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I get mixed emotions watching Barack Obama. On the one hand, he clearly has progressive instincts and a phenomenal potential to be this century’s FDR, but on the other hand, he sometimes shows up carrying the Holy Bible of Corporatized Politics-As-Usual under his arm.
Look at his recent flip-flop on the domestic spying bill, which includes a provision giving legal immunity to the telecom giants that helped George W spy illeagaly on millions of us Americans. Obama had pledged this spring to go all out to defeat this – but then caved in and supported it. In fairness, he did join the fight to strip telecom immunity from the larger bill, but he knew that would lose, and he still supported the bill that included immunity.
This is part of what we’ll get with Obama – a man who, on occasion, will try to drift from progressive positions, crafting legalistic compromises that fuzz the issue and fudge his own stand. Obama is not a pure progressive. Get used to that. If he is in the White House, progressives themselves will constantly have to challenge him, pushing him to be more FDRish, less Clintonesque.
The good news is that people are already onto this. When he reneged on his telecom pledge, the progressive netroots nation that has so strongly backed Obama exploded all over him, using his own website to rip him for breaking faith, making clear that they felt betrayed, could not just be ignored, and are expecting better. My guess is that, with constant pressure, they’ll get it.
After all, this is what democracy demands. To achieve progressive policies, the people themselves must be noisy, feisty, and confrontational. That was true in FDR’s time – and it’s no less true in ours.
"The issue isn't just jobs. Even slaves had jobs. The issue is wages." --Jim Hightower