SYNDICATED COLUMN: Lefties Against Obama

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Think the President is Socialist? We Wish!

Memo to Republicans: you don’t have a monopoly on hating President Obama.

I dislike America’s two-party system for a lot of reasons. Mostly because the duopoly is undemocratic: no two political parties can represent the diversity of opinions held by a nation’s voters. We’d need dozens of parties to approximate adequate representative government. Another reason, one that deserves attention, is that it reduces political dialogue to binary imbecility.

Democrat or Republican. Liberal or conservative. If you’re not one, you must be the other. If you don’t vote, people — apparently rational, functional people who manage to drive their cars without ramming them into walls — tell you with a straight face that your non-vote is a de facto vote for the candidate you would have voted against (had you voted). Because you’re not allowed to hate both. Because, in under our idiotic one-or-the-other political system, even if you hate both parties, you’re supposed to hate one party more than the other.

Which is why, for the last four years, Obama-hating has belonged to the racist right.

In the real world, of course, lots of lefties can’t stand the president. In the mainstream corporate media narrative epitomized by MSNBC on the “left” and FoxNews on the “right,” however, left=liberal=Democrat and right=conservative=Republican. They say it so often and we hear it so much that many of us think it’s true.

In the real world, away from the barking dogs of cable television news, lots of Americans would vote for a party other than the Ds or the Rs. A 2012 poll found that 46% of Americans would support a third party if it were viable. Many on the right think the GOP is too extreme or too soft. That debate, the “civil war” between generic Republicans (e.g., Chris Christie) and the libertarian right (e.g., Rand Paul), gets some play.

Not so much on the left. Thanks largely to the left=Democrat propaganda of the late Air America and now MSNBC, lefties disgusted with the Democrats get zero play.

You’ll never find our views discussed or our champions interviewed, not even on the “liberal” shows hosted by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or Bill Maher. But we exist. We are many. Even among self-identified Democrats, 14% of overall voters say they are “very liberal.” Unsurprisingly, this group disapproves of Obama’s job performance, which — contrary to right-wing talking points — has stayed away from policies friendly to his party’s traditional liberal base. Beyond that, about 10% of voters say they’re “disaffected” — so alienated from both parties that they refuse to participate in elections.

Greetings, right-wingers! We live in the same country. You should know about lefties who don’t like the Democrats — hold on to your seats — because they’re too conservative.

So, righties, you hate Obama because he’s a socialist.  Or a liberal extremist. Because the Affordable Care Act goes too far. Because he was born in Kenya (and stole the presidency). Maybe (though you’re only allowed to say this among trusted friends) because he’s black.

Fine. I’m not going to try to change your minds.

Instead, I’m going to provide some perspective. To demonstrate that despite two centuries of puerile choose-one-outta-two electoral politics, America’s ideological landscape is broader and more diverse than you may be aware.

Tens of millions of Americans — progressives, paleoliberals, greens, populists, left libertarians, left anarchists and yes, socialists and communists — hate Obama for being too far to the right. Socialist? We wish! We think he’s a sellout. At best! More like a corporate shill. Definitely a militarist. Possibly a fascist.

Here is a brief summary of the left’s brief against Barack Obama:

He bailed out Wall Street, not Main Street. The banksters who wrecked the economy should have gone to prison; he gave them $7.77 trillion. Distressed homeowners got nothing. Nor did the unemployed. Lefties see Obama as a slave of Wall Street scum like Timothy Geitner and Lawrence Summers.

He didn’t lift a finger to create new jobs. Right-wingers blame regulations and ObamaCare. Not us. Leftists want big jobs programs, like the WPA during the Great Depression, to add tens of millions of un- and underemployed Americans directly to the federal payroll.

He’s a warmonger. He expanded and extended the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. (And lied about ending them. He renamed “combat troops” to “support personnel,” and replaced soldiers with private “contractor” mercenaries. The U.S. will be fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq long after Obama “ended” those wars.) He got us into a new war in Libya. Now it’s Syria. In both cases we are supporting Islamist factions whose values we — not just lefties, but all Americans — do not share.

He refused to investigate the crimes of the Bush era: the lies the Administration used to con us into war in Iraq, torture, extraordinary rendition, spying on American citizens. We believe in accountability.

