Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Five Democrats Who Should Run Against Obama

The truth is Coke needs Pepsi. Good old Pepsi: perennially coming in second, and now third, sometimes tasting better but always with worse packaging and that evil Sauron eye for a logo. The existence of Pepsi is what forces Coke to be better. To not get complacent. To continue to innovate, such as with the Coke Freestyle Machine with which, at Kelly's Roast Beef, I was able to make myself a Coke Zero with Lime and Root Beer monster drink. Even Coke's missteps—the early response to "The Pepsi Challenge" and the debacle of New Coke—ended up being huge wins for Coke in the long run. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if, in 50 years, they finally figured out that Coke owned Pepsi all this time.

Right now, President Obama needs a nice tall glass of Pepsi—in the form of a liberal Democratic opponent. Should you decide to run against Obama in the 2012 Democratic primaries, you'd be doing him and his crew a huge favor. You may not be in to the mood to do President Obama any favors, but this isn't really about you or him, it's about America, remember? And does it seem to you that a Tea Party-dominated Republican Party is going to be a fun thing to deal with going forward in the short term? That debt-ceiling brinksmanship is just the beginning. Obama will always give in at the end, to please alleged "independents." But what about all the people who actually like what Democrats have traditionally stood for? Being a Democrat didn't used to be diet Republicanism. That was Bill Clinton's grand idea: Defeat the right by moving to the right. So, congratulations, Clinton was a gifted enough politician to remain in office despite the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and his own goofy desires, and the Democratic party became the party that's Not as Bad as the Republicans. Yet somehow many Americans still see Obama as Trotsky Smurf. He needs a Pepsi to show the world he's Coke.

And this upcoming Presidential Cycle could use some fizzy bubbles. Otherwise it's looking pretty dour. So far the Democrats' re-election strategy seems to be that you'll vote for Obama, whether you like him or not, simply so that the Republicans won't take over again. That isn't the type of campaign strategy I'd want to go with. Obama's other argument for a second term is that he'd like to keep his daughters out of cars with boys. I'm not sure that's a campaign slogan America can get behind: "KEEP MY KIDS IN GOOD SCHOOLS!"

Instead, how about a Democratic challenge to President Obama from the left? A hard-fought struggle for the presidency would allow Obama to look centrist to those independents he always wants to keep happy. And it would force him to craft a message and market himself better. You know, like Coke does. He could travel the country, debate some lefty wacko and emerge a stronger candidate.

Who would run against Obama, maybe setting him- or herself up for a trip down the aisle in 2016? Except that never works either—no one likes leftovers—so really, it's just a race to see who fills the 8 p.m. spot on MSNBC down the road. But nevermind that! Every Muhammad Ali needs a Joe Frazier. And every comeback needs a minor triumph to get it rolling. Here are some candidates who couldn't beat Obama but could maybe make him drink his tears and make him stronger.

Russ Feingold
Not only was Feingold the best member of the US Senate over the last 20 years, he was the only one worth about anything. After the death of good old Paul Wellstone, Russ was a socialist's dream of what a Democrat should stand for. He didn't vote for wars. He didn't vote for health care because it sucked. He's much too smart to ever run for president. But he'd be perfect for my sinister purposes. Can you imagine changing the conversation from cutting budgets to just totally raising taxes on everyone? Especially the rich? If your company has record profits, the US government should get a taste, just like any good mafia boss. I mean, we could solve America's deficit problems today if we just cut defense, ended the wars and forced companies to hire Americans or give back billions to the Treasury. Feingold is too good to be president, but he could school Obama on what it actually means to be a fire-breathing, who-gives-a-fuck liberal. Feingold is even more professorial than Obama and just as smart. It would be like an English Department meeting catfight. Like me, Russ actually does want to redistribute wealth in a real way. Like walk onto Wall St., take all their money, and throw it from a helicopter down on the Bronx. Obama could emerge as slightly less willing to do that, keep his "friends" in the hedge funds, fundraise like crazy and win by a lot.

