Is President Obama a Lost Cause Environmentally — and What Should Progressives Do?

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"Is President Obama a Lost Cause Environmentally — and What Should Progressives Do?"

This weekend’s question is inspired by the Obama administration’s dreadful decision to do nothing on ozone pollution.

This decision is indicative of what we can expect from the president for the foreseeable future for a few reasons:

  1. The decision was Obama’s alone —  Like the upcoming Keystone XL tar sands pipeline decision, Congressional approval isn’t needed for the President on EPA rules.
  2. Unlike the pipeline, whose biggest impacts (on climate) would be decades from now and spread over the entire human race, the decision to do nothing on ozone pollution means millions of Americans — including kids, elderly, and the infirm —  will suffer needlessly in the near future.
  3. Relatedly, if your administration can’t figure out how to do messaging to defend clean air for kids, reduced deaths and hospital visits and asthma attacks from air pollution — stuff that is wildly popular  with Americans, especially independents — how precisely are you ever going to do messaging on global warming? Oh wait, I know, you aren’t.

Those who believe there is some underlying political brilliance in this administration — some clever strategy about to emerge that embraces and defend progressivism, particularly on the environment — no longer have a case.  [After the 2012 election, yeah, that's the ticket.]  Aaugh!

On the other hand, before progressives bail entirely on our feckless president, consider that the Intrade prediction (i.e. betting) market has Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a 38% chance of being the Republican nominee (ahead of Romney with 30%) — and Obama with whopping 50.3% chance of getting reelected.

And consider what Michael Gerson (Bush’s former speechwriter) points out in the WashPost of “Perry’s campaign against the New Deal“:

“I happen to think,” [Perry] said in an interview with Newsweek last fall, “that the Progressive movement was the beginning of the deterioration of our Constitution from the standpoint of it being abused and misused to do things that Congress wanted to do, and/or the Supreme Court wanted to implement. The New Deal was the launching pad for the Washington largesse as we know it today.”

Seriously.

Ironically and tragically, Obama’s semi-progressive policies, obvious lack of a guiding progressive philosophy, and dreadful messaging have but the progressive movement in genuine jeopardy — while he remains the only plausible bulwark right now.

So I ask, Is President Obama a Lost Cause — and What Should Progressives Do?

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168 Responses to Is President Obama a Lost Cause Environmentally — and What Should Progressives Do?

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    I believe that Obama is a lost cause. In order for him to prove me wrong he would have to change from within, which doesn’t happen often with anybody, especially politicians.

    Faux progressives can do more damage than obvious employees of polluters, such as Bush and Perry. Their followers become needy and delusional, weakening them for the tough battles ahead. And many of the outcomes of the Obama Administration are identical to what the Republicans would have done, who would have faced stiffer opposition: continuing pointless wars, letting bankers make policy, and now, ignoring science on both pollution and global warming issues. The tar sands pipeline is obviously a done deal.

    McKibben and others bore witness, which will be valuable in the long run. ML King worked in stages, too.

    We’re dead in 2012, whether it’s Perry or Obama. The key should be working toward nominating a Democrat in 2016 who has the qualities we need. Inslee of Washington comes to mind, and maybe an even darker horse like Sibelius or Dean. Inslee, in my opinion, would inspire Americans to do their best. If he survives assassination- character and otherwise- he could be the answer.

    • joyce says:

      I second the Inslee option. He’s amazing. But soon progressive may find their only option is to retreat into a rich fantasy life, and dream of pacmanesque balloons that scientists will secretly develop to eat up ozone/co2.
      It is a mystery to me how Obama could appoint so many top scientists–then not listen to them. That seems to support the idea that this is a “political” move, and not ignorance. Sickening

      • seakat says:

        Inslee won’t be an option, he’s running for governor of Washington state. I have mixed emotions about this – I think he’ll make a great governor, but on the other hand I will miss him representing me in the ‘other’ Washington.

    • Edith Wiethorn says:

      Mike, I agree with your first two paragraphs. I can’t agree with giving up on identifying a progressive candidate at this point. I have a book published during the Civil War titled, Great American Escapes. The disaster[s] in each chapter are varied & dire. Reading one chapter after another drives the realization that those who escape disaster are those who never give up for a moment. And Winston Churchill’s most memorable quote may be: “Never give up. Never, never, never, never …”

    • DonB says:

      I agree that 2012 is lost; but Obama MUST lose if he OKs Keystone XL. The failure of Republicans to counter it will make them at least partly responsible for the coming disaster.

      ALL Democrats that do not speak up and strongly CASTIGATE Obama for this will be tarred with that big weight.

      Maybe this will get Senator Sanders to “primary” Obama next year, though it would be better if a member of the Black Caucus did it, along with anyone else. Whoever does it needs to get Black Caucus support.

      Alternatively, maybe the Black Caucus could start Impeachment proceedings. i can understand why they might not; the media would have a field day (FOX in particular) and would not convey the issues correctly. There may not be time to set the table for such a take down.

      When The New York Times cannot get a simple press-release story right on the effects of ACC on the spread of cholera, who can/will? It would remain to only a few, like McClatchy and, MAYBE, the Christian Science Monitor to convince Americans. McClatchy had the Iraq war correct, but could not get traction, even now when it is clear for all to see (people don’t give them the credit they deserve).

      It is truly a SAD day that such thoughts can even be expressed! It is even worse that they HAVE to be expressed!

    • Jane Winn says:

      If we aren’t strong enough to stop voting for democrats just because the republicans are worse… if we don’t start voting for the much better third party candidate because s/he is better, and stop saying it will divide the vote… Of course it divides the vote, because so many of us are such sheep that we can’t believe there could be a real change. Now is the time to stop voting for people who just sell us down the river anyway. Let’s stop supporting politicians who do what corporations want over what their constituents want. Period. If we don’t, we’ve lost the power of the vote. If we don’t do this NOW, we will lose the power of the vote to the corporations soon anyway. Use what power you have NOW, or lose it.

    • LemmonMc says:

      Obama continues to act as an agent of the corporations and the new deal killing far right. Telling me to vote for him as a lesser of 2 evils no longer makes sense, fore it ignores the fact that your telling me to ‘be evil.’

      So currently that ‘lesser’ means I support 5 wars, there can never be enough dead Palestinians, climate change can wait, even though the republicans never asked for it I’ll now offer up med-care and Social Security on the budget chopping block, while simultaneously raising the military to 750Billion a year! Lesser of 2 evils seems to become more and more evil after every election, now I’m being asked to quite literally support Bush era policies, that I know in my heart are evil.

      My God, I’m compromising on War…and climate change!

      For those who believe in the “lesser’ strategy, I think you just won’t admit you don’t have any new ideas. A really dangerous place to be, when monumental moments in history(now) have required bold imaginative thinking and action.

  2. Maggie Pax says:

    I will vote for Obama (ie, vote against the Republican candidate) but I will save my time and money to support better, local candidates who are progressive. Washington won’t help us; we have to rebuild our movement from the bottom up. How disappointing.

    • Ernest says:

      Thanks. I think I will do the same. It’s a nice balance between in this ongoing theme of whether or not to continue support Obama (“lesser of two evils” question) and supporting more progressive candidates from the bottom up. It’s not an either or question. We can do both. We do the best with what we have available to us. What matters is the strategic accomplishment of our goals rather than projecting everything into one person.

    • Jane Winn says:

      If you vote for Obama no matter what then you have NO power to make him do what is right. You have thrown away your power completely. And with your blind support, you have weakened everyone else’s power to make change.

      • Ernest says:

        If I don’t vote for Obama, I will have NO power over him either. In his place, I will have Perry. The only solution out of this dilemma is a progressive candidate who is more compelling and can win. And this candidate not only has to win, but can be effective with a divided (actually hyper-partisan) Congress, is able to deal with the problem of intransigent unemployment, a stagnant economy, the debt, along side with the issues of climate change. Do you have anyone in mind?

  3. OldSconnie says:

    Mr Obama should retire Mr. J. Biden and have Dr. H. Dean on board as VP. Perhaps Dr. Dean’s clarity of thought, sound principles, and backbone might positively influence our President.

  4. GC says:

    Can’t progressives begin by bringing forward the lawsuits that were forestalled by the Obama administration’s delay tactics?

    • Edith Wiethorn says:

      Good point about the constituency having been skillfully deflected & distracted from the lawsuits. Can/would you list those here?

  5. Susan Anderson says:

    That’s about it: between a rock and a hard place. We can hope for a miracle – all of Hollywood and Sports, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, et al. going on message. But they are all dependent on a model of extreme wealth for the few and extreme Roman circus venues.

  6. JGSaxon says:

    Replace Obama with Hillary

    • Pangolin says:

      We’re hosed. Our choices are absolutely insane Republicans that promise a Christian Dominionist fascism or a “Democratic” president that is showing no difference on policy from George W. Bush.

      In short we have a choice between the oil companies candidate and Wall Street’s condidate. Either way the planet gets raped and the average person pays the tab.

      Until the American people put themselves in the street in the manner of EU protesters we’re done. Right now everybody is waiting for the magic techno fairy to make it all better.

      NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.

      • Paul magnus says:

        There is going to have to be direct action.
        The main media has never really been behind any previous causes and so we need to just ignore them and get on with it

      • Cali Chris says:

        President Obama has an excellent chance of achieving reelection. If we change horses in midstream, we may lose, and we’ll lose more than just the election. There won’t be a country to come back to after another four years of GOP plundering. Now, Ralph Nader, who played spoiler once before and cost us the election, is preparing to introduce a Primary challenger to Obama, a “game changer” he called it. Please, Ralph, don’t do it again.

        I have to believe that Obama believes in the urgency of urgently taking strong action against AGW as he indicated in the past, but my hopes dwindled some when he used the words “clean coal” in a manner that sounded as though he believed in the reality of it in an address to the nation earlier this year. My hopes have taken another kick in the pants, a big one, with his ozone ruling and the prospect that he will sign-off on the tar sands project. (Did he really get burned that badly by the furor over the medical system reforms he introduced early in his Presidency that he now fears being bold, even when he’s right?)

        If the tar sands demonstrations in DC could pull thousands of participants from all over the country, and Wisconsin could amass tens of thousands of demonstrators in Madison, why couldn’t environmentalists, activists, and others get their act together under one banner and do some attention-getting, in-your-face demonstrations every weekend all over this country simultaneously from now until Election Day? Demand that the President and Congress take AGW seriously and act on it! Demand it Tea Party style. Demand it in front of the White House and the halls of Congress. Demand it in front of the Washington Monument and in Times Square. Demand it in front of all the major networks, national and local media offices, Exxon-Mobil and Koch Enterprises offices, and on Wall Street. Make so much noise that the media will have to pay attention and put it on the evening news every weekend until everybody hears the message. We can send it even if the President won’t or can’t. We can give talks, like Town Hall meetings, everywhere. Invite science teachers to participate. Give away CDs and teaching materials. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

        All that’s needed is one group, newly-formed or someone like ThinkProgress.org, to reach out to all environmental, human and animal rights, scientific organizations, unions, etc., and call their representatives together for a planning session. They all have long membership mailing lists, and most could donate something to get the ball rolling. The important thing they must all remember is that if we don’t move on alternative clean energy — think jobs — and do it on a wartime footing, everyone’s pet cause will be lost to the catastrophic effects of climate change.

        We can do this. We must do this! We can force a change in the agenda in Washington and give President Obama a reason to be re-elected in 2012. Without him, there is no hope.

        • dick smith says:

          This is not even a close call. Obama is not a PUBLIC leader on climate. He’s going to disappoint us again and again–including Keystone.

          But, how can we even think of trading a Chu for a Cheney on setting energy policy?

          Do you want scientists like James Hansen muzzled again, or do you want them to have the protections from unethical political interference now in the form of proposed federal regs?

          Or, the court appointments? Or, international GHG conventions?

          Is your memory really that short?

