Let me be clear that I write this diary with the best intentions. Please read carefully with an open mind.
Let's start with the basics of what President Obama ran on in his campaign. He strongly endorsed the fundamental ideals of progressivism in his 2008 campaign, but he also believed in bringing people together from both sides. He always improved people's lives and issues through bringing people together with different points of view ever since he was a community organizer. Bringing people together was a key ideal of his leadership style. Ted Kennedy was very strongly embracing of progressive values and fighting all the way till the end. At the same time, Ted Kennedy was willing to reach compromises with the other side too, something Democrats and progressives criticized him for believe it or not.
Kennedy's willingness to give up on big plans in exchange for incremental half-measures was emblematic not only of his adaptation to the back rooms of the U.S. Senate, but also of a larger shift in the ambition and scope of liberalism as it began to feel the assault of the conservative ascendancy of the 1970s.Obama's desire to work with republicans had influence from Ted Kennedy. Liberal Lion Ted Kennedy, who mentored then-senator Obama, endorsed him specifically because he believed in Obama's ability to transcend the partisan divide and marveled at Obama's ability to bring people together. Many republicans worked with senator Obama on numerous bills. Obama's bills tended to be bipartisan and were ultimately successful.
That is why President Obama brought voices to his white house staff such as Tim Geithner, Rahm Emmanuel, Lawerence Summers, Austin Goolsbee (later), Bill Daley (later), Gene Sparling (later) Christina Romer, Hilda Solis, Kathleen Sebelius, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and Van Jones. I understand that people no doubt have problems with Christina Romer and Van Jones leaving early, strongly believing they were undercut and not as supported by Obama. There is some truth to that. However, I don't think Obama meant for all that to happen. What ended up happening largely was that Rahm, Tim, and Lawrence ( close to bad interests even though they did a lot of good things) ended up having over more influence than expected at some key points. Obama then was misguided as they exerted their influence (I am right and everyone is wrong style) on his staff. Rahm acknowledged that Lawrence would slow walk things and he impacted the Obama administration's messaging. Therefore, Obama's messaging problems (not willing to strongly call out republicans often using the people's pulpit and letting republicans/media get the upperhand at times in situations) have root causes of Obama really wanting to bring people together and his "bad" advisors misguiding him. He was not cowardly or scared of republicans as many harsh critics on this site have said. Ed Schultz went as far to say "Obama has a sissy room". It also was not that he was stupid about messaging.
All of this is perfectly applicable to the health care debate, where harsh criticism of Obama's messaging, being weak, not sticking up for progressive principles, and being a "sell-out" really began boiling up. President Obama wanted to bring people together for getting a universal health care law as much as he endorsed a strong incremental bill with a public option. He said he would bring insurance companies to the table, a BIG difference from John Edwards who said "you can't reason with those people". That approach to bring people together had side effects no sugarcoating.
Also, Olympia Snowe at the start really wanted to work with Obama (she voted for the Recovery Act, pledged to work with Obama in a bipartisan basis on key issues, and had worked with him when he was a senator) and Obama brought her to the table. Unfortunately, at the worst possible moment, the batshit crazy wing was officially taking over Mcconnell and the republican party. Olympia Snowe voted yes in the senate committee vote but by then, Obama's desire for a bipartisan bill was falling apart and failing before our eyes. Lastly, while big insurance industries and grassroots teapartiers were having big influences on conservative Democratic senators like Max Baucus, Olympia Snowe, Blanche Lincoln, and Mary Landrieu, us progressives were largely sitting on the sidelines. As Van Jones said in Netroots Nation 2012, "where were we"? We were not organizing like the tea party was. We did not have our own townhalls. We were not holding mass rallies in the senators' offices or in DC. I am not trying to say progressives did not do anything. However, we did make a lot of mistakes too, particularly not MAKING Democrats and Obama to stick with their original strong bill plans. We definitely could have done things better too.
Thus continued the general "unappreciativeness", frustration, doubt, and belief that Obama was not worth it in terms of creating a progressive society we all want. Some LGBT activists and progressives (like Dan Choi) vitriolically criticized Obama for slow-dragging DADT repeal, DOJ's defending of DOMA, and other LGBT issues even as he was already doing a lot for LGBT people. Some Environmentalists (Al Gore) and progressives were deeply disappointed for a lack of cap and trade bill and that Obama was not as committed to addressing the "global warming emergency" as strongly as he needed to be. Some progressives (like Matt Taibi) and victims of wall street abuse have been vitrolic critics of Obama for not holding wall street accountable, not doing enough on housing, and for Dodd-Frank going far enough. Lastly, these three issues are where the Obama administration is thought of as being really bad: Civil Liberties (drones, lack of respect for whistleblowers, wiretapping/FISA, NDAA, and Bradley Manning), K-12 Education, and War on Drugs (medical marijuana raids).
