Hope and change betrayed
by David Atkins
I was late to make a choice between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Presidential campaign. I liked Dodd's stance on the FISA court, but I knew he couldn't win and that he was corruptible in other ways. Kucinich was a hopeless lightweight with serious problems on women's issues. I never trusted John Edwards or his newfound conversion to progressivism after he left office. Barack Obama had dissed the netroots and was far too interested in compromise to be the fighter we needed in the White House.
But Hillary Clinton? Not a chance. Hillary Clinton had been at Bill Clinton's side during all the deregulatory and free trade policies of the 1990s. She was forceful in the ludicrous attempt to regulate video games with no evidence whatsoever. Her handling of healthcare reform was politically hamhanded. One could say that she was only serving as Bill Clinton wished. But then as a Senator from New York she only continued to serve the interests of neoliberals on Wall Street. Then came the Presidential campaign, in which she hired the worst possible consultants and advisers, then ran a campaign of arrogant inevitability as a moderate who would attempt to bring back the 90s magic. She refused to apologize for her vote for the Iraq War. All her economic advisers reeked of the Rubin and Summers clan.
When I finally settled on Barack Obama, it was a gamble. He had opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. He had spoken highly of single-payer healthcare, and railed against economic inequality. I was hoping that he would be at least the shadow of a transformational figure, someone who could achieve massive popularity and then scare legislators into bowing to his personal popularity and charisma to pass legislation. I was hoping that he would be the progressive-in-disguise that the right so feared he would be, and that his campaign painted him as more moderate than he really was in order to make white America comfortable with voting for a black man with an unfortunate middle name.
Above all, I figured that whoever President Obama brought in as economic advisers would have to be different from the old Clinton crew. I knew that Hillary Clinton would certainly bring in the same people. I didn't know what Obama would do, but I knew it couldn't be worse.
Obviously, I have been massively disappointed that aspect of the Obama Presidency (as well as other things, of course.) But even after Geithner and all the rest, President Obama's insistence on appointing Larry Summers as Fed Chair in spite of the progressive and even simple middle-of-the-road Democratic activism against it is a particularly bitter draught. Getting rid of the Summers crowd, more than any other reason, was why I went to Nevada to organize and lead caucuses for him. It was why I was a California precinct captain for him. It was why I wrote diary after diary on his behalf at Daily Kos.
I'm not the only one who felt that way. I know many others who felt the same as I did and still do.
The President doesn't quite understand, I think, what it will mean to a large number of people who supported him in the 2008 primary if he does in fact choose Summers over Yellen. It will be a final dagger of betrayal for a large number of activists who have already become deeply cynical and abandoned belief that hope and change are even possible--particularly given the way the Party seems to be gearing up to coronate Clinton for 2016.
Many progressives will mock me, of course, for seeing this bit as a final straw rather than the numerous other betrayals of the progressive cause. But we all have our own issues that are most important to us, and this one is mine. Regular readers of mine will know that empowering the wage class over the asset class is my top issue, followed closely by climate change. Disempowering Wall Street is my primary concern to accomplish both goals. That's where my bread is buttered. It's where a lot of other activists' bread is buttered as well.
And this last betrayal is a very big deal to us.