          • Cali Chris says:

            Your message must have fallen into the wrong place, for you and I are essentially on the same page. I agree that we can’t waste eight more, or even four more, years living with an anti-science GOP administration, especially a Tea Party GOP administration. We have to give Pres. Obama the courage of what seemed like his convictions several years ago and demand — yes, demand — that he address and help educate the public, personally, on climate change. We also need to replace with Democrats as many GOP reps. and senators as possible in the next election. We need a number of seminars around the country training people to use the social networking media like Facebook and Twitter to advantage in both CC blogging and getting the election results we want. There is something for everyone to do. It’s our last best chance to get a handle on our developing environmental disaster.

          • Cali Chris says:

            Another thing, I cringe every time I see something like this in print: We should have 30 percent renewables in place by 2020, and we should have 60 percent renewables by 2060.

            That makes me gag, frankly. I was around during WWII, when aircraft factories and shipyards were constructed and turned-out the mightiest air force and fleet of ships the world had ever seen, and they did it in a very few short years. Let’s not sell ourselves short. When the chips are down and everybody knows the score, we can accomplish marvelous feats. How about we set a goal for ourselves of something like 70 percent renewables — wind, solar, hydropower — in ten years, say 2112? With some government funds for startups and some of that private capital sitting in the banks and being held by big corporations and doing exactly nothing, we could do it. We really have to, don’t we? Well, don’t we?

          • Joe Romm says:

            No argument here.

  7. John Fugett says:

    The president has succumbed to a bad economy and the Tea Party. The Tea Party is so extreme the president is trying to look like the sane center. The charisma and communication skills needed to hold a progressive line are sadly lacking.

  8. Stewart Hardison says:

    I am personally very close to saying that President Obama is indeed a lost cause environmentally, and otherwise.

    While Obama may be preferable to say, Rick Perry, he is still deeply disappointing to environmental progressives, and progressives in general. To think, after three years in office, that Obama is going to change in any meaningful way is political denialism.

    It now seems inevitable that Obama will do nothing to block the Keystone pipeline. For me, that will be the “last straw.” At such time, I will do my all to encourage and support an independent candidate. I am particularly drawn to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of New York. He totally understands the threat of global warming and I don’t think he’ll have any illusions about the futility of trying to make nice to the likes of Eric Cantor or John Boehner.

    Keep up the good fight, Joe!

    • MarkfromLexington says:

      Bloomberg would be an excellent choice – We certainly know where he stands with $50M of his own money supporting the Beyond Coal campaign.

  9. cervantes says:

    As bad as the decision itself was the parroting Republican talking points that came with it. “In a statement, the president said he decided to ask Jackson to withdraw the request after considering “the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.”

    The problems our economy is experiencing right now have nothing to do with the “regulatory burden” and in fact, these regulations would have a large net economic benefit. If he can’t defend environmental regulations on principle, but instead buys 100% into the lie that they destroy jobs, he’s worse than useless.

  10. Robert Schiele says:

    I believe President Obama is a lost cause. He has demonstrated time and again that one of the charges leveled against him by his prospective opponents is true: he is in far, far over his head. Worse, it is becoming increasingly apparent as one White House farce leads directly to the next, that he is not (and probably never was) a man of principles. Instead he is nothing more than a political opportunist who harbored an ambition to be president, and who simply latched on to the Democratic Party as the means most likely to help him achieve that goal. Finally, he has by this point in his administration proven beyond any doubt that he is not even a competent opportunist. A cursory look back at Mr. Obama’s record since taking the oath of office definitely reveals that he has never at any time been concerned with anything but winning re-election in 2012, no matter how high a price his party (and the country) must pay to help him achieve that goal.

    What is to be done at this juncture? One could make the argument that the Democratic Party ought to take advantage of a current White House incumbency no matter how unprincipled and/or incompetent the incumbent may be, simply because the loss of the White House and/or failure of the Democratic Party to regain control of both houses of Congress would represent a disaster to this country of epic, perhaps even apocalyptic proportions, but I do not at this point believe that Mr. Obama, no matter what he may do from this point out, can win, even if presented as the lesser of two evils.

    My recommendation would be that, if he has any true regard for the country at all, Mr. Obama should remove himself from consideration for re-election, and that the Democratic Party should then select as its nominee Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont–or another, younger Democrat if one can be found who has equal qualifications and credentials.

    Finally, I also think it is imperative that Democrats in general, in public office and out, must at once cease continuing with the farce of referring to members of the GOP, and particularly those on the extreme right, as “conservatives,” and publicly brand them as the reactionaries they truly are.

    I truly believe that government of this country is teetering on the edge of an abyss, and that if it is permitted to topple into that abyss, democracy as we have always known it in this country will be a thing of the past. I do not agree with a great many Democrats about a great many things, but it is clear to me that the Democratic Party, for all its faults, represents the final, single hope of keeping our democratic processes and freedoms alive, perhaps even of keeping this country together as a single, functioning democratic state.

    Time is short. The political, economic, and cultural challenges we face are more dire than they have been at least since the run-up to the Civil War. Pressure from his on party on Mr. Obama to remove himself from the 2012 election, or better yet to resign his office and allow Vice President Biden to take over as a caretaker president, would not be amiss in the situation we face. It is crucial that the Democratic Party should prove to the American electorate that it does truly stand for something beyond political expediency.

  11. Wes Rolley says:

    To begin with, we have to question whether Obama was ever in line with any progressive agenda. I know that many progressives completely overlooked his position on Afghanistan. Then, you only have to look at his appointment of Geitner, Larry Summers, et.al. to understand that he was always solidly committed to economic growth at all costs. It was the only way to get out of the predicament from 2008.

    Now, we see him reducing regulation, since the entire Republican cast has made regulation into the ultimate boogeyman. The ozone issue is only the latest example. How about appointing Monsanto lobbyist Michael Smith to head the FDA. So much for the revolving door pledge and a clear path for all GMO projects, whether tested and controlled or not.

    It just might be time for those who consider themselves to be progressives to consider that there is no longer a place in the Democratic party for them. Options: register decline to state (as independents do in California) or Green. There seems no other way to get their attention except a mass defection.

  12. Dan Man says:

    We have no hope for this President. We’re stuck with him and have no choice looking at the Republican Circus of Candidates. I would hope that we just stop giving attention to the President and put our energies into local races and build up our base. Sadly, my bumper sticker for this election is.
    Obama 2012/Only Independent Votes Needed

  13. Sasparilla says:

    “have but the progressive movement”

    Joe, I’m guessing that should be “put” not “but” there.

    I agree with what you have laid out, he has cost the climate action movement at least a decade and possibly a great deal more – while commercially opening the tar sands on a huge scale (which wasn’t there before the pipelines).

    Is he a lost cause? (on the climate) Did he approve the Keystone 1 tar sands pipeline in June 2009 right after election, when oil prices were collapsing, majorities in both houses and there was no political pressure to do so? Yes and yes.

    While Perry would seem to be a no brainer to beat (to us) – he looks great to those primary voters and comes across as strong, sure of himself and “job creator” (i.e. a leader – might be over the cliff but a leader). Given the performance of the administration at messaging – he’s a serious threat for next year.

    My wife and I have talked about this (this administration and it didn’t look like Hillary would have been any better on climate action – at least from a tar sands perspective). Unless the vote for our state (Presidential, Senate or our local House race) is close (Dems / Repugs) we will be voting Green, its time to support a party that will actually try and save civilization while we can.

  14. Leif says:

    The only things that Obama still has in his corner, IMO, is that he is intelligent, unlike some folks I could name. He does have the capacity for humility and compassion, also sorely lacking in many. That alone puts him heads above the opposition. Still after 50 years of voting for compromised presidents and getting so close last time… Very sad.

    We just have to keep on keeping on. Awareness is a curse in some respects but capitulation is worse. The only battle that is worth fighting is the one you lose and lose and lose, and finally win.

    AND-

    Never go to sea in a boat you would not be proud to have as your coffin.

  15. Shelley says:

    What should we do? What else: we should not support Obama.

    We’re continuously told that yes, Obama has been a major disappointment from an environmental standpoint…but look at the alternatives.

    Yet every time we support a Democrat who sells out on progressive values “because of the alternative” we send a message to the Democratic politicians that it’s OK to dump the progressives in order to get elected.

    Even with the risk of getting someone like Perry, it’s important to let our Democratic leaders know that we do have a breaking point; there are lines they can cross where we won’t support them no matter who the alternative is.

    Then maybe when the people suffer through four years of someone like Perry, they might be more amenable to listening to what progressives have to say. And Democratic leaders won’t be so quick to sell us out for a vote.

    My line in the sand, forgive the pun, is the pipeline. If Obama OKs the pipeline, I won’t support him. Instead, I’ll vote for the Green party representative–not because I think he or she will have a chance to win, but as a message, a warning, to the Democratic party that we’re not ballast to be jettisoned whenever convenient.

    And who knows, if enough of us get fed up, maybe the Green Party will start to become a truly viable alternative–one we can live with.

    • Jim Welke says:

      Right on. Voting for Dems now, including Obama, will be like paying ransom to hostage takers. I’m done with Dems, I’m voting Green or not voting (and I know all the downsides to that, but sometimes principle trumps expediency).

      Thanks for the article, Mr. Romm.

  16. todd tanner says:

    As someone interested in passing along livable landscapes to our children and grandchildren, I think it’s a mistake to look at politicians like Obama as either allies or opponents. Obama will start addressing climate change and defending environmental regulations just as soon as we make him.

    Politicians follow public opinion and react to strong political pressure. They don’t lead, and they rarely align themselves with controversial positions unless they see personal advantage.

    If we want Obama, or any other politician, to stand up for the future and do his (or her) best to limit climate change, we need to force them to do so. Obama will concentrate on climate change the same day it becomes obvious that the benefits to his political future outweigh the consequences.

    In other words, it’s up to us. Waiting for Obama to do the right thing is like waiting for Ed McMann to show up at your door with a huge check from Publisher’s Clearinghouse. It’s just not going to happen.

    • David Smith says:

      Great comment, Todd. I agree.

    • Tom Carlson says:

      I agree with Todd as well.

      Progressives/climate hawks must fight for exactly what we want and make Obama help us get it. As Obama has said, repeating FDR, “Go out and make me do it.”

      To me, this means a very organized campaign focusing on one goal: lining up the necessary votes and electing the necessary candidates to pass climate and clean energy legislation as soon as possible. This is obvious, but we need to do this in a systematic way, identifying and focusing on the key districts to get us where we need to be.

      There are many groups across the country focusing on electing the right candidates. I am not clear on how focused the movement is on coordinating the effort to get us exactly where we need to be on the national level. I hope that a campaign such as this will emerge. We need to get as far as we can in 2012 toward this goal, continuing to get our message out there, and continue on thereafter until we get the votes we need.

    • Joan Savage says:

      Word!

    • Susan says:

      Todd, I think that you have nailed the issue here. Obama got elected and then everyone who worked so hard thought that their job was done. They forgot that we had to keep reminding him what we expected him to do if he was elected. I think that is true with any politician. I may have lost some friends when I politely ask if they have contacted politicians with their concerns when they are complaining about the state of the country. Very few have.

      People just have to make their voices heard. There are many ways to do that. Maybe we should take a hint from the brave people in the Middle East. I’m not advocating violence but people in the streets get noticed.

      • Mike Roddy says:

        There are several problems with assuming that any national candidate is just following public opinion polls. One is that a President should help to shape public opinion. Another is that the media are feeding Americans bad information, which needs to be overcome.

        Finally, Obama is not following public opinion on the ozone standard and probably not on the pipeline, either- he’s following orders from wealthy backers, who love that income from their oil stocks.

      • Kevin says:

        I remember the 2010 election, folks saying the D was no different from the R — guess they found out differently. After O was elected, everyone indeed thought their job was done EXCEPT for the opposition — they got excited and blocked and blocked and blocked and yelled a lot as well.

