Obama Wins, But the People Can Still Lose

Source: Twitter / Barack Obama

A year into his presidency, Barack Obama began to plan his reelection bid. Having assessed the lessons of 2008, it was clear that grass roots mobilizations would be essential to assuring a turnout the next time around.

I made a film, on that political campaign, , exploring how local organizers built networks based in part on their candidates’ community organizing experience. While most of the media framed the issue as Obama versus McCain, I was more interested in how he planned to win, than regurgitating the campaign’s rituals and rhetoric.

From the beginning, the Obamanauts backed the idea of the “ground game” as essential to victory but it was soon enhanced with the latest new media applications—including blogs, facebooking, texting and tweeting.

The field director of that 2008 campaign David Plouffe became the campaign’s organizer in chief in 2012. He ran that ground game, the Democrat’s antidote to the TV commercial-driven  “air war” blitz engineered by Karl Rove and his large list of wealthy right-wing benefactors.

USA today noted,

“President Obama and his aides cited a single reason for their re-election success. Turnout. Obama campaign officials said their get-out-the-vote organization – the people who make calls, knock on doors, micro-target potential voters and drive supporters to the polls – was more than three years in the making, building on their record-breaking effort in 2008.”

At first, Plouffe was the organizer picked by the candidate who had been an organizer to create a permanent campaign of organizers built on the model he engineered.

Initially, it was a network designed to build a more permanent movement, but soon turned into something else, as lawyer and former Yale Professor David Brown explained last April in a newspaper op-ed:

“It is disappointing that Organizing for America (OFA) has done so little to retool its successful campaign operation into something more. Much has been said about how from the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, he mobilized more of a “movement” than a traditional political campaign. But a movement it has not proved to be — and one major reason has been the way Obama and his team have used his supporters since winning the presidency. Instead of encouraging Obama backers to get engaged in community initiatives, this remarkable network of citizens was essentially viewed as a lobbying arm to get top-down legislation moving inside the Beltway.”

It was maneuvers like this that lost Obama support with the 18 to 29 year old youth vote this year. He won 66 percent of it in 2008, but dropped to 59 percent nationally this year.

A candidate who had been perceived an outsider was either co-opted or chose to become the ultimate insider even on the symbolic level. Early on, he tried to set himself apart by not conforming to wearing the American flag pin that seems to be part of the American politicians uniform, a contrived emblem of patriotic loyalty. That sartorial choice was soon abandoned

He was soon spending more time with his Wall Street supporters and national security team than progressives. His then chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now the Mayor of Chicago, showed outspoken contempt for cause-oriented supporters. Activists in the black community like Jesse Jackson were frozen out.

The newly re-elected Obama is now under pressure from Republicans and conservative Democrats to compromise with them in the name of lowering the national debt run up by the Bush wars. Former Bank regulator Bill Black calls such a compromise “the Great Betrayal — the adoption of self-destructive austerity programs and the opening wedge of the effort to unravel the safety net (including Social Security).”

Obama backers spin this idea much more positively arguing their man, will try to strike a “grand bargain” deal before December 31 or risk a worsening recession in the first half of 2013.

The day after the election, the Congressional newspaper, the Hill,  indicated there is no appetite for any compromise in the Republican-led  but Tea Party dominated House of Representatives:

“House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) informed his Republican colleagues that he will not give ground to Democrats on raising taxes despite President Obama’s victory on Election Day… Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) speaking hours after his caucus made surprising gains to its majority, countered that his side will not relent on extending Bush-era tax rates on wealthier households”

So, despite his victory, Obama returns to an environment of stalemate and confrontation that makes it very unlikely that he can enact his agenda despite his claim that “the best is yet to come.” Writes the National Journal:

“After all that, it turned out to be a big old status-quo election. President Obama wins. The Senate barely budges. The House stays about the same.” The New York Times concludes: “Few if any expect him to seriously change Washington anymore.”

