SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Settle for Second Worst?

Democratic Party Needs a Democratic Primary Process

What a comedown!

In 2008 Barack Obama ran on hope and change. His reelection bid relies on fear (of Republicans) and stay-the-course (lest said Republicans slash even more Medicare than Obama is willing to give away).

Inspired yet?

Yeah, yeah, anything can happen in one year—the GOP could nominate Bob Dole again—but it’s getting harder to imagine a scenario in which Obama wins reelection. The tsunami of bad economic news has become so relentless that last week’s story that one out of six Americans have fallen below the poverty line came and went with nary a shrug. (On the bright side, we’re just ahead of Indonesia. On the other side, Russia won the Cold War after all.)

Obama’s threat to veto any debt bill that doesn’t include taxes on the rich is supposed to signal a “new, more combative phase of his presidency, one likely to last until next year’s election as he battles for a second term,” as the New York Times puts it. But it’s too nothing, too late.

Tax increases get rolled back; Medicaid cuts are forever.

Rick Perry thinks the earth is a week old and Mitt Romney wears pink underwear and Michele Bachmann has crazy eyes. Unless they fart into the camera on national television, however, any of the leading Republican candidates will likely trounce a president who did nothing while the labor force shrunk by at least six million.

OK, he did stimulate the Martha’s Vineyard golf club economic sector.

On fifth thought, voters might overlook flatulence.

I had been wondering what accomplishments Team Obama planned to point to next year. Times editor Bill Keller helpfully lays it all out (I use the word “all” loosely) in an op/ed: “Lost in the shouting is the fact that Obama pulled the country back from the brink of depression; signed a health care reform law that expands coverage, preserves choice and creates a mechanism for controlling costs; engineered a fairly stringent financial regulatory reform; and authorized the risky mission that got Osama bin Laden.”

Let’s take these Democratic talking points like the trajectory of the U.S. empire: in reverse.

The trouble with assassinating Osama bin Laden is that once you’ve killed Osama bin Laden no one thinks about Osama bin Laden anymore. The Bushies understood this. Putting the Al Qaeda chief on trial would have been smarter politics (not to mention a sop to basic legal principles).

The new banking and securities regulations were too granular and timid for anyone to notice. Show me a president who bans ATM, overdraft and late credit-card fees, on the other hand, and I’ll show you a shoo-in for reelection. Or sainthood.

I don’t know what kind of health plan they offer on 8th & 42nd, but no one—not conservatives, not liberals, not anyone—likes what we know about Obama’s healthcare reform. The Right thinks it’s socialism. The Left wishes it were. What matters is that it doesn’t matter—Obamacare doesn’t going into effect until 2014. You can’t ask for votes of gratitude for a law that no one has experienced—and that many suspect will be repealed by the GOP or overturned by the courts.

Then there’s Keller’s first assertion: “Obama pulled the country back from the brink of depression.”

Um—Bill? Depression? We’re soaking in it.

The real unemployment rate (the way the government calculated it during the 1930s) is over 24 percent. That matches the highest monthly rate during the Great Depression.

But this Depression is worse than the “Great” Depression. You could buy an apple for a nickel back then. Now there’s high inflation too.

Not only are one out of four Americans out of work, the salaries of the employed are stagnant and getting eroded by soaring food and gas prices.

U.S. state-controlled media outlets like the Times are in the president’s corner. But their “without Obama the economy would be even worse” narrative is reducing their man’s chances next November. If there’s anything worse than losing your job, it’s a media that pretends you that you and your reality don’t exist. There never was a recovery; the economy crashed with the dot-coms in 2000 and never came back, what they called a “stimulus” was nothing more than a giveaway to bank CEOs, and now tens of millions of pissed-off people are itching for a chance to make a noise.

This, as Keller should know from reading the polls in his own paper, is why the liberal-progressive base of the Democratic Party is drifting away from Obama. They won’t vote for Perry or whomever, they just won’t vote.

