President Obama

Smart Accountability and the Far-Left

I was reading some of the comments under this post and wanted to clarify an important point. I'm part of the "far-left." I consider myself quite liberal, with only a couple of exceptions. Anyone who has been reading my stuff for the last six years will probably agree.

However, I also consider myself to be a pragmatist with a strong sense of history. I understand the slow, incremental functioning of American politics and government, and if there's a favorable administration -- an administration that's endeavoring to slowly move the country leftward, as the Obama Team is doing -- I refuse to undermine that effort, though I will try to present an honest assessment of mistakes that are made along the way.

Some fellow leftists would rather augment their political-hipster cred by falling in line with a group of writers and activists whose career goals depend upon ignoring the successes -- even the liberal successes -- of the Obama presidency. They engage in whiny and unreasonable foot-stomping under the guise of holding the president accountable. As I've always said, accountability is important, but this subgroup is utterly failing to present a fair evaluation of the Obama Team, and, consequently, they're only breeding counterproductive disillusionment.

If this subgroup represents the whole of the "far-left," then maybe I'm not, in fact, someone who is far-left. I believe that we can encourage the president to keep pushing leftward without convincing other members of the far-left to either stay home or to support a pathetic third party.

Smart accountability.

As part of this effort, I believe we ought to be spending our time convincing voters on the ground that progressivism is the better approach to American government, and how our current problems are due to right-leaning Reaganomics. Once we convince voters, Democratic politicians will feel safer promoting liberal policies.

If you're unable to see the value in this approach, convince me of a better one -- an approach that will realistically create a more rapid and successful leftward push. I'm listening.

  • Guest

    There is no other choice than to work to bring people to an understanding of what progressive policy does to help them and the nation. Far left people are too often snobs about middle class, white working people or, for that matter, communities of color that they think they have to lead. Instant gratification is found in only movies – social change is long, hard work. If you want a progressive America, WORK for it. Don’t blow off policy issues and think your hand lettered sign should change the world. Remember – the Progressive Caucus is 14.9% of the entire Congress, and no, we do NOT run the world. Pick an issue, don’t beat people over the head with it (you might – gasp – be wrong), and be collegial since other people have ideas, too – and older people who’ve been doing this awhile might actually – gasp – know something. When you’ve spend YEARS trying to change things, then maybe you have the right to whine, but then it will be a leftish vintage whine instead of the crappy whine we hear now. Thank you Mr. Cesca for pointing out the obvious. Lots of us already know you’re entirely correct.

  • To get to the far left you would have to start on the left of Bernie Sanders.

    Your not there.

    Speaking of Bernie. He seems to be going at the President again.

    I guess he’s a firebagger.

    Today, Senator Bernie Sanders sent a letter (pdf) to the Chairman of the Commmodities Futures Commission Gary Gensler criticizing the commission and the propsed new rule to limit speculative trading of crude oil, gasoline, heating oil, and other commodities the commission is expected to vote on tomorrow.

    Unfortunately, if recent reports in the media are correct, the final rule on position limits, as currently drafted, will do little or nothing to lower prices and it will not eliminate, prevent or diminish excessive speculation as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. At a time when the American people are experiencing extremely high oil and gas prices, this would be simply unacceptable.

    As you know, the Dodd-Frank Act required the CFTC to finalize rules on position limits no later than January 17, 2011. If the CFTC had done its job and obeyed the law, consumers would have received real relief at the gas pump during the past nine months, particularly during the summer driving season. Unfortunately, this did not happen.



    This is not the first time Sen. Sanders has clashed with Gensler who was appointed to his current position by President Obama in 2009 following a stint as Undersecretary of the Treasury in 1999 – 2001 and Assistant Secretary to the Treasury in 1997 – 1991 and 18 years at Goldman Sachs. So, jump over the squiggle for more.

    Ken Silveerstein, writing for Harpers in March 2009 (and others elsewhere) reported on Senator Sanders’ efforts to block President Obama’s appointment of “derivatives cheerleader” Gary Gensler to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. According to Silverstein, Sen. Sanders placed a hold on Gensler’s nomination along with the following statement:

    While Mr. Gensler is clearly an intelligent and knowledgeable person, I cannot support his nomination. Mr. Gensler worked with Sen. Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan to exempt credit default swaps from regulation, which led to the collapse of A.I.G. and has resulted in the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history. He supported Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which allowed banks like Citigroup to become “too big to fail.” He worked to deregulate electronic energy trading, which led to the downfall of Enron and the spike in energy prices. At this moment in our history, we need an independent leader who will help create a new culture in the financial marketplace and move us away from the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior which has caused so much harm to our economy.

    Who wouldn’t find that reason enough to oppose Gensler’s appointment to oveersee the development of rules to regulate the $600 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market? Nevertheless, Gensler’s appointment was approved, and now Sen. Sanders is in the position of fighting rules he finds weak and “totally unacceptable.”


