Home / Culture and Society / You Don’t Serve, So Don’t Run: A Primary Challenge to Obama?

You Don’t Serve, So Don’t Run: A Primary Challenge to Obama?

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The 2012 Presidential race is on, and I hereby announce that I oppose the renomination of Barack Obama for the Democratic party candidacy.

This is not a case of buyer’s remorse despite my political leanings. I did not vote for Obama in 2008. Neither did I vote for John McCain. I made a very difficult choice to write in Ron Paul as the only candidate offered by any party that stood for something—anything—I believe in, and even choosing Ron Paul was a long stretch. I refuse to support candidates who feel free to “hippie punch” me, denigrate me, and stomp on all my goals (as expressed far better than I can do here. Julius Caesar taught me that one can only be stabbed in the back so many times before one succumbs, and I won’t back down. So I support the growing effort to replace the ineffective Barack Obama on the ticket with someone else.

I thought I’d begin my advocacy with a little history of how this movement began and grew. And yes, despite the talk to the contrary, it grows still. Some of the sectors of growth might surprise you, and I offer a couple of examples in this post.

As of September of 2009, Keith Olbermann expressed the idea that progressives were willing to abandon Obama. “He’s compromised on everything so far… If it’s necessary to find somebody else to run against him, I think they’d do it…”

Others back then thought so as well. By the following February, blogger Patrick Roberts of irishcentral.com promoted Evan Bayh as a substitute, suggesting that the motive for the “more electable” Bayh was a grudge over repeated VP slot snubs dating back to John Kerry’s campaign. Not the first time has spite had repercussions, right Scott Walker?

With the midterm races heating up, former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell suggested that Rep. Ron Paul will never have a better chance than in 2012 to run third party. Rendell admits that such a move would only benefit Obama’s chances. Sneaky, Ed! I doubt that this is going to happen; and if it did, I doubt I would vote for him again. Get serious!

It looks like Rendell did get serious. A month after his Ron Paul promotion, Rendell was thoughtful about Obama’s shortcomings in specifically citing Afghanistan as an opening for an antiwar Democrat to challenge Obama in the primary. There could be some party support for such a move, as Massachusetts Democrat Rep. James McGovern, New York Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and California Democrat Rep. Lynn Woolsey all were quoted as agreeing with Rendell’s choice for Obama’s Big Electoral Problem.

Progressive filmmaker Robert Greenwald, president of Brave New Films/Foundation, disagrees that a Democrat is likely to emerge as a challenger for the liberal cause. Firedoglake.com founder Jane Hamsher supports Greenwald’s view, and expresses her opinion that Obama’s only real challenge will come from the Republicans.

But I wouldn’t be so fast to dismiss the possibility of a primary challenge from a Democrat. Numerous studies from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reveal that the economy and job growth are major topics for Americans, both easy pickings for a left-leaning candidate. HAMP failed to rescue homeowners from a growing foreclosure attack, and job growth is still pathetic. Obama’s record on both is dismal at best, and he is regularly accused of selling out Main Street to support Wall Street greed even by Blue Dogs. Obama now appears to be ready to surrender YOUR Social Security to their hunger. His own retirement is already secured. I’d like to help him collect it while he’s young enough to enjoy it. I’m sure he’ll feel our pain.

Relatively minor issues (to him, that is) will also plague the President while in pursuit of voter preference. He’s rapidly losing environmentalist support, and his rejection of environmentalist Bill McKibben’s symbolic restoration of White House solar panels is deemed a betrayal of principles espoused by Candidate Obama. A call for a primary challenge has thus been issued.

Republicans are all over this idea. Smarting that their best choices can’t gain traction against such a lame poser as Obama is (even Fox says so), they are vociferously touting the meme. Major GOP stalwarts like Dick Morris and Ari Fleischer got out in front of the pack, taking an early lead as the shellac dried on Obama’s mandate revocation.

The media chimed in once the topic was known, but the proposed solutions varied widely. While Dan Rather predicted that a challenge would stem from Obama’s tax cut extension (watch via Eyeblast), Stanford MLK Scholar Clarence Jones sought the New Gene McCarthy to run against the Terror Wars Against Terror.

Explanations for Obama’s shortcomings were also readily available. For example, Frank Rich posited that Stockholm Syndrome was the reason for Obama’s lack of leadership leading to serious midterm defeat. Based on Obama’s own expressed homages to Ronald Reagan, Rich might well be on to something.

