of touch with the needs of Americans that he merely urged the expansion of the S-CHIP program. With Emanuel representing the White House in health care negotiations, and Obama holding press conferences with corporate interests, real reform was off the table.

Removing Rahm would be a first step toward a much need re-making of the White House. The Obama national security and economic teams are filled with appointees who need to be replaced: General Petraeus, General Jones, General McChrystal, Bill Gates, Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geitner to name a few. It is time to clean house, re-start and set a new direction more consistent with Obama’s promise to change the way Washington, DC does business, i.e. stop caving in to the corporate power that dominates the Democratic and Republican parties. It is time for the Democrats to put the people’s necessities ahead of their donor’s profits.

Of course, the problem in the end is not Rahm Emanuel or the other Obama appointees, it is Obama himself. Obama has surrounded himself with corporatists so he needs to reach outside the White House to get a clear reading of the mood of the country. The White House became a corporate bubble in Obama’s first year. Now it needs to be popped. From his appointees he will hear the corporate message – work with Republicans, support corporate solutions, don’t rock the boat – the recipe that resulted in three Democratic losses, so far.

Last year President Obama told a meeting of Blue Dogs that he is a New Democrat – this is the language for the discredited DLC. (As Black Agenda Report has written, Obama was listed as a member of the DLC but his name was removed from the roster as he began to run for office.) He consistently puts pleasing recalcitrant right-wing Republicans ahead of exciting his left of center base. If he wants to really bring hope and change to Washington he needs to put his voting base, not his donor base, first. He needs to become a progressive populist.

Obama is going to have to make a decision to set a new direction for his presidency or be a weak and unsuccessful president. He needs to really challenge corporate power, rally the people and make real reform the 2010 election year issue. These three early elections should teach him that financial support from corporations is insufficient; indeed being tied to the dollars of corporate elites is a recipe for defeat. .

Obama can change course to a successful presidency or continue on the failed path he is currently on. But to do so he needs to recognize the urgency of now within his own White House and get on the side of the people.

Kevin Zeese is a Senior Advisor to the Stein-Baraka campaign and is a long term political activist who co-directs Popular Resistance. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 20th, 2010 at 12:33pm #

    Zeese does not see contradictions in his piece. Correctly, he says US is ruled by a set of people, but does not notice that that is a constitutional OK; i.e., being lawful.
    he does not espy that it had been proclaimed many times that US is a nation of laws.
    So why instructing an individual what he ought to do, when that wld be illegal and unconstitutional? Which by the way cannot be understood, anyway!
    It can be only interepreted and only by judges appointed for that purpose by the set of people who own and rule america.
    With possibly 98% of americans- some of which are in toto- excluded from participation in the governance of US! go figure tnx

  2. Gary Corseri said on January 21st, 2010 at 8:18am #

    Oh, Kevin, can this really be so?:

    “Of course, the problem in the end is not Rahm Emanuel or the other Obama appointees, it is Obama himself. Obama has surrounded himself with corporatists so he needs to reach outside the White House to get a clear reading of the mood of the country.”

    Is it not way past the time to surrender the notion of Obama the Good, Obama the Wise, Obama Autonomous?

    The problem is not “Obama himself”–he is performing just as he was expected to perform. He was groomed for his position: a good-looking, clean-cut black man (as Joe Biden had it), a good speaker, easy before crowds or one on one, intelligent enough to persuade the masses and the pundits that he knows what he’s doing. Did you think he was a revolutionary? Did you think he was Thomas Paine or Henry David Thoreau or Martin Luther King or Malcom X?

    Obama did not select Rahm Emanuel. It’s far more accurate to say that Rahm Emanuel, and the corporatists like him, selected Obama. It is not for Obama to change his spots–ain’t gonna happen. Those who desire real change in our System will have to look hard within themselves, determine how to create a new Community of Values, employing our new technologies of communication. Obama is not the Jewish, Christian nor Black messiah far too many have been seeking. He has played his role in the sinking Empire. Now we’ve got to learn to captain our own lifeboats–and call out to the survivors in the dark and perilous seas.

  3. GDAEman said on February 5th, 2010 at 3:26pm #

    Well said. You make Charm City proud. You also inspired me to raise my voice with the White House:

    Rahm Emanuel is a liability to progress. He exudes the misplaced values of Washington group think.

