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Friday, August 26, 2011

Compare and Contrast: Liberal Lion Ted Kennedy and the Liberal Bashing Obama Admin

Caroline's intro, video tribute, Teddy's speech (at 14 minutes)

It was three years ago yesterday when the Liberal Lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, overcame the health difficulties he was experiencing to address (text) the Democratic National Convention in Denver. I was very fortunate to be in the hall that night as a state blogger (thanks Howard Dean), and clearly recall the electricity and emotional intensity that swept the hall when Teddy strode onto the stage for the last time at a Dem Convention, and gave a moving and rousing speech on behalf of Barack Obama. In an odd coincidence, Ted passed away from a brain tumor exactly a year later, on August 25, 2009. And so it is inevitable that Dems like me have thoughts of Ted Kennedy swirling in our heads at this time of year.

I have many memories of Teddy fighting the good fight for the people -- for workers, for minorities, for children, for seniors, for health care for all, for the impoverished, for women -- over his many years of public service, as well as his no-holds-barred liberalism in the face of whatever nasty rhetoric was issuing from right-wingers in any particular year. There are few politicos today who call themselves Democrats who are as proudly and unabashedly liberal as Teddy was.

No, it is now the fashion, from Obama on down, to embrace the phony, expedient labels of "centrist" or "moderate" or "nonpartisan" and pretend that there is a middle we can meet in and still effectively make the deep-seated changes needed to return our American economy, culture and communities to anything resembling fairness, compassion and opportunity for all. Ironically, most of the traditional values of the Dem Party now match the positions supported by a majority of Americans -- it is only politicos of both parties who stand in the way of the progress we need to regain our footing and thrive.

Ted vs. Barack
Teddy was known to be an excellent negotiator and, believe me, he did not start the compromise negotiations by giving away most of the store before the dealmaking had even begun. In other words, he was no Barack Obama. Thankfully. No, Teddy was known as a successful persuader of his fellow lawmakers, as well as a true leader who could inspire and marshall the great energies of the people to push for real change we can believe in.

Senator Kennedy did not stand there and make excuses saying things like, "hey, this is the best we can do because Republicans will never support anything more so we're not even going to try for what we really believe in, what the people really want. I'm the wise, all-knowing one and I will start out already across the line into right-wing corporatist territory in my negotiations and go from there. And the Democratic base should take it and shut up. If they don't support me, they just aren't smart enough to get the beauty of my strategies and tacitics. I call the shots, not them. I listen to my corporate/banking/Wall Street "advisers" and donors, not to the motley crew who comprise the Dem base."

Well, Obama never says exactly that, but that's the message that seems to frequently emanate from the White House, whether from the President himself or his public mouthpieces and leakers.

Can anyone imagine Ted Kennedy mocking the Democratic base or liberal values or progressive activists?

What Would Teddy Do?
Before his death, Teddy worked very hard to get Obama the nomination and the presidency. I wonder what he would think and do now after witnessing the steady and incredibly depressing transition of Mr. Hope and Change into Mr. No Way, No We Can't. I can't help but believe he'd be just as disgusted as so many of us are with the failure of Obama and so many of the DC Dems to BE DEMOCRATS instead of mewling technocrats in the service of some of the worst financial and economic forces on the planet.

Can anyone imagine Ted Kennedy allowing Sen. Max Baucus and his gang to stall away a whole summer working on watering down and corporatizing the health care reform bill as much as humanly possible while the right wingers went nuts spreading false information at crazy town halls and Obama sat on his hands, mostly mute? I don't think so.

Disturbing Contrasts
Here's an excerpt of what Caroline Kennedy had to say in her introduction of Teddy at the Dem Convention in Denver. Think about it, as well as what Teddy said that night, and then think about the kind of lip service and dismissiveness we're getting from President Obama at a time of incredibly upsetting economic and environmental peril:

For 46 years, he has been so much more than just a senator for the people of Massachusetts. He's been a senator for all who believe in a dream that's never died. If you're no longer being denied a job because of your race, gender or disability, or if you've seen a rise in the minimum wage you're being paid, Teddy is your senator too.

If your children are receiving health care thanks to the Children's Health Insurance Program, if you see a nurse at a community health center or if you're benefiting from the Medicare program that he fought to create, and that just last month he returned to the Senate to save, Teddy is your senator too. If your child is getting an early boost in life through Head Start, or attending a better school or can go to college because a Pell grant has made it more affordable, Teddy is your senator too. And if you're an 18-year-old who's going to vote for the first time-and I bet it'll be for Barack Obama- Teddy is your senator too.

