Earlier today I shared an interview with Cornel West in which he accused President Barack Obama of posing as a progressive, only to turn out being something decidedly not progressive.
In response to my original post, a couple of folks took to Twitter to condemn West’s comments while defending President Obama’s “progressive” record. Here are the tweets in question.
— Karyl Miller (@KarylMiller) August 26, 2014
— Khary Penebaker (@kharyp) August 26, 2014
While there’s no denying that more Americans have health insurance coverage than when President Obama took office, it’s important to remember that key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) were based on proposals made by Republicans in the U.S. Senate in 1993 – specifically the individual mandate, the creation of purchasing pools, standardized benefits, vouchers for the poor to buy insurance, and a ban on denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. A much easier (and much more progressive) alternative would have been a single payer healthcare system that didn’t involve individual mandates, purchasing pools, and vouchers.
So in the interest of reviewing President Obama’s “progressive” record, let’s look at a few key issues on which President Obama has been decidedly NOT progressive.
Earlier this year President Obama came under fire from members of his own party after he nominated Michael Boggs to a lifetime seat on the federal bench. The nomination of Boggs came under fire over past votes he made as a legislator to keep the confederate insignia on the Georgia state flag, to tighten restrictions on access to abortion and to ban same-sex marriage.
That doesn’t sound like a progressive judicial nominee to me; in fact it sounds a lot like the kind of judicial nominee we could expect from a Republican president.
As president, Barack Obama has continued the Bush-era domestic spying program including demands that telephone companies provide all metadata for phone records originating in the United States for three months.
Perhaps some may consider the use of warrantless wiretapping and domestic spying as being progressive, but I’m not among those people.
In yet another example of President Obama continuing a policy used heavily by President George W. Bush, President Obama admitted to using drones to assassinate American citizens suspected of terrorist activities without affording those American citizens the rights they are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. During his time in office, President Obama has authorized six times more drone strikes than George W. Bush did during his eight years in office.
The use of drone strikes to kill American citizens (and non-American citizens) who are simply suspected (but not necessarily proven) of having engaged in terrorist activities doesn’t strike me as the hallmark of a progressive presidency.
Public Employees & Labor:
As a proud member of a labor union, I can’t help but think President Obama’s record of supporting organized labor has been mixed at best. Affter all, this is the same man who in 2011 opined that public employees needed some “burden sharing” in regards to the benefits they were receiving. As any public employee here in Wisconsin can attest to, the kind of “burden sharing” President Obama was referring has come to pass as a result of the anti-union provisions of Act 10, and the results have not been pretty.
What’s more, at the height of the 2011 protests surrounding Act 10 here in Wisconsin, President Obama was absolutely nowhere to be seen, despite his 2007 campaign promise that he’d “put on a comfortable pair of shoes” and “walk on that picket line” with workers who were being denied their right to organize or collectively bargain. Obama the candidate also stated “workers deserve to know someone is standing in their corner,” but apparently he forgot that statement when workers here in Wisconsin needed someone to stand in their corner against Gov. Walker and Republicans who were hell-bent on destroying Wisconsin’s public employee unions.
Among the proposals in President Obama’s proposed 2014 budget proposed was a change that would have meant a cut in the Social Security benefits of nearly $1,000 a year for an average 85-year-old with smaller cuts for younger retirees.
In my opinion, support for Social Security is the hallmark of a progressive, and I don’t consider proposing cuts to Social Security benefits for those already receiving those benefits to be progressive.
Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility:
On August 2, 2007, candidate Obama promised that “As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions.” However, as we near the end of President Obama’s second term in the White House the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility is still open.
Now don’t get me wrong – I absolutely believe President Obama is certainly far more palatable than President McCain or President Romney, but let’s not kid ourselves – President Obama is no progressive. He’s a corporate Democrat through and through, and he’s far more of a moderate than many on the left (and the right for that matter) are willing to admit.