Nydia Velázquez
One of the most dedicated liberals in the House of Reps and my representative in Congress. I'd run against her, but she votes 99% liberal and how much better than that could I do? I'd just be funnier doing it: make some awesome speeches and do some showboating. Velázquez doesn't really showboat or play to the cameras much—which sets her apart from most of the New York contingent. Of course, there's no way she'd actually run against Obama. She's too interested in working hard. And she's not rich. But hear me out. Rep. Velázquez, who was born in Puerto Rico, could rally at least some of the Latino vote (and Latinos will be deciding all the elections from now on in your lifetime, so get used to it). And she stands for good old liberalism, making Obama seem like the center of all centers. When she eventually loses, she could make a speech about how Obama is the only one who is going to save Latinos from the National Witch Hunt for illegal aliens that will soon be going straight through everyone's living room at 4 a.m. with Navy Seals or whatever. Obama appoints her National Immigration Czar and maybe gets to keep the non-Cuban Latino vote that would otherwise go to Republican Candidate that runs with Marco Rubio as VP.

Bev Perdue
First-term governor of North Carolina, a state Obama won last election and will probably lose this next time around. And Perdue will probably be defeated for re-election anyway. Her advantages here: She's got a terrific Southern twang, looks like a librarian. The kind of librarian that could beat you up. She's seen as hard on illegal immigration and has a record that can be spun for job creation. She uses phrases like "business friendly" in a way that seems genuine. Obama's allowed himself to be pegged as a job killer; instead of having a War on Libya maybe he should have announced a War on Unemployment. Put Obama up against a genial Democrat and see if it pushes him to be less of a dreary professor and more of a man of the people. Perdue will have the same amount of political experience as Mitt Romney and it’d be tough to go rough on her. It's clear Obama actually has to be forced to do the right thing (just ask the inmates at Guantanamo) and will say anything to get elected. Let's make him make more promises he won't know how to keep.

Matt Damon
Matt's smart and handsome and doesn't want to be president. Which makes him perfect. Actors are great politicians, and Damon possesses a boyish charm and that whole killer Bourne Identity side of his personality. He's practically an Iraq War veteran from that movie Green Zone that no one saw because no one wants to watch PBS "Frontline" with action sequences. Damon could represent the Hollywood Wing of the Democratic Party. His mom is a teacher, so he could run on the whole Working Families platform. Jobs and kids. The media loved the idea of a Trump presidency because he was on TV. Imagine the reaction a bona fide movie star would get. Obama comes out looking like he's fighting against the big-money Hollywood types—and Damon can hype his movie about playing Liberace's boyfriend. It's a win-win for everyone.

Hillary Clinton
Let's admit it now: We made a mistake and should have made her president. Can we somehow beg her to take over?

Jim Behrle tweets at @behrle for your possible amusement.

56 Comments / Post A Comment

mmmark (#4,458)

"The handsome gentleman at the office with whom you share no bathrooms is also "sexier" than your husband."

Carl Hess@twitter (#11,024)

@mmmark The one advantage I could imagine Hillary having was that she wouldn't have actually believed she could change the culture of Washington, a fantasy that certainly did not help Obama in any way, but I generally agree that yeah, things would probably be not that different if she was elected, other than we'd have to be calling healthcare reform HillaryCare 2: Electric Boogaloo or some such shit.

Re-animated Eugene Debs—he'll get the zombie vote!

Ben Diaz@twitter (#22,572)

@Newly Recently Redundant Seriously, go read Chris Bachelder's "U.S.!". Zombie Upton Sinclair!

Sabin Hinton (#8,850)

Best thing about these pro-liberal "Obama is a failure" articles have to be the total lack of understanding of failure in the context constitutional checks on executive power. The only thing better, of course, is the constant badgering that he "out Tea-Party" the Tea-Party by upping the left-wing political ante.

There seem to be few reasonable discussions about the limits of presidential power when working with a dysfunctional Senate and a radical House.

