Joyce L. Arnold: Liberal, lesbian, Independent, equality activist, writer.

Pew Research: Democrats Not Eager for an Obama Challenger

Writing in the August 6, NYTimes, Drew Westen’s “What Happened to Obama?” received a lot of attention. I think it’s a good read, but also think he’s asking the wrong question. What “happened” wasn’t something done “to” Obama as much as it was “by” Obama. His choices. His style of governance.

Sarah Whitman, writing at Bilerico, has another question regarding Westen’s piece: “Obama: What Is the Alternative?” My summation: there are no easy options.

Looking for “alternatives,” you often find arguments about how none are feasible; the Two Party Front for the Oligarchy is impregnable. As I’ve written before, the power of the two party systems and structures is a formidable hurdle, and it isn’t going to be seriously challenged without long-term, persistent efforts. But that doesn’t meant it can’t be.

In this series of posts (links at end), I’ve focused on the fact that there are multiple, active efforts which seek to reform the Democratic Party; reform the election / campaign system; step up the efforts of existing “third parties”; and create new parties. I’ll provide a few more examples in this post.

But first, take a look at the results of a recent Pew Research Center poll: “Democrats Not Eager for an Obama Challenger”, released on August 10.

Rank-and-file Democrats are not eager to see Barack Obama challenged by other candidates for their party’s nomination in 2012.

Despite speculation that the Democratic base has become increasingly disillusioned with Obama, far fewer Democrats want to see Obama challenged for the nomination than supported a primary challenge to Bill Clinton in December 1994.

… (The poll) finds little difference between liberal Democrats and the party’s conservatives and moderates in opinions about whether Obama should face a challenge for the nomination. Only about a third in each group want to see Obama challenged (33% of liberal Democrats, 30% of conservative and moderate Democrats). In November, conservative and moderate Democrats had been somewhat more inclined than liberals to say they wanted challengers to Obama (39% vs. 28%).

Independents who lean to the Democratic Party also are less likely to favor a primary challenge to Obama than last November. Currently, 34% express this view, compared with 47% in November 2010.

Perhaps reflecting concerns about the outcome of the general election, Democrats and Democratic leaners who are following news about the 2012 presidential candidates very closely are much less likely to favor a primary challenge to Obama than are those who are following the election less closely (21% vs. 40%).

That last paragraph is speculation, of course, but it makes sense if the “lesser of two evils” framework is guiding the choice. And clearly it many cases, it is. Just as clearly, the Republican problems with Tea Party types and a still vigorous “social conservative” and/or “Christian values” faction, are helping make the “you have nowhere else to go” argument stick. See Rick Perry and The Response for an obvious example.

There is a lot of conversation about what all of this means, especially with the “Grand Bargain” and the “Great Debt Ceiling” fiasco in mind. For example, Karen Ocamb at Bilerico:

California Gov. Jerry Brown told CNN’s Candy Crowley he’s “˜alarmed’ by the state of the economy and congressional ideological gridlock – all of which could lead to a potentially “˜calamitous’ election in 2012. He called on President Obama to be stronger and to stand up to Congress.

… “˜Society’s in the mood where it wants a lot of things, but it’s not willing to pay for them,’ Brown said.

Brown’s conclusion isn’t new, but it’s relevant “” if “society” doesn’t hold itself accountable, it’s not going to do a very good job of holding Electeds accountable. Writing at FiredogLake, Happy Rockefeller is all about accountability in “It’s Time to Show Obama the Door”:

There are times when a party member has so damaged the Democratic brand, that the most prudent step is to take our loss, and remove that member from office. …

… we all know how scary it is to even think about Republicans gaining the White House next year. Some people seem to live for nothing but reminding us of this daily. …

… I will concede, there is a risk in not voting for Obama next year. …

… But the moment we said, “˜No matter what the Democrats do, they will have my vote, because the Republicans are worse’ we forfeited our political power in the Democratic party. We gave up our leverage.

It happened because we made defeating Republicans in the short term more important than keeping our own party true to its purpose for the long term.
Understand, the Oligarchs need two parties. They have to maintain the illusion of choice and conflict. They play each party off the other.

The oligarchy argument is basically the argument I’ve been making. Also at Firedog, Big Al writes “Pissed Off People Planning to Protest “” October 2011.org Led Protest, Can It Work?”:

We need to cut the oligarchy at the knees. … I’m not sure going to D.C. with these lists of demands … is going to do it. It is a start, I can’t criticize this effort, the motivation of the people involved or the fact that they’re doing SOMETHING instead of complaining behind a computer screen.

In almost everything I’m reading, people are acknowledging that reform and/or new party efforts are very difficult work. But they’re also making some good arguments about the need to do that difficult work.

Another example, this from Jim Sleeper at TPM, “The Republic After Obama”:

… I would turn the tables on neo-liberals and fatalists … by challenging them to acknowledge that doing nothing, … or spinning justifications for the unjustifiable … is worse, because it entails complicity in destruction. …

Obama has failed to find his inner Lincoln. But someone will, and in the meantime it’s up to the rest of us to find our civic-republican selves and start moving with others who are doing so, too.

If the Pew poll cited above is accurate, the majority of “the rest of us” aren’t ready to leave the Democratic Party. I’m not in that majority, but I’m not surprised it exists.

See previous posts (below) for lists of organizations, projects and campaigns. Two more to add to those lists at the end. Let me know if you are aware of others to include.

My related posts:

Grading the Electoral College
Two Parties = Too Few Choices
Two Parties = Too Few Choices, Part II

Political Parties / Reform Efforts

Conference on the Constitutional Convention
Contract for the American Dream

( Photo via WatchingFrogsBoil )