        If folks want more from Obama, he needs a D congress with 60+ in the Senate. That takes a lot of work. If you decide to vote green as a protest, hello Pres. Perry and a nice R Congress to implement everything he wants!

  17. Spike says:

    As well as the negative impact on human, animal and plant health the Ozone will also act as a very powerful short term regional greenhouse gas. Will it contribute to making summer heatwaves even more lethal and unbearable in future?

  18. Wonhyo says:

    To answer the second part of the question, there really isn’t a whole lot that Progressives can do.

    In my four years of observations of human social and political behavior, I’ve come to the conclusion that the rise of the Right and the failure of the Left to counter it is ingrained in human behavior.

    Right wingers will form and follow false beliefs with utter and absolute faith, fighting an unrelenting, no-quarter fight to advance their cause, with no apologies.

    Left wingers will constantly seek to appease, reason with, and make concessions to the Right Wing. The one thing Left wingers will NEVER do is actually fight back. In fact, most Left wingers don’t even realize they’re in a fight. Every time they get slapped in the face by the Right, they turn the other cheek, only to get slapped again.

    In this sense, Obama is merely to epitome of American liberalism.

    Conclusion: There may be courageous individual liberals, but they will be treated like the fringe, even by fellow liberals. Take Bernie Sanders, for instance. As a political movement, Liberalism is dead. It’s time to prepare for a culture that is defined and controlled by Right Wing ideology.

    • Peter Mizla says:

      Counting liberalism as dead, seems like counting out conservatism dead following the 1964 election.

      You seem to realize that Conservative deny the greatest human disaster ever-

      global warming

    • Kevin says:

      I’d only add that Lefties are fragmented, not united. Climate as example — folks who wanted action were all over the place — cap and trade, anti-cap and trade, carbon tax, no carbon tax, full auction, allocations to get the deal done. Opposition is united (and also a lot easier in the system). Much easier to block legislation than to pass it.

    • Bridget says:

      Ouch. Touche

  19. David Smith says:

    It’s possible that if the crazies were to get into power in the next election and actually attempt to implement their policies, This in itself could become the WWII scale event that would tip the balance. Wide scale and OBVIOUS corporate control of the United States government and the destruction of the middle class (and I am not talking about the “middle class” that makes over $150,000 per year) might actually cause a majority to come to their senses and take action.

    Providing for the “general welfare” seems to be the most forgotten part of the Preamble to the US Constitution.

  20. DRT says:

    Pipe dreams:
    -Find some sacrificial progressive candidate to run against Obama for the sole purpose of forcing him to engage in the discussion.
    -Find a progressive who will declare themselves to be a Republican candidate for president just to engage in the debate and point out the idiocy of their (science bashing) positions.

  21. catman306 says:

    Some choice:
    The Evil that we know
    or
    The Evil that is still unknown.

    Where is door number three?

  22. denim says:

    The Whimp is a Prodigal Son still over there living with the sleazebag like in the original story. If he returns repentant in time, we can have the fatted calf and celebrate. However, meantime I am putting my money where my mouth is. I am contributing only to those Congressional candidates that have show liberal works. Speeches be damned. The wimp only responds to hostage taking, so I have taken my money hostage…it is mine to do that with.

  23. Joan Savage says:

    The #3 Messaging is crucial. Obama needs a new speech writer, at minimum.

    Obama could have emphasized that the ozone regulations need to be updated to reflect the most recent studies, and he could have been openly supportive of the EPA administrator’s promise to get that newer standard to him by the end of this year, only three months from now. People who could have rejoiced at having something solid by January 2012 are snarling at him.

    He previously damaged the relationship between the White House and Congress by having the irascible Rahm Emanuel be his voice, instead of a negotiator. We ended up with strident polarized voices, Pelosi, Boehmer, the lot.

    I miss the likes of Ted Kennedy, and a reincarnation of Dolly Madison would be appreciated, too.

    A cartoon of people squabbling in a leaky lifeboat, an image that damns us all for being such a contentious species, might be in order.

  24. Peter Mizla says:

    As much as I dislike Obama- a vote for the Green or Socialist Party would be the prayer of the T Party.

    Obama for all his faults is a far better choice then Perry- who will likely win the GOP nomination.

    • Wonhyo says:

      That’s precisely the attitude that gives Obama all the leeway he needs to follow Republicans in moving to the Right. By giving Obama a blank check, there’s nothing holding him accountable to Progressives.

      Progressives need to seriously thinking, and talking, about alternatives to Obama. Only by doing that will Obama feel the pressure to act like a liberal president.

    • Dallas Dunlap says:

      A large number of third party votes would at least send a message. I can’t see voting for Obama if he approves the pipeline.

      • Michael. says:

        I am in the same place – if (when) Obama allows the pipeline to go through, he’s no different that Perry, Romney, or Bachman. He’s consigning our country to the dirtiest source of energy possible. This completely negates everything he has obtained through CAFE standards, etc. This decision will show what type of leader he is and whether he puts political expediency ahead of the danger of climate change. I hate to think solely in terms of black and white, but this decision truly is that simple. If (when) he makes that decision, he not only loses my vote, but also my advocacy as I will begin to actively speak against his reelection.

        Until climate hawks (and other environs) push back, we will be relegated to a sub-issue and not taken seriously. Supporting Obama following any decision to back Keystone XL would be just as bad for the climate hawk movement as failure of Cap & Trade (although I personally believe Cap & Trade is bunk – not as effective as a carbon tax). There has to be a line in the sand somewhere. For me, it’s the tar sands pipeline. As much as it saddens me, I’m preparing myself to actively work against Obama’s reelection campaign.

  25. AlanInAz says:

    The last few weeks have been reading mainstream articles about climate and environmental issues. My sense is that any casual observer who tries to stay informed would be very confused and have no strong opinions about the importance of global warming or other environmental issues. In fact, if they have any opinion, it would be that the global warming issue is still “undecided”. I cannot see Obama taking any strong environmental positions given the absence of strong public concern coupled with the terrible economic outlook. An improving economy in the future would change the political dynamic and give Obama (if still in office) more options.

    • john atcheson says:

      A leader would try to shape public opinion, not react to it. Read Dr. Hansen’s piece in Commondreams today.

      • AlanInAz says:

        That is true and should have been done earlier. However, I think it hard to do before the 2012 elections. He will focus only on the economy now.

      • Yes, yes, yes. If the leader of your party won’t define and defend basic principles then it is game over. Better to live in opposition with all the energy and freedom that brings, than to watch your principles abandoned and even talked down by your own guy.

  26. Target0 says:

    If you think climate change is the big issue vote for Perry. The financial collapse will do a lot more to reduce emissions than Obama will.
    (Only half joking.)

  27. Pythagoras says:

    I don’t think that Obama is a lost cause. I think that he is walking a very fine line here.

    The bigger issue is the EPA’s pending boiler regulations set to be released for comment in October 2011 and to be finalized in April 2012. The political voice of the fossil fuel industry have already taken aim at it.

    Here is an excerpt from the letter from the US Chamber of Commerce in support of the H.R. 2250, the “EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011”:

    “This bill would provide much-needed relief to manufacturers, who face a host of excessive and unmanageable costs in order to comply with EPA’s flawed “Boiler MACT” suite of rules.”

    [http://www.uschamber.com/issues/letters/2011/letter-house-committee-energy-and-commerce-supporting-hr-2250-%E2%80%9Cepa-regulatory-re]

    He also needs to protect the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule released in July this year which addresses cross-state pollutants, e.g. sulfur dioxide.

    Both of these place higher pollution control standards on coal-fired plants. Ozone is important but it are these two regulations that need to be protected from congressional weakening concerning climate.

    So it looks to me that this step is another in the chess match that Obama is playing with the Republican far-right in that he wants to be perceived to independent voters as a compromiser and a rational voice for government action.

    • john atcheson says:

      I see no signs of a chess match, but if that is what is going on, then he is a very poor chess player.

      The best way to defend environmental regulations is to take on the mega-argument that Republicans use: Regulations are bad for business.

      There is substantial evidence that on net, this is not true, and that societal benefits far exceed any costs that might be incurred.

      I believe that the notion that Obama is playing chess is something people cling to because of the cognitive dissonance between his campaign — which was decidedly progressive — and his administration — which is essentially regressive.

      • Pythagoras says:

        One of the actions that I see Obama taking time and again is to take the long view in political negotiations. He gets hammered in the press for compromising on items that are politically disadvantageous in the short-term but in the long term he comes out the better in the negotiations.

        The action with regards to the ozone regulations is just another case in point.

        For example, with regards to extension of the Bush tax cuts last December, the common perception is that Obama caved in. But what is failed to mention is that the compromise added economic stimulus by extending unemployment benefits for 13 months and includes a one-year Social Security tax cut. Both these actions put money into the hands of consumers that were likely to put it directly back into the economy. Tea Party House Republicans would not give Obama any type of stimulus package–but call it a tax cut and they’ll pass it. And two years from now, the Bush tax cuts will be expiring and up for re-negotiation when Obama will (hopefully) have a better hand to negotiate with.

        Unless Congress conducts a wholesale re-write of the Clean Air Act, the ozone rules will be back up for re-submittal in 2013 and will be implemented without much political controversy. Better to delay the regulation until after the 2012 election than risk making the EPA into a election year talking point.

      • John has nailed it. The problem, as Joe also points out repeatedly, is that Obama doesn’t defend basic principles…even when all the evidence and the public sentiment is on his side! You will never ever beat the conservatives by abandoning first principles. That is their entire strategy — define and defend basic principles — and it has been just creaming Obama. The reason I’ve given up hope on Obama is that he wouldn’t even try to defend apple pie if the GOP decided to attack it.

  28. Bill Frank says:

    Obama will not receive my vote. I see very little in substantive policy change from what happened in the Bush admin. Wars still rage on, economic policy blatantly favor the super rich, environmental issues are quickly compromised, etc., etc. What are progressives to do? Unfortunately there are limited options at best. I really question whether the answers can be found through the electoral process. After all, one can make a very strong argument that we no longer have a functioning democracy. I tend to favor mass civil disobedience as a more effective change agent.

  29. Doug Bostrom says:

    We’re dead in 2012, whether it’s Perry or Obama. The key should be working toward nominating a Democrat in 2016…

    The Democrat that looks like a unicorn? The magic Democrat who is perfect? The Democrat with superpowers who can undo another four years of Republican hegemony?

    I’ve heard this story before: Gore versus Bush, “there’s no difference,” the whole load of hogwash that brought us moral shame and near-bankruptcy at the hands of a Texas governor.

    Nope. I’m not buying it. I don’t want another Republican President, not yet, not until the Republicans have ended their nostalgic visit to the 12th century and have rejoined the rest of us here in the 21st century.

  30. john atcheson says:

    Obama is a lost cause. The question of what to do about it is trickier, given the alternatives.

    At this point, I will vote for him, but I won’t give the financial and time support I did last time.

    We need to organize and aggregate. We need a national presence that is coherent and forceful.

  31. CW says:

    It’s a system thing. America needs a multiparty, proportional voting system like so many countries have worldwide. Including one of the most stable and progressive democracies in the world right now — Germany.

    Two parties leads to false choices, temporary dictators, and easy corporate co-opting. Look at most reputable polls of note on most issues of concern to CP readers — there’s a huge mismatch on what Americans want and what the system wants, let alone delivers. We have such a weak democracy it’s not a huge exaggeration to say we don’t really have one.

    • Joan Savage says:

      Would you say more about what you mean by proportional voting?

      I wonder about a ranking system for votes (first choice, second choice, …oppose).

      • CW says:

        I am yet not as expert as I would like to be on this topic and so many can speak to this far more fully and eloquently. As a result, I don’t know where to start or how to keep this reply short, but to give you a taste of what I had in mind …

        Many, many countries around the world have an electoral system with multiple parties each having the number of seats in a legislature that is roughly in proportion to the percent of their respective popular vote (there are degrees of proportionality actually as there are a number of different systems out there and there is almost always a cut-off percent, often 5%, below which a party is not allowed a representative).

