On Organizing Anger, Or, Could Olbermann Primary Obama?

It was just a couple of nights ago that Keith Olbermann was challenging us, in one of his “Special Comments”, to rise up in the streets and take back this country.

He pointed out that the only way those on the left were going to be able to fight against those who are looking to get all “Tea Party” is to be as angry and as organized and as aggressive as the Tea Party community, and if we’re smart, we’ll take him up on that challenge.

But if you really want to push “professional” Democrats to the left, most especially this President, and you want to do it in time to impact the ’12 cycle, the only way to do it is to run a candidate in primary contests that either moves the conversation your way…or leaves you with a surprising new Candidate.

And right here, right now, we actually have a chance to do exactly that – and that’s why, in today’s discussion, I’m going to challenge Olbermann right back.

“Then white men began to fence the plains so that we could not travel; and anyhow there was…nothing to travel for. We began to stay in one place, and to grow lazy and sicker all the time. Our men had fought hard against our enemies, holding them back from our beautiful country by their bravery, but now with everything else going wrong, we began to be whipped by their weak foolishness…”

--Pretty Shield, of the Crow Nation, quoted in the book The Native Americans: An Illustrated History

So imagine, if you will, how the political conversation would be different right now if this President was facing a primary challenge from an unabashed Lefty.

Let’s go further: just imagine how things would be different over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or over at the Capitol if someone announced they were running against this President from the left – and on the day that person announced, they had 15-20% of the Democratic electorate in their pocket, with an increasingly unpopular President on the other side.

Now imagine if that person had no qualms about “pooping in the Democratic pool”, and was willing to call out the Party establishment for having let the Nation down in so many different ways these past couple years, which would presumably make that candidate very interesting to those who support the interests of Labor, just to give one example.

And most importantly of all, imagine if this President, having just caved, again, for a second, and, soon, a third round of Republican hostage-taking (and facing a fourth in January of 2013), had to face a riled-up and articulate opponent on a debate stage.

Of course, for that to happen, you’d need a credible figure with national recognition, and in this environment, it wouldn’t hurt if that person wasn’t too closely associated with either Washington or the existing political parties.

(All of this would also make that candidate interesting to centrist voters as well; you’ll recall that the ’08 Obama Campaign appealed to many centrist voters for many of the same reasons.)

It also wouldn’t hurt if that person looked like a President, and even better, if that person was entirely familiar with the world of television.

So think about all that for a minute…and after you do, consider this: is there anyone else out there that you’d rather see primarying this President than Keith Olbermann?

Now let me take a minute and talk directly to you, Mr. Olbermann:

I know you said that it’s time for us to get organized and angry, but in this media world, if you don’t have Astroturf to get your movement off the ground, you need a celebrity with respect in all the right places, and that describes you pretty well.

Movements need to raise money, and if you were to go out there and do a week of hustling, I’ll bet you could raise seed money from both the “Left Coast” and “Upper West Side” communities (and you might even be able to hit your boss up for a donation); you could also draw a lot of PAC money (Labor, for starters, the gAyTM, for another) and lots of individual, enthusiastic, Internet contributions – and what happens to the political conversation if the Olbermann Campaign begins to raise money at a pace that puts The Fear on the Obama Campaign?

Al Gore took a big risk, and a made a big financial commitment besides, when he decided to bring you over to Current, and I don’t want you to have to worry about what’s going to happen over there; with that in mind I’m going to suggest that we ask Michael Moore to step in to take the wheel for a short time, at the same time you let Schuster run the actual newsgathering operation, so that we know you’ll be able to come back to something that has been in pretty good hands.

“…(baseball is) our national pastime, that is if you discount political campaigning.”

--Ronald Reagan

Before you dismiss this idea out of hand, Keith (can I call you Keith?), I want you to think about one thing, and I want you to think about this very, very, carefully:

You know what happens to those lucky few who actually make it through a Presidential campaign and win?

They get to throw out the first pitch of the new baseball season – at least four times.

You could take a few months out of what you have done so well and really change the direction of this nation’s politics, and you could think of it as a patriotic duty– but it would also be an incredible learning experience, and you’d come back to your own job with an understanding of the inner workings of realpolitik that very few on television could ever match…and after it’s over, since you wouldn’t be running again, you could actually talk about “where the bodies are buried” in a way no one else can.

Maybe you’re thinking: “How can I be credible if I have no real ability to run a government?” The answer can be found, literally, right here.

