June 12, 2012

An Obama one night stand

Sam Smith

Perhaps the most scary report from the Wisconsin recall election was this from Daily Kos:

“Young people didn't turn out. Only 16 percent of the electorate was 18-29, compared to 22 percent in 2008. That's the difference between 646,212 and 400,599 young voters, or about 246,000. Walker won by 172,739 votes.”

And it’s not just a problem in Wisconsin. Reports the Washington Examiner:

“Nearly four years after enthusiastic younger voters poured into polling booths to help push Barack Obama over the finish line and into the Oval Office, their hope has turned to fear and pollster John Zogby says that they are ready to give up on politics. ‘I truly am worried about today's twenty-somethings,’ he frets.”

Now consider this chart from the Texas Observer on latino voting:

Note that with the sole exception of 2008, latino turnout has been dropping.

As for independents, there are deep problems as well. From the Washington Post:

“Democratic pollsters and analysts Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Erica Seifert in a memo based on focus groups of independents, /weak/ Democrats and /weak/ Republicans deliver the bad news to the president: No one buys what you are selling….

“Plainly the Obama strategists have got a problem with disappointed Obama 2008 voters: ‘These voters are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction. They are living in a new economy — and there is no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country…

“Then comes the hammer blow. The Dems in effect push-polled their own focus group (‘We gave respondents a fact sheet about Mitt Romney’), but even though they peppered participants with anti-Romney ‘facts,’ Obama still comes out behind. ‘Despite Romney’s clear weaknesses, when asked whether Romney or Obama would do a better job on the economy, more chose Romney.’”

While the media will, as usual, play this election as a contest of who says what about what, in fact the big issue is who will turn out on election day.  It’s not arguments but enthusiasm that will ultimately matter.  And for Obama that means the young,  latinos,  blacks and independents.

Over 90% of Romney’s supporters are white and many of them are scared, angry whites who at least subconsciously sense that not only is the American economic  dream over but their status within that dream. America has too many people who don’t look like them.

As for Obama’s backers, some of the disillusioned will go with the Green Party and many will not vote out of anger, frustration or the apathy that failure teaches. How many of these there will be we don’t know but  we know it could easily decide the election.

As one who has never admired Obama’s skill, believed in his intent, nor agreed with many of his policies, I feel comfortable with this crowd. Still I have made the choice to vote for Obama anyway. In attempting to unravel this anomaly I came up with a several factors:

I don’t share with many of my Green Party friends the notion that politics is a form of religion and that one should react at the polls as a born again voter.. First, there is no historical evidence that at the presidential level this has worked since Abe Lincoln won for the new Republican Party and, second, I have lived in places like Boston, Philadelphia and Washington where one rarely associates politics with the higher virtues. It is not about personal salvation brought about by casting the right ballot, but a collective, pragmatic way to make things work as best one can in a town, state or nation.

But many assume when we go to vote that we are helping to define the future and thus can be passionate when it works and angry when it fails.

The truth is that elections are basically a formal poll of where we are at that moment in time. It is the product of all the political activity, organizing and arguing that has gone on before.

It doesn’t determine the future for a large number of reasons, one of which has been dramatically demonstrated by Barack Obama: namely that politicians rarely do what they promise, either because of deceit or difficulty.

For such reasons there are those who will not turn out in November on the grounds that both choices are worthless or evil. And there are those who will not turn out because the whole subject just depresses them or no longer is of interest.

But what if we change our view of elections so they are seen as a tool for what one is trying to achieve rather than an ultimate goal? What if the purpose of voting is not to come up with a saint, but to make our struggle easier? What if the most important day is not Election Day but the day after?

I have on several occasions asked politicians whom I was supporting this question: what do you plan to do when you lose? Other than the shocked look, I got no good answers, even when I tried it on Dennis Kucinich.

But if you’re running a tiny chance race for president or some other slot, isn’t it a fair question? And isn’t the failure to not have even thought about it reflective of a missed opportunity? Just consider all the names, phone numbers and enthusiasm that have disappeared the day after well planned but failed campaigns. What if the campaigns had been used not as an ultimate goal but as another form of organizing?

Which is how I came up with the idea of the Obama One Night Stand.