        In such systems, any given party very, very rarely gets more than 50% of the seats. They therefore are entirely forced to working with other parties. Being forced to work with many others can bring about a number of interesting and ultimately constructive dynamics, but I’ll dwell on only three.

        First, multiple parties means multiple perspectives. Not simple and most often false dichotomies of ‘right, left’, ‘either, or’, ‘environment, economy’ etc. This helps change the conservation, or rather helps change things to an actual conversation, not a endless ‘they said, but the other said the opposite’ spat. This increases the opportunity for nuance and for more creative solutions.

        By explicitly focusing politics on negotiation between multiple interests and views, there is also the opportunity for a reduction in “winner take all” madness. By making it near-impossible to win more than 50% of the seats, one reduces the prize being fought for by parties and so there is generally a reduction (not elimination!) in the rhetorical and behavioral treachery in the pursuit of power, the amount of lobbying and so on. Nobody can “fully” win, but many parties are constantly at the table and meaningfully part of decisions and the others are not far and certainly influence decisions.

        Finally, these systems can be more responsive. Instead of a temporary dictator for 4 years, if the lead party behaves really badly it risks breaking its allegiances with one or more of the other parties. The remaining can then move in and, if new allegiances have enough votes, take the reigns of power. One’s vote 3 years earlier for a party that initially didn’t form part of the leading coalition then takes on a new meaning as it moves into power.

        I don’t think that proportional voting systems in and of themselves are a magic bullet. They are still an expression of their cultures and dumb cultures will continue to do dumb things. I also think that many other anti-corruption mechanisms have to be in place alongside proportional systems to limit corporate influence in particular (if you look at Italy, which has a type of proportional system, these aren’t as well in place as needed and so we have, by the majority of accounts, a corrupt media mogul in power).

        In terms of the climate, we can see that the proportional system in Germany and elsewhere has allowed the Green party to get a foothold. Once it passed the threshold of sufficient popular vote, it began to influence German politics and even take part in coalitions. Appropriately, given its still relatively small popular vote, it does not (yet?) dominate German politics. But it does influence it and plays a significant role in helping make that country greener and more climate-friendly. Their radical inclinations can be tempered and some of their ideas operationalized by more moderate and pragmatic parties. By extension, the world has benefited from Germany’s proportional system as they developed technologies and pioneered policies that others since have been in a position to adopt more readily given their more tested state or proven results.

        Like climate science, there are a lot of false depictions and myths pertaining to proportional systems. I’d tackle some of them but this reply is already way too long.

    • Susan says:

      We need serious campaign finance reform so politicians can’t be bought.

      • Michael. says:

        Outside of a Constitutional Amendment, the Supreme Court has seen to it that there will be no meaningful campaign finance reform for the next few decades. For the majority of our lifetimes, all of our politicians will be bought and paid for. Unless you really want to start a push for an Amendment, better get used to this form of democracy where money is everything.

  32. RH factor says:

    Done C’yah. What is worse – an overt party to kill the planet or a “Covert” party to kill the planet?

    Starting with his cabinet he has disappointed anyone left of center and anyone seeing a real need to addressing planetary cost to a changing climate due to humans fossil fuel abuse habits and monetary system to promote it.

    Until someone runs from Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, an Independent not beholden to fossil feulers we basically are soooo screwed.

    He and his (Republican oops sorry) Democratic handlers know it too how does it feel to be taken for shit?

  33. George Ennis says:

    Progressives providing unconditional support to the Democratic Party and in particular President Obama are paradoxically only enabling an attack on progressives and progressive ideas. Even if it means losing the 2012 election the message must be sent that support for the environment and for policies dealing with climate change are not peripheral issues being agitated by some narrow interest groups.

    Progressives will only be taken seriously when they vote seriously and in 2012 that means saying goodbye to President Obama and yes Democratic control of the White House.If we continue to support the President despite his back pedalling on everything it is hardly surprising when environmentalists and climate change hawks are not taken seriously inside the Washington beltway.

    • Wonhyo says:

      Ahhh, that is a refreshing bit of reality from a sea of political naiveté among liberals who continue to support a President who has betrayed the liberal cause at every opportunity.

      The only instance of denialism that comes close to the insanity of climate science denialism is the denialism from those who still believe Obama is doing anything from the Progressive cause. Get over it.

  34. jaywfitz says:

    One of the big problems with progressive environmental issues is that most people that say that they support changes in policy make little in terms of meaningful change in their lifestyles that would confirm that belief. In terms of the climate change issue– it’s a lot like we’re arguing for human right while we’ve got slaves at home. No one takes that kind of hypocrisy seriously and of course pet environmental causes get blown off for their obvious lack of integrity.

    Direct personal action and changes in lifestyle are the options that are left.

    • Peter Mizla says:

      Not entirely true. O live a low carbon lifestyle- small economy car- 9 yrs old with 75K mileage.

      I recycle- state law here in CT- I limit jet ravel to less then a once a year occurrence.

      Use as little water as possible- limit use of air conditioning – though living in Connecticut- this is easier then those suffering from the early effects of climate change.

      Eat no red meat- high carbon needed to process.

      Before one thinks that liberals or progressives are ‘hypocrites’ think twice.

  35. John B Hodges says:

    This will sound like a joke. But I’m asking everyone to consider it seriously.

    Suppose that lots of us on the left half of the political spectrum pulled together an independent campaign, not connected to the Democratic Party. We set up an organization, raise money, recruit volunteers, print buttons and bumper stickers and lawn signs and all that, organize rallies and marches, spend money on media ads if we get enough to do that. With this theme:

    RE-ELECT OBAMA: THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS

    A button or sticker: HOLD YOUR NOSE AND VOTE DEMOCRATIC!

    some signs: OBAMA: HE’LL SLOW THE DECLINE

    ENERGY POLICY: NOT QUITE AS HOT WITH OBAMA

    CIVIL LIBERTIES: LESS LAWLESS GOVERNMENT WITH OBAMA

    NO NUTS! NO NUTS!

    VERY SLOW WITHDRAWAL FROM THE WARS

    And so forth. Loudly and proudly giving faint praise to the Democrats and the Obama administration, and urging everyone to get out and vote for them, because the alternative is worse.

    The best part (or maybe the worst) is that no one will be sure if we are sincere. This is, after all, the exact argument that we have heard many times before, FROM people in the Democratic Party, meant seriously. However disappointed we may be with Obama and the Democrats, we must support them, because we have no alternative. Third-party bids are both useless and harmful. Primary challenges are almost as bad because if unsuccessful they weaken the centrist candidate, and if successful they put someone in the ballot who will lose the general election.

    The only strange thing about this campaign would be that, though everyone has heard this argument before, and may even have made it before, always meant seriously, no one has ever said it loudly and proudly. Perhaps if we do it, it will shame the Democrats into having more spine.

    • Dallas Dunlap says:

      Great idea!

    • joyce says:

      Love it! I’d wear those buttons and put on bumperstickers. Hopefully, some celebrities would jump on board.

      • Lauren says:

        I spent time and money helping with President Obama’s election in 2008. He has failed to meet many of my expectations as well, in his lack of environmental progress and his BAU economic policies. But to think that Rick Perry or any other Republican would improve the financial or environmental situation is delusional. If Obama remains the most progressive candidate with the highest likelihood of election, he will get my vote, even if I do have to hold my nose.

        Nothing would make Michelle Bauchman or Rick Perry happier than to see a widespread defection of Obama’s base. We (Obama’s “base”) need to be out on the streets and organizing, not handing this country over to those who will accelerate environmental decline. The stakes really are too high for us to leave the arena so we can go to the corner and nurse our very real wounds.

  36. EDTHEREDPILL says:

    “Obama’s semi-progressive policies”? Are you serious?!? Keep dreaming.

    Obama is a huge part of the problem, not the solution.

    As the choice of the Wall Street/Corporatist/Militarist Ruling Class from the Democratic wing of the One Corporate Party, he has exceeded their expectations by increasing the war budget beyond Bush’s record levels; expanded U.S. wars from three to six; expanded U.S. “special operations” from 60 countries under Bush to 120; expanded surveillance of U.S. citizens; claimed the right to assassinate anyone, anywhere; secretly had the Fed give even more trillion$ in bank bailouts; put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the chopping block; created a huge bonanza for insurance companies with his mandatory health insurance plan; done next to nothing to relieve unemployment; and further squeezed the already disappearing middle class.

    [JR: Uhh, passed health care reform, something that more progressive presidents failed to do for many many decades. Hard to agree with you about Libya and the six wars remark. By that standard, every president we've had has engaged in multiple wars. "secretly had the Fed give even more trillion$ in bank bailouts" -- uhh, how the heck do you know about it if it's such a secret. In fact, he averted another great depression. He also ended DADT, got more funding for clean energy than every previous president combined, is enacting fuel economy standards greater than have ever been achieved, which in turn achieve greenhouse gas reductions larger than that ever been achieved.]

    Expecting Obama to stand up to Big Oil is as foolish as expecting him to stand up to the War Profiteers and Wall Street Banksters who fill his campaign coffers.

    Why should he bite the hands which feed him?

  37. Stan Stricker says:

    I am afraid that if I vote for Obama again, we will see not just 4 more years of the same, but a 2016 candidate with the same empty environmental promises.

    Our only real hope is to vote for a 3rd party who DOES represent our environmental wishes. Even if it means President Perry. If a Green party candidate or an independent candidate who actually believes that we must act environmentally responsible gets 16% or 20% of the vote, can you imagine the shift that would happen by 2016 in the Democratic Party? Not only that, but it would put pressure on the Republicans to make more progress on environmental issues.

    I will not vote for Obama in 2012. I will vote for either the Green or an independent candidate. Send a message to our party that they need to change.

  38. pheski says:

    1. Yes.
    2. Nominate, work for, and elect a Democrat more willing to fight for traditional Democratic ideals and less interested in keeping the opposition(s) happy.

  39. BBHY says:

    I realize that most people will disagree with me, but hey, you asked, so here goes:

    I probably will never vote for another Democrat again in my life. I have long since vowed the same with regard to the Republican Party. At this point it would take a truly extraordinary candidate, an order of magnitude beyond Obama the candidate, to get my vote and even then I would be very hesitant.

    To all those so-called progressives who vote Democratic, well you got what you voted for, the lesser of too evils. Either be happy that things aren’t even worse or stop voting for them.

    The main reason the T-party is so powerful is that they are resolute, and refuse to back any Republican candidate that does not meet their standards. In the process they have actually gotten a few Democrats elected. That is what scares the hell out of the Republicans and forced them to take a huge lurch to the extreme right.

    In contrast, progressives have been willing to elect anyone who is not as extreme right as the other guy, and that’s what they got, a guy who is not as far right as the other guy.

    Actually, this ozone standard is now worse than what Bush had proposed, and almost certainly McCain would have not given away as much to the T-party as Obama did in the debt ceiling negotiations.

    So it is clear that holding your nose and voting Democratic purely out of fear of the other side is a strategy that has woefully failed.

    As I see it, you can vote Democratic or you can complain that our government needs to be more progressive, but you can’t do both.

    Ok that’s my rant, carry on.

  40. SHL says:

    I imagine that there may be lots of people reading these this that supported Obama in 2008 and that still get regular emails from BarackObama.com. I suggest that you unsubscribe and when asked why give them a piece of your mind and say that you no will support Obama, as I just did. If a lot of us do this, perhaps his political machine will influence Obama to change.

    • MarkfromLexington says:

      I received a postage paid envelope in the mail from Barack Obama asking me for a donation. I sent him back a letter explaining that until he began to stand and fight for democratic principals, our clean air, clean water and the climate, he wouldn’t be seeing any donations. I asked to be removed from the mailing list.

