What’s wrong with the Democrats

If you think of Barack Obama as a liberal, he is a political failure.  If you think of him as a conservative, he is a political genius.

He told a group of Wall Street bankers early in his administration that he was the only thing standing between them and the mob with pitchforks.  And he in fact has succeeded in protecting them from angry bi-partisan public opinion.

Newsweek - Obama - The Democrats ReaganNo Republican president would have dared, as President Obama has done, to proposed cuts in Social Security and Medicare in return for modest tax increases and a balanced budget.  Yet he gets a pass on this, because of his political skills and because right-wing Republicans attack him for all the wrong reasons.

Obama gets the votes of African-Americans even though he continues a war on drugs that sends millions of poor young black men to prison for trivial reason, and makes them legitimate targets for racial discrimination.  He gets the votes of pro-immigration Hispanic voters even though he is deporting unauthorized migrants in record numbers.  It takes great political skill to do this.

Recently he suggested privatization of U.S. roads and bridges inasmuch as Congress and state governments decline to appropriate the necessary money for their upkeep.  He cited Ohio’s sale of the Ohio Turnpike as a good example.   This is something that, if Barry Goldwater had proposed it 50 years ago, would have been considered an example of right-wing extremism.

History shows this is a bad idea.  In the early days of the United States, turnpikes were built by private corporations with bonds paid off by road tolls.   The problem with this, and the reason we have a public roads system (as authorized by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) is that the private companies treated the toll roads as cash cows.   They didn’t maintain them because people had to use the roads whether they had potholes or not.   I predict the same problem will arise with the Ohio Turnpike.

But, as disappointed as I am in Barack Obama, I recognize he is not an aberration.  Hillary Clinton is no better.   They are part of a larger systemic problem, which is that it is difficult to govern and virtually impossible to run for high office without the support of powerful monied interests.


Right-wing obstructionism could have been fought: An ineffective and gutless presidency’s legacy is failure by Thomas Frank for Salon.

Obama Shifts to Urge Private Investment in Roads, Bridges by Lisa Lerer and Angela Grelling Keane for Business Week

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5 Responses to “What’s wrong with the Democrats”

  1. whungerford Says:

    One could also argue that President Obama stands for us against reactionary extremism.


    • philebersole Says:

      One could make that argument. So far as I can see, that is the ONLY argument one can make in favor of President Obama’s record.


      In six years, we’ve gone from hope and change to resignation and the status quo. I refuse to accept that this is the best we can hope for.


      • whungerford Says:

        FDR reportedly challenged critic Phillip Randolph: “Make me do it.”


      • philebersole Says:

        A Phillip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, pressured President Roosevelt into appointing a Fair Employment Practices Commission to investigate racial discrimination in war industries during World War Two.

        Randolph did not passively accept the Democrats’ racism in that era as a lesser evil, but credibly threatened a march on Washington, which would have been highly embarrassing to the administration and highly divisive to the Democratic Party.

        I think there are lessons to be learned from this history.


  2. Anne Tanner Says:

    I will send anyone who thinks that private ownership of roads would be a good idea to I-88 in Illinois–not privately owned, but just what I think highways would become under that system. If you’re driving on I-88, every 31 miles you are stopped by a toll booth. I don’t know what the fee is if you have a pass–it’s something that would be practical only for those using I-88 all the time. Otherwise, it’s $3.00+ at every booth. The booths are located so that you’ll be stopped to pay within five miles or less of turning onto I-88 from any north-south highway that intersects I-88. I asked at the first toll booth and got this information from the woman taking the money, and got off at the first opportunity, making the rest of the trip on back roads. But I’m a retiree–I can do that. Anyone else is trapped there. Illinois is in financial trouble, but really …


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