Wall Street seems to have turned on him, while the financial crisis that he inherited has not gotten much better. Many experts say that a President can do little to create more jobs by himself. It’s a “system thing,” not a personal choice. So much for the man who started as the candidate for “change.”

It was only more military spending and some seasonal part time work that recently lowered the unemployment rate, but GOP hostility to any and all stimulus programs insures that the government cannot prime the pump. That fuels the expectation that the prospects for real change are stuck and/or sinking.

The foreign policy environment doesn’t seem much brighter. Israel’s President Bibi Netanyahu wasted no time to revive his threats to bomb Iran,

So, welcome to term 2 Mr. President, where you will be expected to be more of a magician than a mechanic.  What rabbits can you pull out of your hat?

Filmmaker and News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org. For more on his film Plunder: The Crime of Our Time and companion book The Crime Of Our Time: Why Wall Street Is Not Too Big To Jail, visit plunderthecrimeofourtime

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  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    I don’t think the presidency (as popularly concieved) really exists.

    • iwanttobelieve

      concur

    • bobbiethejean

      That is one conspiracy theory I’m not all that unsympathetic towards. I must admit, I have occasionally wondered if the presidency isn’t just a bunch of kabuki theater while the real shady shit is going on in the background. And I have a feeling it goes deeeeeeep. I mean like deep-deep.

      Let me put it this way: I don’t necessarily believe that, per se, and I certainly couldn’t prove it…… but I would not at ALL be surprised if it turned out to be true. Not even a little bit.

      • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

        Well, aspects of it are probably really deep, but I think to summarize I look at it like this:
        Noam Chomsky explains that magazines and newspapers aren’t what people think. The idea isn’t to sell news/content to people. The idea is to sell audiences to advertisers. What’s being sold is you.
        So I think the presidency is like that. He isn’t the man in charge of the country, he is the spokesperson TO THE PEOPLE on behalf of the Powerful intererests that run things. The Fed, the Big Banks, the Mitlitary Industrial Complex etc. He sells their agenda. Breaks it down for human consumption. Puts the sugar in the bitter medicine.
        So its completely backwards. He doesn’t represent us. When there is a female President she won’t represent us. The President is a representative of Power Like a PR man. A spokesperson.

        • bobbiethejean

          I don’t think that’s a conspiracy at all. :P I think that’s fairly fricking blatant! Anyone who’s paying attention can see that our government is run by special interests. I don’t even think that is up for debate. It’s just a simple matter of following the money. They don’t even try to hide that shit.

          When I say “I think it goes deep,” I mean like the kind of hyperbolic crap that would catch Jack Bower’s attention. Consider this…. It is known that we are indirectly funding the Pakistani and Afghani insurgents we’re fighting against in the Middle East. So we’re paying trillions to fight wars against people we’re funding to fight us so we have an excuse to dump shittons of money into the war/military (when they themselves have declined such huge sums), thus leaving us constantly broke while enriching war-profiteers. That’s pretty fucking shady and we know about that. Imagine what we ~don’t~ know.

          • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

            Yeah, exactly.Plus the whole opium thing. I guess the idea of wasting money on War that if it were invested in Society by way of healthcare, education, art etc. it would help people become more intelligent and then the elites would be threatened. Because IQ is associated with birth weight and good pre-natal care and also education and life experience.
            Seriously.

          • bobbiethejean

            I believe that is entirely possible. In fact, several republicans (one of which is Karl fucking asshole Rove) came right out and said that education is the enemy of their agenda. I don’t really buy into the whole two party thing so I don’t want to turn this into a left/right debate but I will say this: There DEFINITELY forces in our government that have a vested interested in keeping us stupid, distracted, and ill-informed.

  • Tezrek
  • BuzzCoastin

    the observation above is a little too right of normal
    butt
    here’s a question I’d like answered
    how,
    in arguably, THE most racist country in the world
    did a Black man of dubious origin get elected De Prez?
    has Archie Bunker mellowed that much?!
    did a slick “ground game” overcome centuries deep racist attitudes & actions?

