[Marxism] Obama supporter plans to switch back to Greens

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jul 12 13:44:17 MDT 2008

NY Times, July 13, 2008
Obama Supporters on Far Left Cry Foul

PORTLAND, Ore. — In the breathless weeks before the Oregon 
presidential primary in May, Martha Shade did what thousands of other 
people here did: she registered as a Democrat so she could vote for 
Senator Barack Obama.

Now, however, after critics have accused Mr. Obama of shifting 
positions on issues like the war in Iraq, the Bush administration's 
program of wiretapping without warrants, gun control and the death 
penalty — all in what some view as a shameless play to a general 
election audience — Ms. Shade said she planned to switch back to the 
Green Party.

"I'm disgusted with him," said Ms. Shade, an artist. "I can't even 
listen to him anymore. He had such an opportunity, but all this 
'audacity of hope' stuff, it's blah, blah, blah. For all the 
independents he's going to gain, he's going to lose a lot of progressives."

Of course, that depends on how you define progressives.

As Ms. Shade herself noted, while alarm may be spreading among some 
Obama supporters, whether left-wing bloggers or purists holding Mr. 
Obama's feet to the fire on one issue or another, the reaction among 
others has been less than outrage.

For all the idealism and talk of transformation that Mr. Obama has 
brought to the Democratic Party — he managed to draw a crowd of more 
than 70,000 here in May — there is also a wide streak of pragmatism, 
even among many grass-roots activists, in a party long vexed by factionalism.

"We're frustrated by it, but we understand," said Mollie Ruskin, 22, 
who grew up in Baltimore and is spending the summer here as a fellow 
with Politicorps, a program run by the Bus Project, a local nonprofit 
that trains young people to campaign for progressive candidates. 
"He's doing it so he can get into office and do the things he believes in."

Nate Gulley, 23, who grew up in Cleveland and is also here as a 
Politicorps fellow, said too much was being made of Mr. Obama's every move.

"It's important not to get swept up in 'Is Obama posturing?' " Mr. 
Gulley said. "It's self-evident that he's a different kind of candidate."

Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.com, a progressive Web site, 
started asking his readers last month to pledge money to an escrow 
fund for Mr. Obama, as opposed to contributing to him outright. The 
idea was to make Mr. Obama rethink his decision to support the Bush 
administration's wiretapping measure.

Mr. Obama initially said he would try to filibuster a vote, but on 
Wednesday he was among 69 senators who voted for the measure, which 
to many liberals represents a flagrant abuse of privacy rights. The 
legislation grants legal immunity to telecommunications companies 
that cooperated with the wiretapping program.

So far, 675 people have pledged $101,375 to Mr. Fertik's escrow fund, 
money that theoretically would be donated to Mr. Obama once he showed 
a firm commitment to progressive values, Mr. Fertik said.

But Mr. Fertik also said that while Mr. Obama's change on the spying 
issue upset some supporters, it was not necessarily emblematic of a 
troubling shift to the center. He said he continued to support the 
senator, though he added, "We don't see the need to close our eyes 
and hold our noses until November."

Still, others warned that Mr. Obama risked being viewed as someone 
who parses positions without taking a principled stand.

"I'm not saying we're there yet, but that's the danger," said David 
Sirota, a liberal political analyst and author. "I don't think 
there's disillusion. I think there's an education process that takes 
place, and that's a good thing. He is a transformative politician, 
but he is still a politician."

Joe McCraw, 27, a video engineer from San Carlos, Calif., who writes 
three liberal blogs, said Mr. Obama's shift on the domestic spying 
measure was a watershed moment.

"This is the first time I've ever seen him lie to us, and it makes me 
feel disappointed," Mr. McCraw said. "I thought he was going to stand 
up there, stand by his campaign promises like he said he would, and 
it turns out he's another politician."

Many Obama supporters said the most vocal complaining about various 
policy positions was largely relegated to liberal bloggers and people 
who might otherwise support Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, 
or Dennis J. Kucinich, the liberal Ohio congressman who dropped out 
of the presidential race earlier this year.

"I think it's accentuated by the fact that Obama's appeal is an 
appeal to idealism," said Kari Chisholm, who runs a blog, 
blueoregon.com, and does Internet strategy for Democratic candidates. 
"They believe their ideology is the only idealism and Obama's is very 
mainstream. I'm not surprised they're getting a little cranky. 
They've always been kind of cranky. A mainstream Democrat has always 
been too mainstream for them."

Some of Mr. Obama's supporters say he is less vulnerable to 
accusations of flip-flopping on issues because his campaign 
ultimately has been built on his biography and philosophy.

"I don't think the test on him is in an explicitly narrow set of 
check boxes that have to get filled," said Kevin Looper, executive 
director of Our Oregon, a liberal advocacy group. "I think it's about 
do his campaign and his message embody serious changes for the 
direction of the country?"

Mr. Looper and many other supporters said Mr. Obama was solid on core 
Democratic concerns like the environment, social and economic justice 
and how to balance taxes among economic groups. Of course, his stands 
on more specific issues appeal to many supporters, too.

Rhys Warburton, a 25-year-old Brooklyn resident who teaches earth 
science at a public high school, said he supported Mr. Obama because 
he thought the senator was more likely to end the Iraq war. If Mr. 
Obama takes a few steps to the center that will not change his 
opinion, he said, and "it doesn't make the others any better or more 
attractive to vote for."

Before the Oregon primary in May, Mr. Obama held a rally here in 
Portland that made news not for what the senator said but for what he 
saw: more than 70,000 people came to hear him speak on a bright 
Sunday along the Willamette River.

The startling size of the crowd, followed by Mr. Obama's resounding 
win here on May 20, helped cement his status as the presumptive 
nominee. And for some, even far beyond Oregon, it confirmed what Mr. 
Obama had been telling voters from the start: that he really is different.

"Seventy-five thousand people do not attend political rallies unless 
something truly magical is happening," Bob Blanchard wrote on May 18 
in the comment section accompanying an account of the rally on the 
New York Times's Web site. "Our great country will soon close the 
book on 'government by division,' and embrace 'government by inclusion.' "

Asked last week whether Mr. Obama's vote on the surveillance law or 
any other recent statements or actions had altered how he felt about 
the candidate, Mr. Blanchard, of North Smithfield, R.I., said "absolutely not."

"When are these people going to go, anyway?" Mr. Blanchard said of 
left-wing critics he believes have hurt Democrats in past elections. 
"My attitude is lighten up on the guy. We want to win. Moving to the 
center is not a crime in this country."

Ms. Shade, the Green-turned-Democrat-returned-Green voter, spoke 
about Mr. Obama while leaning out her second-floor apartment window, 
where she has placed homemade signs urging the impeachment of 
President Bush. Others say "Free Gaza" and "Occupation is Terrorism." 
She said twice that the American political system was "rotten."

"You realize," Ms. Shade said, her voice fading with resignation, 
"that you're talking to somebody who's pretty far out of the mainstream."

Dan Frosch contributed reporting from Denver, Andrew Tangel from New 
York and Katie Zezima from Boston.

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