My recent exchange with Darcy (motivated in part by his post on a Fafblog satire), got me thinking about the ways in which the Obama campaign may already be seriously compromised by the 2.0 phenomenon (my term for the version of the candidate that has been most apparent during the post-primary period) and the resultant dissatisfaction from the left. It's a situation Amiri Baraka -- a dude I don't always agree with -- compares to the Weimar Republic pre-Hitler. Anyway: my own comments in the referenced discussion were motivated not by a desire to nay say protest against apparent policy shifts, but to express concerns about a potential "vote drain" that could cost the Democrats this election. Again.
To recap my view: an Obama victory in November is by no means a sure thing. Depending on which polls you read, this could even be another nail-biter, and we all know what that means. Keep in mind too that there are plenty of first-time voters engaged in the process this time around (many of whom were inspired by Obama in the first place) -- folks for whom the role Nader played in 2000 is nothing more than a historical footnote. Given this context, and given my sense that a McCain administration would put us in a world of shit far beyond anything Obama could create even if he were the antichrist -- the goal, as I see it, should not be to simply squeak by: we need to aim for a landslide, so as to minimize the potential for shenanigans. Every vote will tell.
Of course, when we start to get into the nitty gritty of actually figuring out how many liberals or progressives openly intend not to vote for Obama, there's a good possibility that we're talking about a "fringe" phenomenon. Still -- call me crazy, but I think one should never underestimate the power of a fringe. Especially a fringe with laptops. (Jack Abramoff was on the fringe once. Paul Wolfowitz was on the fringe once.)
As I see it, there are two very real and unpredictable fissures on the left. The first should be obvious, and will probably either flare up or peter out come the convention. That's right: I'm talking about the continued disgruntlement of Clinton people. If you thought that issue went away after the meeting in Unity (with its celebratory media coverage), think again. This continued disgruntlement has been wrongly reported as an Obama-Clinton feud (I suppose that makes for a juicier story), but is really much more about the discontent of Clinton supporters (who Clinton, to her credit, seems to be genuinely trying to rein in). The prime mover in this area is the PAC known as People United Means Action, aka "Party Unity My Ass," aka PUMA. They appear to be at least marginally organized, and they really really really want to make something happen in Denver.
Of course there is some suspicion that PUMA is actually a front movement started by Republicans, which may in part explain why they end up on Fox News so frequently. I'm not sure I believe that, actually, but I don't see how the origins of the group makes much difference one way or the other -- the potential to play havoc with the election is fairly high regardless.
In any case, the other fissure is traceable to the progressive backlash against Obama's move to the center on FISA and other issues. To the extent that this is a full-on rejection of the Obama campaign, it does not appear to be nearly as organized a "movement" as the PUMAs. Again, we're probably talking about the fringe -- but it's early, and there is always the possibility of some sort of dovetailing maneuver by the Fall.
Consider Progressives Against Obama, who articulate their unhappiness this way:
This is no time for quibbling about the best way to show opposition to Barack Obama's anti-progressive policies. So, we're not demanding one pure form of opposition to Obama in 2008. We realize that it's a difficult thing for progressives to oppose the Democratic nominee for President, after seven long, disastrous years under Republican George W. Bush.
When we say we that we're progressives against Barack Obama, that means that we're opposing Barack Obama because he's not a progressive candidate, and our opposition comes from a progressive point of view. We do not accept the validity of right wing attacks against Barack Obama, or the bizarre, racist conspiracy theories that come from the evangelical fringe. We are progressives first, and refuse to sacrifice our progressive values for the sake of being either for or against Obama.
Supporting John McCain is not an honest option either. We oppose John McCain because he opposes progressive values.
The following are among the different ways to honestly express progressive opposition to Barack Obama, and we honor them all without seeking fights between these various positions:
* Criticism of Barack Obama, with the intention to vote for one of Obama's progressive opponents - from the Green Party or Ralph Nader, for instance.
* Criticism of Barack Obama, with the intention to vote for no presidential candidate at all.