The Blogosphere is entirely capable of providing the appointees who would run a Government – after all, we have experts, including a Nobel laureate, to run an economy (Secretary of the Treasury Paul Krugman? Robert Reich for Council of Economic Advisors?), and folks like Lawrence Wilkerson who could take over at State…and I could go on and on and on, all the way down to my man Marshall Adame, who, I promise you, has all the training and skills we would need to ramrod the actual physical process of withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan (you’ll find him at BlueNC; on his resume is a stint running the Basra Airport, a couple of decades as a Marine logistician, and an unsuccessful run for Congress).

And it’s not like you would be more subject to scrutiny than you are now: virtually every hard-right Conservative out there already sees you as the Devil incarnate – and that’s actually an advantage in this situation that can’t be ignored.

So…whaddaya think?

You want to go from making Special Comments about how The Fear has overtaken Democrats to being the one who puts The Fear upon them?

You wanna drive Grover Norquist and Steny Hoyer absolutely nuts, both at the same time?

You want to finally do what Craig Nettles got to do, that you never did: play baseball and join the circus?

Well, here’s your chance to do something that could change the whole political conversation – and before we’re done, President Obama might even find those “comfortable shoes” we’ve heard so much about.

So let’s take one for America, and let’s get this thing on the hump, or whatever cliché you prefer…but let’s do it now, and let’s do it well, and let’s create something that brings the “discouraged” public to bear in a way they aren’t today.

This is your chance to do something big, something profound…something that takes your “diva tendencies” and plays them to their best advantage…and I think it’s time for you to get behind this idea; before, as you suggested could happen, the window to fight back closes.


we're going to have to do something...

...to salvage the obama campaign, even if he won't, so how about this?

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Salvage the Obama campaign? I want to destroy it.

Three years into this presidency and people are still talking about rehabilitating Obama? Insanity!

Dump the guy in the general. That way you finally put a little fear into the "Democratic" party leaders for the next 2 or 3 decades.

As long as people keep complaining about Obama, but in the next breath to say they'll vote for him, NOTHING WILL CHANGE!

Chutulu 2012! Why vote for a lesser evil?


Sure, why not.

How much harm could a Republican in the White House cause? It's not like he (or she) could take us to war for no reason, or deregulate Wall Street to the point it would gorge itself and collapse, or bury us in debt by giving tax breaks to the rich.

Seriously. If you want to Primary Obama, fine. Bring it. But turning over the White House to Republicans as some sort of long-term reconditioning of the Democratic Party? ;o

Fresh air, man. Open some windows, maybe get one of those carbon monoxide detectors. Something.

Was this sarcasm?

How much harm could a Republican in the White House cause? It's not like he (or she) could take us to war for no reason, or deregulate Wall Street to the point it would gorge itself and collapse, or bury us in debt by giving tax breaks to the rich.

Your quote describes the current president every bit as much as it describes the previous one.


I think he's saying

It could be a LOT worse. That's all. Imagine how things would be if McCain and Palin were in office today.

Stan Bozarth

What Stan said

Sorry to ring your bell and run, but I'm stretched pretty thin. Theoretically, I shouldn't comment unless I have the time to engage, but I don't comment enough as it is, so...

you know...

...we had a very spirited version of this discussion during the '10 cycle, and as i recall you suggested than that by sending the democrats a message and either voting r or staying home that, on the one hand, democrats would get the message, and they would alter the behavior we didn't like, and, on the other hand, that republicans would get more reasonable, as they would not want to lose votes like yours.

so how did that work out?

at the time, i recall suggesting that republicans would interpret your support as evidence that crazy works; that the last thing republicans would do in that situation would be to "get reasonable", and in fact, that's exactly what's happened.

and you're thinking that we should dump obama in the general, so as to send the same message again, and that assumes you see mitt romney, michelle bachmann, or rick perry as a better choice for president...and if you truly believe that, in the face of all that's happened these past two years...you need to get some help.

hey...why not just have a republican house, senate, and president...'cause that'll really show those democrats. (by the way, how you likin' that new state lege, and how much better would you like it if bev perdue wasn't governor?)

we are supposed to be smarter than the tea party, and you do not seem to have learned anything from these past couple of years, so, please, please, please, get some remedial political education and learn why you do this stuff in primaries and not generals.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Your recollection is mistaken. Here's a refresher.