  41. Lew Johns says:

    Of course Obama is a lost cause but I must vote for him anyway. Anyone saying otherwise is forgetting just how much Evil a Texan in the White House can do. There is a lot the President gets to do very quietly like appointing Federal Prosecutors. Dubya appointed one here in Pittsburgh who tried twice to railroad Cyril Wecht, one of the most respected Forensic Pathologists. However incompetent and directionless Obama is he is NOT a Perry or a Bachmann or a Palin. I fear that any of those three nutjobs could get the nomination. There are an awful lot of very low-information “independent” voters who won’t take the time to learn that all the would-be GOP nominees are Sociopaths. It’s just awful that Mitt Romney is the sanest of the lot.

    Lew

  42. Peter Mizla says:

    Many are missing something here

    the elephant in the room from here forward is what climate progress represents Climate Change…

    any politician or political party going forward will have to account for the growing number of disasters.

    The rest is all small talk- The science and earths gasping biosphere will have the final answer.E

    • Ernest says:

      I personally agree with you. But I am a science type and have a job.

      But politically, not having job, not knowing how to pay one’s bills, get food to eat, maintain one’s health is a more immediate and concrete concern.

      Climate is a more abstract issue. Even with all the recent weather related disasters the causal link is not clear to most people. The media weather people blame it on La Nina and don’t go beyond this. Even climate scientists are hesitant to say “this or that weather event” is “climate change” since the nature of field is to speak about long term trends and in aggregate over decades. Rather they’d prefer to cautiously state climate change makes such “extreme weather events” “more likely and more frequent” than make the case for specific attribution.

      So jobs trump climate change in obviousness and ease of messaging to the average citizen. This is the uphill battle we all have.

      Even when I disagree with Pres. Obama on the ozone regulations, I understand his motivation. We can make all kinds of long distance arguments about how regulations actually save jobs and that in the long run, addressing climate change will lead to a whole new category of “green jobs”. But people are hurting right now. They are worried about the next day. They need something right now. For them, this is the elephant in the room.

  43. Susan Kraemer says:

    No, it is WE progressives that are a lost cause.

    We are falling for Mitch McConnel’s plan to make Obama look like a failure, leading us to stay home, discouraged, so the Tea Party keeps on winning.

    The truth of our system is NO president has the power to overcome the Senate filibuster, nor some magic wand to wave to get legislation passed.

    Only a Democratic majority in the House, (like we had with Pelosi = 400 great progressive bills) and like we had for a few precious months after Senator Al Franken finally won the legal battle to prevent him being seated after “winning” the 60th seat in the Senate, and until Kennedy was out sick with cancer, will make us able to pass what we did then, briefly.

    We have to stay focused on returning a powerful Democratic congress, in order to pass Democratic legislation.

    The Republicans sure didn’t get discouraged 30 years ago when their first evil president could not achieve the complete bathtub drowning of the US yet. They stuck with it, decade after decade.

    Our vision needs to be similarly enduring. And based on the facts about how non-parliamentary systems (like we have) work. Presidents have less power than the Senators of empty states.

    • Wonhyo says:

      That’s an overly simplistic analysis that assumes Democrats would wield the power of a Congressional majority as effectively as Republicans have. That has been demonstrated to be untrue. We’ve repeatedly seen Republicans exercising more influence from minority positions than Democrats exercise from majority positions. Even when an opportunity to go on the political offensive is handed to Democrats on a silver platter, they demur.

      The only effect of having a Democrat like Obama in the Presidency is that the Right Wing cause will be advanced with Democratic votes and campaign contributions, in addition to those of the Republicans.

      Voting for or supporting Obama is worse than throwing away your vote or support. It’s depriving that support from more deserving candidates who are willing to actually put up a fight in the political arena.

  44. Van says:

    You really think it won’t make much difference if Perry is president. I missed the part where Obama vetoed all that major progressive legislation that congress passed. Oh, right, he didn’t. And you really want Perry to be able to appoint supreme court justices? Imperfect as he is Obama is our only hope right now and if you have any brain cells left you’ll get out and work your ass off to get him elected. The right=wing in this country is playing for keeps and we’re pretty close to having a Christian theocracy. So stop your whining and get out and build a Progressive movement.

    • Doug Bostrom says:

      Yes, by all means build the 3rd party progressive movement but please don’t fall for the infantile fantasy that you will start by electing a president and then work down from there. Look to Germany’s Greens if you want an example of how successfully spawning a novel progressive movement actually works in the real world. Hint: You start at the bottom.

      I doubt Americans have the patience to undertake the multi-generational effort needed to create an effective counter to the existing setup.

  45. As evidenced by the event led by McKibben at the White House, direct action has a strong attraction for many, and I believe that readiness for this is growing. Increasingly our situation with respect to climate change is becoming desperate. The prospect of a 4 degree C world coupled with millennial-scale warming seems to be certain given our current emission trajectory, and the probability of this increases with every passing day. The danger could not be more clear, and every important scientific organization in the world has signed off on this reality. I suggest that we now turn our attention to massive organization of our numbers. We have a well endowed NGO infrastructure and we have the communications capacity already in place. Additional support will likely come from churches and a variety of civic organizations. What is lacking is recognized leadership, focus and general agreement on our aims. I suggest a summit of environmental leaders to get this started. The NGO’s should agree to not compete, and instead form a coalition. Somehow, we must become a powerful force that neither party can ignore.

    As president of Unity College, I do not see this is not a political issue. It is more a matter of clear science and our ethical imperative to provide for future generations. While my activism may be interpreted as political, this is only because of the politicization of climate change. Climate change itself has political meaning only to the extent that we assign this meaning to it. Witness that climate scientists who are very vocal can be affiliated with either party (e.g., I believe that Barry Brickmore and Richard Alley are registered Republicans).

    It is clear that Obama has been a huge disappointment to progressives and hopeful environmentalists all over the world. It seems apparent to me that either political party will respond to the people only when the people’s voice is very loud and strong. We have to be louder and stronger than the corporate interests and the propaganda of News Corp. It is also obvious that conducting political business as usual will result in more of the same. Meet the new boss…same as the old boss. It is time for those of us who see the dark future of our children to step out of this badly damaged system and organize ourselves. Perhaps we should simply agree that the current political dialog is immaterial to the task at hand. I would ask if it is even possible for a leader, however courageous, to effect the necessary change within the current system. Increasingly, I think not.

  46. I remind people frequently of the charge heard so often during the 2000 election, that “there’s not a damn bit of difference between Al Gore and George Bush”.
    That thinking caused a lot of people to righteously cast votes for Ralph Nader. Think how different our world might be today had there been a little more foresight.

    • Wonhyo says:

      If Gore had been elected in 2000, he probably would have followed most of the same policy paths that Bush did, albeit to a lesser extreme. He would still be advancing the same Right Wing cause. As a result, a Democratic administration would have full culpability for all the ensuing disasters. Worst of all, Gore would not have been able to be the climate activist he is today if he had the responsibility of the Presidency. I’m glad Gore didn’t get elected in 2000, because if he had, he would not have developed into the climate leader he is today.

      In the American political culture, advancement of the Right Wing cause is a given. The only question is whether it will be advanced by a Democrat or by a Republican.

      Understanding that, I believe Democrats, like Gore, are more effective at advancing their cause from outside of political office than from within.

      • Brooks Bridges says:

        “If Gore had been elected in 2000, he probably would have followed most of the same policy paths that Bush did, albeit to a lesser extreme”

        You realize you’re suggesting he would have invaded Iraq, invaded Afghanistan, lowered taxes on the rich and pushed for more deregulation of financial markets and done nothing about climate change?

        I don’t think so. I do think Crazy Perry would try to be even more extreme.

    • John Tucker says:

      You are correct. Scorched earth politics leaves us with scorched earth. Obama is nothing like Bush on environmental issues in reality. Thats a misconception and gross oversimplification.

  47. Tim says:

    With some degree of enthusiasm, I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I donated more money to Democratic candidates than I ever had before. I am old enough to have not been swept up in the “audacity of hope” hype, but I had believed that Mr. Obama would work to make significant changes in our country.

    With the Canadian Tar Sands issue now seemingly decided in favor of disaster, I will not vote for Mr. Obama in 2012. His presidency is, by almost any measure, a failure. Even in his one area of “success”, the health care plan, he so badly compromised his achievement by pushing through a pro-insurance industry bill that I can only count it as highly qualified success. In almost all other respects, Obama has failed:

    The GOP has, from the very first day of his presidency, had no greater goal than Obama’s destruction. Nevertheless, the president has been alternantly naive, craven, and weak in dealing with these corrupt reactionaries. The president’s lack of willingness to fight, lack of understanding of the depths to which his opponents will sink, and lack of any discernable principles are completely dispiriting.

    Mr. Obama’s appointments of the same group of Wall Street criminals who caused the deep economic problems we now face showed from the beginning that he represents “business as usual” in kowtowing to the banking interest who are literally destroying the basis of American economic strength.

    As a resident of Texas, I have the dubious freedom of voting “NO” to both of our corrupt political parties. It is quite clear that Mr. Obama’s reelection strategy has along been to ignore and insult his progressive supporters as a way of currying favor with idiots who still believe political pundits who sell the false “balance” illusions of a “leftish” and Democratic party and a “rightish” Republican party. Obama’s cynical strategists want to position him just to the “right” of whatever disgusting Republican functionary the GOP nominate. The assumption is that we’ll have to vote for Obama because the alternative will be worse. Well, to hell with you and your cynical political calculations. As a Texas resident, I’m voting Green. As a practical mater, there is no way that my vote will help put a Republican in the White House since the GOP virtually certain to carry Texas, and there is no way I want to lend even a scintilla of support for the disastrous Obama presidency.

  48. Jeff Huggins says:

    At this point, under the circumstances, I think that Obama’s Keystone XL decision should be the deciding test. I don’t mean, of course, that a “no” decision on Keystone XL should be sufficient to make us satisfied and happy with him forever, unconditionally after that. Addressing climate change will take a lot, lot more than just saying “no” to Keystone XL. But we should take Obama’s Keystone XL decision — which is his to make — as being strongly indicative of the nature of the man who we’ve elected and of what we can reasonably expect him to do in the future. All things considered — including the many observations that Joe has made in the past — we’d be unwise to support Obama going forward, unconditionally as we have in the past, if he approves Keystone XL.

    At this point it’s quite possible that, IF Obama doesn’t step up to the plate with ACTION — starting with saying “no” to Keystone XL — then it might be (unfortunately) “necessary” for the Repubs to happen to win this next time around. (As much as I hate to say that.) In other words, things might have to get much worse (in terms of the leadership we have) before enough people will wake up and muster the strength and verve to force them to get better. Put another way, unfortunately, it might be the case that things need to get worse (a Repub in office, more hot weather records, stronger storms, more passion shown on the part of the scientific community, and so forth) before we wake up and find the will to act and to vote for a much better leader next time. If we put up with muck, that’s what we’ll keep getting, again and again, I’m afraid.

    This comment has been written quickly, so please don’t misinterpret me. But I think we need to put a stake in the ground, insist that Obama says “no” to Keystone XL, tell him that we won’t vote for him again unless he does, view that as a test of him, and not be lulled into nothingness any more.

    Voting for someone, or some party, unconditionally — even if they don’t make necessary progress or even try hard to make it — is ultimately a bad idea and bad habit. It won’t get us where we need to get. If Obama approves Keystone XL, he’ll lose my vote and support.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

    • Jrcade says:

      Frankly, I think Obama will approve the pipeline. The jobs it will create will make it absolutely necessary for him to respond in that fashion. Jobs over climate/environment this time

      • Sasparilla says:

        Going forward with the XL also provides the additional political cover of “I’m bringing more oil here to lower prices…” however wrong that statement is, it’ll work with most folks.

  49. Gary L Allen says:

    My suggesting….ask Joe Biden to step aside
    and then select either Illinois Congresswoman
    Jan Schakowsky or Minnesoa Senator Amy
    Klobuchar to be the next Vice President.