He expanded the drone wars. Many leftists are pacifists, opposing all war. Others accept the necessity of fighting to defend against an invasion. All agree that drone strikes, managed in secret, devoid of legal authorization and without checks or balances, are the worst kind of war: aggressive, impersonal, sanitized, mechanized, and especially enraging to its victims.

Most leftists are civil libertarians. We believe that personal freedoms are more important than the rights of the state. As we learned thanks to Edward Snowden, Obama has presided over a breathtaking expansion of the post-9/11 police state, violating the inherent right of every American to speak on the phone or write correspondence in private on a comprehensive, totalitarian scale.

Even ObamaCare, bête noire of the right, annoys us.

For us, the profit incentive has no place in something as existentially necessary as healthcare. We want big insurance companies out of the equation entirely. So, even though there are early indications that ObamaCare’s insurance marketplaces will lower premiums for many patients, we shrug our collective shoulders at such incrementalism. We wonder why socialized medicine — doctors and nurses employed directly by the state, hospitals nationalized — or at least a “single payer” option (which Obama promised during the campaign) was never seriously considered.

Then there’s Guantánamo, which he should have closed. Bradley Manning, tortured under his orders. Edward Snowden, who should have gotten a medal, hunted like a dog.

Any one of the above outrages deserves a long prison term.

If you’re a right-winger who hates Obama and the Democrats, remember us. We hate them just as much as you do — but not for the same reasons.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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18 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Lefties Against Obama

  1. Violence against women can be picked up easily. Violence against a minority can be muttered, if you’re careful, then cultivated once you’ve found the right people.

    In the U.S., the only violence that isn’t culturally instituted is violence against authority.

    Our tribal conditioning is frightening. To be declared against the U.S. is to completely lose personhood, even when those making the declaration are obviously traitors in the literal sense of the word — e.g., they would be found guilty and executed were a fair trial ever prosecuted. Violence isn’t merely a creature of the state, it is a creature of authority. In the face of a bully, the official choices including a) telling the teacher, b) getting the shit kicked out of you, or c) becoming a bully. There is no (d), instituting the ritualized mass beatdown of the S.O.B., because that doesn’t place the actors in the chain of authority.

    This is another reason why the “left,” rightwingers in the democratic party, are the main problem. Their authoritarianism makes it impossible for most Americans to think clearly on these issues. The English language is thoroughly corrupted (such that bailouts and monopolies are “capitalism,” such that people against those things proudly call themselves “anti-capitalist,” which is ridiculous) and people cannot create a tribe that has the trait “American” because that trait is reserved for status-quo authoritarian shits. As such, a self-defense-only anti-war stance can’t be preserved because the people who control the “liberal American” traits are warmongers. Strip these guys of the liberal and American tags and even the slowest U.S. citizen could identify him or herself as a patriotic liberal American without experiencing any cognitive dissonance incurred by an anti-war stance.

  2. Michaelwme,

    What I’m trying to say is that in the United States, the concept of violence has been rendered as a binary: You’re either a gun-waving lunatic from the NRA who thumps his wife and his bible, or you’re a Gandhi-ite, singing Cumbaya as the police squads mace you in your smiling, folk-song-singing face. That’s the way the concept has been framed in our culture for decades now.

    It starts in grade school. Use your words. Violence doesn’t solve anything. Play nicely. You are NEVER told by Teacher: “Children, when a bully picks on someone, what you should do is go up to the bully in a group and shove him. All of you. Watch how little time it takes for him to start crying. Shove him some more. When he’s really scared, stop shoving and tell him that the next time he picks on someone, you won’t stop at just shoving. And if he does pick on someone again, you all hold him down and beat him black and blue. Mark him up. Teach him a lesson.”

    Why are we never taught that? Because it would work. People would learn, very early on, that sometimes, violence is not appropriate, but sometimes, it is, and part of becoming a functioning adult is learning what those situations are.

  3. I usually agree with Alex, but here, he’s saying all Americans are Tutsis, and the rest of the world are Hutus, and, if it weren’t for our brave military who are keeping us safe, we’d all end up as the Tutsis did when the Hutus came for them in Rwanda and no one stood up to protect them. This is why most Americans vote for War.

    As Mr Rall keeps saying, the US hasn’t gone to war with an attacker since ’41 (really, ’42, the US didn’t do much in ’41). After the 9/11/’01 attack by (mostly) Saudis, the US attacked Afghanistan and Iraq (who were clearly responsible: the captured Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis confessed after ‘enhanced interrogation’, which always yields the TRVTH!!!).