Not only has Teddy helped put the American dream within reach for so many families, he's been a powerful force around the world for human rights and human dignity, for refugees and the dispossessed. He helped end apartheid in South Africa and bring peace to Northern Ireland. He's been a leader on nuclear arms control. And he took a strong, early and courageous stand against the war in Iraq.

It's a contrast that is breaking the hearts of increasing numbers of loyal Democrats, grassroots activists, progressives and ordinary Americans. Now we have an allegedly Democratic President who actually puts Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security cuts on the table at the outset of the debate and thinks cruel measures of "austerity" are the way to jump start the economy and create jobs. We have a President who is conducting covert military operations and attacks on whistleblowers that go beyond what even Bush dared to implement -- one who believes he doesn't have to get congressional approval to participate in a war in Libya. We have a President who clearly seems to be siding with the criminal bankers who caused this mess, instead of putting the people's needs first. We now have a President who has had ICE round up, incarcerate in private prisons and deport more immigrants than Bush did in any year of his administration. I could go on. 

What would Teddy say? I can't imagine him defending this behavior, that's for sure.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Yes, I know, Dems are between a rock and a hard place as far as the 2012 presidential election goes. We are constantly warned that we must support Obama 100% or else face the insanity of a right-wing president like Bachman or Perry. Maybe the big-money, behind-the-scenes big shots set it up this way on purpose, just to ensure another four years of Obama the appeaser. In the current political environment it's hard to know who or what is actually driving events -- here and on a global scale. 

I'd love to see Obama face a primary opponent, at the very least. One who could strongly and clearly express many of the ideas and positions currently being put forth by Sen. Bernie Sanders, for instance. Regardless, I think it's imperative to keep the pressure on Obama and to call him out when he sinks to the kind of actions I've cited above. As far as I'm concerned, it's no longer an option to once again don our cheerleader gear and blindly support Obama's presidency or his reelection.

After last week's kerfluffle (that got national attention) over the embarrasing emails mocking liberals and progressives sent out by NM OFA head honcho Ray Sandoval, I admit that it's hard for me to think about lifting a finger to help reelect Obama. And I know I'm only the tip of the iceberg. Many say it will be our fault if Obama loses, but I say that it will be his own fault -- for refusing to be a strong Democratic leader fighting hard and long for true Democratic values, and for insulting and demeaning the very people in the Dem base who worked their asses off and gave tons of small donations to get him elected last time. Obama is the one who needs to wake up -- not us.

As Senator Kennedy said, "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die." And that's regardless of whether or not a Democratic president holds the White House. We must continue to fight for this, no matter what: "For me this is a season of hope -- new hope for a just and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few — new hope." If Obama continues to refuse to lead on that basis, we need to find someone who is willing to at least confront him.

Sentimental Journey
Before I wrote this post today, I indulged in a sentimental journey to the last president cycle -- and the incredible excitement and yes, hope, we had for an Obama presidency. The contrast with my feelings today couldn't be starker. And that's a real shame.

If you're so moved, indulge yourself in a trip to the past. Perhaps it will inspire and energize you to fight on for our Dem principles, and keep the pressure on Dem officeholders and candidates to do the same. We need to be loud and proud and unrelenting, don't you think? There's just too much at stake to take whatever our Dem leaders hand out, no matter how weak or misguided, and keep our mouth shut. We need to ACT UP!

Photo album here

Our convention blog coverage from 2008 can be found in our archive. And here are our videos.

August 26, 2011 at 01:10 PM in 2012 Presidential Race, Democratic Party, Economy, Populism, Environment, Jobs, Obama Administration, Organizing for America, Peace, Progressivism | Permalink


Great post-thanks for this and for the memories of Ted Kennedy. I guess we are stuck with Obama but we have to do something to get him to fight!

Posted by: Democratic Wing | Aug 26, 2011 2:30:46 PM

The Republican candidates and the right-wing point of view has over taken the media exclusively. Thanks to this situation with our fake democratic incumbent president. The left, even in the mildest sense, is not even being heard anymore.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 26, 2011 4:12:32 PM

It's not even really "the left" that isn't being heard. It's plain old Democrats. All we hear are right wing talking points and right wing framing even from Obama. Not acceptable!