The urban dictionary defines the more common version this way:  “Hooking up with someone for one night of sex with no strings attached.”

What if voting for Obama is to get rid of Romney and the other fools of the Republican Party and to make it easier to pursue progressive goals over the four years?  What if we think of it as just another one night stand?

The minute you start thinking this way, Obama’s faults become almost irrelevant and the campaign suddenly becomes one big organizing tool.

I often hear people say that there is no difference between the two parties and their candidates. In fact there is a big difference on a number of them: abortion,  Amtrak,  birth control assistance  diversity of appointments  extension of unemployment benefits. food stamps, unemployment benefits  environmental issues,  gay marriage and separation of church and state to name a few.

But even more important is the fact that if Romney is elected there is a seldom mentioned but horrendous likelihood that he will be joined by an all Republican Congress – the most conservative one in 80 years. The GOP only needs to pick up four seats. It already has one in the slot and seven other possibles, far from a good sign. Even Harry Reid, that nit on a gnat’s nut (to borrow one of Dan Rather’s phrases), begins to look better when you consider the alternative.

What I would love to see would be a movement that recognizes the fact that many Americans are annoyed, disappointed, or frustrated and that others have just given up - and that attempts to offer the justification for a one night stand with Obama.  A few parts to the plan:

- There must be a clear cause centered on a few key economic issues.  Not ones that affect the  GDP, international trade or make the private sector feel “fine” but real live things that help people with jobs, income and mortgages. And no gay marriage stuff, no abortion talk, no liberal gobblygook.  Rather basic,  gut bucket issues.

- There must a clear plan to launch a new movement for these causes the day after the election, making the point that having a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic Senate is essential to get these things going, not because we can expect their enthusiastic support but that their opposition will be much less.  The kickoff should involve thousands of groups across the country on the same page, the same issues and the same day.

- Keep the Democratic Party and its front groups like Move On out of it all. They’ll just muck things up. Labor unions, churches, activist groups of all sorts: fine.

- Have stickers at the polls  that say something like “I had a one night stand with Obama; now I want the real thing.”

- Start now bringing the people who feel so frustrated and defeated together. There could be social groups called Apathy Anonymous and  there could be cross-issue gatherings of local activists so they begin to discovered that there are more us than they think.

The real answer, as it always does, lies in organizing outside the traditional political boundaries. The fact is that a Romney election with a GOP Senate would be a disaster while Obama is just a chronic disease.  

The best solution is to give Obama one day and keep the rest for America.


Anonymous said...

The clue that this column uses tortured logic is that it's much longer than usual. This violates a prime rule of politics: keep it short and clear.

Thumbs down on this one. It's a given that our system is scuppered. Bring on President Romney and a fully Republican Congress. Maybe that way people will get to the political fight that we've been avoiding for two generations.

BARBBF said...

Someone posted (and I wish I'd thought of it):

If you voted for Obama the last time to prove you were not a racist...vote for anyone else this time..to prove you're not an idiot.

BARBBF said...

Sam wrote:

The minute you start thinking this way, Obama’s faults become almost irrelevant and the campaign suddenly becomes one big organizing tool.



The Butchering of Gaddafi Is America’s Crime

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Last week the whole world saw, and every decent soul recoiled, at the true face of NATO’s answer to the Arab Spring. An elderly, helpless prisoner struggled to maintain his dignity in a screaming swirl of savages, one of whom thrusts a knife [4] up his rectum. These are Europe and America’s jihadis in the flesh. In a few minutes of joyously recorded bestiality, the rabid pack undid every carefully packaged image of NATO’s “humanitarian” project in North Africa – a horror and revelation indelibly imprinted on the global consciousness by the brutes’ own cell phones.

Nearly eight months of incessant bombing by the air forces of nations that account for 70 percent of the world’s weapons spending, all culminating in the gang-bang slaughter of Moammar Gaddafi, his son Mutassim and his military chief of staff, outside Sirte. The NATO-armed bands then displayed the battered corpses for days in Misurata – the city that had earlier made good on its vow to “purge Black skin” through the massacre and dispersal of 30,000 darker residents of nearby Tawurgha – before disposing of the bodies in an unknown location.


