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In the spring of 2009, 90% of the Democratic base approved of Obama. Now only 70% of the base approve of him. As Obama prepares for his Presidential campaign of 2012, he wants same organizers and same volunteers as in 2008 and appeals for their support. President Obama is trying to mend fences with the Left after failing to fight for single-payer healthcare, cessation of tax cuts for the rich, and social security (Obama is considering cuts to social security and possibly to medicare). But the Progressives want change, and reply to his appeals for their support, “We paid our dues, where’s our change.” Will the Progressives be stupid enough to support again someone who reneged on his campaign promises? Will the American public be gullible enough to trust President Barack Obama to stand up for them after breaking virtually every promise he made to them in 2008, about taxing the rich, fighting for a single-payer healthcare option, cutting defense spending, bringing the troops home and ending wars of attack of other nations, not cutting social security and medicare?! Are the progressives that incredibly stupid?! Obviously, they are!!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want you to be excited about the next 18 months and then the next four years after that, and I want you to remind everybody else those simple words that summed up our campaign in 2008 and still sum up our spirit—yes, we can. Thank you, everybody, God bless you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That was of course President Obama late last night at a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. He was trying to evoke the spirit of 2008 as he revs up for his 2012 campaign. Now, much of that speech was a direct message to his critics on the left who have been feeling disappointed in this solution by the first two years of his presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I know the conversations you‘ve been having. Oh, I don‘t know, you know, I don‘t like that compromise with the Republicans. Look, there are times when I‘ve been frustrated, just like you have been, but we knew this wasn‘t going to be easy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: I don‘t think anybody thought that change was going to be easy. We just didn‘t want it to be so easy for the Republicans to win on their priorities like the Bush tax cuts. But that‘s just one of many issues that progressives have with the president. In fact, just hours earlier in San Francisco, he was interrupted by singing protesters asking for more change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(SINGING) “We paid our dues, where‘s our change, we paid our dues, where‘s our change.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That was them singing, we paid our dues, where‘s our change. A little catchy. And that‘s exactly why the president was trying to address progressive critics in that speech we showed you. He knows that a sentiment among some of these voters, so again he appealed to them to remember 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: All of us can still remember that night in Grant Park. The excitement on the streets, the sense of possibility, I want to make sure we are putting the campaign in your hands. The hands of the same organizers, the same volunteers, the same neighborhood folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, the president‘s issues with the left is reflected in his polling among self-described liberals. In April 2009, three months after the inauguration, 90 percent of liberals approved of the job that he was doing. In April of 2010, just after the health care law pass, it had dropped all the way down to 81 percent. Not bad. And now, it‘s at 70 percent. Look, 70 percent is still a pretty good number, but you clearly see it sliding away from him. He needs every one of those votes if he‘s going to win again. The problem for the president when it comes to the left is his record, honestly. Just check out the last two years.
Gitmo stays open, financial reform is incredibly weak, the president helps to deep six the public option, there‘s more tax cuts for the rich and there‘s a huge spending cuts that he just agreed to, and the least goes on. But the opportunity for the president is in the next 18 months. You know, he‘s still president. There‘s still a long way to go. So, will he stand his ground on taxes, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? The most important fights are still ahead of us. Will he keep listening to Washington Insiders who counsel that he must agree with the Republicans to seem centrist? Or will he regain his progressive footing? You know, one way to convince people that you are progressive is by being a progressive. Now, let‘s bring in two different voices to get their perspectives on this.
Joining me now is David Sirota, radio host and syndicated columnist.
Also with us is Joe Madison, host with Sirius XM radio. Both old friends. In fact, I used to fill in for Joe back in Washington a long, long, time ago on his radio show. All right. Joe, let me start with you. You know, I laid out a little bit of a list there. You have a spirited defense of the president‘s progressive credentials?
JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, I have a spirited defense. Because as you saw in the GW, the George Washington speech, he drew the line on some of the major points you just talked about, Medicaid, Medicare, education, and then he turned around and he said, OK, who is behind me? I think earlier in the program, you made a very good point. One of the things that the right is very good at doing is organizing. Organizing outside of the beltway. And that‘s what we have to do. We have to organize, much the way the people in Madison, Wisconsin, organize. And it has to be a groundswell from the grassroots.
One of the things that bugs me to death about progressives, we are terrible organizers when it comes to trying to provide a counterbalance. Now, finally, let me say this—I‘m old enough to remember, when Martin Luther King Jr., after the ‘64 civil rights act was passed, he went to Johnson and said, we need a voting rights act, Johnson said make me do it. And that‘s how we got Selma to Montgomery. And that‘s how we got a voting rights act. And what progressives have to do, and I think what I heard the president just say, make me do what you want me to do.
UYGUR: But, David, if they‘re going to do that, doesn‘t that mean that they have to pressure the president and put some real, you know, be tough with him. I mean, how do you make someone do something unless you‘re tough with them.
DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That‘s the question, right? I mean, the problem I think for the left right now is that so many people on the left in our red versus blue country, are organized not necessarily around an agenda, but around an individual. And at the same goes to the right under George Bush, we I think on the progressive left, in the progressive movement, too many people are organized around whatever President Obama does and says is great. Just like the right was organize around, whatever George Bush does and says is great.