    That’s your man Obama.

    • villemar

      If Obama is so horrible, why does Sen Sanders still caucus with the dems and why hasn’t he gone Full Nadertard against the President?

  • MatherZ

    Well Bob, one thing’s for sure: you’re not far-left.

    The actual “far left” doesn’t exist in any meaningful form on this continent – how’s the Communist Party doing in Congress? No one’s talking about actually redistributing wealth, not really. No one’s talking about the workers owning the means of production (which is the actual definition of socialism, as you can remind those who call Obama a “socialist”).

    Actual Communists and Socialists – the true far left – were actually pretty influential in US politics in the, say, ’20s until WW2.
    That we’ve gotten to a point where supporting a single-payer health system, a slightly higher corporate tax rate, an accountable press, and an ethical banking system is what it takes to be “far left” now only proves how far to the right the national political discourse has swung.

  • MarshallLucky

    “Some fellow leftists would rather augment their political hipster cred…”

    And that’s where your cred went right down the toilet. If you disagree with these people, fine, but go after their arguments. These constant smarmy attacks on their supposed motives prove jack shit, other than your cowardice and, I suspect, professional jealously.

    Here’s a question: Explain how your approach (lockstep repetition and defense of White House talking points with rare instances of mild and deferential criticism) has done a better job of moving the conversation leftward than the rhetoric of more fiery left-wing groups. I’m quite curious, since the President’s aggressive adoption of progressive rhetoric in the wake of OWS seems to suggest that raising hell works pretty damn well.

    • drsquid

      Do you really think that your constant “The President wants right wing solutions” drove him leftward? Might there not be any other explanation other than your incredibly self-serving one?

      • ranger11

        You know the thing is I don’t even listen to the Right or Left anymore. Everything is so predictable at this point. I grew up in an evangelical household and am pretty experienced with this stuff. If you don’t do A, B, or C then you’re going to the devil. It gets so tiring. I didn’t think “my side” would be like this but so be it.

      • villemar

        But I heard Obama Derangement Syndrome is really trendy. Why should the drooling, inbred, bucktoothed racist Neoconfederate far right radical extremists in rascal scooters and trifold hats with Sanka bags hanging off of them have all the fun? Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to get on that awesome bus of awesome?

    • It’s absolutely acceptable to go after somebody’s motivations! We should be judging everyone by their motivations, insofar as we can gauge them. If a pundit makes money by being on TV and being a critic of the President gets them more TV time, then that reflects on what they say and how they say it….Hamsher being a case in point.

      In re: to your charge of Bob being in lockstep, it is simply not factually true. Not at all. However, the charge against Hamsher, that she gives Pres. Obama zero credit is demonstrably true. Bob and those of us who agree with him are saying that any reasonable person would praise Pres. Obama for the progressive things he has accomplished (especially with the obstacles he’s faced) and continue to put appropriate pressure on him to achieve the other things on the progressive agenda. But it helps no one but the GOP to rail against everything Pres. Obama does, without reasonable accommodation for the circumstances, through no fault of his own (he didn’t ask for the 60 vote majority or turncoats like Nelson), that he is in.

      Hamsherites, Firebaggers, Greenwaldians, whatever you want to call them are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and it will be the American people who suffer….not the Hamshers or Greenwalds of the world. They will still live overseas and/or have money and have their faces on TV. So yeah, I consider their motivations and their total lack of reasonableness to be problematic and so should you.

    • incredulous72

      The President presented his American Jobs Act prior to the OWS movement. Therefore, your argument about the “President’s adoption of progressive rhetoric in the wake of OWS” is incorrect.

  • bassinfool54

    I also think you are spot on. It is refreshing to know that others share very similar opinions and are mature enough to realize that you have to be pragmatic as we all do not always share the same opinions. Burning down the house does not work very well long term. I appreciate the sanity when I come here to your site. Thanks for all you do!

  • Michael Dresslar

    “Some fellow leftists would rather augment their political-hipster cred by falling in line with a group of writers and activists whose career goals depend upon ignoring the successes — even the liberal successes — of the Obama presidency. They engage in whiny and unreasonable foot-stomping under the guise of holding the president accountable.”

    Please explain to me ONE way in which you hold the President “accountable” for the myriad of 4th amendment violations that he has codified into our national ethos. One practical way in which you have, or would, hold the administration accountable for anything.

    No one can be serious who doesn’t believe in the inherent goodness of the President. No one can be serious who might not believe that we’re moving in a progressive direction. No one can be serious if they believe that maybe he’s moving the progressive standards we believe in to the right. The only “fair evaluation” is yours.

    And stop the lecturing with this gratuitous bullshit above. It just makes you look like an asshole.