Perhaps his faults are deemed irrelevant by the US population..but not by the members of the families of thousands of Libyan civilians now dead as a result of Obama's support of NATO's illegal invasion of that unfortunate country. Obama is complicit in the deaths of more Africans than any US President in recent history.

Anonymous said...

An independent GOTV movement would be responsible for electing Obama and Dems and then impact the party. Greens, socialists, et al would form an ant-fascist coalition impacting issues based on their GOTV as a civil rights project to protect voting rights against GOP fraud and suppression.

Anonymous said...

In the US if you are for democracy at the federal level the two party solution is a single issue campaign against corruption. The ad hoc first step this year is a one party solution to send a message to Dems that voters, not donors put them in power. Ultimately the GOP can not be permitted to be a fascist only party but must be integrated, as the South was in the 60's.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your "give Obama one day" works, Sam.

You yourself articulated the reasons: politicians betray us. Until we can force them to do our bidding, they will force us to give them not merely one day, but two, four, or six years at a minimum, plus everything in our pockets and even our very rights as human beings. Time in which they can and will do anything they like to us.

I'd urge you to think about how to solve that problem.

In the meantime I plan to vote for Elizabeth and Jill and let the chips fall where they may.

The economists who are exposing Homo Economicus as a fraud via field research using games such as the Ultimatum Game are finding that fairness is the most important value around the world in all cultures.

In the Ultimatum game, a certain substantial amount of money is to be divided between the two participants. One of them decides how to divide, the other decides whether to accept. If the acceptor refuses the division, neither gets anything. There is no negotiation or do-overs.

What the researchers are finding is that, if the divider tries to keep too much, the acceptor will refuse and walk away. Fairness is more important than profit (and the profit they give up really is non-trivial - several days' pay)

They're also finding that there are cultures where the divider automatically offers half, without even thinking about it.

In most cultures, the divider will divide at least a little unevenly, keeping the larger part, and the acceptor will tolerate that minor greediness.

But they hardly ever tolerate a larger greediness except, interestingly, sometimes from someone known to be rich. For some reason, some seem to believe that the rich are more entitled than they are. That hasn't been explained yet, that I know of.

Uncle Goat said...

The problem being that even in a one night stand, you can end up with years of crippling self-loathing, have a bad time or catch a disease.

I see no reason, pragmatic or not, to legitimize a government that goes out of its way to be a murderous fiend so that a handful of oil men can die a wee bit richer.

Dan Lynch said...

Sam wrote: "What if voting for Obama is to get rid of Romney and the other fools of the Republican Party and to make it easier to pursue progressive goals over the four years?"

Sam, Obama is not going to pursue progressive goals. He is not a progressive.

This is not your father's Democratic party. The New Deal is dead. Obama doesn't want to revive the New Deal, he wants to drive a stake through its heart.

Bottom line: if Obama is re-elected, R's will gain even more congressional seats in 2014, as voters blame the party that controls the White House.

If Romney is elected, and if the economy continues to suck, as seems likely, then voters will blame R's and their conservative agenda. The country will swing left in 2014.

Anonymous said...

If one of the two parties is still vulnerable to an outbreak of genuine democracy, then democrats have an access to holding government accountable. A partisan system is not ideal, as Washington argued, but it worked passably until Buckley v. Valeo made Watergate the law, and the Kennedys and October mullahs sent Carter into exile. To argue that participating in governance is collaboration, is to dishonor and break generational faith with the Revolution, Lincoln, TR, Fanny Lou Hamer, Bayard Rustin, et al. To avoid service in a potentially anti-fascist voter empowerment movement may be conscientiously objected to, but only on narrowly personal grounds, for example, "______ broke my heart, I'll never love again." Although voting out the corrupt is far preferable, that project has not been launched. The lessons of the state-of-the-art faux populist Tea Party have apparently not sunk in. For those who are entrepreneurial to get out the Democratic vote as a voters rights GOTV movement, is not the same as asking for a cigaret before one's execution. One valid access to power is to take credit for GOTV and subsequently run a rejectionist program against Vichy Dems on the issues of austerity and money out of politics. If instead we get a civil war, so be it. Those lacking inspiration should watch the old George Raft/Jimmy Cagney classic "Each Dawn I Die" about the type of planning and coordination it takes to break out of prison/defeat a corrupt system.

