Those who revise history doom the rest of us to repeat it. Frank Viviano has penned an extraordinarily ahistorical piece on Salon (via New America Media) that opens with the shameless “A low progressive turnout in 2010 got us into this mess…” and races downhill from there.
Setting aside the fact that Viviano’s understanding of the Occupy Wall Street protestors is a bit dodgy at best, his entire argument rests on a faulty causality–that the drastically lower voter turnout on the left in 2010 (versus the 2008 election) resulted in our congress incapable of governing, our economy incapable of recovering, and our well-meaning progressive president who just hasn’t been given the opportunity to really let loose and transform into the hopey-changey guy who had run for the office in the first place.
Obama the candidate crafted a message of political transformation, one which latched on to popular discontent with failing institutions and an administration in bed with them. The economic collapse came at the perfect moment, politically, for Obama, and he succeeded brilliantly at positioning himself in the corner directly opposite the dreaded “more of the same.”
As it turns out, the anti-establishment groundswell of support was misplaced. Obama the President, from Day 1, expressed a different (read: business as usual) set of priorities. Much has been said regarding the President’s inability to stand up to his opposition on the right, his over-eagerness to compromise, and his inability to drive a message like he believes in what he is saying. But the real challenge for Obama’s one-time “base” is not that he hasn’t been effective enough as a leader, but that his accomplishments are not actually aligned with what he had said he stood for.
Viviano tries to deflate this rebuttal:
It makes no sense to argue that the Democratic voting collapse was a matter of demoralization. Decisions on whether to go to the polls were made by the early autumn of 2010, just 20 months into an Obama administration that had pushed through what many analysts regard as the most ambitious legislative agenda in modern U.S. history.
Just because an agenda is “ambitious” does not mean it is unassailable. The continuation of the financial bailouts, while massive in scope, represented no significant policy change from those of the previous administration. The health care reform, while impressive in scale, did not address the key drivers of health insurance (let alone health care) cost, and in fact ended up a giant mess that pleased nobody but the insurers. President Obama surrounded himself with advisers and a cabinet that had far more in common with the previous administration than any of his supporters would have expected. Where many expected “change”, they received foul-mouthed scorn instead.
And lest I be accused of blaming the President alone for the disasters of his first two years in office, I’d like to submit for your consideration the following two words:
The Occupy Wall Street crowd is not protesting because the Democratic Party was insufficiently effective–it is protesting because there is no part of Washington that is speaking for them, on either side of the joke of an aisle. It is protesting because when the economy collapsed the government spent our tax dollars on corporate welfare for the very folks who caused the crisis, while cutting support for those who suffered most as a result.
Someone (maybe Ezra Klein?) said that the difference between a Republican and a Democrat is the following:
- A Republican believes that a Democrat wants to see government take over business.
- A Democrat believes that a Republican wants to see business take over government.
I’m paraphrasing here, but what the Occupy movement is pointing out is that government and the highest echelons of the business (read: financial) elite are in collusion, to the detriment of everyone else.
At the present time, the President is the biggest beneficiary of Wall Street cash. There’s no reason to assume the Democratic Party will (or should) benefit from the energy of OWS–just as OWS has no reason to assume the Democratic Party will in any way represent their legitimate political concerns.