Stranger Fruit

Obama, Biden & the Progressive Future

Over the past day I have been running across folks in the progressive blogosphere grousing about Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as his running mate. Biden apparently is a “hawk”, too centrist, too pro-Israel, too … well, you get the picture. But I’m wondering, what did these individuals expect? Who else could perhaps deliver the White House with Obama? Clinton? Feingold?

Certain quarters on the progressive left are lacking pragmatism, lacking the realization that the goal at the moment should be to win the White House and work from there. Unrolling the “revolution” that Reagan started in the 1980′s is not going to happen overnight. Hell, it’s not even going to happen over the next four years.

Many – myself included – would like a more progressive candidate than Obama. But such an individual is not going to get elected in this country. The left needs to face that fact. But an Obama presidency is a start … the start of a longer campaign. As Robert L. Borosage & Katrina vanden Heuvel note in this weeks Nation, “Progressives should be focusing less on the limits of the Obama agenda and more on the possibilities that a successful candidacy opens up.”

Yet we must realize that political forces are already closing in on these possibilities. Borosage & vanden Heuval state:

Corporations have already begun moving more of their money to Democratic incumbents and are snapping up former Democratic legislators and staffers for their lobbies … They will do everything they can to stall healthcare and drug-pricing reform, empowerment of workers and re-regulation of Wall Street. Moreover, while Democrats are likely to enjoy larger majorities in both houses, their caucuses are likely to be less progressive as they pick up seats in very conservative, formerly Republican districts.

We must set pragmatic goals, realize the environment we find ourselves in, and work from there. Complaining and in-fighting at the moment is not going to help us retake the White House. As has been noted, the future is unwritten, but even if Obama loses, American politics will never be the same again.

Comments

  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    August 24, 2008

    Democratic politicians are pragmatists like all politicians, their stances can and will shift and waver with the political tide. As the political center shifts to the left, as seems to be happening right now, Obama and Biden will start to sound more liberal, as will their congressional confrères. Whether that change will simply be cosmetic is something I’m less certain of.

  2. #2 The Ridger
    August 24, 2008

    I agree with everything you said. I don’t usually post just to say that, but I am today.

  3. #3 PhysioProf
    August 24, 2008

    I think you are right, and what we are seeing is just the very beginning of a long-term shift away from the deranged morally and pragmatically bankrupt sick-fuck right-wing wackaloonery that this country has been paralyzed by for the last 40 years.

  4. #4 llewelly
    August 24, 2008

    The best way to shift a frame is to make noise from somewhere outside of the frame. If progressives pipe down now, the Democrats will stop where they are (which, face it folks, is about 3 mm left of Ronald Reagan). The best way to keep Democrats moving towards a progressive position is to keep reminding them what the benefits are, and how far they have to go.

  5. #5 Barn Owl
    August 24, 2008

    Complaining and in-fighting at the moment is not going to help us retake the White House.

    Absolutely. And we must, to avoid four more years of deranged right-wing wackaloonery, which is already well on its way towards destroying this country. Biden is not my favorite choice for Obama’s running mate, but he’s a pragmatic choice, and I think the Obama-Biden ticket is electable. Neither man is as progressive as I would like, but my preferences would not be realistic as candidates in this country right now. There are a lot of people sliding down the economic ant-lion trap towards disaster right now, and another demented, out-of-touch, greedhead Republican administration is not going to help them. A Democratic one might.

  6. #6 Joel
    August 24, 2008

    Certain quarters on the progressive left are lacking pragmatism, lacking the realization that the goal at the moment should be to win the White House and work from there.

    Yes, winning at any cost is the most important thing. That’s who I want representing me! (Doesn’t really sound so good when you say like that, does it?)

  7. #7 Nomen Nescio
    August 25, 2008

    Who else could perhaps deliver the White House with Obama?

    if Obama cannot get into the white house on his own merits, then Obama cannot get into the white house, period.

    no serious subgroup of voters vote for a vice president. that office just isn’t important enough for that. i might be willing to believe some folks could be convinced to vote against a pair of candidates because they found the prospective veep particularly distasteful, though i suspect that set of people still isn’t large enough to swing an election. people vote for, or as commonly against, the presidential candidate — not the running mate.

    hence, if Obama needs the help of the right running mate to get the presidency, he has no hope of getting it.

  8. #8 Jessica
    August 31, 2008

    Frankly, at this point in time and given how incredibly far to the right this country has been driven over the recent past past, an immediate flip to an aggressively progressive presidency would likely do more harm than good. Unfortunately, the next 4 years will be about cleaning up the GOP mess and paving the way for intense progress in the near-future. While such progress is absolutely necessary if we are to ever escape the stagnation in which we find ourselves as a nation, I don’t think the system could handle it currently. If Obama-Biden (O’Biden,perhaps?) are able to accomplish and implement half the reforms and programs they’ve planned it will be an amazing feat, given what Bush is going to leave them!

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