I understand why they felt what they felt and there is no sugarcoating that there have been problems with the administration on each of these issues. Let me tell you though that these same progressives would have been vitriolic critics of FDR also for many of the same reasons.
Even FDR, who governed the closest to a progressive and not on bringing people together, was harshly criticized as not being progressive enough and having bad points similar to those of President Obama. Check this diary out by our well-respected and revered puakev.
Abraham Lincoln was not considered "radical" or "progressive" enough by the Radical republicans of his time either.
Having said that, a big part Obama's bad points are not totally "Obama problems". When you take into consideration how intense left pressure/organizing made Obama be better on LGBT rights, DREAM act deportations, backing away from keystone, etc, where has left organizing/pressure been throughout wall street reform? Why didn't occupy last long-term and start early in Obama's first term? I am confident we might have gotten a better wall-street regulation signed into law had there been occupy wall street pressure. Occupy did positively pressure Obama and Democrats. Obama even created a commission for financial accountability. Yes, I know there are a lot of limitations regarding that. However, that was largely because the left pressure was short-lived. On education, why did teachers unions endorse Obama so early? Imagine if teachers unions organized left pressure early on and held out their endorsements. The Democratic party had been for years drifting badly in education (aided by Ted Kennedy's part in NCLB). Obama's education policies are therefore not original or unique. Our very own kossack teacherken criticized teachers unions in not pushing Obama more here.
I worry that once the endorsement is finalized, this administration will have even less reason to listen to the voices of those of us involved in things like the Save Our Schools March, and will point to the endorsement as "proof" that teachers as a whole support their policies.That definitely would have gotten Obama to soften some of his bad education policies. Yes, I know some will inevitably say Obama and Duncan would never listen. I disagree. Obama has been responsive to left pressure many times (even though some nastiness came from Rahm Emmanuel and occasionally Obama did not seem to understand why progressives were feeling what they were feeling). He is his own person. He did not listen to Rahm Emmanuel regarding health care. He always wanted to work hard for a big HCR bill (though not perfect or ideal).
I'm not sure how much weight endorsing or not endorsing now can have. I only know that one does not give away leverage without getting something in return. That is piss-poor negotiations. Piss-poor negotiations is one of the things we have seen from this administration in some of its dealings with the Republicans in Congress. It is saddening to see that the leadership of the NEA is making the administration seem like strong negotiators in comparison.
Civil Liberties and the War on Drugs share these similar situations. The Democratic Party has been drifting towards the bad sides of these issues for decades. Patrick Kennedy on this day even is wrong on medical marijuana. Ted Kennedy years back voted for the patriot act. Therefore, there has been little long-term organizing/left pressure to really push society away from drones, wiretapping, drug criminalization and etc.
Drones in particular are so much more complicated than just Obama using them. The military has always been using them. Lastly, the public and liberals support drones. Those who complain about drones all the time have not figured out to how to really convince public opinion otherwise. It is a long-term project to stop drones period. There are a lot of factors on why legitimacy has been building for drones. Too much blame is insinuated on Obama regarding drones. I understand those who have problems with the drone program and Obama. I am not trying to excuse the bad points of the drone policy here. At the same time, one good point is that drones have taken out terrorists. Lastly, calling Obama a "murderer" and "baby killer" is going WAY too far.
If the Obama administration could modify the drone policy to make them more of good uses and prevent many more " tragic side effects" (the deaths of children), then that would IMO solve half of the woes of drones the minority of liberals currently have. Yes, public opinion is a big problem regarding drones. Obama does not yet feel pressure to change the policy. Back in the 1960s, MLK did not just focus on criticizing LBJ when civil rights legislation was having difficulty and lack of votes. He tried to fix the whole context problem by leading pressure marches. The civil rights marches pressured Kennedy and Johnson and legislators to push towards sane civil rights policy. Imagine if we had a leader trying to change the context away from drones. Furthermore, as bad as the record number of whistleblower prosections are, to be fair to Obama he signed a whistleblower protection law. Lastly, republicans were a problem regarding NDAA in the senate. Obama held out for a veto threat, but republicans refused to compromise. the Defense authorization act ultimately got modified in a way such that Obama would issue a signing statement against indefinite detention. That situation was mostly the republicans' fault. That bad provision in NDAA can be easily repealed in the next Democratic administration with a new Democratically controlled congress with Nancy Pelosi back.