    All I learned from all this was NOT to trust the Western MSM. Now, even France 24 TV News is saying everything the US did was justified, but the US needs to be more proactive in Syria.

    (That’s NOT what my Syrian friends tell me.)

  4. This article should have been addressed to the “left.” The rightwingers don’t care why you disagree with them; they will happily make up reasons why (to the point that they will call other rightwingers liberal as soon as there is any strife between them).

    Self-styled liberals, on the other hand, will happily accuse you of racism for opposing Obama. Worse, I’ve actually seen black people at a party esposing policies far more liberal than anyone present, oppose Obama on those grounds, and be accused of being a Republican by other black people present. The idiom is simply translated in order to slander the opponent of the moment: if you’re not one of us, you’re one of them.

    The problem is that actual liberals don’t have a tribal presence in the U.S. There are people who simply can’t imagine what that crowd would look like, even if (as a matter of policy preference) they belong to it. People can imagine what a crowd of Obama supporters and detractors (from the right-wing) look like, but persons upset with Obama, Clinton et. al. from a legitimate position don’t really have a cliche in the public consciousness. As a result, upon meeting such people, many just shove the happless fringie into some other arbitrary political category. Thus, the most liberal person in the room will be called a Republican precisely because he or she disagrees with a rightwing democrat.

    Please stop pretending rightwing republicans care. Hell, we’re in this tribalistic mess precisely because rightwing and/or authoritarian democrats backed Obama with relentless enthusiasm. Redirect your attention to that crowd and this problem can be tackled.

  5. “… lefties disgusted with the Democrats get zero play. You’ll never find our views discussed or our champions interviewed, not even on the ‘liberal’ shows hosted by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or Bill Maher.”

    Well there’s Pacifica, WBAI in your town I think. I mean yeah it ain’t much but it’s more than zero?

  6. the only solution I can think of is a parliamentary system, but that is European-
    It’s also Canadian, and the U.S. can not openly admit that Canada has done anything correctly, such as offering a public option for health care to all residents, or letting same-sex marriage occur.

    Also a parliamentary system sort of existed under the Articles of Confederation. The concept that the US needed an executive office only makes sense if the US is a singular entity, which was not a de facto conclusion of people fighting for independence from the Brits.

  7. It’s easy to complain about the system Ted, but what is the solution? With the current method of electing candidates in the US, I actually think we are lucky to have to choices– wait, well actually for the most part we only have one choice. Only in those elusive “swing states” do voters have the luxury of a two party system. The rest of us are stuck with either R’s or D’s all the way down to the city and county elections. Good old jerrymandering. The only solution I can think of is a parliamentary system, but that is European- EUROPEAN. We don’t want to become Greece.

  8. MIchaelwme makes a very interesting point. We all SAY that we want peace, but we end up (collectively) voting into office warmongers. I think the biggest problem is the type of people who talk up pacifism.

    Ever notice, it’s almost always the trust-fund types? It’s the 50-something woman at work who has never had a day of genuine terror in her whole life. The 23-year-old college grad whose parents send him a check every month to “help” (“help” meaning “pay in its entirety”) with the rent on his one-bedroom apartment while he continues to do his unpaid internship at the Nation magazine?

    It’s never someone who got his arms chopped off in an African civil war. “If you had had a gun, would you have used it to keep them from chopping off your arms?”

    “Oh, no. I would have allowed them to maim me. After all, violence solves nothing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to masturbate with my feet.”

  9. Pingback: A choice selection of NSA and spying on citizens links – Bridget Magnus and the World as Seen from 4'11"

  10. In 1968, the party leadership, about 1,000 good men and true for each party, named the candidates with no inputs from outside the leadership.

    The Democrats put up Humphrey, who promised to continue doing exactly what Johnson had been doing. Winning the Vietnam War was clearly impossible, with China and the USSR supporting the north, but withdrawal and admission of defeat was equally impossible. The Republicans put up Nixon of the ‘secret plan to win the war’. Those who hated the war stayed home and Nixon won. As Whimsical would say, that paved the way for Reagan. Had Humphrey won, the Republican leadership would have been convinced that Reagan was unelectable.

