A Progressive Off-Ramp?
With the news today that John Paul Stevens will be stepping down from the Supreme Court this year, some will be encouraged at the opportunity for Obama to name another justice. Others, like me, will wait for another disappointment and one more step towards a fractured Democratic Party.
From looking at the list of possible nominees to replace Stevens, and seeing how loathe Obama is to take on major fights until he's lost the initiative, I have no hope whatsoever that Obama will reach out and select a younger progressive counterbalanace to the corporate fascism that permeates the court now. The GOP is already howling about Obama's picks for the district courts, when in fact he should publicly tell them to fuck off; Democrats whined but still let through lying right wing weasels like Alito and Roberts, yet the GOP is already threatening Obama for even thinking of nominating someone from the other side of the judicial spectrum. If the president had any guts, he would throw it right back at them, but he won't because he isn't committed to any real core principles.
Obama couldn’t be bothered to go to war over a slew of his stalled nominations, eventually losing Dawn Johnsen today when she gave up and withdrew as his supposed choice to head DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. Obama could have pushed for a vote last year when he had the votes, and could have spent the second half of 2009 battering the GOP for not giving dozens of his nominees an up-or-down vote. He didn’t. He let Johnsen and others languish and wither. So why would anyone think he would nominate a pro-consumer center-left jurist for the Supreme Court?
There are emerging signs that the administration will back away from a strong independent consumer finance protection agency as it pursues a Wall Street/banking reform package. They may do this despite strong public support for such an agency and tough banking regulations, according to pollster John Zogby, who notes that banking reform may be the bridge issue Democrats can use to bond with independents this fall and hold off Republican inroads. Yet as unpopular as the banks are, and even though it is in the Democrats' interest to frame the coming battle as a reform of Wall Street to save Main Street, there are few signs that Obama is ready for a war with the GOP over financial reform.
So where does that leave the party heading into 2010? With a lackluster recovery and a president with no core principles or reform agenda, who avoids calling out the opposition and holding them accountable, Democrats are in for a drubbing. Perhaps this is why a battle has finally emerged inside the party, with progressives wondering why they should go along for the ride anymore.