August 22, 2011
by Ronald Radosh
Will the Left in America help defeat Barack Obama in the 2012 election? Judging from the increasing anger at the president from the Left, that certainly is a very real possibility. One need do no more than take a look at the current issue of Newsweek — once a serious publication and now just another left/liberal opinion rag. Its so-called "double issue" is actually a very thin 61 pages, which includes ads. Perhaps this is an indication that readers are deserting it in droves, and that its takeover by Tina Brown has not made much of a difference in rescuing the publication from oblivion.
First, the magazine opens with an amazing article by William Broyles, a past editor in chief of Newsweek who is now a screenwriter and who was an avid supporter of Obama in the 2008 election. The article is titled "Oval Office Appeaser." Broyles has composed a far-left screed accusing Obama of deserting and disappointing the activist base that did the legwork for him in the last campaign, and of a complete failure to lead the country. Instead, Broyles accuses the president of appeasing the Republicans. He writes that "the right-wing radicals in control of the Republican Party of course are not Nazis" – a clever way of planting the idea in readers' minds that in fact, Broyles considers them not far away from being just that. But, he adds, as an appeaser, the closest comparison of what Obama reflects is his similarity to the British prime minister who orchestrated the Munich appeasement policy, Neville Chamberlain. Obama, he writes, is "a decent man who values peace and civility at any cost" who is "no match for his Republican adversaries."
Clearly, Broyles does not believe in the explanation given by an Obama administration member who told journalist Ryan Lizza that Obama "leads from behind." Instead, he says that Obama could have created a bold effort to put the country back to work, and demanded an up or down vote by Congress that could have saved America. He argues that the president "meekly allowed the 60-vote super-majority needed to shut off a Senate filibuster to become…an automatic veto." Accusing him of "unilateral disarmament," he writes that Obama favored disastrous half measures forged in back rooms, favoring a "timid stimulus that was a meager Band-Aid" along with a "timid health-care bill." He does not say what he favors, but it most probably is massive federal spending and programs, a greater stimulus a la Krugman, and a federal single-payer system or socialized medicine similar to the British system.
So, Broyles says, Obama "betrayed his allies," meaning the trade unions, the left intellectuals like Broyles, and the young people who rallied to him with stars in their eyes in 2008. In his eyes, the president is a reactionary — similar to the Republicans Broyles detests. He constantly wants to appease the Tea Party, instead of upping the ante and fighting them head on. After all, why should a president even take into consideration the electorate who won the last congressional election and put a Republican majority in the House? They are just voters, and thus do not count. Didn't he make a promise to his base, who thought he would create the American social democracy they so love in the failing European states?
So Broyles wants a strong leader — in particular, Hillary Clinton. He tells Obama to do what Chamberlain did — resign and hand over the Democratic nomination to Hillary, "the leader we should have chosen in the first place." But they and Broyles did not support her; indeed, they supported Barack Obama, because they realized he came from the Left and was a black man to boot. Broyles seems to have forgotten the vicious campaign they ran against Secretary Clinton before the nomination, along with the charge that it was racist to oppose Obama.
The next article in the magazine – actually a companion piece to Broyles' — makes the charge that Obama has also betrayed the African-American community. Written by Allison Samuels, it is titled "The Black War Over Obama." It raises the issue that the new campaign by Princeton's radical professor Cornel West and talk show host Tavis Smiley to tour the country attacking the president's policies could spell great trouble for Obama in the election.
Cornel West, Samuels writes, has become "the administration's No.1 gadfly." West has accused President of being a "black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs," a president who continually caves in to the group a Marxist like West calls the ruling class. Samuels sees a "deep reservoir of frustration, confusion and even rage among many in the African-American community" that West and Smiley tap into. Certainly, there are many valid reasons African-Americans should be upset. Unemployment has affected them at a much greater percentage than it has whites, and in cities like Atlanta, scores of middle-class African-Americans have lost their jobs.
What West and Smiley are doing, Samuels writes, could "discourage black voters from turning out" in the 2012 election. Most observers believe the majority of African-Americans will hold the line and vote for the president, but perhaps not in the numbers they did in 2008. That means in a close election areas that might have ended up in the president's column could very well go for the Republican presidential candidate, whoever gets the nomination.
It is the very same effect that could lead Jewish voters in key states like Florida to vote in a smaller proportion for the president, so that the Republican might then also win that state. In the coming special election in New York City for former Rep. Anthony Weiner's seat in the House, former Mayor Ed Koch is campaigning for the Republican candidate. He is arguing that Jews have to teach the president a lesson to not take their vote for granted, because of Obama's disastrous policies towards Israel. This coming national election, Obama won't find Ed Koch or Marty Peretz touring Jewish communities around Miami and West Palm Beach campaigning for him as they did in 2008.
At any rate, Samuels cites the Washington Post/CBS poll that shows that the number of African-Americans who believe that Obama has helped the economy dropped from 77 percent in October to almost half that number! As she puts it: "That's not the kind of news the president's reelection team wants to hear heading into a campaign year."
Whether or not West is motivated by the personal slight he suffered at Obama's refusal to meet with him to hear his views, or whether other African-American would-be leaders like Al Sharpton convince West and Smiley to reconcile with the president, does not change the economic reality. Obama's policies have hurt all Americans, including those in his own 2008 base.
So while many of us consider Obama a leftist with a strong social-democratic agenda, and even though leftists like Broyles see him as a closet Republican, the economic reality alone bodes ill for the president. So I salute Mr. Broyles and Cornel West and Tavis Smiley for their strong attacks on Obama's lack of leadership and on his policies. Their stance will help him lose and cause Obama's natural constituency to stay home on Election Day, thus assuring a Republican victory in 2012. So, please — keep up your good work!
Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute; Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and the author of many books, including "The Rosenberg File;" "Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996," and most recently, "Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left."
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