Your point is exactly the right point, that if we want a different list, that list that you just showed up there of a new war, of spending cuts aimed at Medicare, of new Bush tax cuts, of extending the Bush record on civil liberties in many cases. If we want a different list than that, then we cannot be organized around the idea that whatever President Obama says is good and whatever Republicans do is bad. We need to be organized around an agenda. Because if there is no pressure on President Obama, if we are organized only around the individual, then there would be no real change.
UYGUR: So, Joe, let‘s talk about that. Because, you know, if we want to stop that concept that you know, that you guys are talking about, that we just, you know, agree with whatever the president says, well then we have to disagree with him, don‘t we? I mean, when he does the compromise we don‘t like with the Republicans. Because we don‘t think—not because we‘re against compromise, but because we thought it was a bad compromise, don‘t we have to call him out on it?
MADISON: Well, of course you have to call him out. Look, here in Washington, D.C., didn‘t Eleanor Holmes Norton call the president out? The former mayor of Washington, D.C., Sharon Pratt Kelly. And the first lady of the first elected mayor, they tried to deliver a letter saying, Mr. President, at least put no tax ace on your limousine couldn‘t get the letter delivered. They called him out, but at the same time, we have to understand something, candidates run on transformational leadership. When they get elected, it becomes transactional, and it‘s how you transact business in Washington that makes you successful. And keep in mind, you‘ve got to get him elected into the next term, and everybody used to say when he first got elected, don‘t expect him to do everything in four years. Remember, there‘s a second term her here, and I‘m certain that‘s what in the back of his mind.
UYGUR: Well, David. I saw you shaking your head. Go for it.
SIROTA: I mean, my answer to that is that, it‘s just a justification for the status quo, that simply saying, that we‘re only playing for the next election, we‘re playing for the next election, and we‘re playing for the next election. It‘s a justification for the status quo. I think as citizens, we have an obligation, not a right, but an obligation to look at the record that was accumulated in the first four years of the Obama presidency. And say, not what was tried to be done and what didn‘t happen, but what did this administration actually not even try to do arguably did the exact opposite of what it said it was going to do. And I think progressives have every right to say, we‘re not going to be organized around an individual, we‘re going to be organized around a set of issues. And if this president deviates from that, then we‘re not going to be with him when he asks for our vote again. I mean, this is not a president who tried to get the public option. This is a president who went out of his way subvert the public option. This is not a president who tried to stop the Bush tax cuts. This is the president who went out of his way to extend the Bush cuts. I could go on, but you get my point.
MADISON: Sometimes progressives really tick me off, and if he hadn‘t tried to transact the way, they would have kicked a lot of poor people that progressive claim that they are interested in absolutely under the bus.
SIROTA: Hundreds of billions of dollars to the drug and insurance companies. Hundreds of billions of dollars of your tax payer dollars. And my tax payer dollars because they didn‘t put up a fight. The problem—my thing is, the problem with progressives is, progressives want to say, whatever the president says, because this is a lot of fiery speeches. That‘s great. We don‘t want to look under the hood and say, hey, what did he actually do? Because the problem is, when you actually look at what he actually did, it‘s not such a nice picture. I‘m sick and tired of progressives being organized around speeches. I want a progressive move and it‘s organized around.
MADISON: Progressives for the most part are the lousiest organizers there are. They don‘t—you know, all they do is a lot of talk. If you want to end the war, then do what folks did to end the Vietnam War. Get the hell out of there and march.
SIROTA: Amen! Get out there and protest the war in Libya.
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
UYGUR: All right. Guys.
MADISON: And of course, what‘s going to happen, you‘re going to end up with a president worse than you think you have now.
UYGUR: But Joe, Joe, I got to ask you the last question here.
UYGUR: Look, if you say I‘m going out there and organize, go out there and make him do it, isn‘t that what David is saying? I mean, don‘t wait on him to do it. Make him do it. We‘ve got the most important fights coming, I don‘t want him to buckle on Medicare or Social Security. Shouldn‘t we aggressively challenge him to make sure that he does the right thing?
MADISON: Yes. But you don‘t kill him in the process.
UYGUR: So how do you do it then?
MADISON: Well, intelligently.
UYGUR: I hope so. I hope so. I think we‘re arguing over what would be the intelligent way to do it. But guy, it‘s been a good conversation. It really has.
MADISON: I think we‘re all on the same side. It‘s just that—look, I just don‘t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and this end up with something far worse.
UYGUR: Of course, Joe, Joe, but everybody agrees with that. Look, nobody is saying, oh yes, and hence go vote for a republican. How would that make any sense? That wouldn‘t make any sense at all. The question is, how do you help the Democrats, how do you help the president by effectively challenging them to be more progressive?
MADISON: You do challenge, but if you think that people will go vote for republican, the problem is they won‘t go vote at all.
SIROTA: Can I make one very quick point? Just very, very quick point.
UYGUR: Got to be the last one, David.
SIROTA: A very, very quick point. Progressives back in the 1960s, didn‘t say we‘re worried about Lyndon Baines Johnson‘s reelection. They said we‘re worried about ending the Vietnam war, and they ended that war, because they were willing as you suggest to go up against a president, no matter what his party was, and that…
MADISON: And excuse me.
UYGUR: But we‘ve got to leave it there.
MADISON: You weren‘t born. They got Richard Nixon.
UYGUR: OK. Don‘t worry, you guys will be back. It‘s a great conversation.
MADISON: Thank you.
UYGUR: David Sirota, Joe Madison, thank you both, guys.
And look, their hearts both in the right place. That‘s what you want, you want a good conversation.