    The perceptions of his political talents are not substantiated by his track record: He was the architect of NAFTA in 1993, resulting in unions staying home in 1994 and the Democrats losing 54 House seats. As anti-war sentiment raged in 2006, Emanuel, then head of the DCCC, recruited pro-war Democrats. The result, only nine of his hand picked 22 candidates won almost costing the Democrats the majority in a year they should have won a landslide.[1]

    Let Emanuel go. There are plenty of talented people to be Chief of Staff.

    Sincerely, a “bleeping” retarded lefty.

  4. dan e said on February 5th, 2010 at 4:45pm #

    Thank you Gary! Yes, you nailed it. But look at the post from GDAE: incredible. GDAE thinks he agrees with you — but clearly he JUST DOESN”T GET IT. wow.

    Let’s see if I can draw him and Zeese a simple pitcher? Obama is just the front man for an all round system of oppression & crimes vs humanity. All this stuff about “democracy”, who’s going to be chief of staff, or President, or chair of your local Dumbocrat County Committee is a total charade, window dressing put out there to give the suckers something to think about.

    Kevin Z is a very pleasant individual but so far has not been able to escape his Liberal preconceptions. Neither BTW has Nader, who I supported in 2000 & 2004 but whose ambitions to run again I will not support again, because his time has passed and McKinney is a better choice, unless somebody even better emerges between now & the 2012 campaign season.

    Yes I still think participating in these “election” farces affords an oppty to get a hearing for ideas that seldom make it through the MSM information blackout. It could be that the emergence of a too-large-to-ignore groundswell for an anti-Duopoly candidate could make an impact on the consciousness of the general US public. Or it could turn out just another exercise in futility.
    One thing is for sure, debating what Obama “needs to do” to “correct his course”, or worrying about who he’s got for Chief of Staff is one hundred pct an exercise in futility, a complete waste of time.

  5. kbzeese said on February 5th, 2010 at 9:27pm #

    It is interesting to see some of the comments that think I bought into Obama. You can look back at all I wrote and the news I highlighted during the campaign here: http://votersforpeace.us/press/index.php?archivelist=1. You’ll see constant criticism of his partial withdrawal from Iraq leaving more than 100,000 troops and mercenaries behind, his promise to escalate the war in Afghanistan, pledge to attack Pakistan, plans to enlarge DoD, blanket support for Israel — you will not find me endorsing Obama. I did not. And, personally I did not support or vote for him. And, since he has been elected I have been continuing to work to end the war, opposed the Wall Street bailouts, advocate re-making the economy and pushing hard, including being arrested, for real health care reform, Medicare for All.

    For me it is more important to build movements for progressive change. That has been the only thing that has ever made change a reality. It was not LBJ who gave us civil rights but the civil rights movement, it was not Woodrow Wilson who gave women the right to vote but a women’s movement demanding it, and it was not Nixon who ended Vietnam, it was the peace movement and organized resistance in Vietnam.

    Working in elections is a tool for movements, but insurgent’s inside either party and candidates running independent or with a third party have the deck stacked against them. However, non-winning candidates working with movements have impacted the political process throughout history. In fact, that combination has been critical to major paradigm shifts throughout history.

    KZ

  6. bozh said on February 6th, 2010 at 12:09pm #

    KZ, with respect,
    The basic structure of US governance may have not chaged an iota. The present US system of governance [the system] allows for massive deceiving; dwelling on cosmetical changes, personal shortcomings, and issues of mostly peripheral nature and such ‘talk’ [more like barking] cannot ever proffer us an elucidation of how-why [there is no how without why-when] the system functions.

    It had become a fetish for all msm and ?all other journalists not to talk ab the system; since only the study of the system brings us an elucidation and not any ‘talk’ that’s largely gossipy and mostly halflies.

