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Obama acts entirely within the tradition of mainstream African American political strategy and tactics. The epitome of that tradition was the non-violence of the Civil Rights Movement, but goes back much further in time. It recognizes the inequality of power between whites and blacks. Number one: maintain your dignity. Number two: call your adversaries to the highest principles they hold. Number three: Seize the moral high ground and Number four: Win by winning over your adversaries, by revealing the contradiction between their own ideals and their actions. It is one way that a oppressed people struggle." - Tom Schade

For progressives, for Obama supporters, it's been a difficult couple of years. After the vicious, endless attacks with which the right hounded President Clinton, we expected dark days. And we got them. In this case, we faced an established right-wing propaganda messaging machine and well-funded organizations ready to aim Main Street anger over the Bush Recession onto president Obama. Let's face it: the left has been completely unprepared to handle the magnitude and effectiveness of the anti-Obama, anti-progressive assault.

The sausage making of health care reform and the Republican-created debt hostage negotiations were as stomach churning as a SAW sequel. Right-wing messaging is still supported by its multi-billion-dollar think tank and media empire. Together, they successfully created the Tea Party, rebranding Bushism into something even uglier and potentially more destructive.

With the political powers so strongly against our president and progressivism, it is important for us to realize, finally, just who this president is. Only then can we turn back Tea Party dementia, dispel the disease of lefty doubt and infighting, and get to work saving this country from utter conservative devastation.

Want to understand President Obama and turn this mess around? Follow me below the fold...

Who is President Obama?
It's maddening, isn't it?  Progressives spent years, working tirelessly, to elect a brilliant president, and now we clearly feel betrayed.  As Jesse Lava notes, President Obama promised two, conflicting personae on the campaign trail.  One, was, of course, the conciliator we have all come to despair over. But let's not forget the other 2008 Obama we were promised, the TRANSFORMER.

...But there was another Obama that many have forgotten ever existed: Obama the Transformer. This was the Obama who wanted to curb special interest influence and keep lobbyists and other powerful factions from dominating our politics. This Obama openly admired Ronald Reagan for achieving major change in a way that Bill Clinton never did. This Obama said that at key moments in history, the U.S. has a chance to make fundamental policy shifts, and 2008 was one of those moments.

Where is this guy?  Where is the transformative president who would take on the special interests and make Washington work for the people again?  He is clearly nowhere to be seen, and we lost much when that Obama failed to appear on the world stage. Still, there is a critical third Obama who lives within the heart of the "conciliator", and who must be understood if we are to see the way forward.

Obama the Moral Compass
Obama the Moral Compass is alive and well. The following quote from Tom Schade makes it clear:

Obama acts entirely within the tradition of mainstream African American political strategy and tactics. The epitome of that tradition was the non-violence of the Civil Rights Movement, but goes back much further in time. It recognizes the inequality of power between whites and blacks. Number one: maintain your dignity. Number two: call your adversaries to the highest principles they hold. Number three: Seize the moral high ground and Number four: Win by winning over your adversaries, by revealing the contradiction between their own ideals and their actions. It is one way that a oppressed people struggle."

Viewed through the spyglass of the civil rights heritage, Obama remains a cipher, but he is a cipher who can be understood. Obama reaches for the highest moral ideals we share. He is the nation's moral compass, 100% focused on doing:

a.  What is in the absolute best interest of the nation.
b.  What can be done.

It is the critical issue of this last point from which progressives MUST now take their cue. Obama is dedicated to "achieving great things". Thus, his efforts to turn the debt hostage crisis into a "Grand Bargain".  The problem with "what can be done" is that we live in a pluralistic republic of democratic politics.  If Obama had absolute power he could spend all of his time doing what is absolutely in the best interest of the nation. He doesn't.  Instead, he has to bend to the moveable "true north" of congressional power and public opinion in order to Get Things Done.  