The law, known as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (pdf), expands protections for federal workers who blow the whistle on misconduct, fraud and illegality.http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/...
It clarifies the scope of protected disclosures, tightens requirements for non-disclosure agreements, expands penalties for violating protections and adds to the staff of some federal agencies an ombudsman whose job will be to educate agency employees of their rights, a statement said.
Lastly on the health care issue, a lot of critics like to blame Obama for taking single payer off the table. The doctors protesting single payer in front of Max Baucus in August were too little too late. Yes, an overwhelming majority of Americans favored medicare for all after the 2008 elections. However again, where were the organizing and pushing efforts early on? Single Payer has been off the table for DECADES. In fact, Ted kennedy is the one who is responsible for taking single payer off the table. He also was actively promoting Romneycare as senator Obama was running for president. Therefore, our starting point was NEVER that strong to begin with, even with Obama taking office. We were dealing with a Democratic party moving right for a very long time. We never should have taken things for granted the Democratic party as a whole would magically do things right on healthcare. Some of the healthcare bills Ted Kennedy was writing up before he died did not even have a public option. Yes there is no sugarcoating Obama made mistakes with his approach to healthcare, messaging, and misguidedness with wanting to strike a deal with the insurance companies/republicans. However, the public option dying, single payer being off the table, and why we did not get the ultimate bill we desired are the result of many factors, not just Obama. Lastly, to be fair to Obama and the Democrats, we had a medicare expansion ready to go but Joe Lieberman killed it. Who knew if Joe Lieberman would vote for a public option anyway? Why was so much outrage ALL on Obama?
Kennedy abandoned his own bill in 1974 and later supported legislation that preserved the role of the private insurance industry in the health care sector. "My feeling is that this is the central cop-out of liberal leadership," long-time single-payer advocate Dr. Quentin Young said in an interview with Socialist Worker in 2003. "Ted Kennedy was the author of an excellent single-payer [universal insurance] bill of 1971. But now, since it's not considered feasible, they don't even push for it."My last part of this diary is to explain how under- appreciated these are: Obamacare, wall street reform, Obama's support for the Democratic Party, and Obama standing up for the ideals of progressivism.
1. There are a whole lot of reasons why Obamacare ended up the way it was and most of it in reality was not Obama's fault. I explained the contexts above.
Obamacare is ultimately setting the stage for single payer anyway in the long-term. Again, Obama believed in single payer coming in a long-term process.
The 80/20 rule is the "bomb" in Obamacare setting up the final erosion of the profit-industry model of healthcare. There is a short-term strengthening of it no sugarcoating (much to the disapproval among those who wanted to kill the bill). Even then, single payer will come out. Vermont is already leading the way and the plan is going well as scheduled for 2017.
I am confident California is bound to get single payer with its super majority and left pressure.
We are MOVING
In addition to all these facts about Obamacare:
There is a non-profit entity that would compete against private insurers next year in the exchanges. It would function in the same role as the public option anyway.
"The national plans will compete directly with other private insurers and may have some significant advantages, including a federal seal of approval. Premiums and benefits for the multistate insurance plans will be negotiated by the United States Office of Personnel Management, the agency that arranges health benefits for federal employees."In summation, there is no pure public option. However, a non-profit option (that will be just as good as the public option) was snuck in and camouflauged. The non-profit option has the pure public option's spirits. I have total confidence in GEHA to make this special non-profit option work.
"The federal standards will pre-empt state rules in at least one respect: the national health plans will automatically be eligible to compete against other private insurers in the new exchanges, regardless of whether they have been certified as meeting the standards of those exchanges."
2. Wall Street reform has many of Elizabeth Warren's ideas. The reform does not go far enough no doubt. However, Obama at least believed in regulation of Wall Street. Bill Clinton really deregulated Wall Street. Lastly, Richard Cordray and the CFPA have been doing wonders for middle class families and recovering fraud money from Wall Street much like how Obamacare recovers health fraud. Wall Street reform will only get better.
3. Many times, Democrats did not support Obama and ran away from him in 2010. Cory Booker undercut Obama in the campaign as you all know.