    To end: it is systemic [even lack of one or seemingly lack of one also being of the system; and meant to deceive];i.e., of the system that there is no right in US to obtain medical treatment, higher education, and information; sans which there wld never ever be anenlightemnet in US. tnx

  7. bozh said on February 6th, 2010 at 12:25pm #

    Dan e, i saw ur post after i put on my own.
    Yes, that’s the way! U’r noting the structural members of the system and since they can be seen with naked eye, no schooling of any kind is necessary to see it- only just one eye; both eyes being even better.
    I thank my devil that i had no schooling to render me semanticly blind and not see the obvious.
    Semanticly blind means that a person cannot see some facts; mainly because of a preconceived notion; usually aquired in school or from parents who selves know so much that ain’t so! tnx

  8. dan e said on February 6th, 2010 at 5:57pm #

    OK, Mr Zeese, this is what you said: “Obama can change course to a successful presidency or continue on the failed path he is currently on.”

    This is a false statement which does not accord with the facts. You seem to think that Obama has some choice in the matter, which is a fallacy.

    While it is true that in recent decades US governmental power has become more and more concentrated in the Executive Branch, at the same time the individuals chosen to play the role of “President” have been progressively stripped of all freedom to exercise individual initiative.

    This was not always so; the first seven US presidents were all major political figures whose views and preferences had major impact on the direction of the nascent polity. But from Van Buren to Lincoln we saw the election of a series of non-entities whose policies reflected only the balance of clout among the ruling classes at the time of their accession to office; none did anything worth remembering to shape events. Until Lincoln of course.
    Andrew Johnson certainly had an impact on things, if a totally negative one. But following the emasculation of the Grant administration, the pattern resumed and basically continued until the advent of Teddy and his trustbusting. T. Roosevelt’s personal ideas had a significant impact on the direction of the country, although well within the overall rulingclass consensus. Same is true of FDR, and to a much lesser extent possibly LBJ, mainly in the Civil Rights realm.
    But since the Nixon debacle, those who call the shots from behind the US political scenery have been careful not to allow anyone who might conceivably ever rock the boat to even get mentioned as a possibility.

    The only occupants of the office since then who were not complete nobodies were the two Bushes, but neither ever displayed the slightest indication they might ever go off the reservation, or even of entertaining an idea not completely conventional.
    Barack Obama is the Nobody par excellence. No family connections, no political base of his own in Chicago or Illinois, no money of his own. A very short resume so no network of connections in the Security “Community” or the Mil-Indus Complex. So this is a guy who has no choice but to Do What He’s Told. Which suits him fine, given his personality.

    Barack O. has gotten where he is by following the path of least resistance and maximum pats on the head from those he’s been able to identify as Authority. This is a guy who was raised in isolation from his peers in the local Oahu community, as a Boarding student in an elite private school. He was carefully prevented from exposure to any information not fitting into the narrow mythology accepted by the Pilau Haole protestant colonialists who have run Hawaii since annexation and before.
    Anybody who has ever talked directly face to face with somebody from Oahu knows the local people there don’t talk like Obama talks, or even like most mainland Americans talk. But you’ll never get a hint of it from listening to Obama.
    Even if by some hard to imagine series of events Obama was to form in his own mind an idea not totally supportive of the Isreali Foreign Ministry view, he wouldn’t dare act on it, or even utter it out loud for fear of the consequences.
    So, Mr Zeese, it seems you have been engaged in perpetuating illusions among the masses:)
    You seem to be trying to sell the notion that Obama has been slated for defeat in the next election, but I don’t buy it. What could a Palin or a McCain administration actually DO, that Obama isn’t doing already? That he pulls off without giving rise to massive protest both internationally & domestically, as a Palin certainly would face?
    In terms of political activity, Obama has effectively neutered the entire US Black population. The ruling circles know that to remove him is to open Pandora’s Box.
    But again, even if BHO himself agreed one hundred pct with your argument, he couldn’t do anything about it. Every move he makes, every word he utters is scripted in advance, and then vetted in Tel Aviv. So let’s not be peddling these fairy tales, OK Kevin?

  9. Deadbeat said on February 6th, 2010 at 8:41pm #

    Dane writes …

    So, Mr Zeese, it seems you have been engaged in perpetuating illusions among the masses:)

    WOW! That was a helluva response. I wish I could have written a radical response as succinct and to the point. That response contained amazing insight and analysis.

    Along the same lines I am in disagreement with Mr. Zeese’s position on “health care”. Getting arrested during a Congressional Hearing to make a spectacle of oneself is not going to win health care. Leave such tactics for Medea Benjamin.