  50. Unfortunately, this is the wrong question. The question should be: when progressives refuse to vote for a member of the corporate-controlled Democratic Party, however progressive they may sound while trying to win votes, what should they do instead?

    This is a much more effective question and gets to the heart of the problem, which is voting for the lesser evil. Something which all too often brings both the lesser and the greater evil.
    Until progressives break decisively and completely from this forlorn cycle of Democratic broken promises we are
    never going to get anywhere.

    The only solution is to take a leaf from the actual civil rights struggle and build independently and in opposition to the Democratic Party. Starting with a national March on Washington for Jobs and Climate Justice

  51. Brian R Smith says:

    I’m with # 16 Todd Tanner:
    “If we want Obama, or any other politician, to stand up for the future and do his (or her) best to limit climate change, we need to force them to do so.”

    And Tom Carlson’s comments in reply:
    “To me, this means a very organized campaign focusing on one goal: lining up the necessary votes and electing the necessary candidates to pass climate and clean energy legislation as soon as possible.”
    “I am not clear on how focused the movement is on coordinating the effort to get us exactly where we need to be on the national level. I hope that a campaign such as this will emerge. We need to get as far as we can in 2012 toward this goal, continuing to get our message out there, and continue on thereafter until we get the votes we need.”

    The whole point of CP, McKibben’s & Al Gore’s campaign work, and the work of thousands of others in the climate network, is to educate and mobilize the public because in theory it is still possible –and essential– to create the ground-up pressure necessary to force Obama to take the pulpit for sane policies on energy & climate. If we abandon these efforts to create an effective climate vote, and instead focus on using our progressive votes to punish or replace Obama for his betrayals, we will be throwing the only baby we’ve got out with all that dirty bathwater. And we will fail to dethrone the anti-science crowd now controlling congress.

    The answer to the question whether current efforts are going to be enough is: most probably not, even though a quick glance suggests that the combined resources of the climate community represent a force that could overwhelmingly win the PR battle for climate reality with the American voter.

    I wrote an overly long comment here last Saturday
    August 28, 2011 at 3:15 am calling for discussion of strategy and a larger collaboration that builds on current efforts.
    “I think the way to do it is to form a major collaboration of leaders from all sectors of the climate community who can design, fund & carry out an ambitious uber-campaign that will educate & mobilize the public. This could begin with a conference (COP-350 ?) to brainstorm the concept.
    Why not declare a national summit on climate & the economy. Get proactive media allies on board. Present in primetime for 3 days running and simultaneously in thousands of community & campus venues. Bring in the best voices from science, policy, congress, energy, business, economics and climate action as presenters. Outline short and long term policy & legislation that gets us on the road to transition. Shame the anti-science crowd overwhelmingly. Follow up with whatever programs / events are needed to support red state initiatives, and so on…”

    What should Progressives do? Urge the leaders in the climate movement consider an ambitious collaboration to grab the public stage, resolve the American voters’ questions about climate science and the urgency for action… and deliver the climate vote to Obama. It will be an expensive and difficult to organize campaign, but if it has a likely chance of success, the financing will be there …and the momentum of action based on specific targets will replace dismay with solid results.

  52. prokaryotes says:

    Imagine we deal with an out of control – abrupt developing situation. What do you think the government will do? Maybe it will be similar to 2012 movie, where only a few selected are prepared to live in climate shelters, liveboats, arcs?

    But this approach is flawed, because we can only prevent worst case scenarios, if we unite worldwide and throttle emission and start immediately with carbon negative actions. The biochar solution is one piece of this puzzle.

    Don’t read this
    http://groups.google.com/group/geoengineering/browse_thread/thread/d7fea65010117ac8?hl=en

  53. David B. Benson says:

    Join the Progressive Party in your state. Not yet organized? Then start one. Encourage fusion style politics as in New York state.

    Heck, even Greens who want to stop being so purist and actually accomplish some things can join…

  54. Frank Zaski says:

    Joe, per your request, a Progressive’s to do list:

    Do our very best to SALVAGE OBAMA for the next 5 years. We need to find ways to improve his environmental knowledge, attitude and backbone. In spite of our anger and disappointment, “President Perry and Vice President Bachmann” would be a far worse alternative.

    Environmental groups need to band together nationally and demand a SUMMIT WITH THE PRESIDENT. Yes, to rant, but then to understand, agree, plan and act.

    We can INCREASE PRESSURE ON AND SUPPORT FOR THE ADMINISTRATION. We can provide a more coherent and economically defensible environmental policy; provide better messaging and arguments, etc. Perhaps Obama’s environmental advisors and speech writers are not effective and need our help.

    Form a strong NATIONAL COALITION OF ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS to provide more consistent messaging, efforts and better results. Our organizations and their efforts are too splintered. The Tea Party has national coordination, shouldn’t we? What commentator Will Rogers said about Democrats, should not apply to environmentalists.

    BROADEN OUR EFFORTS and TARGETS: We need to rely less on Federal Government and concentrate more on state, local, business, industry, religious, social, educational, women, minorities, etc. These groups can be better informed and motivated work to reduce CO2 and other pollution.

    Like Clinton, Obama has gone to the center for his survival and that of vulnerable Democrats. Therefore, we need to help MOVE OBAMA’S CENTER AND THAT OF THE NATION MORE TO THE LEFT.

    • Kevin says:

      All the above PLUS you need to give him a 60+ majority in the Senate. W/out that he can’t get the big stuff done. (Climate)

      It would also help if you had well managed campaign to convince public these policy are needed.

  55. Villabolo says:

    The issue concerning Obama and Global Warming is not about Global Warming politics and how he relates to it. Rather it has to do with Obama’s character-psychological makeup-and how he relates to his opponents on any issue.

    Obama is simply too weak to deal with the assholes psychopaths of Congress.

  56. The analogy to Lucy and the football is priceless. Tragicomedy at its best (worst?).

  57. The Wonderer says:

    Progressives need to build a base at local, state, and congressional levels to allow the President to take action in his second term. Our inability to elect or reject leaders at any level on this issue should speak volumes on the state of play, and is something Obama is keenly aware of. Congressional representatives have booed his statements on climate change, with no consequence (other than a boost in their level of support). As long as that can happen, expect no change for the better.

    • Oh no, Obama getting booed. Well we certainly can’t expect the President of the United States to defend a basic principle if he is going to be booed by the political opposition. Yikes. No wonder he caved. We need to work to create a nation where nobody will pick on the President and then he will have the courage to do the right thing.

  58. Dan H says:

    Chris (#50) has the right idea. Focusing on electoral politics – find progressive Democrats to support? vote Green? – is misguided. We can’t effect systemic change just by getting “the good guys” into office. Even if you make the quite-generous assumptions that truly reliable environmental candidates can be found & voted into office, the core logic of national politics remains the logic of big money. And figurehead politicians, no matter how “pure,” can’t win that pitched battle.

    People correctly identify bottom-up activism as the only path open to us. But it has to set its sights on specific issues & direct action, as opposed to “changing Obama’s mind” or electing “good” Congresspeople. My hope (insofar as I have any – I ain’t optimistic) is that the Keystone XL protest helps galvanize people to work & protest in their own communities, and to find further focused issues – like the yes-or-no decision point on the pipeline – which national attention could be productively drawn to. And a climate movement should clearly situate itself within a broad project of environmental & social justice – we limit ourselves greatly if we don’t reach out as fellow travelers to projects which might generally be seen as being more about class than environment – e.g. labor struggles in the extractive industries, fights for equitable access to functional urban public transit, etc. Electoral politics are dominated by big business/money, and the fundamental logic of big money is eternal accumulation & expansion – fundamentally incompatible with a livable climate. We can’t change that logic by withholding our votes or running better candidates – we have to instead try to independently build a fiercely opposing logic rooted in community solidarity & justice.

  59. David B. Benson says:

    Read Thomas Frank’s “The Wrecking Crew”.

  60. John Tucker says:

    From a biodiversity standpoint – with respect only to climate change:

    The most successful clean energy by far is nuclear power. If democrats are going to be lukewarm with renewables (which in lower amounts ends up being a strong commitment to natural gas) and are going to push the same fossil fuel policy as republicans.

    And if republicans, misguided as it may be, are pushing new nuclear and about the same on renewables all said and done – It makes more sense to go with them in the short term if nothing else, to buy time for later competent decisions.

    When people celebrate a country going up to ten years back in carbon emissions on really no solid reasoning I question their commitment to mitigating climate change just as I do with those encouraging more fossil fuel use.

  61. Maybe the best hope for the future is:
    – Perry wins in 2012.
    – Perry acts on his economic theories, which will obviously make the recession much worse.
    – In reaction against the Perry recession, there are large Democratic majorities elected in 2114 and 2116, including a Democratic president.

    Remember that Obama was trying to control global warming when he was first elected, when he had majorities in the House and Senate.

    His problems now are:

    – That the public blames him, as President, for the bad economy, so we cannot get a decisive Democratic majority as long as he is president.

    – That he is a wimp who won’t stand up to the Republicans and always aims at compromise. If conservatives say, “let’s drive over a cliff at 60 miles per hour,” and progressives say “let’s stop so we don’t drive over a cliff,” Obama’s response is “let’s compromise and drive over the cliff at 30 miles per hour.

    Since we won’t get anything good from Obama and won’t get a decisive Democratic majority or get as long as he is president, the best hope may be Perry in 2012, and a decisive Democratic majority and Democratic President in 2016, after everyone sees how Perry’s economic policies work in the real world.

    The alternative-reality Republicans led by Perry – who believe that global warming is a hoax, that evolution is just an unconfirmed theory, and that reduced deficits and monetary tightening are the proper response to a recession – will be completely discredited as soon as their theories are tested against the real world.

    • Leif says:

      We have already survived Bush with the very same economic agenda and he took the Nation from a budget surplus to record deficits in eight painful years. The public did not learn. Why would it be any different under Perry?

      • Doug Bostrom says:

        Absolutely right; two years after Obama was elected Americans tied a blindfold over their eyes and threw darts backwards over their shoulders to pick the next crop in the House.

        Don’t look to the electorate here to follow the plot.

        • People don’t care about budget surpluses and deficits. They care about unemployment, high levels of debt, and other forms of economic pain that effect them immediately. And they tend to blame it on the President, whether or not it is his fault.

          There was a recession at the end of Bush’s term. That is why people elected Obama president and elected Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2008.

          Perry’s economic policies will cause even a worse recession – which would mean a Democratic president and even larger Democratic majorities in 2016.

          • Lauren says:

            I think it’s a stretch to say Obama was elected because there was a recession. No one knows who would have won otherwise, but Obama had the momentum. Main point is that I agree that the electorate don’t follow the plot, they follow the spin. And it seems the Republicans are completely ruthless in putting on the spin (Swift Boaters, compassionate conservatism, etc). We’ve gotta fight to keep the White House in 2012 – there’s no guarantee the Repubs won’t keep it format least 8 years if they win in 2012.

      • Actually, Bush did not have the same nutty economic agenda. Eg, he did not believe in monetary tightening in response to a recession, like Perry (who said that Bernanke is treasonous for expanding the money supply, which is actually exactly what the Fed should do during a recession).

        Yes, Bush had a pro-corporate, pro-fossil-fuel economic agenda. But he did not have an economic agenda that was out of touch with reality.

    • John Tucker says:

      I hate to say this but Texas has some rather large renewable projects and is something a leader in green energy production.

      California under Schwarzenegger was also moving in the right direction in some ways.

      Some favorite artworks adorn Hover Dam – The largest renewable energy protect, arguably probably ever, that occurred during the last depression – and I think – what do we have to show for this presidency that compares to that?

      ref -

      New Deal/WPA Art at Hoover Dam, Nevada ( http://www.wpamurals.com/hooverNV.htm )

      New Deal Art During the Great Depression( http://www.wpamurals.com/ )

      New Deal Programs: Selected Library of Congress Resources ( http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/newdeal/fap.html )

    • Ernest says:

      Yes, I contemplated about the possibility of Perry, and the public reacting to the consequences of his policies, and the possibility of reclaiming the Congress in 2014, and White House in 2016. Let it all collapse so we can wake up to the stark contrast instead of muddling through. This is assuming we wake up and react. (It is hot in Texas with record temperatures and duration. But “it is not climate change”.)