    In ’72 it got worse. After the ’68 defeat, the Democratic party leadership let ordinary Democratic voters have inputs, and they put up an anti-war candidate who lost by a landslide, just as the party leadership had said that an anti-war candidate would lose. American voters did not want the lost lives wasted on a defeat, they wanted a victory, so those lives would not have been spent in vain. The war only ended because Watergate so weakened Nixon that withdrawal and a declaration of victory seemed like a way to remain in the White House. (Nixon always said that the Democratic Congress had snatched defeat from the jaws of his total and complete victory.) And both parties knew that anti-war candidates could never win an American election.

    Today, it seems most US voters support the War on Terror. The voters mostly approved of Bush, Jr’s war.

    If anything, they approve even more of Obama’s waging it more thriftily than Bush, Jr did. A surgical decapitation of the Libyan regime with no US military casualties (the right screams that Obama lost an Ambassador, something no president has done since Carter, but that was after the surgical decapitation). Anti-war parties can’t get more than a few votes, because the US voters don’t support them.

    The US MSM is now loudly and vigorously drumming up support for a US surgical decapitation of the Syrian regime, demanding action. In fact, Syria is NOT having a civil war. Saudi Arabia and Qatar want a piece of the Fertile Crescent, for good reason, so both have sent large mercenary armies, and want one more, the US, baksheesh to be fully paid by Saudi Arabia once the US Army, allied with the current Saudi mercenary army, defeats the Syrians and the Qataris (of course, Obama has already removed Emir Hamad from Qatar at Saudi’s insistence and put in his son, who should be much more compliant with Saudi demands). Britain and France also want a piece of the Fertile Crescent, and are also demanding that Obama proceed with the surgical decapitation immediately if not sooner.

    How, I’ve been asking since ’68, can the voters ever be taught not to vote against their own best interests?

    I haven’t come up with any answers at all in 45 years of trying.

  11. A really stand-out column for you, Ted! This all really can’t be said enough, and you said it best. That is the down and dirty on how stupid our whole system is and the real reasons people should hate Obama. YES WE CAN legitimately criticize Obama. This is absolutely the kind of view that the whole system works tirelessly to keep on the margins–hell–off the page!

    I remember two years ago when I used to watch MSNBC. Ed Shultz dismissed the 11% of Americans as crazy for believing Obama is conservative in a poll on his political alignment. He called me crazy that day, and I haven’t watched that blathering imbecile since. All he does is scream about Republicans and complain that Obama doesn’t do enough for working families…

    • Thanks, Jack! I was worried that this column might be a little bit too straightforward, telling people what they already knew. I often have a tendency to like things that are perhaps a little too convoluted and complicated for their own good. Sometimes these things do need to be said, though. I’m glad that you liked it.

  12. That didn’t make any sense. I must have still been asleep.

    The party of the right and the party of the far right, these two churches of state, both do their best to assure that these unrepresented heretics of the left have as little visibility as possible.

    And if this isn’t right yet, I give up.

  13. The party of the right and the party of the far right both do their best to assure that these two churches of state have as little visibility as possible.

    Thanks for recognizing this reality, Ted.

  14. Right after I read this commentary I read a book excerpt from _You Are Now Less Dumb_, which, when discussing why folklore exists and takes so long to diminish, coincidentally also contains the diagnosis for why our two-party system still exists:
    “Being a social creature, the first thing you do in a new job, new school, new country, or any other novel situation is ask people who are familiar with the environment to help you get acquainted with the best way to do things, the best places to eat, the hand gestures that might get you beheaded, etc. The problem, of course, is that your info is now based on opinions that are based on things such as conformity and emotions and norms and popularity, and if you’ve spent any time in a high school, on a dance floor, or at a rave, you know that what is popular is not always what is good or true. ”

    U.S. folklore is full of lots of ideas that don’t have much bearing on reality, but one of them is that a two-party system is how democracy functions. The country is used to a two-party system, thus a two-party system is the only system that could ever work. Even though the first President didn’t even belong to a party, U.S. folklore does not mention that part of reality.

    Take the poll you cite; it asks a simple question
    “In your view, do the Republican and Democratic parties do an adequate job of representing the American people, or do they do such a poor job that a third major party is needed?”
    And, depending on when the poll has been done, somewhere between 40 and 58% of those polled (…which is, unfortunately, a number only in the hundreds) have said that a third major party is needed. But that’s something they were willing to tell a stranger; in public USicans generally have to identify as D or R because it’s what is expected. It’s the social norm, it’s part of U.S. folklore, it’s part of U.S. social identity to view political identity as a dichotomy with no acceptance of outliers.

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