Here's the link to my call in one of your previous threads to punishment vote against federal Democrats and support state Democrats in 2010.

The topic of your thread then was about LGBT voters and the Democratic party.

Following my advice worked out quite well as the lame-duck Congress finally passed DADT repeal after they got their asses handed to them in Nov 2010.

Concerning this thread, I obviously don't consider a GOP president any better, but that doesn't exclude my opinion that Obama isn't any better either.

If YOU think what Obama and Congress have done to (or failed to do for) this country over the past 3 years is great, then you should certainly vote for them again.

Like any sane person living in the US, I do not think Obama and the Congress have done a great job. And I won't vote for those who don't deliver. Just like I said last time.

If you're more concerned with party politics rather than policy and people's lives, knock yourself out continuing to come up with ways to urge people to support failed Democrats.

Getting back to your first reference, it's amazing what a few court cases can do when elected branches won't act. Like the DADT repeal case forcing Congress and Obama's hand.


if i read the beginning and the end of your comment correctly...

...it seems to be entirely contradictory; on the one hand, you credit the '10 election with bringing around the ds, but on the other you suggest the courts forced the hand of congress.

my own feeling is that the courts did push congress and this administration, and at the same time, during the lame duck session, lbgt activists confronted the ds directly and told them if they did not deliver on dadt, they were not going to see any money or support in the '12 cycle, and the ds caved to the pressure.

as far as the rest goes, you could call the house democrats completely unworthy of your support because they failed to deliver on a lot; of course, i would disagree and point to the senate as the source of the problems in the 111th - and i would also suggest, as we did then, that controlling the committees of the house and electing a speaker is critical in setting the entire tone for the next congress...and sure enough, all this "hostage-taking" is directly attributable to ds losing the house.

of course, all of this misses the bigger picture: punishing the house democrats by not voting for them ensured a republican house; that neither made republicans more reasonable nor democrats more responsive to progressive issues, and that makes sense, because both sides interpreted your vote to mean that the public wanted more right-wing ideology...and until democrats can see that an aggressive democrat is winning elections by getting all progressive, a whole lot of them aren't going to move off that plan to "punch the hippie" and out-republican republicans in the '12 cycle.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Parts where we agree and disagree

Here's where we agree:

until democrats can see that an aggressive democrat is winning elections by getting all progressive, a whole lot of them aren't going to move off that plan to "punch the hippie" and out-republican republicans in the '12 cycle.

Here's where we disagree:

punishing the house democrats by not voting for them ensured a republican house; that neither made republicans more reasonable nor democrats more responsive to progressive issues,

My evidence:
In NC, Etheridge lost narrowly in Nov 2010. Prior to the election he voted against DADT repeal. After the election (during the lame duck) he voted for DADT repeal.

Nationally, the Blue Dog caucus was decimated in Nov 2010. As I said in a previous thread, Speaker Boehner is giving me exactly what Speaker Pelosi gave me. No ENDA or DOMA repeal.

I do not live in fear of a boogeyman the Democratic party waves in front of me. The parties (both of them) need to live in fear of how WE will vote.


assuming for a moment...

...that a democrat voted for dadt repeal because he was defeated in an election...how does that work going forward, when that legislator is no longer able to use his newly changed mind to effect further change?

for example, how is etheridge going to vote on doma repeal and enda?

real success would be found if your vote influenced the legislator who replaced etheridge - so what are the odds, do you think, of renee ellmers supporting an enda bill or doma repeal?

and i don't get how you don't get what happened in the 111th and 112th houses around those two issues: barney frank introduced an lbg and t enda bill in the 111th; that bill ended up with about 200 cosponsors, and it needed about 15 votes to pass...and the missing 15 votes were the blue dogs, many of whom are now gone...but all of that is irrelevant now, because democrats lost the majority in the house and the speakership, meaning that they now have no influence over the house legislative calendar.

so now it's the 112th, and as you correctly note, this house ain't moving anything that matters to you...so what do you do now?

keep voting republican, and keep hoping that they ignore their biblical mandate to "restore you to normal" at marcus bachmann's clinic, after which they begin to appreciate your vote enough that they change their minds on these issues?

vote for democrats, in order to send republicans a message?

start an "enda party"?

don't vote at all, and hope that sends a message to everybody?

none of those answers seem to be the right answer...so, whaddaya got?

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

How do you not get it?

assuming for a moment ... that a democrat voted for dadt repeal because he was defeated in an election

That's exactly what happened.

for example, how is etheridge going to vote on doma repeal and enda?