But exculpatory explanations are worthless when the pressure is on. Dan Rather reported that major Democratic contributors were only going to give Obama a few more months to reverse the common impression that “he won’t fight for anything” before they push for a primary challenge. It isn’t “What has Obama done lately?”—it’s “What has Obama done?”. Those few months, depending on which number is cited as to the duration of their patience, are expiring.

That closing time may well be now. Adding to previous efforts to nudge Obama into action issued by Tikkun magazine editor Michael Lerner, Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect, and Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, liberal and progressive politicians such as Dennis Kucinich are loosing their salvos at an embattled Oval Office lavishly decorated in a 1938 British empire decor.

In addition, potential rivals—friendly and not so friendly—are consolidating their positions. Ralph Nader won’t commit to running again, but expresses a desire to see liberals reject the notion that they have no option but to vote for Obama. I personify the refutation of that mis-impression, and have regularly since 1980.

But don’t cry for Obama just yet! He does have his defenders. Rep. Charlie Rangel energetically rejects the primary challenge concept while Democratic Strategist managing editor Ed Kilgore declares that any challenger would have to peel away a large portion of Obama’s black support, an effort already underway on the Republican side as any simple Google search will attest through voluminous links regarding new voter registration requirements.

If it can be done, rest assured that it will be done by the GOP. They need all the help they can get if the polls are to be believed. The fact that they are actually listening to The Donald as if he’s a serious choice is either a sign of serious desperation on the part of the Republicans, or a masterful distraction play to boost the prospects of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. Huntsman hasn’t yet announced his candidacy, but he seems to be leaning in that direction. 2008 Obama campaign manager David Plouffe appraises Huntsman as “a tough presidential opponent.”

The bottom line is that Obama is his own worst re-election opponent. His limp Presidential persona runs up against his dynamic Campaign persona—and trips. His image has become so bad that the normally-supportive EJ Dionne suggests that the twain should meet, as if that would help clear things up any.

One has to know it’s very bad for Obama when Republican commentators like Ralph E. Shaffer, a former Cal Poly Pomona professor of history, declare that “A scent of rebellion is in the air” and that it might save the Democratic Party. Shaffer points to the recently ousted slate of “unemployed Democratic governors and representatives now available” that just might “remember why he was elected.” And we progressives thought Obama worked hard to lift the Republicans off the floor in 2008!

I don’t think that Karl Rove is going to like this much, Ralph. He’s worked too long for the complete collapse of the Democrats for you to step in with a reasonable rescue strategy. The good news for you is that I doubt Obama is even listening. He hasn’t so far.

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About pessimist

  • I do hope that there emerges a challenge to Obama for the Dem. nomination even though that is unlikely. I could never vote Rep. due to their invasive stance on social issues, but at the end of the day I am a fiscal conservative (and by that I don’t mean “don’t spend money” but rather, “don’t spend money we don’t have”).

  • Realist = Fantasist. Not much realism here.

  • Well, let’s see. What’s my reply? Bullshit! John McCain would never have touched health care. Wouldn’t have considered messing with DADT. The economy would be no better off. The ONLY thing that McCain or any Rep would have offered would have been more tax cuts.
    That’s their mantra, and they’re sticking to it. We’d still be mired in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Whine away. Your disappointment brings forth crocodile tears. Naivete abounds.

    I voted for Obama in 2008, and I’ll vote for him again in 2012. If reelected he will disappoint. He will fall short of expectations. Show me one president who hasn’t. But, again, I still prefer Obama over anyone else. I think there are some emerging bright stars among the Dems, but they are not ready, and would not be able to overtake Obama in the primaries. All they would do is open the door for the Reps.

    So suck it up. Better to get part of a sandwich, than having the Reps take it away along with your plate and silverware, your table and chairs and your whole fucking house.


  • I’ll let Bill Blum offer my reply:

    “If John McCain had won the 2008 election, and then done everything that Obama has done in exactly the same way, liberals would be raging about such awful policies. I believe that Barack Obama is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the American left. The millions of young people who jubilantly supported him in 2008, and numerous older supporters, will need a long recovery period before they’re ready to once again offer their idealism and their passion on the altar of political activism.”

    America needs a leader, not a GOP version of a Walmart greeter.

  • Kuhinje

    It seems to me that Obama creates a lot of opponents by sending the army to Libya .. The state has less money, the economy has not recovered the money being thrown at the new wars. People are more osetiljivi when state money is spent. To me Obama is good but I think there will be the second time president of USA.

