Progressive opinions on Barack Obama’s first term are as conflicted as his record. These differences are a sign of a diverse and spirited left, and we welcome continued debate in our pages about the president’s record and policies. But that discussion should not obscure what is at stake in this election. A victory for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in November would validate the reactionary extremists who have captured the Republican Party. It would represent the triumph of social Darwinism, the religious right, corporate power and the big money donors who thrive in a new Gilded Age of inequality. It would strike a devastating blow to progressive values and movements, locking us in rear-guard actions on a range of issues—from the rights of women, minorities, immigrants and LGBT people to the preservation of social insurance programs and a progressive tax structure. Inside the Democratic Party, Obama’s defeat would embolden the Blue Dogs and New Dems, who have greased the party’s slide to the right. Whatever disappointments we have with Obama’s first term—and there are many—progressives have a profound interest in the popular rejection of the Romney/Ryan ticket.
It’s true that many issues of fundamental importance have been absent from this election—from catastrophic climate change and staggering rates of poverty to the militarization of foreign policy and the continued growth of the national security state. Their omission has been enabled to a degree by the Republican Party’s rightward lurch, as well as the Romney team’s recurring gaffes and its naked hostility to vast sectors of the American electorate. As a result, the president has been successful, so far, in running a campaign that appeals to key progressive constituencies (women, Latinos, LGBT people) but without the broad call for change that distinguished his 2008 election.
As such, we have no illusions about the audacity of hope, no faith that the re-election of President Obama alone will accomplish the radical change this magazine has championed. For America to be on a different path in 2016 from that of 2012, progressive movements will have to “occupy” all the levers of power—in Washington, in the states and in the streets.
Ever seen someone making a complete fool of themselves and it’s so embarrassing that you go past feeling bad for them and start to get to get angry at them? You want to slap ’em and shake ’em and kick ’em in the ass and yell “Get a fucking grip and show some self respect!”
Yeah, it’s that bad.