Bernie Sanders has an Obama problem. While Sanders has parsed his opposition to the President as one of loyal, but well meaning critique it’s clear the purpose is to play to his current political strategy. Sen. Sanders’ schtick, or theme is one of the political outsider, the Mr. Smith Comes to Washington, albeit thirty years ago, who is inspiring a grassroots “revolution” to sweep away all the rot in our political institutions.
While Sanders hasn’t denounced the Obama administration he has been doing a bit of concern trolling. As Amber Phillips noted that “when talking about the president, Sanders often delivers praise with a ‘but’.”
“In an October interview with MSNBC, he said Obama and Vice President Joe Biden “have done a damn good job,” but that America needs “a course correction.”
In another MSNBC interview that aired the same night as Thursday's debate, Sanders suggested Obama has failed in closing “the huge gap” between Americans and Congress.
“But I think what we need, when I talk about a political revolution, is bringing millions and millions of people into the political process, in a way that does not exist right now,” he said.
To hear Sanders tell it, his campaign is nothing short of a “political revolution.” And one of his main criticisms of Obama seems to be that Obama hasn’t quite invested his whole heart in that revolution.
This is the same line of attack Obama supporters have heard since the ’08 “Hope and Change” campaign. The argument is that President Obama was a great campaigner, but once he got into office he betrayed the Progressive cause by not standing up to Republican Obstruction enough. It’s as if there was some redline of capitulation for the GOP, like a moody teenager who finally cleans up his room if only to silence his mother’s incessant nagging. Obama just wasn’t diligent enough.
And while pundits, like Joan Walsh, claim this lack of support of President Obama by Sen. Sanders seems to be more of a handicap with swaying African American voters it’s actually a big problem with Obama supporters of all stripes who did the hard work to get him elected in ’08 and ’12.
I was a staunch Obama supporter in ’08, and it galvanized in ’12. I despised Hillary Clinton then, and though I had planned on holding my nose and voting for her should be become the nominee in ’16 what turned me around on her candidacy was her embrace of President Obama and his legacy. This isn’t a loyalty test she needed to pass, but a gesture to show she understands, and appreciates the hard work of Obama supporters. Supporters who frankly not only had to put up with a lot of shit, but were also left high and dry by sancitmonious, insufferable idealogues who have no stomach for the realities of what it takes to bring about real change in a democracy, especially one like America.
For those of us who disagree with some of the decisions President Obama has made over the years we understand the necessity behind them. It’s not the fact that Sanders is criticizing the President, but the lack of context that’s offensive. President Obama basically had two years in office, 2008 - 2010, to get something accomplished. He choose to do healthcare reform, rather than economic reform. Turns out, at least for his legacy, that was the right call. From 2010 on it hasn’t really been about Clinton’s triangulation strategy, but what he could get done in spite of the Republican insurgency.
For those keeping score from 2010 to 2016 President Obama faced:
GOP Major Manufactured Crises:
- The Government Shutdown of 2013 which was over ACA, or Obamacare.
- The United States Debt Ceiling Crisis of 2011 and 2013
- As of this writing 62 times to try to repeal Obamacare
- Two Supreme Court challenges meant to dismantle Obamacare, along with scores of legal challenges in the lower courts
GOP Examples of Obstruction to Functioning Government:
- Upholding governmental appointments from the Cabinet level to judicial positions
- The refusal to even compromise on any piece of legislation, even if it was favorable to them: The Grand Bargain for example
- Legislating the least productive House in modern history.
- Praising Vladimir Putin while denouncing the President
- Refusal to give credit to President Obama for killing Osama Bin Laden. Tried to give it to Bush.
- Undermining negotiations with Iran by inviting Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, to criticize deal in Congress
General Disrespect Shown to the Office of the President:
- Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson yelling, twice, interrupting the President in the middle of the 2009 Presidential address to Congress.
- Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, announcing in 2010 that the “our (GOP) top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.”
- The refusal to knock down the “Birther” controversy, which gave rise to the political emergence of Donald Trump
- House Speaker John Boehner refusing a speech date for President Obama to address a joint session of Congress in September 2011
- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer puting her finger in President Obama’s face in January of 2012. She claimed she felt “a little bit threatened” by the President’s attitude.
To say President Obama has been treated with a disgust usually reserved for dogshit from the Republicans would be putting it mildly. And to pretend otherwise, to think that President Obama could’ve done more, especially with such mercurial support from high minded folks on the progressive side who don’t have any skin in the game is not only insulting, but it damn sure isn’t gonna sway Obama supporters to your side.