Dump Obama, Primary Obama, Walk Away or Hijack?
There’s been a big to-do in the partisan Democratic blogosphere in the wake of Jeff Roby’s call for the formation and invigoration of a Dump Obama movement:
It is time to develop a tactical focus to our discontent. Now is the time to begin a Dump Obama movement.
I hold to the following:
(1) The excuse that Obama is any kind of liberal but held hostage by congressional Republicans is completely bankrupt. Further exposure of Obama is helpful but in no way a precondition for a Dump Obama movement.
(2) Enough people would support a Dump Obama movement to give it, not an immediate majority, but critical mass.
(3) Dump Obama gives the left (broadly defined) a bully pulpit not readily available elsewhere, an opportunity to focus a wide array of political forces — populist, progressive, radical — that would normally not be able to work together.
(4) The 2012 presidential primaries provide progressives with an existing structure for a Dump Obama movement.
(5) The argument that our primary concern must be to prevent a Republican takeover is bankrupt and worse, a public menace.
(6) The key concept at this point is building a movement, not coming to agreement on a candidate or specific organizational vehicle…
The word is Movement
Note that I call for a Dump Obama movement, not a campaign committee, not a candidate. (Dennis Kucinich? Russ Feingold? Jane Hamsher? Who knows?) Nor does a Dump Obama movement have to confine itself to the primaries, when independents make up a third of the electorate. I assume there will still be a general election. It’s a matter of timing. All these questions and more will have to be addressed. But to be able to address them, we have to get something going. The exposure has been done, the misery is all around us, the rage explodes all around us in often unfortunate ways. The concept of movement provides the beginning of how these elements might begin to gel. That will provide the preconditions for taking this further.
Roby contradicts himself a bit by calling for a movement, eschewing organization, but at the same time calling for “tactical focus.” The thing is that social movements are constituted by organizations operating for advantage in an environment, which in the case of a president would be an electoral environment. A movement without organization doesn’t move — it’s just a mass of discontent. If you want to organize a movement, you have to point in a direction, make a call for people to move there, and work to get them moving. If there is going to be a movement from the left to replace Barack Obama as President, how will it move?
I see four possibilities:
1. Simply Dump Obama. This is the option requiring the least organization: it is simply a call to traditional Democratic voters to refrain from voting for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. There is no need in such a movement for an articulated alternative: Americans could be left to figure that part out on their own.
2. Primary Obama. This would be a candidate-centered movement within the Democratic Party. The idea would be to find a Democratic Party candidate for president who is more liberal than Barack Obama, and to support her or his run in the 2012 Democratic presidential primaries.
3. Walk Away from the Democrats and head to a liberal third party. For a decade now Democratic Party politicians have been telling liberal Americans that if we vote with the Green Party, the Republicans will win office and we’ll get more conservative policy. So we voted for the Democrats and got… more conservative policy. Is it time to support the Green Party organization and help it grow?
4. Hijack an existing Third Party. Liberals have complained when local Green Party affiliates have been infiltrated by conservatives and hijacked to serve other goals. There’s no reason that a longstanding or incipient Third Party can’t be infiltrated and taken over by angry liberals and used by those angry liberals to find an Obama alternative. The Constitution Party of the United States is currently a punch-line joke, focused only on a non-Hamiltonian reading of the 10th Amendment and a theocratic reading of the 1st Amendment. Why not take it over and make it a liberal party to support the Bill of Rights? Another possibility is the now-forming Americans Elect, which vaguely promises to mount a run for some presidential and vice presidential ticket that “the people” choose. If Americans Elect is joined predominantly by angry Dump Obama liberals, then as long as the selection process isn’t corrupt we could get a liberal ticket on the ballot in 2012.
Where, if anywhere, should the Dump Obama movement go? In what form should it organize?