You can almost feel it in the air. The tension.
There is so much tension right now between President Obama and the American left because of the recent “compromise” on taxes maneuvered by the White House and Congressional Republicans, that you can almost cut it with the old proverbial knife.
Much of the Left – and especially those sectors outside the mainstream Democratic Party – feels betrayed by the President that they helped to elect two years ago. Left-wingers are very angry because it was the left that made up Obama’s first base, back in 2007 when he swung into the Presidential race as THE anti-war candidate. And now it appears that Obama is more interested in satisfying Republicans than his own left of center constituencies.
Now none of this news, of course, because the mainstream media have been jumping up and down and waving flags drawing attention to this historic split between the Left and the first left-of-center President this century. The corporate press and the Right can hardly suppress their smirks in highlighting divisions among their critics and enemies.
(And if you’re wondering where we get these terms of “left” and “right”, go here.)
Yet the left is in turmoil. From pissed-off lefties on the street, to working class stiffs, to liberal professionals, to peace activists, angry leftists are trying to figure out what to do. Democrats in the House of Representatives who are feeling very burned are threatening to stall or change the tax compromise when it comes before them, even as the bill cleared a key caucus vote in the Senate.
There have many slights – either real or not – against the Left by the White House over the last while, but it is this tax compromise that has become the straw that broke the donkey’s back.
But the left simmers over unfulfilled campaign promises, like the “public option” that never made it into the health care bill, like the 50,000 combat troops to remain in Iraq, like the fact that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” remains military policy, Guantanamo Bay prison facility remains open, immigration reform has barely moved forward.
One of the biggest areas of the split between Obama and the left is Afghanistan. During the campaign, Obama spoke as if he was going to send more troops there, and despite the left’s support during the campaign, it still opposes this war policy. Not to mention what’s going on in Pakistan. Not to mention a record-breaking Defense budget.
And now comes the non-fight over the Bush-era tax cuts, and harsh words for the left “purists”, as earlier there had been White House criticism of “the professional left”.
What we have before us is that important sectors of the left are swinging into action and are planning a major demonstration later this month right in front of the White House to protest – not the tax cuts for the wealthy – but the continuation of the Afghanistan war. Civil disobedience and arrests are in the works. It appears that Obama’s war policies have forced many Americans full cycle – from supporting the anti-war candidate to opposing the war president.
It could be a terrible and harsh irony of history that the first Black American president who is elected because he is against the Iraq war falls victim to the very war – Afghanistan – that he didn’t oppose. His administration could end up in death throes if the military continue to have it their way. Afterall, the place is known to be the burial ground of empires. It was becoming bankrupt due to their military adventures in Afghanistan that greatly contributed to the downfall of the Soviet Union.
Today, however, it’s the tax cuts. What looks to be an actual opposition to Obama is building, and much of it’s coming from those leftists who were never enthralled with the first successful African-American Presidential candidate in the first place.
Here are some examples of this revolt:
- A progressive group, The Agenda Project, flooded the White House phone lines with calls right after the tax compromise was announced, leading protests against a White House they believe is “caving” to Republicans on tax cuts.
- When angry House Democrats caucused right after the compromise was announced, there were yells of “fuck the president!” and chants mocking the White House. It’s not clear what they will do once the tax cut compromise is in front of them. Blue Dog Dems and Republicans can probably pass it without their support.
- Senator Bernie Sanders’ 8 1/2 hour filibuster on the floor of the Senate in direct protest of the tax compromise.
- For the first time, there is talk of finding a candidate to mount a Primary challenge to Obama from the left;
- An Open Letter appeal to the “Left Establishment” from protestobama.org calling on them for active support to protest Obama, being sent to well-known lefties like Michael Moore, Norman Solomon, Katrina van den Heuvel, Barbara Ehrenreich, Tom Hayden, and Jesse Jackson Jr., plus other high profile progressive supporters of the Obama electoral campaign.
- Protests on December 16th in front of the White House, involving civil disobedience action being planned by Veterans for Peace (to include Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Joel Kovel, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, several armed service veterans and others.
Whether the left revolt is real or really a lot of hot air remains to be seen. House Dems could try to stall the tax bill but be over-ridden by Blue Dog Dems and GOP’ers. Grassroots peace activists want to see the huge protest crowds mustered during the Bush years. Left-wing intellectuals are ready to disembark from being close Obama supporters, yet wary of historical precedents of centrist politicians being defeated by the left and the right, only to watch fascists take power.
Plus now this country will see Obama, already vilified by the extremists on the right and their Tea Party allies, get a shellacking from the left, on the net, in blogs, in demonstrations.
Here below is the text of the “Open Letter” to the Left Establishment (please go to the original for all the links at protestobama.org):
With the Obama administration beginning its third year, it is by now painfully obvious that the predictions of even the most sober Obama supporters were overly optimistic. Rather than an ally, the administration has shown itself to be an implacable enemy of reform.
It has advanced repeated assaults on the New Deal safety net (including the previously sacrosanct Social Security trust fund), jettisoned any hope for substantive health care reform, attacked civil rights and environmental protections, and expanded a massive bailout further enriching an already bloated financial services and insurance industry. It has continued the occupation of Iraq and expanded the war in Afghanistan as well as our government’s covert and overt wars in South Asia and around the globe.
Along the way, the Obama administration, which referred to its left detractors as “f***ing retarded” individuals that required “drug testing,” stepped up the prosecution of federal war crime whistleblowers, and unleashed the FBI on those protesting the escalation of an insane war.
Obama’s recent announcement of a federal worker pay freeze is cynical, mean-spirited “deficit-reduction theater”. Slashing Bush’s plutocratic tax cuts would have made a much more significant contribution to deficit reduction but all signs are that the “progressive” president will cave to Republican demands for the preservation of George W. Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy Few. Instead Obama’s tax cut plan would raise taxes for the poorest people in our country.
The election of Obama has not galvanized protest movements. To the contrary, it has depressed and undermined them, with the White House playing an active role in the discouragement and suppression of dissent – with disastrous consequences. The almost complete absence of protest from the left has emboldened the most right-wing elements inside and outside of the Obama administration to pursue and act on an ever more extreme agenda.
We are writing to you because you are well-known writers, bloggers and filmmakers with access to a range of old and new media, and you have in your power the capacity to help reignite the movement which brought millions onto the streets in February of 2003 but which has withered ever since. There are many thousands of progressives who follow your work closely and are waiting for a cue from you and others to act. We are asking you to commit yourself to actively supporting the protests of Obama administration policies which are now beginning to materialize.
In this connection we would like to mention a specific protest: the civil disobedience action being planned by Veterans for Peace involving Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Joel Kovel, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, several armed service veterans and others to take place in front of the White House on Dec. 16th.
Should you commit yourselves to backing this action and others sure to materialize in weeks and months ahead, what would otherwise be regarded as an emotional outburst of the “fringe left” will have a better chance of being seen as expressing the will of a substantial majority not only of the left, but of the American public at large. We believe that your support will help create the climate for larger and increasingly disruptive expressions of dissent – a development that is sorely needed and long overdue.
We hope that we can count on you to exercise the leadership that is required of all of us in these desperate times.
The letter is signed by many prominent “establishment” leftists.