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Bucking Up for Barry

Phew! That was a close one!

For a moment there, I was spiraling down and down, descending into a bathetic pile of self-pity, thinking about the sad state of my country.

What a fool I was. I'm sure glad that Vice President Biden was good enough to give me a cold slap of reality in a speech this week, when he said that unhappy progressives need to "buck up" and "stop whining". Good point, Joe!

And thanks to President Barack, too, for bringing me to my senses by admonishing us that "It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible."

I was a little confused about these comments at first, given that progressives have been almost entirely excluded from Obama's cabinet and White House team these last two years. I was a little puzzled by these remarks initially, since the administration has blown off liberals in every single one of its key legislative initiatives or policy decisions. And I was a bit perplexed when I first heard these statements, given that Obama and his team have been widely reported to not only be uninterested in the preferences of the progressives in their base, but also to be condescendingly dismissive of us good folks in the "professional left". You know - the ones who will only "be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we've eliminated the Pentagon", as his press secretary recently described us.

But then I realized what a fool I was being. Then I saw that I needed to stop whining so much. I realized it was time to buck up for Barry.

The president said, "Everybody out there has to be thinking about what's at stake in this election". And he's right. And so I did. I thought about what's at stake, and I realized that this is a really important election after all. I realized that things could be one helluva lot worse next year if we progressives don't stop whining and if we don't start bucking up, and fast!

Think about it.

We could end up with a government that instantly responds to the five-alarm fire of economic meltdown by bailing out the very Wall Street banks that created the mess, one hundred cents on the dollar, while doing next to nothing for the other ninety-eight percent of us in the middle and working classes.

We could have a government that is populated by proteges of Robert Rubin, the Goldman Sachs wonder boy whose enthusiasm for deregulation while he was Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary has now crashed the global economy.

We could have a government that refuses to seriously reform the deregulatory policies that got us into this crisis. Maybe it would pass a "reform" bill, but you can bet the law wouldn't actually deal with key threats like derivatives. Nor would it separate ordinary banking from market speculation. And it would probably leave us with banks that are more gargantuan than ever, and more ‘too big to fail' than they were in 2008.

We could have a government that doesn't spend any political capital whatsoever on creating temporary jobs to keep people afloat during a crisis, and doesn't even care much about extending their unemployment benefits during the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

We could have a government that runs a mortgage relief program supposedly designed to keep people from losing their houses, but instead leaves sinking homeowners worse off than if they hadn't applied at all.

We could have a government that continues the Bush era legislation that actually gives tax incentives to corporations picking up their manufacturing plants and all the jobs associated with them and exporting everything overseas.

If we don't buck up, we could wind up having the kind of person George W. Bush might pick for running the Pentagon as our Secretary of Defense.

We could find ourselves mired endlessly in some Asian war whose purpose can't even be identified. Heck, if you thought Bush was bad, the next government might go so far as to triple the number of troops in Afghanistan.

Or it might dramatically increase the number of Predator drone attacks being launched against our "ally", Pakistan.

We might get a government that still won't close down Guantánamo.

We could wind up with a government that does nothing (other than to continue to send billions in support) when Israel builds illegal settlements in the West Bank that further damage the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

We might have a government that continues Bush's policy of claiming the "state secrets" privilege in cases involving torture, rendition, or other violations of Constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties even worse than those (see below), asking courts to dismiss them without even hearing any evidence.

We could have a government in which the president actually claims the right to assassinate American citizens.

We could have a government that won't do anything about ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", continuing to dismiss from the military patriots willing to die for their country whose only crime is having a minority sexual preference.

If we're not careful, the next government might actually go to federal court, asking that suits against Clinton's anti-gay "Defense of Marriage" act be blocked from even being heard.

We could have a government that sics the FBI on non-violent anti-war peace organizations, searching their premises and seizing their property on the basis of ridiculous trumped-up charges of abetting terrorism.

We might get ourselves a government that continues to increase "defense" spending, even though the US spends more on its paranoia budget right now than all the other countries of the world combined - all 200 of them - and even though we are currently in a massive fiscal crisis due to egregious over-spending.

We could have a government that would appoint a fiscal commission stacked with appointees focused on denying benefits to American seniors in the name of balancing the budget. This new government might even appoint a lunatic like Alan Simpson as the commission's co-chair, even though he has publicly described Social Security as "a milk cow with 310 million tits".

We could have a government that immediately fires any civil servants who are attacked by Glenn Beck or similar monsters, even when they completely fabricate allegations against those people.

If we're not serious this November, we could get a government that won't do anything about global warming, even while ice caps melt, Russia burns, coral reefs die, and we sweat through the hottest summer ever on record.

We might get a government that would open up huge tracts of environmentally sensitive off-shore zones for oil drilling.

We could have a government that would help to cover up for companies like BP when they wreck the environment.

We could have a government that would let companies like BP be in charge of dealing with a massive oil spill, instead of having government agencies created to serve the public interest handle it.

We could have a government that knows that such federal agencies have been completely captured by the special interests they're supposed to regulate, and yet does nothing about reforming them.

We could get a government that responds to the health care crisis by writing a bill based on a deal it cuts with insurance companies and pharmaceutical corporations. Even though these insurance companies add nothing whatsoever to the delivery of health care, and even though they eat up in profit and overhead one out of every three dollars spent for health care, this government could pass legislation forcing forty million Americans to buy their product.

If we don't buck up here, people, we could wind up with a government that refuses to stand up for the public interest and continues to be a shill for Wall Street, corporations and other plutocrats, even foreign ones.

You see what I mean? See how much worse things could be!

Like I said: Phew! That was a close one. I almost made a big mistake this election season.

The president and vice president are correct. There's a lot at stake here. If we progressives - even those few non-professional lefties among us who just happen to care about their country without even getting paid for it - don't start getting energized, and soon, we could wind up having a government as awful in every way as the one described above.

Moreover, the president was right when he said that his administration was the "most successful in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward". Of course, he didn't mention that the presidents of the last generation were Reagan, Daddy Bush, Clinton and Baby Bush. Some might complain that such a claim would be like Mao bragging that he had murdered fewer peasants than Stalin, but I say they're splitting hairs. Obama is more progressive than any of those other cats!

"I hear these people saying he's like George Bush", Press Secretary Robert Gibbs recently exclaimed. "Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it's crazy."

Yeah, no kidding, bro. The Obama administration and the Democratic Congress acting like a bunch of right-wing Republicans?!?!

Now that's a truly crazy thought.

Not to mention "inexcusable" and "irresponsible", too.

Oh, and don't forget "whiney".

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.

David Michael Green

David Michael Green

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.

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