I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday tweeting about this article in which John Cusack interviewed Jonathan Turley about the Obama foreign policy and civil liberties record, but I figured I should share it here, too.
You know where I stand on this kind of all-or-nothing, absolutist accountability — what Cusack calls a “Rubicon line” — so I won’t get too deeply into the same points I’ve made over and over. Obviously, I had issues with a couple of the facts presented in the piece, including Cusack’s assertion that President Obama ran as an “anti-war” candidate who was opposed to the Afghanistan war. This simply isn’t true.
I’ve read this claim before so I wasn’t particularly ruffled until Turley, who, by the way, supported the Citizens United decision, said, “I think that people have to accept that they own this decision, that they can walk away. I realize that this is a tough decision for people but maybe, if enough people walked away, we could finally galvanize people into action to make serious changes.” He’s suggesting that people not vote — or vote for a third party as a means of enacting a shift from the red/blue paradigm.
In a fantastical world in which we all drive delicious jetpacks made of fudge, this might work. In our world, we have to cope with both immediate and long-term consequences, personal and national, that go along with abandoning one of the two major political parties when, in fact, neither of them particularly need the anti-Obama far-left anyway. They really don’t. If far-left progressives depart, the Democrats will tack farther to the right to get the votes. Meanwhile, what happens policy-wise? The Republicans will certainly win more elections, and we can only imagine the awfulness that will follow as the potentially decades-long process of breaking from the current two party red/blue system evolves.
On Twitter, I politely urged Cusack and others to take a “smart accountability” approach with the president: a targeted strategy for convincing more Democratic politicians to adopt progressive causes. Progressives agree with the president and the Democrats on many more things than we disagree (for every apparent trespass on foreign policy, the president has succeed in a dozen other areas with policies that have not only worked, but have drawn us away from the Reaganomics “government is the problem” mantra). Progressive activists just need to coax them a little more by making a strong yet reasonable case, and by convincing voters on the ground that progressive policies work so it’s politically safer for Democrats to move leftward. Cusack is certainly erudite on the foreign policy topic and can make a strong case — and the president has shown an aptitude to listen to reasonable opposition, but there’s nothing in the president’s history that indicates he responds to people who have no interest in participating in a rational policy debate.
Anyway, read the interview yourself and come on back with your thoughts.