Posted by: Josephine | Aug 26, 2011 5:55:26 PM

What gets to me is that this terrible behavior by the President and the capitulation of national "Democrats" on all the issues that matter to me have given Our Party a bad name. Why should I have to be embarrassed about what "Democrats" stand for?

I am a Democrat because I believe in the values that I and a lot of other people stand for. The "Party" has ruined our reputation. I am proud to stand for all the good things that made our nation great.

Teddy lives in our hearts and minds because he was NEVER afraid to stand for the causes that improved the lives of the "little" people.

I did not give the store away. I am here, still fighting for all that we have held dear, for our hopes and dreams. I am still fighting and will continue to fight.

Posted by: bg | Aug 26, 2011 8:18:47 PM

Tell me, what is the plan for 2012 by the folks who feel Obama has failed us/them. Is it to elect the likes of Rick Perry? That question needs to be addressed.

The ranting against Obama, without a plan, hurts Democrats.

Posted by: Preciliano Martin | Aug 27, 2011 7:32:40 AM

One other thing, folks need to remember that their Dem principles and others Dem principles might be a bit different. Not taking that into account is politically dangerous. Democrats need a big tent but you cannot let everybody in.

Posted by: Preciliano Martin | Aug 27, 2011 8:01:13 AM

This isn't ranting against Obama. It is telling the truth about what he does and doesn't do. Is it better to pretend he is a real Democrat fighting for the working class and regular people? Obama's bad actions hurt Democrats. Noticing what he is doing is not what is doing damage.

The most important Dem principle has always been to help the working and middle classes prosper by having fair economic policies and good paying jobs with benefits. What kind of Dem would be against that? The party has always been about helping the little guy get a hand up. Obama seems only to want to help the rich and Wall Street and we are supposed to bite the bullet.

Posted by: Larry | Aug 27, 2011 8:41:01 AM

"It's not even really "the left" that isn't being heard. It's plain old Democrats."
"Why should I have to be embarrassed about what "Democrats" stand for?"
Preciliano Martin
"One other thing, folks need to remember that their Dem principles and others Dem principles might be a bit different. Not taking that into account is politically dangerous. Democrats need a big tent but you cannot let everybody in."

This is incoherent.
Democratic values ARE on the Left. The Left stands for:
The purpose of the economy is to provide civilization's citizens with provisions. The purpose of the economy is NOT for the citizens to serve IT enriching only 2% at the expense of advancement of civilization at large. Call it economic justice.

The left stands for reproductive rights, the education of women and the equality of women as citizens.

The left stands for human, civil and labor rights for all citizens on the planet and will strive to proselytize these rights as outlined in our Constitution to all the nations as well as, protect these rights at home.

The left stands for tolerance of religions, creed, and philosophies as long as they do not infringe upon the religion, creed and philosophies of others. The left values diversity.

The Left stands against racism.

The Left advocates for the poor deserved or not. The left does not seek to criminalize poverty.

The Left advocates passionately for environmental sustainability and preservation of our natural heritage even above so called property rights as such closed systems of private property do not exist and must be regulated.

The Left accepts social evolution in human beings. Evolution meaning, turning away from violence and fear and educating our population not so much for the purpose of production but for the purpose of fulfillment.

The values of the LEFT are specific. You just need to clarify your own thought about what we on the Left believe is true righteousness.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 27, 2011 10:59:54 AM

I agree with you, qofdisks. I am saying that I did not ruin the reputation of Democrats. I am here for those values that somewhere up there have been lost, since no one, including most of our elected "Democratic" officials, is doing the job we expect them to do.

I want accountability. So the question is, what do we do to send the message? The crazy part of the right is certainly being heard. Why is it that Democrats don't pay any attention to their base? Because they think we are not crazy enough to stay home this time? What is it going to take??

Posted by: bg | Aug 27, 2011 11:11:19 AM

The extreme left wing of the Democratic Party (about 10%)and the extreme right wing of the Reoublican Party (another 10%) are tearing the politics of this country apart with their extreme views and extreme demands.

The 80% or so that remain of both parties will rebel this go around. Who knows who will benefit.

The far left has much too lose. The far right much to gain. The extreme right has nothing but extremists running. The Democrats will nominat Obama again.

Will the extreme left stay home and help the Republicans? A very interesting question. I was and am not a rabid Obama person, wasn't the last go around an am not now. BUT I will not stay home and help the Republicans. Republicans are counting on the fact that many Democrats will stay home.

