Time to Think the Unthinkable: A Democratic Primary Challenge To Obama's Reelection

It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected as President of the United States. But, regrettably, I believe that the time has come to do this.
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Can't tell you how it happened. All I know, it just happened.

Been thinking and reading a lot about President Barack Obama. Lots of news commentaries about his alleged lack of leadership on this or that issue. About his disappointing the Gay and Lesbian and Transgender Community on his election pledge to end the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy in the armed services. And his disappointment by the anti-war coalition, who supported him because of his opposition to the war in Iraq, only to find that he has escalated the US's involvement in Afghanistan. Now, after the midterm election victories of the Republicans, he seems willing to compromise on his pledge to end tax breaks for the rich.

In previous blogs, I have tried to contribute to a constructive analysis and dialogue about Obama's presidential leadership. Several readers accused me of being an "apologist" for Obama. Perhaps, in artfully, but all I was trying to do was to present objectively those major issues confronting this administration, requiring decisive presidential leadership

Few news columnists can match the political erudition of Frank Rich of the New York Times. In the Sunday edition he wrote:

We're now at the brink of a new economic disaster that will eventually yank a chicken out of every pot. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that the extended Bush-era tax cuts will contribute by far the largest share to the next decade's deficits -- ahead of the recession's drain on tax revenues, Iraq and Afghanistan war spending, TARP and Obama's stimulus. The new Congress's plan to block any governmental intervention on behalf of 15 million-plus jobless Americans guarantees that the unemployment rate, back up to 9.8 percent as of Friday, will remain intractable too.

After reading this, I watched a PBS special on the songs and protest music of the 1960s. It bought back a flood of memories: my friendships with Mary Travers and Peter Yarrow of "Peter Paul and Mary," Lorraine Hansberry, Robert Nemiroff, Ernie Lieberman, Art and Burt DuLugoff of the Village Gate night club in NY, Pete Seeger, Albert Grossman, Odetta, James Brown, Al Bell of Stax Volt Records, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, and many others of that period.

However, nothing influenced me more to write this blog than listening, again, carefully to some of the lyrics of Bob Dylan's "Blowin in The Wind."

How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man?

Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Then, I began to think about 1968: about Allard Lowenstein, President Lyndon Johnson, Senator Eugene McCarthy, Sarah Kovner and Harold Ickes of the New York Democratic Party New Coalition who had the courage to lead a grassroots challenge to Lyndon Johnson's re-election.

Lyndon Johnson was one of the greatest presidents in the history of our country. He enacted Immigration reform, bills establishing a National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Highway Safety Act, the Public Broadcasting Act, creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a bill to provide consumers with some protection against shoddy goods and dangerous products, Social Security and Medicare, Voting Rights Act of 1965, only to mention a few. But, he squandered and threatened the viable implementation of these legislative achievements by his aggressive pursuit and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Some of us, like Allard Lowenstein, Sarah Kovner, Harold Ickes, Eleanor French, Blair Clark, decided that Johnson's pro Vietnam policy had to be publicly challenged. Our "agent" for this challenge was Senator Eugene McCarthy from Minnesota. He may have been an "uncertain trumpet" on other domestic issues. However, we worked hard to support his candidacy for President in the New Hampshire Democratic primary as a challenge to the Vietnam policy of President Johnson. McCarthy came in second with 42% percent of the vote against 49% for the President. This precipitated Johnson to announce that he would not seek re-election as the candidate of the National Democratic Party.

When few other public figures of national stature spoke out about Johnson's escalation of the war in Vietnam, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, at New York City's Riverside Church, before a meeting of Concerned Layman and Clergy, on April 4th, 1967, said "A time comes when silence is betrayal." For Dr. King, it was "time to break the silence."

And, so it is with Obama's continued squandering of the extraordinary support he developed for his election as President.

Go and check out the video clips of the panorama of faces that assembled in Grant Park in Chicago after the election results confirmed his victory. Check out the million + people who came to Washington to witness his Inauguration.

It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected as President of the United States. But, regrettably, I believe that the time has come to do this.

It is time for Progressives to stop "whining" and arguing among themselves about whether President Obama will or will not do this or that. Obama is no different than any other President, nominated by his national party. He was elected with the hard work and 24/7 commitment of persons who believed and enlisted in his campaign for "Hope" and "Change."

You don't have to be a rocket scientist nor have a PhD in political science and sociology to see clearly that Obama has abandoned much of the base that elected him. He has done this because he no longer respects, fears or believes those persons who elected him have any alternative, but to accept what he does, whether they like it or not.

It is time for those persons who constituted the "Movement" that enabled Senator Barack Obama to be elected to "break their silence"; to indicate that they no longer will sit on their hands, and only let off verbal steam and ineffective sound and fury, and "hope" for the best.

The answer is blowin' in the wind

The pursuit of the war in Afghanistan in support of a certifiably corrupt Afghan government and the apparent willingness to retreat from his campaign commitment of no further tax cuts for the rich, his equivocal and foot dragging leadership to end DADT, his TARP for Wall Street, but, equivocal insufficient attention to the unemployment and housing foreclosures of Main Street, suggest that the template of the 1968 challenge to the reelection of President Lyndon Johnson now must be thoughtfully considered for Obama in 2012.

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