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Obama Sidelining Progressives

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by Ben Cohen

While I still count myself as a strong supporter of Barack Obama, his treatment of progressives has been confusing to say the least. The Obama team relied heavily on grass root support for his bid for the Presidency, and he made a lot of noise letting them know he was on their side. He gave me enough indication that he would follow through with some moderately progressive legislation for me to donate to his campaign, and it looked probable that he would at least cater his policies to the Left instead of completely ignoring them when in office. Unfortunately, on the two most important issues of the day, Obama is failing to pay back the enormous debt he owes the progressives.

The financial bailout was one of the greatest crimes in recent history. Tax payers money was thrown at failing banks, and no one knows where any of it went. The banks took trillions of dollars and used it to buy up other banks, clear up their toxic assets, then jack up rates for their customers who had given them the money in the first place. The insane behavior by the U.S government was, unfortunately, predictable given the influence bankers had in the bailout process. It now looks like the banks are reverting to the very behavior that got them into their mess in the first place, and the Obama Administration is sidelining progressives advisers and heeding the advice of Goldman Sachs alumni instead.

The healthcare mess is even more disturbing. The Max Baucas plan is so horrendous, it's probably not worth doing, and the public option now looks like a faint hope rather than a fundamental part of health care reform. While Obama still states his support for a public option, we're not seeing a whole lot of action coming from the President, and without his robust support, it will most certainly die.

Why is Obama allowing corporate interests to infect his Presidency when he has enough political capitol to maneuver without them?

I'd like to take the less cynical view that it is part of a strategy to slowly wean America off its current track one small step at a time. It is entirely possible that Obama is not moving too dramatically in his first four years for fear of a full blown Tea Bagger uprising (and given the Rights recent behavior, it is probably understandable). I'd like to think that Obama is introducing small bits of reform to make way for much larger bits in the coming years. He might be alienating progressives now to assure the centrists he is one of them, then will switch back to his political roots when politically viable.

If he isn't, we're in big, big trouble. An industry led banking bailout, and an industry led health care reform package are doomed to failure. A fox guarding a hen house has one outcome, and it doesn't usually work out too well for the hens. And so far, it looks like Obama is only listening to the foxes.

He has time to turn this around, but if he leaves it too late, the progressives will desert him and start looking elsewhere for a candidate to promote their cause.