There were times were Obama wanted to do something great but Democrats were not as supportive (blue dogs mostly) and progressives were not supporting Obama either.
Ex: Jobs bill, Middle class tax cut fight before 2010 midterms (White House wanted fight but congressional Democrats did not support WH), Guantanamo (Democrats in congress blocked him and many Democratic mayors were undercutting Obama), Medicare expansion (Joe Lieberman), cap and trade (conservative and coal Democrats in senate), Libya (dennis kucinich threatened impeachment of Obama even though clinton did something similar with bosnia), executive order on secret money (russ feingold praised Obama and criticized Democrats for not supporting Obama).
Harry Reid has undercut Obama by keeping the filibuster in place. In fact, he is currently not supportive of Obama's gun reform efforts.
This ridiculous diary from one of Obama's deepest skeptics trashes Obama for not supporting Democrats in mid-terms. This diary is not true, devoid of context, and insulting.
This bottom diary explains why the skeptic is wrong.
4. Let me tell you that I have had it with those obsessed with trashing Obama as a caver. You would be trashing Ted Kennedy who was willing to compromise with republicans as well (No Child Left Behind). Obama just got misguided at times until the 2011 debt ceiling fiasco as I explained. Obama stood strong MANY times against the "bad side" and pushed strongly for good things.
Remember that Obama townhall against republicans?
What about recess appointing Richard Cordray?
What about pushing hard for the jobs bill? Imagine if Occupy helped Obama with the jobs bill.
What about that 2011-2012 payroll tax cut battle where Obama stood firm.
What about endorsing marriage equality?
What about standing strong with women in the contraception fight?
Some people on this site continue to trash Obama for hippie punching Elizabeth Warren out of leading the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
This is one of those people, who wrote a rumor diary that is total BS.
Elizabeth Warren said to Andrea Mitchell on national television that she only wanted to set up the consumer financial protection agency. That is it. Elizabeth Warren has never been felt betrayed by Obama. In fact, Elizabeth Warren praised Obama for standing up to the big banks and appointing Richard Cordray.
Here is the link of Elizabeth Warren praising Obama.
Elizabeth Warren is holding the big banks accountable in the senate banking committee anyway. :) Elizabeth Warren strongly endorsed Cordray for CFPA.
This blogger relies on speculation and other people's opinions so much that he made a comment in a recent diary that Obama is one of the most unsentimental men ever as a "fact". That was said by ONE unnamed aide. There are many aides to Obama who have praised him as having empathy. We know Obama loves to hug people, and he also weeped for the Sandy Hook children.
The blogger makes the untrue comment in this link. The comment is in the comments section.
On a final note, Obama has been much stronger on the social safety net than is given credit for. Those who get paranoid about Obama and Social Security go too far.
Obama strongly supports raising the cap, a HUGE fundamental difference between Obama and republicans.
Obama has been very strong on Medicare through his health care law.
Obama's medicaid expansion (15 million people) and modernization of Indian Health System will tear down walls of poverty.
Obama's healthy kids act
Obama's SCHIP expansion
Obama loosened Bill Clinton's terrible welfare reform requirements recently too. Obama overall improved the social safety net and expanded it more since LBJ.
Obama has since gotten rid of the bad advisors who misguided him on the deficit and other key issues. Obama's Jack Lew is one of the strongest defenders of social security.
Obama's second inaugural address strongly defended earned benefit programs.
A key person at the DOJ blocking investigations of Wall Street has resigned. Elizabeth Warren holding investigations gives me HUGE hope that Wall Street will be held accountable soon. Even with the settlement, they are still liable to criminal prosecutions. The civil protections are exempt.
Obama's second inaugural address and all the good he has done for society are setting up America perfectly for more progressive presidents after Obama. I hope Obama's fiercest critics read this diary intently and respectfully. Continue to criticize if need be, but be fair, be respectful of the fact that 90% of liberals approve of Obama, consider context, and acknowledge other viewpoints such as those who take a benefit of the doubt approach to Obama. Don't make everything a "blame Obama for everything that is wrong" shortsightedness. 90% of liberals approve of Obama because he really has been worth it for progressives.
We really are moving to a better place in the long-term because of Obama. Obama really is under-appreciated by progressives and Americans. Obama is certainly not as progressive as FDR. But he is more progressive than he is made out to be by those who find fault with him all the time. Obama is more than pushable to the left through left pressure/organizing. Let's keep doing that for the long-term and for future Democratic presidents. Thank you.