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A Democratic Primary Challenge to Obama?

A Democratic Primary Challenge to Obama?

By Brad Friedman
August 3, 2011

CA Dem Party's Progressive Caucus passes resolution in support...

[NOTE: I'll be speaking with Karen Bernal, head of the CA Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus today on my KPFK/Pacifica show about the groups' resolution in support of a Democratic primary challenge to Obama, as detailed below. Listen and/or call-in LIVE with your thoughts at 3:30p PT / 6:30p ET on 90.7FM in Los Angeles or online at KPFK.org. - BF]

No sooner did our own Ernie Canning call for a Eugene McCarthy-like progressive Democratic primary challenge to President Barack Obama last Friday afternoon, than Current's Countdown featured an interview with Ralph Nader to discuss exactly that on Friday night...

Nader argued that without a primary challenge and vigorous debate on issues important to the Democratic base, Obama would "be able, for another four years, should he win, which is likely, to turn his back on the liberal progressive base and become Obama/Bush Administration 2. Just look at all the similarities with the Bush Administration."

Host David Shuster challenged Nader by suggesting that "a primary challenge to President Obama would hurt him, cause fissures in the democratic party and possibly impede the party efforts in the the general election."

"Well, it's just the reverse," Nader countered. "It will challenge him, bring the best out of him and there's nothing worse for a candidate in terms of lessening the enthusiastic level for him than to go through an unchallenged routine of repetitious primaries."

The former Green and then independent Presidential candidate discussed a soon-to-emerge, campaign by Democratic progressives to organize an initiative in the coming days "not designed to defeat [Obama], in the Democratic Primary, but designed to generate a robust debate, and put the liberal progressive issues on domestic policies, including job production and foreign and military policy, on the national Presidential agenda in 2012."

He said that without such a challenge, Obama would be allowed to continue serving little more than just "the corporate warlords and corporate barons of Wall Street."

By the way, in an article last January, Canning called on Nader himself to register as a Democrat and consider exactly such a primary challenge to Obama.

Nader is not the only high profile figure to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to the President. Vermont's extremely popular Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said on Thom Hartmann's radio show the Friday before last that he thought "it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."

Then, over this past weekend, as word of the debt ceiling "deal" brokered between Obama and the Republicans, featuring historic spending cuts but no increases in revenue, leaked out, word came in that some 75 Progressive Caucus members of the California Democratic Party (CDP) had passed a controversial resolution in support of, you guessed it, a Democratic primary challenge to Barack Obama.

According to a statement posted with their resolution at WarisaCrime.org: "Gathering in Anaheim during an Executive Board meeting of the CDP, the group overwhelmingly endorsed the resolution following a discussion on the importance of not only challenging the far-right agenda of unmitigated corporate greed but also the current administration's willingness to slash 650-billion dollars from Social Security and Medicare."

That resolution, passed by the Progressive Caucus of the CDP follows in full below...

RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF A PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY CHALLENGE

Whereas, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, recognizes the challenge presented by President Obama's negotiating away Democratic Party principles to extremist Republicans by:

• His unilateral closed-door budget offer to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, thus endangering The New Deal and War on Poverty safety nets.
• His determination to escalate U.S. militarism through illegal secret CIA drone attacks and unauthorized wars.
• His willingness to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and bail out big banks without ending the foreclosure crisis that displaces American working families.
• His insistence on pushing a health insurance bill which enriches private insurance companies while ignoring growing support for single-payer health care or robust public options.
• His continuance of President Bush's assault on civil liberties with an extension of the repressive Patriot Act, along with violations of international human rights.
• His failure to restore due process and Habeas Corpus, while continuing the practice of nationwide FBI raids of anti-war progressive protesters.
• His decision to increase the arrests and deportations of undocumented workers.
• His facilitation of the privatization of the public sphere, which includes education and housing, among others.
• His disregard of his promises to the Labor movement and environmentalists.

Whereas the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party recognizes the historical significance of the great late Robert F. Kennedy's anti-war challenge to former President Lyndon Johnson, following President Johnson's decision to escalate U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, betraying his campaign promise to end a war that polarized America, we similarly recognize the danger and betrayal the "Grand Bargain" represents to the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's signature gift to all Americans: Social Security and the New Deal, a point of pride for all Democrats.

Whereas the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party is committed to the understanding that an interest in a 2012 Democratic Presidential Primary challenge will not interfere with President Obama's ability to govern, nor limit his ability to do so in ways that include invoking Constitutional options, we recognize that a Primary challenge will, in fact raise debate on important issues without risking the ability to mobilize and energize the base of the Democratic Party to elect a triumphant leader to counter the far-right agenda.

Therefore, be it resolved, to make our views heard, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party will begin the process of contacting other Democratic organizations, Democratic Party members and public organizations that share our views and which seek to change the course of history by exploring other steps necessary to effect a necessary change, including a possible primary challenge against President Obama.

Following what is being reported as some tense moments, including objections from the CDP's African-American Caucus, (see here and here) over the introduction of the resolution to the Executive Committee, an "objection to consideration" of the motion was made, effectively tabling the resolution for the time being in order to "give tempers a chance to cool on all sides."

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