President Obama: Finding Love in the Wrong Places

With Barack Obama heading towards his first Mid-term as president, concerns are developing among his core constituents.

Accompany me, if you will, to an alternative universe. It is one
where President Richard Nixon said "we're all Keynesians now" and
founded the Environmental Protection Agency, and President Eisenhower
warned of the military-industrial complex, and dismissed any party that
would even think of eliminating unemployment insurance or Social

In this world, President Gerald Ford supported the Equal Rights
Amendment and even the high priest of Conservative daydreams, Ronald
Reagan, raised corporate taxes and inaugurated a cabinet department to
care for American veterans. As you may or may not know, this is not
actually another world, but an accurate description of another time,
when the Democratic Party and its progressive philosophy played offense,
and Republicans felt a need to prostrate themselves before it, lest
they join the Whigs, Federalists, and Know Nothings in that big
political convention in the sky.

Yet, as a more assertive President Obama once pointed out, even while
Reagan still bowed to some of the 50-year consensus that progress was
good and with freedom came responsibility to our fellow countrymen, he
lead a "transformative" presidency that blamed Big Government for all
our nation's ills (this "big government," of course, only referred to
economic issues, as growing the government to police your personal life
and the world at large was as cool as a credit default swap).

It wasn't only Reagan, of course, but the growth of talk radio
buffoonery, new television channels that were not all that fair and
balanced, and a wholesale movement by many segregationist Democrats into
the Republican Party that also helped send the conventional wisdom in a
more Jean-Marie Le Pen kind of direction.

Now fast forward to today. Most Democrats seem to stumble around like
Leonard in Memento, possessing no institutional memory that when their
forebears spoke out passionately with a strong progressive vision for
the country, most Americans agreed with them and elected them

But they also seem to have forgotten--and George W. Bush could remind
them if they need a refresher course--that even when people disagree with
their President, Senators, Governors and Congressmen, they are looking
for leaders--those who unabashedly stand up and tell you what they think
is right. It's what everyday people do in their own lives, and they
expect at least as much from their leaders.

So why do many Democrats--and there certainly are a few impressive
exceptions--hedge, hem, haw, hide and otherwise somersault to the Right
on any number of issues when they feel threatened? Well, there are
probably a few reasons, but the main one would seem to be that they
simply buy wholesale the conventional wisdom doled out by lobbyists, big
campaign contributors, certain media outlets, and Sarah Palin's
ghost-written, grammatically-challenged Twitter feed. Namely that
America is a "center-right" or even conservative country.

You can't go too far to the Left they repeat ad nauseam. You have to
appease Big Business, or they'll do to your political career what they
did to the public option. You have to be "moderate," or "centrist,"
because Americans just love that mythical middle, like its cotton candy
or the "Contest" episode of Seinfeld. Of course, all it takes is a
couple of minutes perusing poll numbers on virtually any issue to know
that this is as accurate as a Hutton Gibson's Holocaust history or
George Will's "hair."

Lets look at a few hot button issues, such as gun control, gay rights and taxes.

When asked by Republican pollster Frank Luntz whether they wanted to
see the gun show loophole--or the lack of a background check for those
purchasing guns from "private" gun sellers--even 85% of gun owners and
69% of those who are members of the radical National Rifle Association
said yes.

A recent CNN poll showed that an overwhelming 78% of Americans
support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
Finally, when the argument is over taxes, a USA Today/Gallup Poll found
that while only 37% want the richest Americans to keep tax cuts enacted
by President Bush in 2001, while 59% either want only those making less
than $250,000 a year to keep theirs, or want them to expire for

Now, I know that states are different and Congressional districts
even more so, but with these overwhelming numbers, most to all Democrats
are in safe territory to stand up for progressive values. And if being
progressive kills candidates, once again looking to history, someone is
going to have to explain to me how unapologetic liberals such as Frank
Church of Idaho, Mike Mansfield of Montana (who introduced the Civil
Rights Act of 1964), and even George McGovern of South Dakota (to name
only a few) managed to get elected and re-elected so many darn times.

This pattern of electing those who choose to lead continues today.
Even as the Midwest, or Middle America, is fetishized in Washington for
its middle-income, middle-class, moderate political bent, somehow
Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Byron Dorgan of
North Dakota, and Al Franken of Minnesota are among the half-dozen to
dozen most progressive Democrats in the Senate.

So to summarize, Democrats won for much of the 20th Century by being
proudly progressive, forcing Republicans to tack to the left early and
often, polls show Americans agree with progressives on hot button
issues, and there are many current examples of proud and loud
progressives who have made it to the Senate from swing or conservative

Any questions?

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 Al-Jazeera English