      The other assumption is that it will collapse, he will make the recession worse. Maybe, maybe not. Rick Perry has been a successful Texas governor for 10 years, so he’s got to be doing something right. Things may not collapse enough for people to react. But it may be a very different America by the time he gets through.

      People had high expectations of Obama, and expected him to accomplish a lot on a variety of fronts. People will have lower expectations of Perry. If they vote for him, they believe in a minimal government. Perry promises to make government “inconsequential”. In some ways, he will have an easier job, he will keep his promise, he will achieve his stated goal and be successful in this sense. He will be simple and consistent.

      More than reacting, humans are more than capable to adapting to a slow decline and the “new normals”.

    • Joe Romm says:

      One letter — W.

      Perry is worse, and he could be 2 termer and do damage that can’t be undone, as Bush did.

      So be carefull what you wish for.

    • Kevin says:

      Your point that Obama had majorities in both house and senate leaves out important detail — he only had a 60 vote majority until Ted Kennedy died, then he was at the mercey of opposition leadership who was able to keep extremely tight disipline to punish anyone who broke ranks, Rs therefore were able to fillibuster everything — O therefore could NOT get climate across the line — this is another long debate about why, but it is a gross over-simplification to say that he had majorities and failed to do what he promised.

  62. Many comments say that instead of threatening to withhold our votes, we should be building “political pressure” to force Obama to act on climate. Seems to me the only “political pressure” that politicians listen to is whether they will get your vote or not.

    If we hand Obama our votes regardless of his actions then we are by default giving up our political leverage. What is left?

    The Tea Party got power by with withholding their votes for Republicans that did not clearly define and defend the basic principles they care about. They were a dismissed laughing stock until they took out some of the GOP biggies via primary battles. Now the would be kings do flip flops to defend tea party principles.

    If climate hawks want to hand Obama their votes despite the fact that he has consistently failed to define and defend the basic science and the critical steps needed to avert disaster…then go for it. Not me.

    If Obama further abandons us to the climate threat by greenlighting the principle that converting gigantic pandora’s box of tarry carbon deposits into “oil” is in the nation’s best interest…then I’m voting for someone else.

    What next? Exploiting our domestic oil rocks deposits (formerly known as “coal”) will then be in our nations best interest too? If we are going burn it all I sure don’t want it pushed through by someone I voted for.

  63. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Obama’s failure to respect his mandate began long before there was concerted public pressure on him, and before the senate majority was lost. Within a few weeks of taking office he chose to adopt GWB’s unilateral 2005 baseline for climate negotiations, copying Bush’s example of reneging on the US signature of the Berlin mandate of the UN.FCCC.

    For all this was unseen by most Americans it was a clear message to BRIC & EU nations that the GWB policy of a brinkmanship of inaction with China was being continued – ( i.e.: “Who can ignore global warming the longest ?”). Knowing what that brinkmanship will cost – in terms of serial famines of unprecedented scale – ended my faith in Obama’s judgement.

    Since then, his reliance on the appeasement of reactionaries has occurred across practically every issue, to the point of making an art form of ‘pre-emptive capitulation’. Blocking the EPA’s Ozone regs is merely the latest example, whereby a serious toxin to human, plant and animal life will (illegally) be under evidently deficient controls for years to come, merely to appease reactionary pressure and pander to deluded centre-ground votes. By justifying this with the reactionary propagandas of “regulations’ economic costs and burdens” Obama makes it very clear that he is, de facto, an opponent of progressive politics. Rahm’s early reference to enviros as ‘retards’ indicates that a policy of courting the centre-ground and pissing on his base was established from the outset.

    His real prospects for re-election seem poor to dire, given factors including the demoralization of Dem activists, the welfare cuts due to the Deficit Reduction fiasco, the ongoing economic decline, “losing the Afghan War”, the impacts of “Citizens United”, the probability of another ruinous oil-price spike by Q3 2012, the profile of ‘loser’ that appeasement confers, etc. The current betting of just over 50% for his re-election is of course premature – the GOP’s messaging has yet to swing behind a chosen candidate – while the economy continues to vent confidence and more people lose their homes and prospects.

    Using the Keystone decision as “A line in the sand” (good slogan) is appealing, but in practice a reduction of enviro support for Obama only raises his need to appeal to the centre, and to move right to do so. What is needed is a clear concerted constructive destination for the votes of the many that Obama has disappointed.

    The argument that the Democrat party needs to be taught a lesson by enviros shifting support to the Green party and costing Obama the election has clear weaknesses, not least the number of other plausible reasons for him losing – including the economy, the oil-price spike, Citizens United, welfare cuts, S.Comm, etc, – simply obscuring the intended message. In political terms it would amount to enviros’ self-marginalization.

    While Green politics have my personal support, I don’t see that the US Green party has any business in the gesture politics of putting up presidential candidates. By contrast, working to get people elected through the various levels of legislatures (ASAP) and thereby earning voters’ practical respect does make sense. Once there is a substantial Green presence in Congress, a presidential bid would be fully justified, but until then it’s surely as counter-productive to the party’s reputation as it is potentially damaging to conventional progressive politics.

    The constructive approach for those who find Obama wholly unfit for a second term, as is formally embodied in the constitution, is to mount a successful primary challenge to replace him. I’d stress ‘successful’, as there is no very useful outcome from a token challenge. Finding a candidate with the necessary profile and calibre to win the nomination and (without Obama’s baggage) to see off Perry in the election, and the integrity to provide the presidency that is needed, is no small task. Thus far the names of Bloomberg, Inslee and Damon are being mooted, but no doubt there are many others worth considering. (I suspect that a woman of Latino descent could have notable advantages).

    Undertaking such a campaign, in concert with progressive economic and social constituencies, would be a huge effort – plainly greater than anything we’ve attempted for decades. I’d suggest that it is also an absolutely necessary effort, since the central concern in responding to our present circumstances is surely the urgency of commensurate action on climate –

    With Russian scientists recently pointing out that one third of their vast permafrost lands will melt within the next few decades, raising the pace of effective human response is evidently the paramount priority, and that demands an effective US president.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  64. Chris says:

    Are y’all being realistic about what can be expect from any US president?

    It seem to me that you have a ‘democratic’ system where politicians are financially dependent for their re-election campaigns on donations from heavy duty fossil fuel multinational corporations.

    What power can a president really have to effect the necessary legislation to deal with climate change when those same corporations have the majority of votes in both houses to ensure their businesses will continue to prosper regardless of the consequenses for the survival of the planet?

    How about helping him to restore real democracy first?

  65. Chad says:

    I’ve given up on Obama because of this. I wrote him yesterday and informed him that he has lost my vote. I have come to the honest conclusion that the only hope for America is to burn under President Perry and pray for a pheonix to rise from the ashes. Certainly, four more years of a president that concedes not only policy but rhetoric to the Republicans on a daily basis, and has proven himself to be the most right-wing president we have had the before the Great Depression outside of the illustrious Shrub himself, does not deserve my vote or my help.

    I now support an attack on Obama from the left. Getting our voice heard, and having the alternative narrative to that of the Republicans being aired, is of more importance than winning a single election.

    • Peter Mizla says:

      I agree- put the republicans back in power. The toxic brew of anti science climate change denial, failure to reform a corrupt economic system, pulling o safety nets will indeed create the ‘fire’ under a Perry.

      Obama has dome nothing but enjoy the prestige and perks of being President- but has failed miserably to live up to his hype of hope & change.

      Americans will need to hit bottom- before they vote out the scoundrels in power now.

      Putting the republicans in power, will prolong any steps to reduce GHG for years. The climatic disasters will increase- and grow stronger-

      its all going to be that ‘Perfect storm’ but its the only was change will really occur.

  66. Mark says:

    “By justifying this with the reactionary propagandas of “regulations’ economic costs and burdens” Obama makes it very clear that he is, de facto, an opponent of progressive politics. Rahm’s early reference to enviros as ‘retards’ indicates that a policy of courting the centre-ground and pissing on his base was established from the outset.”

    Amen.

  67. Mark says:

    The “we have to make him to it” line is laughable.

    you elect someone, and following that, you have to beg and bully them to do the thing they were elected to do?

    ridiculous.

  68. John McCormick says:

    RE # 63

    Lewis, your comment speaks for so many of us frustrated, angered and defeated. We bought into the campaign promises of candidate Obama and got Rham and Summers instead.

    I have repeatedly warned of the fear that pulling back from Obama’s 2012 reelection is a certain way to assure the rethugs take over both Houses of Congress and the Oval Office. Well, that may happen whether I vote for Obama or not. hen, when Roe v Wade is overturned by rethug confirmation of new Supremes and the social safety net is run thru the shredder and middle and lower class Americans are drien to their knees (figuratively and actually)….when the pain becomes too great for we 99 percent who are not wealthy…when the changing climate pumps billions of tons of methane and CO2 from beneath the Siberian tundra…then maybe we will cull, from our ranks, a new leader we control.

    Does the big green have a plan? NO! Does the DNC have a plan? NO! Does anyone see that train coming at us? NO! We’re on vacation. Hand me the sun block. Rham is right. We are idiots because we do not act. We bitch. We hope. We massage our message. We stand up int eh fox hole and shout epthets at the corporate tools and whackos in the Congress.

    How about John Podesta and a few of the mighty convening a plan to save our nation from the plutocrats. How about letting the rest of us see there is more than a mortgage payment behind their positions of directing, leading and wearing their CEO labels. Has Fred Krupp been heard from lately? NO! He stand behind the curtain redy to jump out when someone has a plan. How about Ruth Clausen at PEW? Any words from her lately? NO!

    We as a national movement are leaderless>

    Is there someone out there who can gather a few adults and show us we have a choice and not an indictment?

    Senator Sanders, stand up and challenge us to follow you!!!!!! There are only 14 months left to get organized. Otherwise, we can fight each other to get on the lifeboat because our ship of state is going down and the captain is negotiating with the pirates to be gentle with us passengers on this ship of fools.

    Thanks Lewis.

    Senator Sanders, are you listening?

    John McCormick

    John McCormick

  69. wrb says:

    Joe:

    I’m a longtime reader and admirer of your blog. I’m never been more disappointed in you that now.

    This imputation of motives to Obama and that pathetic Charlie Brown cartoon is close to unforgivable.

    His was probably, and at least arguably the right decision for the the fight against climate change.

    Have you actually listened what these tea partiers plan to do if the get power? They don’t plan to block the tightening of regulation, they plan to burn environment regulation, along with the social safety net out at the roots. They will simply terminate the EPA, NOAA, the Clean Air Act, CAFE standards and all climate research. They will also sell off the public lands and open everywhere to drilling and mining. And you are helping them

    Maybe you are in some sheltered position, but a lot of people in this country have lost everything or are on the verge of doing so. They will take revenge for action that is seen to even possibly weaken the economy. They will take revenge for not focusing on the economy with sufficient intensity. Tightening this regulation at this time could very well result in a Tea Party take over of the country- and the elimination the regulation entirely.

    Obama was lobbied by vulnerable rust state Senators who felt that this regulation would cause their hurting people enough pain to cost them their seats. We can’t afford the loss of their seats, especially for a tightening that would be overturned before it had any effect.

    Reading the case you make for blocking the Canadian pipeline it is clear what decision Obama must make. If the oil is going to come out anyway, Obama would be criminal to deny the suffering the hundreds of billions in stimulus that would result from building the pipeline- and if he tried to deny it he’ll be thrown out and the pipeline will be built in two years.

    Environmental regulation won’t pass until the economy is better. We can continue to educate, but we aren’t going to get new regulation until people are in less pain. IThere is a time to every purpose under heaven, and for environmental regulation this ain’t it.