Anonymous said...

It's all a process---and remember that "due process and judicial process are not one and the same...the Constitution guarantees due process and not judicial process"
And so, Sam, really want to argue the merits of Barry & Co.?
'One night stand' certainly must be some sort of equivocation for getting rolled & mugged by a two-bit pimp.
One has to bow to the ever vigilant Harry Shearer--I wish to share:

Anonymous said...

We could do a lot worse than have Sam as the spokesperson for the Democratic Party base.

Mark Robinowitz said...

The Democratic Party was killed in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

JFK vowed to scatter the CIA into a thousand pieces and the CIA scattered JFK into a thousand pieces.

The Democrats never recovered from that coup.

Most of Nixon's policies were far better than the swill that Obama is fronting for - that is how far we've sunk.

Does anyone really believe the "election" is decided on Election Day?

I'm not in the slightest bit disappointed by Obama, it was obvious in 2007 what his term would be. Progressive Review even warned us what would happen.

None of the Above is an honorable choice when offered the false choice of lethal injection versus the electric chair.

Anonymous said...

Screw Obama. I'm voting for Jill Stein - let the chips fall where they may. I refuse to vote for a murderous, lying thug who takes pleasure in stripping us of our civil rights. The only difference between Bush and Obama is a jar of Vaseline. Obama is a silver-tongued liar. I'd rather have a man who says he's going to stab you in the chest and does it than a man who comes up to you, whispers sweet nothings in your ear, and then slips a knife in your back, saying, "shhhh ... this won't hurt." Maybe when enough Americans get stabbed in the chest, they will throw all of these corrupt bastards in the ocean with cement blocks tied to their feet.

Scott McLarty said...

Sam, your argument for a "one-night stand with Obama" could be used to justify voting for sold-out Democrats in any presidential election, and in any congressional, state, or local election too. "If we don't vote for the Democrat, we'll help shift the balance of power in our state legislature over to the GOP!" I'm surprised to see such squeamishness about third-party voting in The Progressive Review.

The one-night stand argument for voting Democrat will be just relevant in 2016, 2020, 2024, and the rest of history, until enough people realize that endless one-night stands are as stunted, short-sighted, & tawdry in politics as in one's personal life.

Yes, there are sharp platform differences between Democrats & Republicans, some of which you list. But over all, the Ds are as complicit as the Rs in the transfer of power to the corporate sector. (Latest example: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html) By finding excuses to vote for Dems like Obama, progressives have made themselves complicit too

There are plenty of valid reasons to fret over a GOP victory. Ultimately, they serve to keep us locked in the two-party status quo. Can anything be worse than another Republican administration in the White House? Yes -- another century of dismal politics limited to two parties that keep drifting further to the right. At what point do we say "enough already" -- when the damage from bipartisan wars & Wall Street policies and the destruction of our republic have become irreversible?

Irreversibility has even more ominous implications when we talk about global warming. Obama has no real plans for curbing climate change and has sided with the energy industry on offshore drilling, wars for oil, the "clean coal" myth, mountaintop detonation mining, fracking, etc. He deferred the Keystone XL pipeline decision, but we can probably place bets that he'll approve it after reelection. He has adopted the GOP line that the US is in a crisis of foreign oil dependency, rather than a crisis of fossil fuel addiction regardless of oil sources. He supports emissions trading (cap & trade), which gives industries a license to pollute that they can trade back and forth, and which European nations are realizing is ineffectual against climate change.

Compare that to the Green Party's platform, in particular the 'Green New Deal' promoted by Green candidates, including Jill Stein, who is now the Green Party's presumptive presidential nominee (http://www.jillstein.org/text_psou). The Green New Deal offers a general but substantial set of ideas for curbing climate change and using the emergency to create millions of new jobs in the US in conservation, development & implementation of clean energy technology, retrofitting homes & building and municipal planning & land use for energy efficiency, expansion of public transportation to reduce car traffic, etc.