  • Good response zing.

    Everyone of us has some notion as to what the perfect world might be, and who the perfect leader for that world would be. Sadly (well, not really) none of us are likely to see that world.

    Dave Nalle and most libertarians would be delerious with a government that did nothing more than send some figure head to pose for pictures with some new entreprenurial wizard in a first shovel turning ceremony.

    Right wing christians want some fire and brimstone evangelical to take this country back to the days of Cotton Mather and some great puritanical theocracy.

    True progressives (some of whom might actually be SOCIALISTS! Acckk!) want – well frankly, I’m not sure what they want. It’s kind of a mixed bag. Perhaps a giant group tree hug. A total cessation in the use of nuclear and fossil fuels and turning the country into a huge wind farm and/or a mass solar collector.

    While I certainly lean more toward the latter example, as I DO consider myself to be a progressive of some sort, I am also a “realist.” However, the above article does not seem to reflect its author’s moniker.

    If he was a true “realist” he would know that no one really winds up getting what they want when it comes to politics and government. In almost every case the best any of us can hope for is an approximate, bastardized realization of our wish list.

    Frankly, I’d say Obama has, on the whole done fairly well. As zing notes, a lot has been accomplished by he and his administration over the past 2+ years. A lot of it has fallen well short of what many of us on the left may have desired, but at least some progress has been made.

    Right now Republicans across the land believe they have been given Carte Blanche to enact any and every damn thing they’ve been carrying around in their conservative kit bags for the past several years. While they may accomplish some of it, at this juncture, it appears that they have overreached and may well pay the ultimate price for it come as early as this November through recalls and referendums, and most assuredly by the 2012 elections.

    Should Realist get his wish, and again as handy notes above, it would simply have the effect of opening the door for another Republican win. Are we really ready for that cluster fuck again?

    Obama has disappointed me on a # of issues. Yet, I will still take him over ANY Republican or ANY TeaBag nutball.

    It seems that most people who vote third party do so in the belief that they are doing something almost holy. That it is an effective means to make some kind of statement. All I see is a wasted vote, because, when it comes down to it, nobody gives a shit.

    Remember, it was Nader and the Green Party along with Clinton’s penchant for Oval Office blow jobs that put W in the White House.


  • Great web site, zing, thanks.

  • Clavos

    That IS a comment…

  • If someone else expresses it far better, why should anyone continue reading through this giant whinefest? And there’s way too many links. Honestly, am I supposed to leave in the middle of the article to look at someone’s facebook page? Also, reread Roberts. He’s not promoting Bayh as you claim.

    I doubt you’ll get your wish, but even if you do, you’ll eventually be unhapppy with it. The powers that run this country aren’t going to let it go as far left as you want it to.

    As far as

  • zingzing


    if you expected him to reverse every wrong ever, i’m sorry you’re so naive. if you want to see what he’s done, have a click or 300. sure, he’s had some setbacks and he’s not done some things i wanted him to, but he’s done a lot of things, things you don’t even think about, because you’re too fucking busy being all radical and shit. fucking wake up. this isn’t your fantasy world. it’s the real world, where things get done by consensus, not by edict. if obama was the fucking pope, he’d be done and we’d all be good, but the fucking pope doesn’t even have the type of power you’re talking about. and for good reason.

  • I respect your right to dislike the president, Realist, but you belie your own nom de net here.

    A politically realistic take on the situation is that if the unemployment rate continues to go down, Obama is likely to be reelected. And a serious primary challenge seems utterly unlikely at this point.

    [And if there were a primary challenge, it would be tantamount to declaring a Republican presidential victory. And I certainly don’t want any of those people to run the country. Do you? Wouldn’t you be even more miserable and angry than you are with a ‘lukewarm’ liberal?]

    When Reagan was reelected in 1984, the unemployment rate was 8.2% — not great, but a vast improvement from 18 months before. He won 49 states [against a non-charismatic opponent; I don’t see any charismatic GOP hopefuls at the moment].

    In the last 4 months, the rate has dropped from 9.9% to 8.8% — the fastest rate of decrease since…the mid-80s.

    Wouldn’t any politician disappoint you? Has there been a president in your lifetime that you admired without major reservations? You’re a true believer, and true believers are always irritated and unhappy with realpolitik.

    Is there really anybody out there who is both electable and also likely to fare better against the loudmouth know-nothing extremists who have taken over the GOP? I’d be interested to hear names.

  • No comment.