C_Webb (#855)

@Sabin Hinton This is not about what Obama CAN get done; I think Jim understands very well how the government works. It's about what he TRIES to get done, and his refusal to come out swinging for fear of alienating Reagan Democrats or whatever the hell we're calling them these days. If he's going to take a beating from Congress, can't it be over a bill will some actual oomph to it? And Jim is spot-on about the implied Dem campaign platform when it comes to the presidency "BETTER THAN THE OTHER GUY." I've never voted for a third-party presidential candidate, but excuse us left-wingers for wishing the bar was a little higher than "Better than Bush or Bachmann!"

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@C_Webb Yup. There's no constitutional check on the negotiation process, and Obama concedes too much ground to the right, too quickly (immediately).

Jean-Luc Lemur (#13,931)

@Sabin Hinton Or that a candidate from the left to pressure Obama would just push him more to the right meaning, well, he'd be pushed more to the right. Which is exactly what the left wants?

Alec Baldwin?

C_Webb (#855)

@Clarence Rosario: BALDWIN/DAMON 2012!

dado (#102)

If Jeb Bush decides to run and he wins, or if Hilary takes over, there will have been a Bush or a Clinton in the White House for 24 of the last 28 years.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

The best 28 years of our lives.

Vulpes (#946)

Yes, a left-wing challenge did wonders for Jimmy Carter's electoral chances! Also, "We should have elected Hillary!" people? Stop it! Just stop!

@Vulpes Are they going to make Photoshops of Hillary with a bone through her nose? I don't think so.

Jean-Luc Lemur (#13,931)

@Butterscotch Stalin That's basically what they did in the nineties.

sigerson (#179)

@Vulpes – yes, and Al Gore would like to thank Bill "Dipshit" Bradley and the Green Party's Ralph "Motherfucker" Nader for all that they did on behalf of the liberal/progressive movement in this country. Jesus H. Christ on a moped, WHEN WILL YOU DUMBASS PUDFUCKERS SHUT THE FUCK UP AND START FUNDRAISING FOR OBAMA? The racist, god-fearing, homo-bashing crazies are organized, well-funded and they are COMING FOR ALL OF US! GET REAL!

C_Webb (#855)

@sigerson Just to be clear, my comment above in no way endorsed seeking a Democratic challenger ( I kind of thought JB was making an extremely elaborate point? Maybe I'm wrong?) I don't think that presidential elections are a good time to grandstand about Democratic centrism; I hate Ralph Nader with a passion that transcends all reason, and I'd hate anyone else who derailed another election in a similar fashion. I do, however, wish that more lefty Democrats could rise through the ranks and one day become legitimate presidential contenders, and I do kinda hate that the left has to shush itself and get in line when the shit comes down.

Jim Behrle@twitter (#13,157)

@sigerson Gore won that election

sigerson (#179)

@Jim Behrle@twitter – fair enough, but then again he did lose it too…

Carl Hess@twitter (#11,024)

@sigerson I have no problem with the Nader bashing, or really have have no problem with bashing people who voted for Nader for very short-sighted reasons, but seriously, lay the fuck off Bradley. He ran against Gore in the primary, and last I checked there is no official rule that a sitting Vice President has to be a party's candidate.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Anderson was not a challenge to the left of Carter, Anderson was a challenge to the left of Reagan.

And now a moment of silence to thank Ross Perot for Clinton I.

Vulpes (#946)

@Butterscotch Stalin No, we'd have had pictures of her in a pink Nazi uniform shooting Vince Foster.

MaddMatt (#35,115)

@sigerson You bet your ass we're coming for you. We're coming to take our country back from you fasicst, atheistic, baby killing, commies. We're fixing to get Medievel on your Liberal asses!

mattbucher (#3,958)

Dude, dude, no, no.