    • drsquid

      So you think he’s wrong. Yet I see no solutions? Are your solutions something like the Scientific Theory of Creationism? That’s something that no creationist has bothered to give yet.

      So far, all you’ve done is harangue your opponents as idiots. And I must say, it produces no progress and convinces no one.

    • villemar

      Clearly the obvious solution is to cede all three branches of government to the GOP for a generation. Take that Barack OHitlermba!!

    • incredulous72

      What exactly has President Obama done to violate our right against unreasonable searches and seizures? I know the man has been accused of alot of bullshit, but this is a new one on me.

  • drsquid

    I know how to convince them!

    Call everyone who doesn’t agree with 100% of Progressive Received Wisdom idiots. That should work every time.

    Whaaaat? That’s doesn’t work? Well, fiddlesticks.

    I have a new progressive plan for convincing them!

    First, we need three zebras…

    • missliberties

      No NO No! Not three zebras four. Glenn Greenwald blogged about four being THE ONLY number of correct zebras. Why are you an apologist for the DLC hegemony!!

      Yeah the activists activist Chris Hedges that says the best way to fix the nation is to elect a Republican and blow up the Democratic party and start with four zebras.

  • I agree with your approach, Hear hear!

  • Well, I guess it depends on the timescale and cost of a successful leftward push. Rapid it might be in the very end, but only with a lot of leadup time. Without too much hyperbole, one could say that from a historical perspective, it only took a brief period of hateful, hypocritical, violent right-wing douchebaggery to convince Germany that a strong leftward push was a far better option, an option that has worked quite well for them in both a social and economic sense for several decades.

    Personally, I think we would be better off without this sort of painful social studies lesson, but that would require a left with enough spine to stand up to the crazies and stand firm on its beliefs. It’s not like people haven’t been asking for this, nor is it any surprise that Republicans want a ‘Democratic loss’ more than a ‘USA win’.

    Personally, I consider myself a “progressive-leaning-independent”, yet I seem to be to the left of this administration (and Congress) on my desire to see many issues addressed and conservatives confronted. Every tactic that the Republicans are using against the President now, the Democrats had available to them during the Bush administration. Yet either the Republicans found a way around this which Democrats are too inept to copy, or Democrats lacked the spine to stand up to Republicans. Neither is a complement to Democrats. Saying “Obama can’t get anything done because of mean obstructionist Republicans” implies that Bush was more competent at getting things done. If that is truly the case, I shudder for the future of the Democratic party.

    If that makes me whiny and unreasonable, or politically stupid, naive, or racist, I would be happy to hear arguments proving this. If I simply wanted insults and character attacks for being somewhere on the left that is not exactly where you are, I could just go over to TNR and say ‘Obama doesn’t totally suck’.

    • I think the problem is the Bush pushed for things that were fairly easy (always easy to cut taxes, “help” schools and create a new drug benefit).
      In addition he had a compliant media and actually USED them and the Iraq “threat” to bludgeon the dems right before the midterms in 2002.

      Very few Dems had the balls to oppose him on that vote. Very well played Politics. Which the R’s are always very good at. If Bush had had an Ounce of brains and integrity he would have raised the gas taxes $1 right after 9-11 to pay for Afghanistan and reduce our contribution the the middle east. But no R would ever do that. Gore would have though.
      Boy what a train wreak the SC pushed on us.

      Anyone can cut taxes, try to RAISE em and see how hard it is. Obama had none of these things going for him and still managed to pass some hard stuff. But I am still pissed that he didn’t let Bush tax cuts expire, stupidest move ever. WTF was he thinking?

      • bphoon

        He was thinking that time was running out on DADT repeal, the new START treaty, unemployment benefits extension, bringing the DREAM Act to a vote…and a number of other progressive initiatives that would have died a quiet death if left to the current Congress…

        Governing involves the art of compromise and the extension of the Bush tax rates was the price of the above.

        • How is that. The Dems still had control of Congress.

          The main reason the Dems get the blame for passing the tax cut is that the vote should have been held before the election.

          Instead of the last possible minute. Including after they got trounced in the elections.

          • villemar

            That’s why the White House lobbied to have the vote before the election. The Conserva-dems balked and then we were forced to give the republicans their binky (Bush tax code) for another 2 years in exchange for the Start treaty with Russia, DADT repeal, and unemployment extensions for millions. But you knew that Obama lobbied for exactly what you said, I’m sure.

      • missliberties

        And too, also, Bush had Tom Delay to brutalize and hammer the GOP caucus into voting ‘correctly’. Team Bush bought everyone off with tons of pork.