Pulling Obama's Moral Compass back to Progressive True North
The progressive quandary is this: conservatives both in and out of power are relentless in promotion of their absolutist ideology, yet progressives in power are amenable to discussion and compromise. This results in the Obama Effect, wherein we watch establishment Democrats calmly hoping for dialog, while Republicans will say anything, do anything to get their way. The right has seemingly digested Rules for Radicals and transformed it into a national political juggernaut. Meanwhile, the left is still impotently protesting outside of the G8 every few years and electing Blue Dog Democrats.  

While peaceful protest is clearly not enough to move the debate, violent uprising or violent protest is against our beliefs, un-American, and is a proven loser of a strategy.  Thus, the only solution is to learn from the right and pursue a national and international policy of systematic infiltration of government at every level by those devoted to true progressive principles.  This is the only way to counterbalance the extreme rightward lurch in the American political power equation of the last 30 years.

What have you made President Obama do today?
We all remember this:

During the first year of the Obama administration, there was a historical anecdote that was exceedingly popular on the Left. It went something like this: amid the Great Depression, a prominent labor leader goes into the White House for a meeting with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The activist lays out an agenda of urgent changes that need to be enacted. Roosevelt responds, “You’ve convinced me. I would like to push forward these changes. Now go out and make me do it.”

As President Obama took office, this was a heartening tale. The vast electorate which had elected the president, we believed, could be directed towards forcing a truly progressive agenda to help overcome the devastation of 30 years of conservative hegemony. Instead of that movement, we got a fairly prosaic and anemic organization called Organizing for America, which was overwhelmed by the Koch-Funded, FOX-stoked, right-wing phenom known as the "Tea Party."

The pathway forward for progressives is, then twofold:

1. Pursue a national effort to bring true progressivism to every level of government. This includes local Democratic party structures, school boards, city councils, and especially Democratic party nomination contests for every federal office.
2. Undertake coordinated, non-violent, national protests and actions in favor of progressive policies and against the excesses of conservatism.

These activities must be constant, 24/7/365. They must continue between elections and across periods of governance. They must impact elections. They must impact national dialog on policy. In short, progressives must get engaged and stay engaged.

In order for progressives to get the President we thought we elected, we have to act forcefully, without rest, and with a sharp focus on victory.  If we want President Obama to enact progressive legislation, we have to demand it and cover his left flank from the inevitable hyperbolic right-wing attacks.  We have to elect true progressives everywhere, and we have to demonstrate the power of progressivism in the streets.   Aligned with the Progressive True North, Obama's Moral Compass will resurrect Obama the Transformer. Efforts like the Coffee Party, and Van Jones' American Dream effort, are already organizing towards the transformation we need, but we have not yet seen the willingness of the left to set aside division and unite in common cause.  

In order to emerge victorious, progressives must take the streets and hold the offices. Only by pressuring President Obama before, during, and after 2012, can progressives claim the future and relegate Tea Party zealotry to the scrapheap of history where it belongs.

Crosspost from Blue Virginia

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Comment Preferences

  •  Totally agree with your prescription (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boophus

    e.g.

    If we want President Obama to enact progressive legislation, we have to demand it and cover his left flank from the inevitable hyperbolic right-wing attacks.  We have to elect true progressives everywhere, and we have to demonstrate the power of progressivism in the streets.   Aligned with the Progressive True North, Obama's Moral Compass will resurrect Obama the Transformer.

    If that happens, this whole thing will turn around, President Obama's behavior will turn around.

    But this bothers me as relates to his current, conciliatory behavior:

    It is one way that a oppressed people struggle

    He may be black, but he cannot come from a place of being "an oppressed person" when he is President of the United States.

    Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

    by Happy Days on Tue Aug 30, 2011 at 08:16:54 PM PDT

    •  Whether he "cannot" come from that place or not... (0+ / 0-)

      He is very much is who he is.  He is going to continue to be precisely the kind of president we've seen.  Cool, collected, focused on doing what he believes is best for the country from his establishment Democrat perspective.  

      This "leading from behind" stuff is beyond exasperating, but it is what it is.  We have to accept this president as he is.

      The only thing to do about it is to stand up for what we believe in and be the Loyal Opposition this president so desperately needs.

