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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?

7 comments to Dump Obama, Primary Obama, Walk Away or Hijack?

  • I really, REALLY, REALLY like the idea of taking over the Constitution Party. Currently, that party isn’t found in every state in the union, though. Let me take a look and see where it exists…

  • Tom

    Unless the rules are changed regarding the Citizens United decision, any third party is completely useless. You can go all theory on me here, but practically it won’t cut it. Just looking at the history of 3rd parties shows that they don’t garner more than a few percent of the vote while the duopoly is a shoe-in year after year (and makes the rules to keep it that way).

    “Shana, they bought their tickets, i say, let ‘em crash.” (Airplane)

    What it looks like from here is that the corporate government will make things intolerable to most of the citizenry and that people will decide en-masse, like in the case of these bad mortgages, to just stop paying their taxes as much as they can (obviously they can’t do anything about their payroll taxes, but they can stop sending in their April IRS payments as a viable protest. Now THAT would get the attention of Washington). Another scenario that looks even more likely is that the government becomes ham-strung on all the financial fraud rippling through the economy. In case you haven’t been paying attention – this mortgage fraud thing is HUGE and will have knock-off effects to the commercial real estate sector (already really hurting). Obama hiring Geithner and Summers to handle Wall Street and the economic situation was probably his biggest mistake (although i still think that not prosecuting anyone for anything in the Bush administration was the cause of all of our troubles now). Another big problem we’ll face is a combination of energy decline and climate chaos. With the government receiving far too little taxable income from all the unemployed people – actually about 22% according to 60 Minutes the other night – there will be little money to support states in their times of need (state budgets are being slashed like big city budgets) and trying to keep a mounting number of unemployed people on 99 weeks of compensation will be a big strain. The only reason the media isn’t referring to what we’re going through now as a DEPRESSION is that they don’t want to panic the populace. The figures we get for unemployment and consumer price index etc. are all fudged to make it appear better than it actually is for most people. Most of us out here in the real world (as opposed to the Beltway culture) are feeling a sense of declining standard of living and having to make really tough choices due to lack of funds, and that’s if you’re one of the lucky ones who still has a JOB!

    • I don’t have to get “all theory” on you, Tom. I’ll get empirical on you. Back when women and black people couldn’t vote and power in this country was held by property owners and campaign finance laws pretty much didn’t exist, much less we had a party called the Whigs. See any Whigs around in the United States lately?

      • And we had successful third parties like the Populists, the Know Nothings, and the Socialists.

        But I think the “dump Obama” movement, if it can be called a movement, is way too focused on a single figure. We should be focusing on the rotten, corrupt, injust system that exists in this country politically and socially.

        • I think that’s a fair assessment, Ross. I think Congress matters more than people think it does. But there’s a problem that you can’t elect a new system, and the president matters a lot. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing.

  • As much as I’d like to see the anti-Constitution party become the pro-Constitution party, I’m not sure there’s great value in doing so except in states where multiple party endorsements are allowed.

    I know Oregon and New York both allow it. Is it allowed everywhere?

    By focusing on the dual-party endorsement, the minority party would gain exposure. Let’s face it, a third party isn’t going to get people into national office any time soon; the two Big Parties are close enough to one another to team up and prevent that.

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