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Is a Primary Challenge to Obama a Bad Idea?

July 30
18:41 2011
Ralph Nader reminded us on Countdown just how non-progressive Pres Obama has been in his first years as president, and he thinks the president should be challenged by a real progressive. Bernie Sanders has said much the same thing:

…if a progressive Democrat wants to run, I think it would enliven the debate, raise some issues and people have a right to do that,” Sanders said. “I’ve been asked whether I am going to do that. I’m not. I don’t know who is, but in a democracy, it’s not a bad idea to have different voices out there.”

Matthew Rothschild wrote about the dangers of an Obama challenger:

I’m as unhappy with Obama as the next progressive, but I don’t think it’d be a good idea to mount a primary challenge to him, and here’s why. First of all, it would be extremely divisive within the Democratic Party, and it would drive a wedge between the largely white left and the overwhelming majority of African Americans at the grassroots, who constitute the party’s most loyal constituency. The last thing we need is to incite racial animosity on the left.

Secondly, there’s no obvious, credible challenger to Obama, and even if there were, any candidate would be likely to lose, so what’s the point?

Thirdly, the divisiveness would only serve to help the Republicans and their rightist forces gain even more power, as the Ted Kennedy challenge to Jimmy Carter illustrated back in 1980. 

But most importantly of all, the boomlet for challenging Obama reiterates the fallacy that Presidential politics is the crucial arena for political activism. We, on the progressive side, have been investing way too much time and energy here.

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