Not since 1980 have the Democrats headed into a reelection campaign with such a weak incumbent president. Which prompts a question: Why is Obama running unopposed? A Democratic Party, it should go without saying, needs a democratic primary process.

A group of liberals led by former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has issued a call for one or more progressive leaders to run against Obama in the spring primaries. “Without debates by challengers inside the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries, the liberal/majoritarian agenda will be muted and ignored,” Nader said in a press release. “The one-man Democratic primaries will be dull, repetitive, and draining of both voter enthusiasm and real bright lines between the two parties that excite voters.”

It’s a nice thought, though it would be impossible to raise enough money to successfully challenge Obama at this late stage.

So get ready for The Return of the Republicans. I’m no James Carville, but I’ve seen enough presidential politics to know that anger beats fear.

Especially during an Even Greater Depression.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is



  • As with the previous election, the fate of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance.

    I simply cannot vote for Obama again. He had, literally, not just a once in a generation opportunity, he had an opportunity that will never come again: He was the first black president, he took over from a president who was massively divisive, unemployment was (still is) high. Obama could have gotten EVERYTHING he wanted. And he failed. He left Gitmo open. He did NOT encourage war crimes trials for the gang of thugs who lied us into two wars. (Notice that Rummy can now be sued by those two Americans? How long do you think Rummy will live now? Or will Obama pardon him?) He wouldn’t push for health care. He got a half-assed stimulus package that did some small amount of help. Not a single Wall Street banker has been called on the carpet.

    I wouldn’t vote for Hillary last time because I simply couldn’t take the dynastic tone of Bush-Clinton-Bush II-Clinton II it would have made. Now, I’d vote for her in a second. She’s the only person who has enough national recognition to unify the Democratic party at this point, but she’d have to come out swinging. She’d have to say, right from the beginning, that she thinks Obama squandered a lot of opportunities and that the country needs a new approach from the Democratic Party. She’d have to go hard left. As hard as possible.

  • If Obama pardons Rumsfeld, i’ll consider it proof that the POTUS’ ” job #1″ is maintaining the union.
    That’s the excuse Ford gave on Nixon.

  • Mr. Rall predicted Obama’s defeat shortly after the Osama assassination, when all of America said he was the greatest president since, …
    heck, the greatest president.

    Then Obama started to look like Bush, Sr. who told Saddam ‘Kuwait is yours, if you want it,’ in ’90, so Saddam invaded. Then Bush, Sr. ordered in the forces that defeated Saddam in 100 hours in ’91, and Bush, Sr. was a great war-hero. Then, in ’92, the voters said, ‘Bush, Sr. was the greatest War President we’ve ever had, but the war is over, and we need a peace president like that young man from Alabama, or whatever state that he’s from, but I know it starts with an ‘A’. During the ’92 campaign, Bush, Sr. looked tired, out of things, and that’s often how Obama looks now.

    By ordering the assassination of Osama in May ’11, that victory has already lost all its cachet, and Obama is rapidly dropping in the polls.

    But today, by saying he’s for jobs as the Republicans refuse to accept his proposals, he’s once again being perceived as the brilliant campaigner who cleaned Hillary’s clock. But can he maintain this until November ’12????

    Right now, the polls say that, if nominated, Romney would easily defeat Obama, but Romney is far below Perry for the Republican nomination.

    The same polls say that only Romney could possibly defeat Obama, since voters will not vote for someone who, like Perry, believes the world was created in 4004 BC.

    So the final odds remain: 2:1 against Obama’s re-election and 2:1 against Obama’s defeat in 2012.

    And the odds are, similarly, about the same that the Republican primary will go to Romney or that it will go to Perry.

  • innocent victim
    September 20, 2011 9:09 PM

    Isn’t is a shame that we Americans are so unconcerned about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by President Obama in our names?