      #hcr passes with no opposition from the left. It's Rahm's American we just whine here.

      by 5oclockshadow on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 07:38:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I found (6+ / 0-)

    the quote you used about African American political strategy very informative, and it does put President Obama's tactics and actions into a perspective that makes sense to me.

    I have also used the story about FDR and 'now make me do it', as a motivator for folks who want to give up hope.

    I agree that President Obama is trying to move us in the right direction, and he is a man of patience and is thinking of the long game.

    Thanks for pulling these things together in one place.  I hope people can keep these things in mind when the President does not act in the way we would like him to.

    I could not do his job with the patience, good will, grace and wisdom he displays.  

    I do not agree with everything he has done, but with most things I can understand why he did it.  And that is something I respect.

    •  I completely agree, but the challenge is.. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DianeNYS, SilverWillow

      ... that while standing up for the progressive principles which will save the country, we have to stand up to this president.

      Criticism of the president is one of the most patriotic things we can do, but it has to be done from the right perspective.

      We need to be trying to pull this president in the right direction and changing the baseline of what is acceptable in these conversations.  That's the role of a national "loyal opposition" movement - something which would clearly be in support of Obama's role in political life, but which sees a grave need for much more than he has been able to do.  

      Thanks for reading, and I appreciate your comment.

      #hcr passes with no opposition from the left. It's Rahm's American we just whine here.

      by 5oclockshadow on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 07:42:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Love you, man. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    science nerd

    Never underestimate the ability of the Right to overreach.

    by never forget 2000 on Tue Aug 30, 2011 at 08:41:51 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for a clear and thoughtful diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    science nerd, DianeNYS

    Just what we really need

    Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Tue Aug 30, 2011 at 08:56:59 PM PDT

    •  Thanks... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DianeNYS

      Wish I had more time to do politics.  I was in it full time from 2001 to 2009, but life changes.  I can't tell you how tough it is to have a lot to say and just no time and no place to say it.

      #hcr passes with no opposition from the left. It's Rahm's American we just whine here.

      by 5oclockshadow on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 07:44:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We can't do anything (0+ / 0-)

        about your time, but this certainly is the place for you to write/say what you need to. What a great diary (er...Post!) you have here. Thanks! :)

        "What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death." - Eugene Victor Debs

        by DianeNYS on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 08:07:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  You live in a bubble (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    praenomen, WisePiper, NyteByrd1954, semiot

    Obama's OFA was a top down organization to do one thing: get BHO elected. Ever since BHO has been wagging the finger in public about Dems and Repubs acting like spoiled children. He uses Republican language to admonish Dems and has meetings with Repubs only to lay out his agreements with them. The OFA is basically on idle until the election season. where are the grass roots? not needed until they crank up the electioneering machine.  Millions of people brushed off until 2012. millions that wanted to be active and engaged and were asked to step to the sidelines.

    What happened? He imagines he got elected POTUS and now has ascended to the throne room at the White House and has to act "Presidential" and leave partisan warfare totally aside and sally forth looking for Grand compromises in every area.

    How is that working out in Israel  vs Palestine?  In the economy?

    See there are facts on the ground regardless of what BHO believes. And that is the thirty plus year to dismantle the social safety net, to break down the middle class to reintroduce peonage and wage cropper sharecropper mentality is going full bore.

    Mr Obama is not a weak leader representing an oppressed minority with dignity and grace under difficult conditions.  He is the President and can bring to bear enormous pressure on individuals, companies, departments. If he chooses to do so. He wanted a Grand bargain on the debt ceiling crisis and completely missed how he was going to be played if he chose to be played up to the last minute. Unlike 70 times in the past he was refused a clean bill.

    Instead of taking 14th amendment action or any of the emergency powers he has that are continuing and not rescinded he swallowed an onerous deal to cut debt and inflict more pain on regular Americans.

    This right after allowing the Federal Reserve to commit to 16.1 TRILLION dollars in bailouts and loans to banks all over the world. The Treasury went along with a 1.2 trillion dollar bailout off the books as expressed beyond and above  the TARP programs, another administrative insider bailout.  And then we had the debt ceiling fiasco!

