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writing for godot

Firebaggin' It

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Written by Zepp Jamieson   
Thursday, 18 August 2011 16:02
Did an Obama political hack just give the left an identity?
August 19th 2011

Some guy named Ray Sandoval managed to do Obama more damage the other day then the efforts of the entire GOP over the previous three weeks.

An Obama campaign outrigger posted to New Mexico, Sandoval decided that now was a good time to attack the left for not supporting Obama in the manner to which Sandoval felt Obama was entitled.

He sent an email out defending Obama's surrender on the debt deal, and condemning what he called the “Firebagger Lefty blogosphere.”

I'm pretty sure 'firebagger' isn't a urban dictionary entry for any pornography terms (although the Internet being what it is, I'm sure we'll have one in a week). Where the teabaggers screwed up was that none of the people at Faux News who were creating the astroturf movement knew that the term already existed, and had a rather unsavory connotation. It's on Urban Dictionary if you don't already know it.

The first definition of the term 'firebagger' is already on the Urban Dictionary, which wastes no time: “A term of derision used (usually on blogs) by supporters of U.S. President Barack Obama in arguments with people who criticize Obama and other Democrats from the political left. The term is a conflation of 'Teabagger' the term of derision used to describe right wing Tea Party activists and Firedoglake, a left-leaning political blogging community founded by Jane Hamsher.”

Firebagger, eh? You know, it's got a ring to it. “Firebaggin' it!” Yeah, I like it. It fits.

In fact, I expect to see various net lefties posting variations of “Proud to be a Firebagger” if it hasn't already begun.

Sandoval is exhibiting the same refusal to acknowledge reality that I've encountered to varying degrees from centrists going back to the Clinton administration. They have the attitude, accompanied by varying levels of courtesy, of “We're better than the Republicans, you have no place to go, so shut your face.”

During the Clinton years, Clinton was indisputably better than the Republicans, and while we leftists didn't like a fair bit of what Clinton did (globalization, welfare reform, deregulation of banks) we, in huge numbers, continued to support him.

Even the leftists who couldn't support Gore amounted to less than 1% of the movement, and of course, that made the election in Florida close enough for the Republicans to steal it.

The left wasn't prepared to bolt in 2000 and didn't. An unknown number may have lacked enthusiasm and stayed home, but that's politics in action. If you don't give people a reason to get excited and turn out in huge numbers, they won't.

Some of the Democratic whining after that election annoyed those of us on the left who went along with the ungrateful bastards, watched Gore run a lack-luster campaign and surrender, and started feeling alienated, if not from the Democratic Party, then from the DLC centrists. One percent of us voted for Nader, and some of the Democratic idiots smeared all leftists as traitors. As exercises in bonding go, it left much to be desired.

In 2004 Kerry ran an even more lack-luster campaign, and surrendered even more abjectly in another suspect election. He couldn't even be bothered demanding a recount in Ohio. He ran to lose, and lose he did.

By then, I was out of the Democratic Party, and so were a lot of other leftists.

Most lefties returned in 2008 to help Obama. Contrary to the propaganda from the far right, and disgracefully, the Democratic centrists, we weren't starry-eyed naifs who thought Obama was going to be a shining beacon of liberal hope. We knew his voting record, but we knew the country couldn't take four more years of a weak Republican president.

I can just picture, in a dusty bar someplace, a Republican leaning over his drink and telling his buddy, “They told me that if I voted for McCain in 2008, we would get another weak Republican controlled by special interests. Well, I did - and we have.”

Obama's people can make the same lame claim that Clinton's people would make: “He's better than the Republicans.” The problem is the Republicans are even worse then they were in the 1990s, and Obama is much weaker than Clinton was. If this group of Republicans decide to impeach him, I can't see him putting up much of a fight.

If the centrists in the Democratic Party think the best route for dealing with the barbarians of the GOP is to surrender, they have no business demanding support from the left. And if they are stupid enough to whine about not getting that support, then they can expect ridicule and derision.

This Sandoval character fancies himself a political operative, and apparently the Obama campaign think he is. So let's go over a few home truths.

Depending on your definition of the term “left,” the left make up anywhere between 15 and 30% of the voting population. Teabaggers, of course, have their own split definition, wherein anyone who approves of something that they don't like – such as Social Security or Medicare – is a leftist, (that would be 80% of the population), but when asked to define what a leftist believes, usually come up with “Stalinism”, or “Marxism”, which would mean less than 1/10 of 1% of the country is “left.”