  • There are a bunch of us using the #pragprog hashtag. Just so ya know ;o)

  • Madam1

    What so many on both the right and left fail to mention when they say things like, “Obama had a majority in Congress and still didn’t get anything done”, is the filibuster tactics that have been used over and over to block any effective legislation from passing. He never had a solid 60 in the Senate because of the Blue Dog douchebags who sided with the GOP on almost every issue. Ben Nelson may have a D by his name, but that “Fred Flinstone” traitor is no Dem.
    Obama has stood firm on all of his promises, including Guatanamo, ahem Bill Maher, but Congress has either defunded, filibustered, and straight out lied to kill any real legislation that could have helped this country. He is only one in a sea of many and it’s up to Congress to pass the bills.
    Bob, you always point these issues out, not as an apology for Obama, but to remind the easily confused about the facts. This President has faced a despicable opposition who will stop at nothing to bring him down. Progressives who pretend otherwise may as well hop on the Sarah Palin bus with the rest of the idiots because they aren’t helping. When CNN says that 61% of the country thinks Obama’s policys will fail, it’s not solely the GOP sending negative messages.
    If the left can’t rally behind this President after all the shit we had to take during GW, they are going to wake up to President Romney in 2012 and special underwear will be the least of our worries.

    • missliberties

      I reiterate the point that the left buys into right wing talking points.

      How can we win, when our side doesn’t even accept the facts as they are. We never had a full on filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

      • Neither did Bush but that didn’t stop him either. Now did it.

        • Your complaint should be with those in Congress who failed to stop Bush, not Obama for failing to roll the same people leftward.

  • Scopedog

    “If you’re unable to see the value in this approach, convince me of a better one…”

    Bob, in all fairness, your approach is the better one–and more importantly, it does work.

  • Obama_FTW

    What a great point. I considered myself center-right until I learned more about economic history and realized that it wasn’t really crimespeak to bring up the notion of raising taxes on the rich or a single payer health care solution. The right has successfully modified semantics into their favor. I do believe more and more people are becoming aware of this and the Sean Hannities of the world are speaking to a smaller and smaller choir when they jump on the “class warfare” accusation. We’ll see.

  • The Hamsher-Greenwald crowd thinks that “smart accountability” is selling out.

    The truth is that Hamsher and Greenwald, along with the wannabes such as Taylor Marsh, are focused on money/career/props, so they’re the crowd that’s actually doing the selling out.

    Their current followers on the road to ruin Obama fall into two camps.
    1. the politcally stupid or naive
    2. those with racist leanings

    • ranger11

      Mostly politically stupid, and I want my money back that I gave these assholes during the Bush decade. I thought they were smarter than this.

  • JMAshby

    Whether you are far-left or not is relative.

    Compared to who I would currently consider to be the far-left, you aren’t.

    Compared to the Right Wing, you are.

    The same goes for myself, and anytime someone asks me if we’re a liberal operation here at the GDAB, I tell them we’re liberal, but not ideologues.

    Again, it’s all relative, and it can change over-night depending on where the goal posts are. Pragmatism is a realization that the goal posts do in fact move from to time, and that you can’t lose sight of what’s import while the board shuffles.

  • bphoon

    I happen to think you’re spot-on.

    • missliberties

      I happen to whole heartedly agree!

      I really appreciate having a place to come where the President is bashed on a daily basis by the fickle, disloyal left.

      Idealism is a way to kick start the engine….. but the brand of ‘liberalism’ has not been served well by people who idealistic nihilism.

      This is where I see the left has utterly failed! I believe we ought to be spending our time convincing voters on the ground that progressivism is the better approach to American government, and how our current problems are due to right-leaning Reaganomics.

      And the key point Bob makes is that once democrats are backed up by a little pragmatic populism there spines suddenly reappear.

      • missliberties

        correx: where the President isn’t bashed every day!

    • Bob is nowhere part of the far left. If anything supporting Obama makes you a corporate democrat.

      How many progressives have positions in the Obama WH. Anyone.

      Obama’s no progressive and Bob is not far left.

      You can’t be far left when you constantly disagree with those on the far left.

      Stop fooling yourself. This country has moved so far to the right that corporate democrats now consider themselves far left.

      See Bob’s post.
      You can thank Fox news and the GOP for that.

      • You and the rest of the Firebagger crowd do not own the term “far left”. Nor are some of you even NEAR what I define as the “left”.

        Hell, some of you, such as the Hamsher drone, consort with the far RIGHT to make their bucks.

        Bob is as liberal as anyone I’ve ever known. I can not say that for the assholes who follow the money crowd.

        “far left”………pfffft….you people have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.

      • Guest

        Oh grow up. I fight for single payer, fight the extremist right, want worker ownership and management of production, and fight for women’s rights to choose – all the stuff you claim you care about – AND respect the policies of this president because I bother to READ them in full. You do the left no service by insisting he’s a sell out. That just tells me that you don’t bother to learn anything of substance.