Jean-Luc Lemur (#13,931)

Everyone wasting their energy on hand-wringing and fantasizing about primary challengers should channel their energy towards races that they might have some chance of actually influencing, like congressional, state and local races. Because ultimately that's where the nuts and bolts of the policy gets done, it's where your rising future talents come from, and it's the level where your voice carries the most weight. The only people a primary's good for are TV pundits and bloggers and those who pay attention TV pundits and bloggers.

That said, the line about Latinos deciding the rest of the elections for the rest of my life was pretty good.

sigerson (#179)


laurel (#4,035)


Jim Behrle@twitter (#13,157)

@sigerson Nader didn't run in Democratic Primaries

sigerson (#179)

@Jim Behrle@twitter – a distinction without a difference. The fact of the matter is that we need to close ranks against the hordes of right wing Republitards.

Jim Behrle@twitter (#13,157)

@sigerson Well I'd argue that Primaries and Conventions do serve a purpose and that the process can be extremely helpful to a candidate struggling to define. Obama will have to be more than just "Not the Horde" to get re-elected anyway. Why not force him to be more, to do more?

Jean-Luc Lemur (#13,931)

@Jim Behrle@twitter In reality, it's really only worth primarying a candidate if you actually intend to take them out. It's a waste of resources to do it for optics–there are other important races to which those resources could be dedicated (say, electing a governor or senator). There is going to be more than one election on November 4th 2012, after all.

And again, a primary from the left will shift Obama to the right, so he'll run from further to the right, and likely govern from there to. There's no logic to a primary–it's just fantasizing about a political prince charming.

Jim Behrle@twitter (#13,157)

@Jean-Luc Lemur I'm not sure Obama could be pushed any further Right than he already is. Gitmo's open, Bush tax cuts renewed. 3 wars. No public option.

Jean-Luc Lemur (#13,931)

@Jim Behrle@twitter Don't be stupid. Looking at healthcare alone, his preferences for finding savings in Medicare involve giving it greater power to negotiate drug policies (instead of just cutting people off), he just required insurers to cover contraceptives, insurers can't cut off people with preexisting conditions and–guess what–you wouldn't have seen expanded health coverage if it wasn't for health care reform enacted by a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic congress. Is it perfect? No. Is it still a major step forward and Big Fucking Deal? Yes. So, even though it's not good enough for you, HCR still broke a few decades' worth of inertia.

Gitmo's still open due to Senatorial knot-tying, you can't just lift your troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and whether or not you agree with the Lybia intervention, it was done through the UN Security Council and the operation's been under NATO control since March–it's not unilateral dick-swinging. The President has a role in all of this, but he's not the only actor involved. The fact that you place all the onus for this on Obama–and to claim he can't go any further to the right (he hasn't bragged about torturing prisoners yet, has he)–shows that you simply aren't paying attention or can't deal with a complex world.

turd_sandwich (#5,660)

@Jean-Luc Lemur THANK YOU. Let's also add: repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, CHIP reauthorization, and (problems with scope and implementation aside) the stimulus, which pumped back into social programs all the money taken from them during the Bush years. Oh, and the automaker bailout.

How much of this made the right climb the walls and, for some of them at least, yell "spear-chucker" and "pinko"? All of it, for each and every second of debate (okay, maybe it wasn't so bad with DA/DT or CHIP, which had decent support on both sides of the aisle).

Obama's political capital is pretty well depleted now. Maybe Rahm was right, and the President should have depleted it on jobs, not health care. I don't know what we'd be debating now, in the alternate universe where that happened.

queensissy (#1,783)

I believe Vulpes was talking about Ted Kennedy, not John Anderson.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@queensissy: Probably. But Carter might have shaken off the convention challenge if Anderson hadn't been in the race. My recollection of 1980 was that Anderson was the only candidate, from the primaries to election day, who had anything like reasonable long term policies. Carter had austerity, Reagan had the Laffer curve. But as we know, these things aren't decided on the merits of the platforms.