    For 7 years in the Clinton era, there was no debt ceiling issue at all...once the Congress had appropriated a budget, the ceiling was recalculated to conform with it. there was no need for a separate vote. The only reason a vote was held was political posturing by the minority Party. When Repubs were in charge for Bush, they lifted the debt ceiling unencumbered 7 times. Without any demands to borrow less money or none at all! Then they reintroduced the debt ceiling vote so as to just barely pass it and have many vote against to burnish their conservie credentials. Pure politics. And when they got the House back, they used the vote to stick a log in Obama's eye.

    Obama wanted to make a posture of cutting to look like a serious guy for the imagined undecideds and low info voters.  He now has spent nearly a year with the financial austerity fairy in the middle of a great collapse of demand and real deflation. Fighting spending, ignoring demand domestically.

          The demand side is down and that holds up the whole recovery in real dollar terms for households.

      If he has dithered on the economy, and added more tax cuts to the 8 years of Bush tax cuts that have exploded the debt, where is he going with these Hoover economics? we aren't getting any better. The demand side is down and that holds up the whole recovery in real dollar terms for households.

    I wish it wasn't so. But BHO is determined to be a cutter with the worst of them and not fight, simply compromise or giveaway the store before he is even asked.  Pitiful pitiful as a leader. He is not even a minority leader in the great civil rights tradition, he represents the majority of the American people and the Democratic Party.

         Apparently that means partnering with the bunch that created and exploded the economic schemes that got us here.

             Where are the prosecutions, the defense of the millions losing their homes?  The banks don't want to cooperate so Obama, taking his biggest donations from those same institutions, does nothing but drag his feet and order  AG  Holder to study and study the issue some more.  not to act.

    •  These ''loans '' (5+ / 0-)

      were not bailouts. They have been repaid. They kept the world's financial system from complete collapse.

      Loan guarantees are not loans...either.
      They did what they had to do to avoid a worldwide depression.

      You have been here a whole 9 days and you are lecturing about being in a bubble?
      Where have you been? 50-some comments,almost exclusively critical of the President...is this your whole purpose for coming to this site?

      •  here is the gist of where I have been (0+ / 0-)

        Obama is not the real center of this problem, rather it is what politically active people will turn to to address the massive inertia and paralysis in our political institutions.

        Obama gets mentioned in a minority of the posts, there are many other things requiring some attention. And Obama did well in Libya, unlike many confusing the Nato/fossil fuel rivalries with the revolution going on there despite all that.  

        http://www.dailykos.com/...

    •  I agree 100%. The question is what do you do? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BeeDeeS

      Whether my diagnosis is 100% correct is irrelevant.  What is critical and undeniable is that a national, in-the-streets, coordinated effort to move the president's position would be effective.

      The president has been moved by right wing noise, now it's time for us to make even more, because we're right.

      Picture this:  Instead of OFA going to sleep in 2009, what if we'd had uprisings everywhere determined to get not only a public option, but single payer nationwide.

      Picture this: Instead of OFA staying asleep in 2010, what if we'd had a clear articulated reason and value statement of what it is to be a Democrat and OUR people energized and excited.  

      Picture this: Instead of OFA staying asleep in 2011, what if we'd had a powerful movement demanding a clean debt ceiling deal because of a national outcry for real action on jobs, infrastructure and green energy.  

      The point is, that this president is who he is and he deals with things the way he does.  We can spend our time complaining about his style or we can work with him by MOVING him, by demanding what we know to be right.  

      Policy is made by those who show up.   Since this president has been elected the right has shown up, and the left has spent it's time bitching.

      #hcr passes with no opposition from the left. It's Rahm's American we just whine here.

      by 5oclockshadow on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 07:53:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Unknown Author (5+ / 0-)

    The Unknown Author of the quote is Tom Schade.  The article was orignally posted on Aug 10th, and it has since gone viral.  The original title to the article is Progressives don't see Obama clearly because of our racial blind spots.

    It's an interesting read.

    You can find the entire article here:

    http://www.tomschade.com/...

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