Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dean to Obama: move left, boost the base

Former Vermont Governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean recently spoke out about the need for President Barack Obama to reclaim his progressive base.

"You can't turn your back on [those who helped elect you] because if you do, it's going to be hard to find any friends," the former head of the Democratic Party told the AP.

Dean's right -- turning on the base is sure to keep Obama in trouble. Almost half of all Democratic-leaning voters would support a challenger to Obama in the 2012 Democratic primaries. If that happens Obama may seem weak, making it more difficult for him to win a re-election campaign.

I've often touted on this blog that the president is in less danger than everyone believes him to be in, that his dwindling approval ratings aren't cause for too much concern (several other presidents have had lower ratings at this time and still went on to win re-election). I stand by those remarks, noting that the loss of Congressional control by Democrats isn't cause to jump ship just yet.

But at the same time, Obama must make the right moves, choose the right decisions and policies, in order to prove that he deserves re-election. Citing the statistics on how many seats presidents lose after their first midterm election isn't going to do a whole lot if Obama continues down the disastrous path he's taken thus far. If he's to win in 2012, and regain control of Congress as well, he's going to have to show courage and conviction in his decision making.

Some might argue that it's impossible in this political climate to appease the base. The country, after all, just voted to give House control to one of the most conservative of Republican Parties we've seen in generations.

But the American people, despite this fact, remain progressive. Most support extending unemployment benefits, more support taxing the rich their fair share, and more support greater reforms to health care than even the Obama administration was willing to dish out. Ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and extending marriage rights for same-sex couples indicates that Americans are increasingly social liberals as well.

Moving more to the left wouldn't just appease Obama's base -- it'd be giving the American people overall what they want!

Obama should heed Dean's advice. His best bet now is to move further left, to make the Republicans bargain with him rather than the other way around. If the American people can see that it's the GOP, not Obama, that's stalling the process, perhaps they'll come to their senses and see that it's the Democratic Party after all who has their backs.

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