Sam, I think we agree that we're long past due for something like the Green New Deal, that we're far beyond the point where such ideas must be introduced into the national debate during presidential election years.

The articles covering climate change that are carried regularly in Undernews are the best proof that it's time to move beyond one-night stands with corporate-money Democrats.

If we want intelligent discussion of climate change & steps to halt its advance (and a lot of other important topics), then we should push hard to get the Green presidential candidate as much public attention & support as possible -- not in some future election year when it's "safe" to vote Green, but right now in 2012.

Scott McLarty
Media Coordinator for the Green Party of the United States (http://www.gp.org)

Anonymous said...

Many of us already had our one-night stand with the good-looking stranger who seemed too good to be true but spoke so beautifully, who fed our hopes of changing our world, and then dashed those hopes, offering nothing more to soften the blow than the claim that we weren't, technically, lied to--that it was all our fault for believing what we wanted to believe.

And now you advise us to have another one-night stand with someone who's spent the last 3-/12 years sleeping with the vilest perverts on the planet?

GreenGenes said...

Sam, politics is NOT a form of religion. It's a practical form of organizing to gain both leverage and power.

Voting for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, can create ballot lines in many states. That will result in easier ballot access for local candidate who will have a greater potential to win.

A GOTV effort for the Green Party will have a real metric, precinct by precinct as you can determine where the base is and how well organized you've been. That can't be done for the Democratic Party as you'll have no tangible measure of what you've turned out vs the Democratic Machine.

It's not a one night stand when you'll be screwed for another four years. Decades of failure for progressives in the Democratic Party doing exactly what you espouse (espousal abuse) got us to this point. You're old enough to know that Sam.

Your message is either disingenuous and replete with concession to our civil decline.

Anonymous said...

It is because the recall happened after the college semester ended. Things will be different in November.

Anonymous said...

Just want to address that a four-election sample of Hispanic voters isn't necessarily indicative of anything, especially when only two of the samples indicate a trend. The 'sole outlier' being 2008 doesn't indicate anything, as statistically this is too small a sample to prove/show anything...

Anonymous said...

Almost exactly half of 18-29 year olds voted for Walker, so it didn't really matter how many young people voted.

Anonymous said...

Yawn. Stay home you lazy socialists and keep drinking the kool aid. Id bet my 530 that your life sucks as much today as when Obama took office.

Anonymous said...

Amen. Funny how people think their lives are going to change simply because a Pres takes office. Only YOU can better your life, not the gov't. Get off your butt and do something instead of waiting on Obama to steal from the do'ers and give to the losers.

Arvid said...

Isn't the scariest part that America could get a Republican President, a Republican Congress and, judging by the ages of some of the members of the Supreme Court and their lately very partisan rulings, a Republican Supreme Court. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely or how was it?

Kawaii Gardiner said...

@June 12, 2012 8:46 PM

Deep down inside I've always wondered that maybe what the US needs is to give the Republican a completely rubber stamp upper and lower house; let the party get everything it wants without any challenges or protests - let the average American feel the full undiluted Republican dream in its most pure form. Maybe once they experience a few terms of that you'll see a sea change and a swing back to at least the centre right or the centre left (I'm using such terms in the context of NZ politics - as one commentator noted about the NZ political scene; all the parties in NZ could fit into the Democratic Party).

Kawaii Gardiner said...

@June 12, 2012 8:46 PM

Deep down inside I've always wondered that maybe what the US needs is to give the Republican a completely rubber stamp upper and lower house; let the party get everything it wants without any challenges or protests - let the average American feel the full undiluted Republican dream in its most pure form. Maybe once they experience a few terms of that you'll see a sea change and a swing back to at least the centre right or the centre left (I'm using such terms in the context of NZ politics - as one commentator noted about the NZ political scene; all the parties in NZ could fit into the Democratic Party).

Anonymous said...

This is one of Sam's finest columns! I completely agree with him that America cannot sustain the damage that a Republican President,Congress AND SUPREME COURT (yes, Romney if elected will likely get to appoint another corporatist to replace one of the current moderates) will inflict on our country. For those commenters hoping that the US be once and for all turned into a banana republic because then the people will finally rise up and bring about a social democracy are sadly delusional.

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