* Criticism of Barack Obama, while still intending to vote for Obama in the end, campaigning for Obama and giving Obama donations.
* Criticism of Barack Obama, while refraining from campaigning, donating or volunteering for Obama, with the intention of voting for Obama in the end.
* Criticism of the right wing policies that Barack Obama has supported, without any overt criticism of Barack Obama himself.
You choose your own path. What's important is that we oppose the anti-progressive positions that Barack Obama has begun to promote in his ham-handed attempt to triangulate, as the worst Democratic and Republican politicians have done in the past.
Actually, I think this is precisely the time to "quibble" about the best way to protest against Obama's "anti-progressivism." (If not now, when?)
As you might expect, evidence of this fissuring process can be found all over the internets -- much of it haphazard and fractured in a way so typical of online conversations. Consequently, that evidence is also difficult to quantify. Still, it is frustratingly easy to dig through comment threads and turn up remarks like these (for example):
Thanks a lot guys. You finally figured out that Obama is a liar. You guys make me sick. You tore down Clinton because she wouldn’t pander to you. You liked the guy who promised everything. If you had just barely scratched the surface you would have realized he was full of it.
If you really care about this now, join PUMA PAC and work to get Clinton nominated at the convention.
If not, you are all just whiney children. As Obama would say, “Where else are you going to go?”.
This life-long Dem will be voting McCain. Fuck all you faux-gressives. You don’t have any credibility left. (1)
I won’t vote for Obama because my conscience will not allow me to after his vote for the FISA Amendment.
I won’t campaign against him because McCain is much worse.
It is plain to see i have no options in this race.
I will sit this election out, but the fight to repeal FISA goes on. (1)
Public Service Announcement: You don’t need political analysts; just read the news. Singular lines of news suffice at times. You are now in the post-analytic age. Here is a one-liner from a Yahoo! News piece on the recent passage of the Snoops-R-Us bill in the Senate: “Obama ended up voting for the final bill, as did Specter.”
That one sentence tells you all you need to know about where Obama and most Democrats stand on the issue of civil liberties and what political leaders are not willing to do to protect those liberties. Now, that should be enough to make you withdraw your support from Obama’s presidency — if, that is, you still have illusions about the Democrats in general, and Barak Obama in this round of Anybody-But-Bush/McCain.
“What?” says you, “And let McCain win the election?”
To that it must be said: What on earth is the difference when the Democratic presidential nominee, during the election campaign, votes in the same way as a right-wing Republican not just on any bill, but on a bill curtailing people’s civil liberties? (1)
"I will be voting for a third party candidate in November since neither of these two corporate major party candidates are progressive. I think it is very important to remember that 'the lesser of two evils' is still evil." (2)
"Obama is sending true progressives flocking to Nader." (2)
"I was voting for Hillary Clinton but now this is the first time in 44 years, I will vote for a republican." (2)
"Obama lost my vote when he began cheerleading the war in Afghanistan and got on his knees before the right-wing death-squad Cuban community in Florida, telling them the embargo would not be lifted. [...] Obama doesn't get it. I'm voting 3rd party." (2)
(My sources are pretty random, but they also turned up pretty quickly in a google search: 1. this post on the launch of PAO, which appeared on the Repeal FISA site a few weeks ago and 2. this rather unflattering piece on Obama by Adolph Reed, published in the Progressive just before Obama clinched the nomination.)
Then there are (of course) the blogs. For the curious, one particularly rich hub is Just Say No Deal, which has the longest blogroll I've seen in quite some time (it also has a godawful site design). Go ahead, click around. My "favorite" of the linked sites is "Pagan Power," who recently picked up Jesse Jackson's meme and ran a poll asking "would you like to cut off Obama's nuts too"? (Dude, I don't even want to cut off John McCain's nuts. Can we grow up please?)
And so down and down the road we go. Where does it lead? Nobody knows.
Addendum: Perhaps Kris Tiner knows. He just published a compelling thought piece on the broader cultural context for / relevance of the Obama candidacy -- plus a sober assessment of the sort of evil horse shit the left is up against this time around. Go read.