Posted by: Preciliano Martin | Aug 27, 2011 1:39:39 PM

Just what is the "extreme left" in this nation? What do you think is so extreme? Most Democratic values poll majority in this country.
Single payer, holding the line on our social safety net, living wages, environmental sustainability, wholesome food, public education, defense cuts, regulations to protect people and the environment,equal opportunity, reproductive rights, separation of church and state, humane immigration laws...etc.
So what is so extreme?
It sounds to me that you consider any Democrat that pays attention to and care about these issues must be extreme.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 27, 2011 5:52:36 PM

You could have expected that old false equivalency argument would be challenged by me.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 27, 2011 5:54:57 PM

I agree with gofdisks. Precilliano is merely repeating the off base analysis they give on TV that the "extremists" are to blame for everything and that the big "middle" should be listened to. Like what? Is it extremist to want our planet's systems to be protected so our children and grandchildren can still thrive here? Is it extremist to want to stop the polluting pipeline from the tar sands in Canada and stop the burning of all that filthy fuel so that we can protect our water and our climate? These and other measures seem like common sense to me not anything extreme.

Is it extremist to want banks, Wall Street and business follow common sense rules so they don't bring down the system again by thievery and pyramid schemes?

Precilliano-what extreme positions on the Democratic side are you talking about?

Posted by: Old Dem | Aug 27, 2011 6:02:01 PM

I am listening to Chris Hedges on Alternative Radio tonight on The Death of the Liberal Class. I suppose he would be considered radical far left for speaking the truth.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 27, 2011 6:42:09 PM

Just what is the "extreme left" in this nation? What do you think is so extreme? Most Democratic values poll majority in this country.
Single payer, holding the line on our social safety net, living wages, environmental sustainability, wholesome food, public education, defense cuts, regulations to protect people and the environment,equal opportunity, reproductive rights, separation of church and state, humane immigration laws...etc.
So what is so extreme?
It sounds to me that you consider any Democrat that pays attention to and care about these issues must be extreme.

I agree with 100% of the above.

The gay marriage issue/advocates. That is one "extreme left" thing that is killing Democrats. Killing them/us. Especially in NM.

Posted by: Preciliano Martin | Aug 27, 2011 8:58:31 PM

Obama has the opportunity to stand tall consistent with strong environmental values by opposing the Tar Sands Keystone Pipeline ---- 1700 miles from Alberta, Canada to Texas. This project has been called a carbon fuse that, if approved, means the "game is over" with severe climate disruption.

Obama can and must stop this project. It is his decision alone, not Congress, not anyone else. If he fails to do the right thing, I don't think his political future can be salvaged. His youth base, and environmental base, will ditch him.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Aug 27, 2011 9:22:28 PM

Climatologist James Hansen says in the New York Times yesterday that "if Obama chooses the dirty needle [as an oil addict who needs the Tar Sands fix] it will confirm that Obama was just greenwashing all along, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians, with no real intention of solving the addiction."

I hope he makes the right decision.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Aug 27, 2011 10:07:54 PM

Preciliano Martin
Your are wrong about the gay issue being an extreme. Acceptance and compassion for our gay loved ones has already become mainstream especially with the youth and women. Tolerance and equality is a Democratic value.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 28, 2011 2:37:18 AM

gofdisks, gay marriage is not mainstream. Hopefully acceptance, compassion and tolarance would be. But bringing issues like that to the political table is what will buy us a Republican this next cycle. I personally have no problem with gays or gay marriage, I have a problem making it an issue in politics.

I also do not have a problem with religion, but I do have a problem with religion in politics. I do not care if a politician is religious, I do care if as a politician he is praying for one thing or another,

Posted by: Preciliano Martin | Aug 28, 2011 9:15:36 AM

Precilliano-You cannot support the separation of church and state and then be against same-sex civil marriage. Marriage equality is a simple matter of civil rights under civil law and should have no connection to religion. Everyone should be free to follow a religion or not, but nobody should be allowed to apply the rules of their religion to others in the country. You can be against same-sex marriage but you shouldn't be able to translate your dislike to denying me and my same-sex partner equal rights under the law.

In the same way, you are free to be against abortion but under the constitution you are not allowed to deny women their right to privacy between them and their doctors in a decision that has nothing to do with you.

Would you prefer that Democrats side with the bigots shown in this video, who recently "protested" Pride Day events in Taos? Read the article and then watch the video. The part showcasing the awful bigotry and hate of these anti-GLTB protestors starts at about 4 minutes in. Not only are they vile, they don't know their bible. Jesus had nothing to say about gay people.