    Obama had a much higher chance of being incarcerated than being Prez
    than any of his white opponents
    if you call those pathetic straw-men opponents

    butt eye was rootin’ for The Bimbo

    • alizardx

      Look into Obama’s background, the answers are there. Hint: the governor of Hawaii called BS on the Kenya origin fable because he’d gone to high school (as in private academy) with Obama.

      Not that birthplace is especially important other than for legal reasons. I’d vote for an alien (as in UFO) or an artificial intelligence or a dolphin for public office if I had reason to believe that the candidate was competent and interested in the long term interests of the majority of Americans.

      • BuzzCoastin

        he is obviously CIA
        as were his grandparents & mother
        but the birther issue smoke-screened that

        butt this election of Obama plays into the conceit of Merkins
        who’d like to believe that
        a majority of Merkins would pick a Black man over whatever you ran against him
        because that’s MerkAh, the land of opportunity
        or is that the land of psyopportunity

        • Rex Vestri

          “the land of psyopportunity”
          That’s catchy. Has a nice ring to it. And very accurate as well. I like it!

    • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

      I don’t think its that racist, here. Archie Bunker is a character in a sit com that may have been representative of the culture at the time, but even in the little world of the Sitcom, he wasn’t the majority view, all the characters in the show didn’t talk like Archie Bunker. The Baby Boomers were in their twenties in that show and the guy who played Archie Bunker is dead.
      I’ve heard really old crusty farmers calling Obama the N-word but outside of that demographic I haven’t heard that. Democrats like him. All you need is 50% of the vote or less.

      • BuzzCoastin

        thanks for the set-up:
        Der Homeland imprisons more Black people than any country in the world
        African Americans currently make up about 13% of the US population
        Blacks accounted for 39.4% of the prison and jail population

        Black & Hispanics make up about 33% of the US population
        but more than 1/2 the prison population
        the number Black men imprisoned right now
        is larger than the number of American Blacks ever enslaved

        there is a 29% probability that if you’re Black, you’ll go to jail
        the probability for Whites is 5%

        Blacks & other minorities are under represented in elected offices

        Black Americans make up roughly 26% of the US Army
        but just 5.5 percent of the military’s flag officers-generals

        need more?

        • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

          So just throwing this out there. What percentage of people in jail would you say are innocent? I know people are exonerated from death row from DNA evidence fairly regularly. But I am not so niave to believe that everyone in jail is innocent. Are you?
          So I mean, are you saying this 39.4% are in jail for being black? You are saying its a cut and dried case of racism, which implies that none of these people actually committed crimes. What do see as the overlap? What percentage of these people actually should be in jail?
          As far as lack of racism towards Obama, I still stand by it. I think a narrow majority of voters wanted a black president. I really don’t see a large percentage of people not liking him simply for being black.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Groundhog’s Day, man. Just the same fcuking sh*t over and over again.

    The Dems picked up 1 seat each in the House and Senate. Meaning the Republicans still controll the House by a hefty majority. The same Republican controlled House that nearly put a halt to all air traffic through U.S. airspace in order to grandstand for the failed economic theory of austerity. I need only contrast recent economics data in Greece vs. the U.S. to make clear just how big a failure that theory is.

    Not that Obama is constitutionally wired to pursue anything other than stale half measures. When he came into office he was told that the stimulus package had to be at least 3 times larger than he proposed to have the desired effect, and that the big banks had to be dismantled in order to preserve the flow of capital to the real economy. I need not recount the details of exactly how Mr. Squishy squashed them, because of course he did.

    No, this is exactly like 2010–especially here in Wisconsin. Not only did Walker survive the recall, but both the lower and upper houses are firmly in Republican control.

    Whatevs.

    • Hadrian999

      at least you have good cheese

      • Liam_McGonagle

        You know, I wonder if the psychotropic drug lobby could get by the controlled substance schedule by engineering some sort of ergot-bearing Gouda.

        • Matt Staggs

          I’ve got you, babe…

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