I came across an interesting article in The Atlantic on my Facebook feed called “Liberals Need to Start Holding Obama Responsible for his Policies” by Conor Friedersdorf. And I found the article to make a lot of sense. In fact, I’ve been making similar arguments for the past few years. And had this article been published last year or the year before, I’d have no disagreement with the author. However, not this year. This year is different.
It’s true that Barack Obama has been too often a disappointment for progressives, be it his compromises on healthcare that took the single-payer plan off the table, or his record deportations, or his failure to prosecute those bankers whose fraud caused the economic crisis, or his continuing of the War in Afghanistan, or his continued support of countless Bush policies like the “War on Drugs” and abstinence-only sex ed classes, or the drone strikes against innocent civilians. Take your pick.
But this is an election year. And that changes things.
I’m all for criticizing Obama for his failure to fight for the progressive policies he promised. But I don’t think this is the time to START holding Obama responsible for his bad policy decisions. During the first three years in a term seems the best time to hold Obama responsible for bad calls. But come election year, that’s when I think the focus should be on criticizing the far worse of the two evils. Strategically, it’s best for progressives to stand behind Obama for the next few months. Then after the election, we can give him hell again.
Now let me be clear here. This is not a free pass, but a stay of execution until November. What good will come out of increasing Romney’s chances of victory?
Unfortunately, it’s either Obama or Romney at this point. In an ideal world, there’d be more options on the table, but in an election year particularly, we’re prisoners of the system. Too late to introduce a true progressive third party alternative who could plausibly win the presidency and too late to redirect the Democratic Party’s platform. If Obama were to suddenly turn super-progressive tomorrow, his campaign would suffer from accusations of being a flip-flopper. No, now’s the worst time to attack Obama’s policies if the goal is a progressive presidential cycle for the next four years.
The day after Obama wins reelection, I say go to town on his bad decisions. And maybe then, if we push him and the press hard enough, we’ll have a chance at getting a few important policy decisions go our way or, though very unlikely, even get Obama to make changes to help fix the system like he promised. But neither of those options exists with Mitt Romney in the White House. He’s even more bought by the corporations than Obama and even more motivated to push conservative social and fiscal policies.
All evidence suggests a Romney presidency would continue to marginalize women, LGTB Americans, and every other minority group. They’ll likely continue to deregulate the market and make it easier for the super-rich to profit off the poor and middle class. They’ll likely promote a science policy that undermines climate change research and the teaching of evolution in schools. Whatever you might think of Obama, by all indication, a Romney presidency will almost certainly be disastrous.
The time to fight Obama in this term is over. Progressives who care more about the cause than shaming the president need to put the pitch forks down for now and support Obama now more than ever. Then after he wins, feel free to let him have it.