by Evalyn Segal

Robert Scheer, progressive author, political journalist and founder of the website Truthdig, spoke at Rossmoor (a Northern California senior citizen community) a couple of weeks ago.

He dwelt on the mean-spiritedness of current American politics and the right wingʼs efforts to destroy the justice, domestic tranquility and general welfare envisioned in the Preamble to our Constitution. Republicans have let themselves be taken over by Tea Partyers who are hell-bent on instituting a corporatist system of government ruled by Wall Street banks and multinational corporations and serving the interests of only the richest one percent of the nation.

Hereʼs what Gail Collins, New York Times columnist, said in an article (“The Long Stagnation”) she co-authored with David Brooks on Oct. 5: “The Tea Party … is just the latest manifestation of the right wingʼs refusal to accept the idea of Democrats [who purport to represent the interests of the other 99 percent] running the government. Every time one gets elected, thereʼs this crazed right-wing upheaval.”

And, shameful as it is to say, the Tea Party-bewitched Republicans, many from the South and Southwest, are especially determined to block any hope of successful governing by a Democratic president who is an uppity darky. Scheer spoke at some length about Barack Obamaʼs ineptitude as president. He is so anxious to show his skills as a compromiser that he gives the store away before negotiations with his opponents even begin.

Some of his giveaways and retreats: He has maintained the Bush Administrationʼs national security apparatus that allows for the suspension of civil liberties. He bailed out Wall Streetʼs greediest firms while failing to push for effective prosecution of their criminal behavior, which triggered the current Depression.

He failed to push for real financial reform on derivatives, hedge funds, securitised mortgages and other demonic “financial instruments,” and was afraid to back Elizabeth Warren as chair of the Financial Consumer Affairs

Bureau because Republicans would oppose her. (So let them oppose her! Why not fight back?)

He agreed to extend the Bush-era tax cuts (why didnʼt he fight?) and caved to Republican extortion during the debt ceiling negotiations (why didn’t he fight?). He failed to protect homeowners from losing their homes to predatory banks. He pignored his campaign pledge to support and pursue card check as a union-organizing method; he failed in his pledge to increase the federal minimum wage.

He took Single Payer off the table before negotiations with the health insurance industry even began and promised Big Pharma that he would not press for the right to negotiate quantity drug discounts for government health programs.

He did not seriously address climate change or fight for an energy policy that makes ecological sense. (Some of this list is paraphrased from an email I received in September bearing the subject, Invitation to Challenge Obama in the Democratic Primaries. My reply to the email is below.)

After Scheerʼs talk, I asked him why the Democratic Party was not planning to have open primaries to select a different Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2012. Scheerʼs answer, as near as I could understand, was that it was customary for a party to support its incumbent president for a second term. Then Scheer went on to say that, of course, Obama would lose in 2012.

What? The Democratic Party is that eager to commit suicide? Theyʼre going to back a candidate who “everyone knows” is going to lose, because it wouldn’t be polite to promote someone else in his place?

In my reply to the Invitation to Challenge Obama email, I said:

“What I don’t understand is why your purpose is to push Obama a little bit leftward, and not to actually nominate someone progressive and stiff-spined to run in 2012.

“Obama is very smart, and possibly his heart is in the right place even if his arms are extended to Wall Street, but he is temperamentally unsuited to be president in these times. … Why don’t we make it clear to Obama that it’s time for him to declare that heʼs content to be a one-term president, and to withdraw as a candidate for the 2012 nomination?

“That would leave him free to spend the next 15 months, until the January 2013 inauguration, actually fighting for measures that will help the despairing working and middle classes, without having to worry that it might lose him votes.

“Why don’t we suggest to him that he run for the Senate again at the first available opportunity? If only he had stayed there, matured, learned the ropes, he could have grown into a superb Senator, one for the history books. He still could. As for who the Democrats could pick to run in Obamaʼs place? Just let the vacancy be announced, and there will be no dearth of qualified candidates coming forth, including some who might stand a better-than-even chance of beating the Republican candidate.”

Evalyn Segal, a long-time resident of Mt. Airy, recently moved to Northern California.

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