Commentary…Obama and the extreme right

(NNPA)—I am hoping that you have been reading and watching the news. You may have come across stories about these right-wing mobs that have attempted to disrupt town hall meetings that Congresspeople have organized to discuss health care. There are some interesting things about these disruptions: they are virtually all White; they have completely mischaracterized the issue of health care and the proposals that President Obama is suggesting; they are openly and subtly racist; and they are angry and threatening to the point of being lunatic.
The extreme political right, largely out of desperation, has decided it must take disruptive measures in order to derail the Obama administration. It is doing this through a combination of appeals to racial fears on the parts of Whites (particularly White men) along with tapping into the larger insecurity that nearly everyone is feeling in the context of the current economic crisis. On one level this should not be surprising since the extreme political right always emerges during times of crisis. What should concern us, however, is that this rabid political right does not disappear on its own. Their objective is power, and not simply the elimination of Obama and the Obama administration.



President Obama, on the other hand, has the tendency to ignore his base and to attempt to begin all negotiations by going to the middle ground. Anyone familiar with negotiations knows that this is a losing strategy. Think about going to buy a car. If the cost of the car is $25,000 and you offer what you believe that the dealer will finally settle on, the dealer will feel no need to actually bargain with you. Instead they will play hard ball and force you off your position. This is precisely what President Obama has been experiencing. Case in point: national health care.

President Obama eliminated single-payer national health care from the field of negotiations from the beginning, despite the fact that not very long ago, he had supported it. [Note: “single-payer” would be a government system that eliminates the insurance companies and allows individuals to get their health care from any medical facility they wish.] Claiming that single payer would never pass, he immediately went to the middle ground. Needless to say, the right-wing defenders of the status quo felt no need to shift their position.

A similar problem has emerged around both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the case of Iraq, President Obama has been carrying out a withdrawal. Yet little mention is being made of the U.S. mercenaries still on the ground! In the case of Afghanistan, President Obama, despite significant domestic and international advice, presses ahead with deeper U.S. military intervention into a situation that could end up resembling Vietnam. In fact, the Afghanistan war, through its budgetary impact, could derail his domestic objectives.

So, while President Obama ignores the principal concerns of his base, the extreme right sharpens its knives. It wishes to see him fail and they have been very clear about that. Insofar as President Obama departs from a focus on “Main Street” instead of “Wall Street,” and insofar as he attempts to appease big business, he will demoralize his base. Those who were and are looking for progressive change will fall prey to despair.

So, President Obama has a choice, and progressive people do as well. Those who argue that we need to give President Obama more time in order to move his agenda are missing what is actually happening in the real world. If he continues to retreat, time will run out and the right will have won. Therefore, President Obama needs to have pressure coming from another direction and that other direction needs to ensure that he follows up on his commitment to jobs; health care; housing; and peace.

What the political right is counting upon is that President Obama will fall on his face. They are also counting on his base becoming tired, despairing and lazy. If that happens, they assume that they can march into office in 2010 as the saviors of the U.S.A., and more specifically, the saviors of White people.

Irrespective of President Obama’s negotiating strategies, progressive people need to make sure that the only way that the political right marches is into oblivion.

(Bill Fletcher Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the co-author of “Solidarity Divided.” He can be reached at


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