He wasn't voting for those before he was defeated. I've lost nothing in this trade of Etheridge for Ellmers. I gained Etheridge's vote for DADT repeal after he was defeated. How did I not come out better? One is greater than zero.

Waving the boogeyman of a worse GOPer is still pathetic. I've lived through worse.

How many ways do I have to say it? I'm willing to lose a little now in order to gain more later.

I'm really not interested in getting bogged down in a past thread.

It's much more important for those interested in liberal political policy to punish all regressive political actors no matter their party affiliation.

The greater point here is that voting for lesser evils is ultimately self-defeating.

It's hypocritical (and self-defeating) for someone in NC to rail against state level "Democrats" like Rep. Crawford or other DINOs, and then say no one should primary someone like Heath Shuler or Mike McIntyre.


i guess the "its" that i don't get...

...would be how you call having no further influence on the process a victory, and, to be perfectly frank, i don't get why a democratic president or legislator would ever consider supporting your cause: you're refusing to ally with democrats on any other issue, and, now that dadt is dealt with, you've signaled that the correct choice is to vote for the other side.

on the other hand, you suggest primarying legislators who you don't like, and i'm all for that, for the very same reason i think obama needs a primary challenger; my bigger point is that you take what happens in the primary and then you make a judgment about what it really means to vote in the general.

now you talk a lot about "republican bogeymen", but if you can't see the difference between what went on between the democratic 111th house and what's going on in the republican 112th house - or if you somehow believe that since you didn't get your two votes, nothing else in the world matters - then you deserve a lousy congress, and, in fact, you're now getting exactly what you voted for.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

no point engaging with this guy

I have provided lists of progressive accomplishments since 2008.
He only gives a crap about his own narrow interests.
And his cup is definately full of said crap.

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

The misrepresentations continue

In a single comment in this very thread, you could see my concerns about three other issues (taxes, regulation, debt) if you would just read -- or not misrepresent my comments.

Why is it that progressives Democratic-party-loyalists-with-no-concern-for-policy continue to strike out against those that offer a demonstrated (albeit, not immediate) way to acheive their supposed policy goals.

If Obama/party "leadership" can play eleventy dimensional chess, why can't I?

Actually, I'm just playing vote for who delivers and punish those who don't. I try to keep it simple.

You know... way back after 2008 when the party had president and historic majorities in Congress. And they didn't deliver effective change.

2010 was the time to punish the fools in the House. 2012 is the time to punish the fool in the White House.


It's a well researched fact that punishment

... does not change behavior it only stops behavior.

2010 was the time to punish the fools in the House

In this case punishemnt=tea party foolishness=downgrade

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

I like it

We have to have some way to inject the conversation with talking points from the left, but why not run someone who could actually beat Obama• (•note- I still really like the Pres. but sure would like a true Democrat in office instead)

How about Bill Moyers?

I can't imagine anyone who seems more presidential, has the Media chops and is more beloved.

to tell you the truth...

...if it really came down to governance, i think olbermann is actually advantaged, if he were to choose to go to the interwebs for his appointees, although you could easily argue that moyers knows almost everybody, so that might be less of an advantage than i'm suggesting.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965


My daughter is an independent voter ... not partisan at all. She's pretty excited about Americans Elect. She sent me this very link today.

I'm not so sure...

If this part is true:

The organization plans to nominate a centrist, split-party ticket through an Internet vote in which any registered voter can participate.

and the independents who join come from both the far right and left, it could end up with a Tea Party whacko as President with a Progressive VP running mate. Or vice-versa, but our vices haven't been versa-ing very often lately.

Also, they say they will be paying back their initial financiers from new member donations. But before I donate, I'd kinda like to know who I'm paying back.

But...I could be entirely wrong about this. I've spent way too many hours chasing down connections between right-wing think-tanks and their corporate daddies, and when I see something like this, I automatically think the worst. ;/

Me too

My daughter is as naive as the day is long, bless her heart.

Well if this thing is happening anyway

wouldn't it be better for people like us to participate so that we don't get a Tea Party whacko as President?

Cynicism can be self defeating.

I fight a battle

against cynicism nearly every day, and I don't win as often as I'd like. That's...actually a cynical statement itself. :/

on all 50 ballots?

Ross Perot has been the only independent candidate able to pull this off and he spent millions of dollars on it.