What might have happened if John McCain had won the presidency in 2008? One thing is certain: there would have been a lot more protest from Democrats, progressives, and the left. Take it as an irony of his election, but Barack Obama has proved remarkably effective in disarming the antiwar movement, even as the use of war in American policy in the Greater Middle East has only grown. That Obama, the supposed anti-warrior of the 2008 campaign, has paid less than no attention to his antiwar critics is no news at all. It’s now practically a cliché as well that he seems to feel no need to feed his political “base” and that, generally speaking (and explain it as you will), his base has not yet pushed back.
This has been particularly true of Obama’s wars, especially the disastrous, never-ending one in Afghanistan. Had Afghanistan been “McCain’s war,” you would surely have seen growing waves of protest, despite the way 9/11 ensured that the Afghan War, unlike the Iraq one, would long be the unassailable “good war.” Still, as American treasure surged into the ill-starred enterprise in Afghanistan, while funds for so much that mattered disappeared at home, I think the streets of Washington would have been filling. What protest there has been, as John Hanrahan of the Nieman Watchdog website reported recently, tends to be remarkably ill-covered in the mainstream media.
Obama, only two points ahead of Ron Paul in the latest Gallup Poll in the race for 2012, is a beyond-vulnerable candidate. (Somewhere there must be some Democratic pol doing the obvious math and considering a challenge, mustn't there?) Fortunately, in another area at least as crucial as our wars, demonstrators against a Big Oil tar-sands pipeline from Canada that will help despoil the planet are now out in front of the White House -- you can follow them here -- and they haven’t been shy about aiming their nonviolent protests directly at Obama. Will he or won’t he act like the climate-change president that, on coming into office, he swore he would be? Time will tell. Meanwhile, check out Bill McKibben, famed environmentalist and an organizer of the protests, just out of a jail cell on getting “Arrested at the White House.”