Posted by: barb | Aug 28, 2011 9:24:01 AM

You might also read the excellent and articulate argument of former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, a staunch conservative Republican, on why same sex marriage is an American Value:


Ted Olson is one of the lawyers suing to overturn Prop 8 in California, which denies gay couples their rights.

Here is an excerpt, but I sincerely hope you will read the entire piece:

:The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that marriage is one of the most fundamental rights that we have as Americans under our Constitution. It is an expression of our desire to create a social partnership, to live and share life's joys and burdens with the person we love, and to form a lasting bond and a social identity. The Supreme Court has said that marriage is a part of the Constitution's protections of liberty, privacy, freedom of association, and spiritual identification. In short, the right to marry helps us to define ourselves and our place in a community. Without it, there can be no true equality under the law."

Posted by: barb | Aug 28, 2011 9:35:50 AM

I give up. I will try and transition to the Republican administration that the far left insists it does not want but which they will deliver us into.

And I did watch the video and read the article, and in the video it was the far right ranting and raving at the far left.

Appreciate letting me post as much. But I am done with this discussion.

Posted by: preciliano martin | Aug 28, 2011 11:34:34 AM

So you think my civil rights do not merit a place in the political discussion. I guess you believe only things that affect you personally belong there and that civil rights for Hispanics and other minorities are important, but not civil rights for LGBT people. The Democratic Party lost many supporters when we pushed through civil rights legislation in the 60s and beyond and similar things are happening with Dems supporting fair immigration policies.

If we followed your advice I guess the Dems would have been better off ignoring the plight of minorities in the 60s and beyond, and now, so that we can get more votes from bigots. If that is true, I guess there really is no genuine Democratic Party any longer because for many decades perhaps the main value of the Party was to protect and promote the rights of minorities.

I also see you think that people celebrating at a Pride event are extremists -- equally as those who are yelling out obscenities and insults. Pardon me, but I don't believe you really are a Democrat if you can say these things. Perhaps the GOP is the place for you now.

Posted by: barb | Aug 28, 2011 3:19:46 PM

I've been told that the Democratic Party needs to have a big tent to accommodate people with many different ideas. But at some point the ideas and values espoused by the "Democrats" under that big tent no longer reflect my ideas or values and it's time for me to move on to find another tent. That's where I'm at now ---- wondering if I should just leave the tent.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Aug 29, 2011 7:57:58 AM

My dear Barb, I think you were a little distracted there for a moment. Your defense of civil rights is correct but the question was, are pro-gay rights and, in particular, gay marriage mainstream?
Well, there is a gradient of what Americans will tolerate regarding civil liberties for Gays. Assume that the ultimate civil right would be to allow Gay marriage and hence truly accept being Gay as an acceptable lifestyle that would include all other civil liberties as well.
Well, here are some statistics that prove that pro-gay marriage is in fact a mainstream value.
The Pew Research Center poll found 45 percent of adults now favor allowing gay marriage and 46 percent oppose it.
So, that is effectively half. That would belie the assertion that pro-gay marriage is an extremist position on the Left.
Look, about 25-30 percent of that anti-gay stat is non-mainstream far to the Right and shows that position to be extremist. The rest of the anti-gay marriage stat represents 20-25 percent of people who are not anti-gay but don't go as far as actually being pro-gay marriage; perhaps thinking say, civil unions would be acceptable.
The point is that being AGAINST gay marriage is the extremist stand to the Right. Whereas, most Americans are not so offended and indeed actively believe that gay marriage is OK. The majority of Americans, 70-75% accept Gay civil liberties.
In any case, can anyone come up with other Left wing extremisms that pose such an existential threat that compares to say theocratic takeover of our government?

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 29, 2011 9:18:44 AM

You are correct, gofdisks!

Posted by: barb | Aug 29, 2011 9:49:43 AM

Lora, I think that the Democratic Party is made of the people. We make the platform, we are holding on to our values.

It is not so much that the people have not made a big tent but that the politicians are outside the tent, taking money for their campaigns from people who do not share our values but who have the resources to pay for campaigns.

The question is how do we get the attention of the politicians who are using our name but not upholding our values? Promises are not kept, so should we withhold our support to "send a message?" We are the voters, we make the platform. How do we get them to stand for us?

Posted by: bg | Aug 29, 2011 3:35:07 PM