    Important, pivotal as all the issues mentioned by Mr Rall are, I missed any mention of these as reasons for not re-electing Barack Obama. I guess I am less a realist than Mr Rall, whom I greatly esteem.

    To me, even if Barack Obama had restored the Glass-Steagall Act, upped the minimum wage to what is was – indexed for inflation – in 1965, instituted socialized medicine and put all the banksters in Leavenworth, even if he had done all those wonderful and necessary things, I could not vote for him because he is morally unacceptable as a war criminal.

    Thanks Ted Rall! I follow your column for a bright refresher on the week that wasted.

  • innocent victim,

    Without getting too far into this, every president is a war criminal. And not just in the United States. Look up Menachem Begin on wikipedia. He was responsible for blowing up a hotel. The British labeled him a terrorist. Eventually, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. The idea that these people get to the top of the political food chain by, aw shucks, being nice? Come on. Snap out of it. I don’t intend to vote for Obama for a very simple reason: He’s ineffective. He’s no damned good at getting anything done. Yes, that he’s keeping Gitmo open is appalling. But it’s appalling because it’s a sign of how useless he is. A capable leader would simply have those people tried. Put them all on trial. The guilty ones? Lock them up for the rest of their lives. The innocent? Release them. A good leader doesn’t need to warehouse potentially innocent people for a decade.

  • I just noticed, the New York Times is trying to support Keller’s op-ed: they say that Obamacare has greatly increased access to healthcare for a large percentage of formerly uncovered and uncoverable Americans. They report that insurance companies must now accept at ridiculously low rates all those with serious pre-existing conditions.

    I’m not sure where these reporters are looking. In Obama’s press releases? Well, if it’s issued by the White House, it’s good enough for me. The President cannot lie, under US law: whatever he says is the TRVTH, and if it is internally contradictory, well then, consistency is just a hobgoblin that has no place in America.

  • John From Censornati
    September 22, 2011 6:40 AM

    I think that Nader quote is bizarre. Since he’s been preaching for years that there is no difference between the two parties, I’d like to know what he thinks the “real bright lines between the two parties” are.

  • John From Censornati
    September 22, 2011 6:46 AM

    In all fairness, “Obamacare” has already succeeded in covering many young adults up to the age of 26 on their parents’ health insurance policies. With such high levels of unemployment, this is noteworthy. In fact, it has led to dental insurance companies following suit even though “Obamacare” doesn’t affect them.

  • John From Censornati
    September 22, 2011 6:49 AM

    “Obama’s threat to veto any debt bill that doesn’t include taxes on the rich is supposed to signal a “new, more combative phase of his presidency, one likely to last until next year’s election as he battles for a second term,”

    The trouble with this strategy is that too many of us suspect that it won’t last a minute past election day.

  • John From Censornati,

    “In all fairness, ‘Obamacare’ has already succeeded in covering many young adults up to the age of 26 on their parents’ health insurance policies.”

    In all fairness, John, think about this for a minute. How many 26 year olds do you know with significant health problems?

    There are exactly two groups helped by this: 1. The 26-and-under crowd with severe health problems (most of whom, I suspect would already qualify under Medicaid). 2. Obama and his wonks.

    i’m 40-something. I don’t get coverage under a parent’s health insurance. Of course, there are also plenty of 26-year-olds who have unemployed parents, so they won’t get coverage either.

    My point is that this is a classic piece of misdirection by the Powers That Be. It looks like SOMETHING, but it’s really pretty much nothing.

  • John From Censornati
    September 24, 2011 12:56 PM

    Alex the tired,

    Here’s what Ted said: “What matters is that it doesn’t matter—Obamacare doesn’t going into effect until 2014. You can’t ask for votes of gratitude for a law that no one has experienced”

    The facts are that some of it is already in effect. You think it’s nothing, but others will disagree with you. When I was less than 26 years old, my mother worried constantly about health insurance and I wasn’t sick and I’m still not. If she could have covered me on her policy, she would have been very happy about it. It’s not nothing.