    And not because the regulations aren’t vitally important, but because the attemp, now will give the battle to the other side, and once they’ve finished looting our lands there won’t be much worth saving.

    • Joe Romm says:

      This was Obama’s worst enviro decision. You describe a WH so inept at messaging they can’t even explain why they want clean air for kids! And so they must endorse less action than Bush wanted.

      The Charlie Brown analogy is reasonable, tho in truth, Obama himself I’d also like CB in dealing with the GOP.

      • wrb says:

        If, as the Senators from those states contended it would, the tightened regulation would have placed one swing state into Tea Party hands, and thus resulted in the elimination of the entire regulation in a couple of years, it was the right decision. Courageous even, doing the right thing, rather than pandering.
        The White House is constantly sending the right messages. The are consistently not reported or are distorted.
        Certainly the effect of pollution on children can make a strong message, but not one that can compete with the counter message. A small statistical increase in health risks to your child does not rise to the level of the fear of having to move onto the streets with your child, for her to lose a chance at an education, of her father losing himself in alcoholism. Poverty kills just as surely, and more visibly, than does pollution.
        Those who increase the vulnerability to poverty at this time, will cede power to the other side.

        • Kevin says:

          I agree with wrb — look at press in the swing states — how were these regs characterized most often? Job killing machine. Quoting how many deaths caused by pollution didn’t work when folks look around. Swing state senate Ds bite the dust and there is NOTHING stopping end of EPA and everything else progressives hold dear. Unless you all get excited enough to get a CONGRESS the pres can work with.

      • wrb says:

        Serendipity:

        “New research by Janet Currie of Princeton University and Erdal Tekin of Georgia State University shows a direct correlation between foreclosure rates and the health of residents in Arizona, California, Florida and New Jersey. The economists concluded in a paper published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research that an increase of 100 foreclosures corresponded to a 7.2% rise in emergency room visits and hospitalizations for hypertension, and an 8.1% increase for diabetes, among people aged 20 to 49.

        Each rise of 100 foreclosures was also associated with 12% more visits related to anxiety in the same age category. And the same rise in foreclosures was associated with 39% more visits for suicide attempts among the same group, though this still represents a small number of patients, the researchers say…

        The economists didn’t find similar patterns with diseases such as cancer or elective surgeries such as hip replacement, leading them to conclude that areas with high foreclosures are seeing mostly an increase of stress-related ailments.[...]

        The areas that have the highest foreclosure rates also tend to have a large portion of their population unemployed, underemployed or uninsured. Ms. Currie says the research accounted for this by instituting controls for persistent differences among areas, such as poverty rates, as well as for county-level trends. The time period examined, 2005 to 2007, was before unemployment peaked, she says. The researchers examined hospital-visit numbers and foreclosure rates in all ZIP Codes that had those data available.

        They found that areas in the top fifth of foreclosure activity have more than double the number of visits for preventable conditions that generally don’t require hospitalization than the bottom fifth.”

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904199404576538293771870006.html?mod=wsj_share_tweet

  70. wrb says:

    Some people in the comments, I see think that the the economy will suffer under Perry his ideology will be disproven and the enlightened will be swept into power in 8 years.

    The opposite will occur. He’ll slash taxes, forget about trimming the deficit- as Republicans always do when in power- pumping the economy full of cash, and he will cut regulations, both environmental and and workplace, to China- like levels. At least short-term, it will be pedal to the metal for the economy.

    People will take this as validation of the claims of the right. “Must have been the safety net and environmental regulation that were holding us back, I never would have believed it” And the environmental cause will be left in the gutter for a generation. It will be what happened when Reagan took over from Carter and killed the burgeoning environmental movement, only 10 time worse, because the pain that he will be credited with curing is ten times worse.

    • John McCormick says:

      wrb,

      I agree with your comment but you failed to articulate the cause…though you did describe the effect clearly.

      When voters approach the national election in 2012 and activists get involved in candidate election campaigns, they generally act out of conviction or loyalty. How will Obama generate the support he will need from voters…I assume he’ll have a billion dollars to wage his campaign? Voters will decide and it looks like he is walking away from his base faster than the baggers can buy sarah’s book.

      You imagine an America under crazy perry. Well, the cause might very well be Obama’s approach to governing and the effect will be everything the baggers have every dreamed of.

      Unless….progressives do what they did to Lyndon Johnson when they caused him to not seek reelection.

      Anger directed at a target for specific objectives is how change is made in America. Ask civil rights leaders.

      And, Joe let me add my thanks to you for the huge and frustrating effort you invested in this new CP. You are a rare and valued force in the progressive world and maybe you also need to step outside of CP and tell the powers that be that we are ready to abandon the BAU of contemporary American politics.

      John McCormick

  71. Neal J. King says:

    I agree with the sentiment expressed somewhere above: We do have to vote and campaign, and we do have to do it energetically. But maybe what we have to be so enthusiastic about is voting & campaigning AGAINST the GOP, rather than FOR the Democrats, who seem to be unable to exercise the power they were originally given.

    - According to 97% of the working climate scientists in the world, we are facing an environmental catastrophe in the form of global warming; and we have a clear majority of US voters who think something should be done about it; leading to a political class that won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.

    - According to an overwhelming majority of working economists, both the US and Europe are facing classic Keynesian demand melt-downs; and a clear majority of voters who think something should be done about jobs; leading to politicians both in the US and Europe who are focused on AUSTERITY programs. (Kind of like arguing about how best to save fuel when your engine is choking, 3000 feet up.)

    I propose the “Lesser of 2 Evils” (Lo2E) party: “Vote for Obama, the Lo2E !” Maybe this can get the message out, without cutting our own throats.

  72. Should go the opposite! Instead of attacking Obama, go after the business community. Educate and help transform their thinking. Without business community share the platform with progressives, there’s not much Obama, congress can do. We know this. So let’s change strategy.

  73. Kita123 says:

    To all of you on this website who think and say President Obama is a lost cause that is your right as american’s. Unlike many of you I understand what he has tried to overcome and keep this country moving when it was on the brink of becoming Greece. I know you have made up your minds not to support him in 2012 and that too is your right as american’s. I support this president and right now I think you all will get what you want. NO re-election of President Obama. So stop beating him down. You win. He will not be your president in 2012.

  74. Harry Middlemas says:

    Lame joke I thought up: What’s the difference between Obama and a Republican? You say, I don’t know; I say, me neither. Sorry.
    Back on point (or maybe that is the point). I think a primary challenger is what little hope we have. I still dream of Russ Feingold. I do not think Obama is going to change and time is soo short that we must act now and challenge Obama this election. And way out in dreamland, considering the social networking capabilities, an organized write in candidate campaign.

    • Kevin says:

      Let’s say a miracle happened and the Green Party candidate won! What would happen then? Nothing — they’d still have to work with an R Congress who would block them as they have Obama.

      The economy is heading into another recession a little over 12 months before the next election. Rs are crowing and Ds sound weak and disorganized.

      To survive, Pres has to move to the middle & hope he can get a friendlier congress next time. If progressives stay home because he wasn’t pure enough for them, they’ll get what they had in the 80s (and more so as today’s conservatives are more Goldwater than Reagan — and remember, Reagan had a more D congress most of the time to constrain him). Not so w/this next guy unless progressives decide to work rather than desert.
      I was listening to right wing talk a couple years ago and they were debating whether or not to leave the Rs and set up new party — host screamed NO — take over the party. Guess we’ve seen what happened — they’ve done it and are taking the party and us into the ditch. You want to hand them the keys?

  75. Most people seem to agree that Obama is a lost cause on environmental issues. But when I suggested that we might be better off if he weren’t reelected, a number of people replied that we had to vote for him because Perry is much worse.

    Needless to say, that is exactly the attitude that encourages Obama to ignore environmentalists. He thinks he can count on environmentalists’ votes, no matter how bad he is, because the Republicans are worse.

    As for me, I won’t vote for someone who wants to drive over a cliff at 30 miles per hour because his opponent wants to drive over the cliff at 60 miles per hour.

    If Obama blocks the Keystone XL pipeline, then I will vote for him. If he allows the pipeline, then he is driving the world over a cliff, and I will not vote for him again.

    • surfjac says:

      Give me an issue obama isn’t a lost cause on? Even health care was a republican’t idea. C’mon, I’ll agree that there was a lot of hope with this president who ran as a democrat but has emerged as the best republican’t president in decades. He’s a lame duck now and will be right up until the end whether that’s in ’17 or ’13.

  76. Obama: Standing on the Feet of Midgets, since 2010.

  77. Better-

    Obama: Standing on the Toes of Midgets; since 2010.

  78. President Obama found a way to go from “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” to “Stumbling over the Toes of Midgets” in two years flat.

  79. Harold Hensel says:

    There needs to be enough progressive votes at the Democratic Convention that Obama cannot get nomminated without them. Then Obama will have to take on the causes in order to get the progressives vote. He will cave if the progressives know how to negotiate.

  80. Doug Bostrom says:

    It’s worth getting beyond the annoying title and carefully reading this item in the NYT:

    What the Left Doesn’t Understand About Obama

    [JR: Chait is worth reading, but he mostly attacks a bunch of straw men.]

    • Kevin says:

      I agree — it is a good read and apropos to the conversation.

    • The Wonderer says:

      I agree with Chait and Romm, they’re not mutually exclusive. Obama could do much better, and people have unrealistic expectations. If you doubt magical thinking, look at some of the posts on this thread. Name for me one congressman that’s been elected or rejected on the issue of climate change.

  81. Tom says:

    Politics isn’t going to work any more. We’re heading for environmental collapse, financial ruin, and a mass die-off. This can’t be avoided now that Obama, whom we all counted on to “save the day” (as it were) by actually doing what he promised during his campaign. Well now we’re so far behind that the feedback loops are kicking in and the runaway greenhouse effect has commenced. Best to just prepare for the worst now than “hope” it gets better in the future.

  82. David B. Benson says:

    Around here there are two or three Zap Xebra electric cars and now also a road-ready converted golf cart with roof and all.

    Progressive?

  83. surfjac says:

    The only way to build a Progressive movement that will last is to just sit right down and wait…we don’t have enough numbers it would seem to influence pols in DC. I can’t understand how the tea party does it unless its like the media needs to show the crazy to the masses. Are we too intelligent to portray ourselves as crazy in order to get on tv with our message? If we wait long enough, as it slowly gets worse and worse, our message should start resonating with more people. Of course by that time, it may be too late. Still, I wouldn’t vote for Obama in ’12 or any other republican’t. I won’t get fooled again.

    • wrb says:

      They do it because they aren’t a grass-roots movement, they have a huge amount of money behind them, a talk radio network that has been filling their members heads with propaganda all day every day for over 20 years, and the dominant cable new network.
      Their foundations have funded and nurtured so many experts, that they dominate the discussion throughout the rest of the media, even if they spout only gibberish. It can’t be gibberish in the media’s view, because they all confirm and reinforce each other.

  84. Don Riley says:

    It seems that the far right is far more energized and determined than we are. They have very wealthy and powerful forces promoting their agenda and they’ve been able to frighten & mislead enough people to support their agenda.
    We on the other side must stir up the same kind of energy in the same way that the tea party has done on the right.
    As for President Obama, I couldn’t vote for him in 2008 when I saw him cave, before he was even president on going after the wiretapping, so I certainly cannot vote for him this time. In 2008 I voted for Ralph Nader and will vote for Ralph or the Green party in 2012 I suppose.

  85. MBN says:

    He’s a joke. This is NOT about ‘Progressives’ or ‘Environmentalist’. This is a matter of public health and quality of life. There are no jobs being created. There is no reduction in energy costs. This is nothing but corruption and a corporate republican president in the White House. One that I am not voting for. The problem is that my disapproval of Obama is analogous to a professional sports team, where the GOP is a high school level. Yes, I do believe its better to call up a professional, but that not enough to get my support. You can’t compare the two, but they’re both a disaster in their own right.