    First the premise for universal health care is ridiculous because the “right to see a doctor” is NOT health care. You cannot have real health care unless you are prepared to struggle against Capitalism which Mr. Zeese and many “progressive” are unwilling to do. Progressives want to fight for issues on a ridiculously weak piecemeal basis following in lockstep with the agenda set by the ruling class.

    Thus in Mr. Zeese’s reality a homeless family can see a doctor but are permitted to get sick because they don’t have housing, food, water and the other necessities of life. What a waste of energy and organizing around futility.

    During this crisis the very question that progressives should be raising is the very nature of the system itself. Liberalism has failed and leave the futility of fighting for piecemeal gains to the Liberals. This crisis however This crisis provides the opportunity to raise larger SYSTEMIC questions.

    Kudos to bozh and DanE for raising the level of awareness of what really should be considered at this particular time in history.

  10. lichen said on February 6th, 2010 at 9:46pm #

    I agree that “Obama can change course to a successful presidency or continue on the failed path he is currently on.” That is a fact–those who wish to excuse the war criminal corporatist presidents for acting on their individual right wing politics when they do in fact have other choices are clearly only propping up the political elite themselves. Obama has had choices to take a different track, he has chosen not to and is 100% responsible for that. He will continue to take his current track, because it is what he wants; he has the freedom to do otherwise. Making excuses for the rich and powerful makes you a scumbag.

  11. dan e said on February 7th, 2010 at 2:36pm #

    What? what poster on this thread has engaged in “making excuses for the rich & powerful”?
    Obama is a creature of the system. As such, even if there were “choices” available to him, given who he is he would not be capable of perceiving their existence. Such “options” as Zeese suggests lie entirely outside Obama’s perception of reality.
    And even if some bolt from the blue, some Deus Ex Machina came along and he was to experience a total mind-altering experience ala Saul of Tarsus, (or Timothy Leary? hehe:) which left him seeing the world anew, seeing it much as Karl Marx might were he reincarnated today — the first time he made the slightest move to act on it, his presidency would be effectively terminated.
    But that’s totally in the realm of the hypothetical; the fact is that Obama is a certain type of individual molded by certain social forces, one with a great talent for demagoguery but an even greater talent for brown-nosing, and he is never going to jeopardize what he has achieved thereby by indulging any “crackpot” humanitarian whims.
    I don’t know why it’s so hard for so many to get it through their head: this SOB Obama is a real hardcore trueblue SOB who’d through his mother under the train if he thought it would help him “get ahead”. Maybe it’s because most DV posters have had little contact with Black activists & political entrepreneurs? Who knows. But I myself have had enough contact to recognize Obama as the epitome of an all too common type. These characters have an uncanny ability to maintain a firewall between one side of their brain and the other. Such people have developed to the nth degree the capacity to keep two mutually contradictory, mutually exclusive, propositions in their minds at the same time.
    So let’s be clear: I am NOT, repeat NOT, cutting Obama any slack whatsoever. The individual is a scumbag, pure and simple. An enemy of not only Humanity but of Organic Life on Earth.
    The point I’m making is that it is totally unrealistic to waste time trying to talk him into behaving as anything other than what he is. If he ever had any choice in the matter, he exercised it long long ago.
    If ever he encountered a scrap of information contradicting what he was taught at Punahou, he immediately activated his instilled-in-childhood Firewall & never thought about it again.
    So please, no more wasting time speculating “whether” the leopard might not suddenly change spots. Ain’t gonna happen, not in the cards, not worth another word.

  12. lichen said on February 7th, 2010 at 3:33pm #

    I see a lot of excuse-making in some people’s analysis of Obama–insisting that the system forces him to make these choices, therefore he is not responsible himself for murder of the middle eastern masses and rampant poverty-creation and environmental destruction at home. He is; he could have done differently, and it is worthwhile for people to object to what he has done. I’m glad to see you say that Obama is scum, dan e–not that he is a “victim of the system” “like us” as some have intoned.

    I also think it is kind of fatuous for some people to come out and say that Obama can just “change course” now when he has already fucked over and killed so many people. He belongs at The Hague for those crimes, no matter what–and we need serious system change so that people like him can’t end up with power anymore.