Ah, how joyous the mood was when the new administration took over. Many of the new, young liberals who had worked so hard for Obama, who had texted and e-mailed all of their friends about Obama, who reminded everyone they knew to vote on Election Day, were ecstatic. The first black president (or the first dark-skinned one, anyway) had won. Never mind he had, at last count, over four times the amount of money that his other major rival for the presidency had. Never mind he had a great organization. Never mind that his main opponent ran a poor campaign, and chose a running mate with no foreign policy knowledge, or indeed ANY discernible knowledge of matters outside of hockey. Never mind that despite all this, their man won by less electoral votes than in 1996, when the winner had no less than two major scandals operating against him.
Ignoring all this, the common college student was absolutely enthralled with Obama. His inauguration was fantastic. I almost didn’t see the swearing in, due to a member of the teacher’s union blocking my path in the name of “art education.” But that’s just sour grapes. The first week was very good, in my view. Barack had united the nation, I believed firmly. We could move back to the days of Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, and McGovern, where compassion and good government, not polarization and corruption, reigned. And when he opened the door to close Guantanamo Bay, this confirmed my faith in him.
Well, that didn’t last. Now Obama has begun vindicating Bush “war on terror” policies by supporting them. And with a report out saying that the misleadingly named “Patriot Act” is in fact much larger than previously thought, Obama doesn’t oppose that either. Perhaps gay marriage is another superb example. When, in 2007, I went to a dinner for a local state senator – the always-honest Rich Olive – Obama spoke at the dinner. After a rather bland speech (yes, Virginia, Barack Obama can give a bland speech), I spoke to one of his young staffers. When I asked what his position on gay marriage was, she said that he supported civil unions, because outright marriage is too “unreasonable and unlikely to succeed.” That’s right. The right for two women to marry is unreasonable.
After these reversals, my honeymoon with President Obama was over. Turns out he was right. It was unlikely to succeed.
So fine. A liberal has some serious doubts about the president’s sincerity, honesty, and ability to do the right but hard thing. This is the real problem: the mainstream (read: corporate-owned) media believe that Obama is a liberal. Either they make it seem that the conservatives oppose him, and ergo, he is a liberal, or they call him a socialist. Thus, in one master stroke, they move the bar as to what is “moderate” far to the right, and make actual centrist policies seem radical at the same time, thus forcing public beliefs outside of areas where people are well-informed lurching to the right, and dragging the seemingly spineless Obama along with them, to say nothing of his almost cult-like fans, who follow him in lockstep.
How do we halt this vicious cycle? I suggest a three-pronged strategy, with one “nuclear option” in reserve.
Prong number one is the support of the Ames Progressive and other liberal outlets. We must give a clear and concise alternate view to people and voters, and wean people off of the corporate media. I hesitate to say conservative media, because I have a soft spot for magazines like the National Review, which honestly believe that conservatism works.
Prong number two is harder, but necessary. The right has partisan watchdog groups, think tanks, and propaganda-spewing organizations galore, to say nothing of pseudo-named PACs like Americans for Prosperity, which run anti-government health care ads in Iowa. We as liberals must replicate this theory. It has served us well in the past, and it is suicidal to think that liberalism can survive with no similar support now. Some organizations are in place but are badly under-funded. To defeat conservatism in the modern age it is necessary to have our own PACs, our own think tanks, our own watchdog groups.
Prong number three is the hardest, and most critical in the short-term. It is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to show to President Obama that the college students and professors will not stand by while he rewards their support by trashing the country and doing what the latest poll shows is popular, or what his advisers say will help him win 270 electoral votes. We must change our reaction from, “So President Barack did something I don’t like, but on the whole he seems to be trying” to, “So President Barack did something I don’t like, and I should make this clear, and work to stop him from doing it again.”
Now to the nuclear option. It brings up a valid point. “Christopher,” someone will undoubtedly say, “the president has been in office for under a year. Give him some time and/or give him a break.” No. He has shown a willingness to break campaign promises, distort his policies, and go with the flow of public opinion rather than shape it. Who’s to say he won’t continue to do so? The nuclear option is a third party. A primary challenge against a sitting president rarely works, and once the primaries are over the threat is meaningless. If President Barack Hussein Obama continues down his not-so-merry path of moderation or weak action, it is our last option. Threatening the president with a loss at the hands of a third party is no small endeavor, but until President Obama realizes that we liberals won’t just sit around and let him do the easy thing, and let the country slide, it is our duty as citizens and voters to make our voices heard.
This is our time to make America the way we want it. This is our chance.