SAN FRANCISCO - There have long been rumblings that the liberal base is ticked off at President Obama, but the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party just put that frustration into writing: They've passed a resolution exploring calling for a primary challenge to Obama.
Now, this is largely symbolic, but it's heavy nonetheless. They're ticked that Obama hasn't ditched the Bush tax cuts, has continued drone attacks overseas, and hasn't ended the foreclosure crisis, among other sins listed below. The straw that broke their collective caucus backs, Caucus chair Karen Bernal told us Wednesday, was Obama's -- as the resolution put it -- "unilateral closed-door budget offer to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which endangers the New Deal and War on Poverty safety nets."
"Our silence," Bernal told us, "is a price that's too high to pay."
So last weekend -- July 30 -- at a meeting in Anaheim, the Prog Caucus broke their silence.
But doesn't Bernal remember when Teddy Kennedy challenged incumbent Prez Jimmy Carter in 1980...who lost to President Reagan later that year? Isn't she afraid that, as a Democrat, a primary challenge could weaken Obama and possibly lead to a Republican president?
"We already have one in so many of his policies," Bernal said.
Actually, the resolution itself is a bit more restrained -- or nuanced, if you prefer -- than that. Passed last weekend, it says that the Caucus....
"...will begin the process of contacting other Democratic organizations, Democratic Party members and public organizations that share our views on the issues and which seek to alter the course of history by exploring other steps to effect a necessary change, including a possible primary challenge to President Obama."
Bernal doesn't plan to ask the full California Democratic Party to approve the resolution. It was meant more as a statement of conscience than a desire to back a rival to Obama, she said. "Is there a sense of desperation in this?" Bernal said. "I would have to say yes."
The caucus, according to a spokesman, hopes that "Obama would rework his priorities to respond to the needs of working class Americans in order to get progressive support in 2012."
California Democratic Party chair John Burton --- who supported Kennedy versus Carter in 1980 -- told us that he doesn't agree with this resolution.
Caressing the Queen's English in a way that only the Chairman can, Burton told us that he doesn't think that a primary challenge to Obama will help the president's re-election chances.
"F---- no, what is that going to do?" Burton told us.
So a little competition won't help Obama advocate more strongly for core Democratic Party principles?
"Yeah, I'm sure. If the debt limit (debate) showed something, it showed what an absolute f------ disaster it would have been if there had been a Republican president," Burton said. "The people who sat on their hands or voted Republican in 2010, most of them are going through buyer's remorse right now."
What about the frustration the liberal base -- and the Caucus -- feels about the war and...
"A lot of people are frustrated about the war. People talk about cutting Social Security and they're not talking about paying for the war. People are frustrated about a ton of stuff," he said.
"It's how they feel. There's discontent," Burton said. "There's a frustration in the country. Look at the f------ polls. So f---, that's news to somebody?"
But couldn't this be damaging to Obama, coming from his safe blue haven in California?
(The resolution) "is a reflection on the part of liberals in the California (Democratic) Party to the point that they talk about or fantasize about a primary challenge with the hope that it will end the war, have a single-payer health plan, do away with the Bush tax cuts, take Social Security tax cuts off the table," Burton said.
Here's the full resolution:
WHEREAS, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party recognizes the challenge presented by President Obama's negotiating away Democratic Party principles to extremist Republicans, we are challenged by President Obama in the following ways:
His unilateral closed-door budget offer to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which endangers the New Deal and War on Poverty safety nets.
His determination to escalate U.S. militarism through illegal secret CIA drone attacks and unauthorized wars.
His willingness to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and bail out big banks without ending the foreclosure crisis that displaces American working families
His insistence on pushing a health insurance bill which enriches private insurance companies while ignoring growing support for single-payer health care or robust public options.
His continuance of President Bushâ€™s assault on civil liberties with an extension of the repressive Patriot Act.
His failure to restore due process, including the protection of whistleblowers and habeas corpus.
His numerous failures to adhere to international law.
The continuing practice of nationwide FBI raids of anti-war progressive protestors.
His decision to increase the arrests and deportations of undocumented workers.
His facilitation of the privatizing of the public sphere, which includes education and housing, among others.
His disregard of his promises to the Labor movement.
His failure to adequately protect the environment and adequately address climate change.
WHEREAS, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party recognizes the historical significance of the Eugene McCarthy/Robert F. Kennedy anti-war challenge to President Lyndon Johnson. The challenge followed President Johnson's decision to escalate U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, betraying his campaign promise to end a war that polarized America. Similarly, we recognize the danger and betrayal that the current "Grand Bargain" represents to the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's signature gift to all Americans, Social Security and the New Deal, a point of pride for all Democrats.
WHEREAS, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party is committed to the understanding that an interest in a 2012 Democratic presidential primary challenge will not interfere with President Obama's ability to govern and not limit his ability to do so in ways that include invoking Constitutional options, we recognize that this will, in fact, raise debate on important issues without risking the ability to mobilize and energize the base of the Democratic Party to elect a triumphant leader to counter the far-right agenda.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, to make our views heard, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party will begin the process of contacting other Democratic organizations, Democratic Party members and public organizations that share our views on the issues and which seek to alter the course of history by exploring other steps to effect a necessary change, including a possible primary challenge to President Obama.