Jim Behrle@twitter (#13,157)

@Jean-Luc Lemur What you describe was not exactly the change I voted for

laurel (#4,035)

@Jim Behrle@twitter: It's the change I voted for in terms of judicial appointments. Roberts and Alito, with Citizens United, have saddled this country with complete corporate control, for at least the rest of my life. As a woman, I cannot have even a center-right Republican, beholden to the cultural conservatives, appointing judges.

turd_sandwich (#5,660)

@Jim Behrle@twitter I'm convinced that anyone who says this listened to the campaign slogan and failed to read (or really read) the book. "Audacity of Hope" is a blueprint for pragmatism, guided by mostly fundamental Democratic principles. The audaciousness was in the hope of changing the tone in Washington. Well, it's changed; I think we'd all agree, it's probably worse than ever.

He's still trying to talk like a mature person, at least.

Vulpes (#946)

Who knew you had such a serious side to you, Jim Behrle?! You've come a long way from foul-mouthed sticker-cats.

Jim Behrle@twitter (#13,157)

@Vulpes I contain Multiturds

It's really a very simple strategy:

"Anyone else out there KILL OSAMA BIN LADEN? No? OK, then."

4 more years.

Jim Behrle@twitter (#13,157)

@Clarence Rosario I would have waited to reveal Osama was dead until October 31, 2012

@Jim Behrle@twitter Yep! And shoot his body into space on live TV.

lvfriend (#22,457)

Hillary was/is pretty big on the intervention in Libya. She's also pretty involved in the foreign policy decisions in general. Also, there's Bill. Also, this makes me sad.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Oh Behrle. You know I am crazy about you and will read every syllable and laugh head off, but it is like you don't even remember 2007 and 2008. It was so bruising for every single candidate, and also for everyone who was working in a campaign, it's like we all started OUT completely demoralized after having been yelled at by our own for months on end and THEN had to fight McCain.

Jim Behrle@twitter (#13,157)

@barnhouse But it all worked out for the best in the end, right? Maybe you need to drive through the belly of the beast to get to eat the disco fries

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Jim Behrle@twitter Golly. I hope so.

bakunda8o (#22,577)

Thank you to share

mochabean (#22,642)

Now that libs are criticizing the first black President, I shall take great pleasure in tarring them with the same title they have been gleefully using against conservatives for the last 3 years: RACISTS!!! HAHAHAHAHA!! Don't like it? Welcome to my world. I've been critical of Obama strictly because of his policies and yet I'm constantly labeled a racist. You libs should really apologize!

Anarcissie (#3,748)

The Left are the people who would prefer more peace, freedom and equality than they see around them. While there are a lot of leftists about, there is no organized, mainstream Left because the Democrats — a party of conservative Welfare statists, by and large — have taken care to break up leftist factions and extrude them from the party. Therefore, there is not much point in attempting to 'challenge Obama from the Left' within the Democratic Party — there's no there there. The Democrats are going to have to continue to go with 'We're the ones who aren't crazy,' I'm afraid. It worked for them in '06 and '08, and might work again if the Republicans will just nominate one of their many right-wing radicals, especially a religious fanatic.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Anarcissie I like this analysis a lot, and agree with most of it, except for blaming the Dems for the fracturing of the US left. The left is naturally fractured and always will be, because we value individual voices and individual freedom and questioning authority such a lot. This makes it very difficult to gather together as a single force, especially in comparison with the right, they who so loudly value "authority" and willingly follow a "leader" as soon as Fox News identifies one for them.

Anarcissie (#3,748)

@barnhouse: It is true the Left is naturally fragmented, but the Democratic Party has also gone out of its way to destroy the Left both within and outside the party. For instance, people associated with the party leadership infiltrated the anti-war movement in order to use it again Bush. Once Mr. O was elected, they sabotaged every effort to mount new demonstrations against our many endless wars. Notice how anti-war activism mysteriously disappeared in the last several years, although the wars didn't go away? There's a reason.

drtate (#22,910)

A ticket of Damon and Clinton however silly sounding just might walk away with it.

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