Let's ignore the teabagger efforts to eat their tails, and use the 15-30% in which most people can reasonably be called “leftists”. There's a fair range just in that demographic, which would include, say, Ward Churchill (hard left) and Paul Krugman (moderate left). Both good leftists, but I'm not sure I would want to be stuck in an elevator with both of them at once. It might get noisy.

“Hard left” isn't a major player, and they already departed the Democratic Party. They make up about 5% of the voting population. That leaves the more moderate left, which would be folks like Paul Krugman and Jim Hightower and Jon Stewart. They made up a big chunk of Obama's support in 2008, perhaps 40%.

Here it is: Just before Osama bin Laden was shot, Obama was running fairly smoothly at a 48% approval rate. Given that his approval rate among Republicans is less than 10%, that means that in the general population, he was running about 65% approval, which means solid support within his own party, and decent support among independents. It's a good place for a president in his third year to be. He got a bounce from the Osama killing, and I honestly expected the bounce to linger for a while After all, getting Osama was a big deal.

But nobody expected him to utterly cave to the Republicans. And by any reasonable perspective, it was a cave. They simply engaged in blackmail. “Give us everything we want, or we force a default.”

They were bluffing. If Obama had had a little backbone, he would have said, “I want a straight up-and-down vote on the debt limit, and you are free to introduce everything else you want as separate legislation.” That would have been a reasonable and fair response to utterly unreasonable and even criminal demands. The Republicans would then have been in a position where they would have either had to deliberately screw over the country in full view of everyone, or cave.

I knew it then, and I can prove it now. The country didn't default, but the credit rating was downgraded, and S&P made it clear they based the downgrade on the fact that Republicans were playing games with the debt limit and making the country ungovernable and unstable. The frantic efforts by the GOP to evade that blame tell you all you need to know. They've tried blaming Obama for resisting the blackmail, and some have even tried insisting that the report didn't say what it said repeatedly and clearly. Finally, the only effective tactic they had left was to attack S&P, but with a vast new scandal involving the SEC breaking, that may not be politically advantageous to them, even if public opinion of S&P is low.

Obama gave away a lot of items valued by liberals, and set up a situation with this ridiculous Turkey Committee to give away much more, most likely in a destructive auto-pilot meat ax approach to the government.

He didn't just refuse to give liberals what they wanted, which is what his apologists like to claim. He totally and utterly betrayed liberals and the left, giving away much of the great country liberals and leftists had built over the past century.

Obama's ratings have dropped from 53% to 39%. He has lost about 14 points in the job approval ratings over just the past month. It's a cinch he didn't lose among conservatives and right wingers because he didn't have any positives to lose there. He lost all of it among independents and Democrats. Overwhelmingly, he lost it among liberals and the moderate left.

A president with 53% approval is riding high. A president with 39% approval is struggling. Bush was at about 44% at one point in his first term, and he had to really struggle to be reelected, with his supporters putting out vast amounts of propaganda while he played Wag the Dog in Iraq, and then they had to finagle the count in Ohio to put him over the top.

Obama doesn't have Fox News or a vast echo chamber. He doesn't have psychotic billionaires willing to subvert the American electoral system on his behalf. He doesn't have an apparatus set up to flat-out steal elections.

He's in weaker shape than Bush was in 2004, and now he's gone and alienated the people who made up 40% of his support in 2008.

I know the GOP field is immensely weak, reflecting the fact that the party has been taken over by lunatics. The same lunatics he wouldn't stand up to.

So Obama and his people try to play up to the right - which will never, ever support him, no matter how many concessions he makes, because in their eyes, nobody other than the right type of Republican has the right to run the country. They will never, ever, reciprocate.

This moron Sandoval thinks the answer is to run out and piss on the liberals' heads some more. The people Obama needs, the ones who would have worked with him, get dismissed. He sends hacks out to call them Firebaggers and dismiss them with a contemptuous sneer. Even as he continues to surrender.

Yes, the Republicans are vile, and yes, they will destroy the country if they get back in with the lot they have now.

But Obama is no improvement. Why should the left work on his behalf when all he's going to do is screw us again?

Maybe it's time to firebag Obama and the weak centrists.


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"We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act." - S&P, explaining why they lowered America's credit rating.

© Bryan Zepp Jamieson
 

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