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Matt Stoller’s ‘Domestic’ Case Against Voting for Obama

Matt Stoller writes in The Progressive Case Against Obama on salon:

Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar. That’s right, under Barack Obama there is more economic inequality than under George W. Bush. ... most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress. This was not, in other words, the doing of the mean Republican Congress. And it’s not strictly a result of the financial crisis; after all, corporate profits did crash, like housing values did, but they also recovered, while housing values have not.

Stoller acknowledges the small window of time before this upcoming election. He recognizes the ferocious pressure on all progressives for “lesser evil” voting for Obama. How distasteful a Romney/Ryan administration is for progressives of all stripes.

Stoller recently debated the historically heroic Daniel Ellsberg on Huffpo live and argued AGAINST Ellsberg’s stance that if a progressive citizen lives in a swing state he MUST cast a “lesser evil” vote for Obama.

Stoller makes a strong case -- leaving off the very troubling Obama administration ever-escalating military dimension -- of why Obama is NOT the lesser of two evils and that a vote for a third party candidate may be the best way to go.

Stoller is no “hard leftie”. He was an advisor for the ActBlue organization that has raised in the past $300 million for Democratic candidates. He was also a producer at MSNBC.

Stoller appreciates very well the many apologetic "takes" on Obama’s plight as president. Obama is well-intentioned but blocked by Republican obstructionists! He is a “good man”, just too nice, not bold enough in temperament or confidence! Or, an “It’s the system, stupid” and “he’s doing his best, what do you expect?” stance. The argument that ANYBODY would be as mired and thwarted as poor Obama, especially after that hellish Bush administration!

Stoller contends that Obama has engineered and achieved EXACTLY what he intended. The fact that the citizenry is struggling and will continue to struggle is irrelevant to the real Obama. He is taking care of the elite, which he has done since he launched his presidency. His own role is as a “conservative technocrat”!

Stoller objects to the “shaping” of our society that he describes Obama as deliberately doing. Obama is CULTIVATING a nation that is AUTHORITARIAN and fast advancing to the status of a “petro-state.” An oligarchy-run system with an incredible double standard. The haves to have it all. The have-nots, to be exploited to the nth degree.

Stoller points out that thanks to Obama “corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs.” On the other hand, home equity levels stayed static.

Stoller can’t stress enough the significance of Obama as the first U.S. president who has managed to permanently break the link between corporate profit-making and a corresponding financial uplifting of average citizens. Corporations can now score obscene profits and these profits are not at all shared with citizen workers or the American society at large. As Stoller starkly puts it: “Obama has officially enshrined rights for the elite in our constitutional order and removed rights from everyone else “

The bailouts and the associated Federal Reserve actions were not primarily shifts of funds to bankers; they were a guarantee that property rights for a certain class of creditors were immune from challenge or market forces. The foreclosure crisis, with its rampant criminality, predatory lending, and document forgeries, represents the flip side.

Property rights for debtors simply increasingly exist solely at the pleasure of the powerful.

The lack of prosecution of Wall Street executives, the ability of banks to borrow at 0 percent from the Federal Reserve while most of us face credit card rates of 15-30 percent, and the bailouts are all part of the re-creation of the American system of law around Obama’s oligarchy.

Stoller points to the countless string of Obama broken promises since his election. For example, no help from Obama to raise the minimum wage, to ban the replacement of striking workers, to guarantee seven days of paid sick leave for workers, to challenge the monopolization of media by just a few mega-conglomerates, to renegotiate NAFTA, to end the persecution of whistleblowers, to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, to restore habeas corpus, to ensure labor protections in the FAA bill.


Stoller maintains that Obama truly does believe he is doing what is best for society!

Obama believes, says Stoller, that conservative technocrats should run the “complex machinery of state” and “reap private rewards for doing so." The resulting RADICAL INEQUALITY -- politically and economically -- is absolutely fine with Obama!


Which of Obama’s autobiographies was it in which Obama bragged of playing a persona-vacuum for the optimistic projections of others? This gift seems to have been off the charts successful for him, and dooming for the rest of us. Creating eventual confusion, cognitive-dissonant confusion.

Stoller is calling out the REAL OBAMA for all of us progressives.

Obama is trying to mimic, Stoller asserts, a “Middle Eastern resource extraction based” economy. A “petro-state” if you will. Obama is shooting for the U.S. to be the “largest producer of hydrocarbons in the world.” Hang the environment! The basis of such a country is an authoritarian oligarchy, and in Stoller’s words, our country is becoming more and more “murderous toward the rest of the world and suicidal in our aggressive lack of attention to climate change.”

Stoller exposes some profoundly foreshadowing behavior of Obama’s immediately upon election. Too many of us have forgotten that Obama had “enormous leverage” with a dominant Democratic Party in Congress thanks to Obama’s 2008 election coat tails. Obama never seriously attempted to make use of this congressional leverage.

Stoller discloses that Bush’s own Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, offered a deal to Barney Frank to force banks to “write down mortgages and stem foreclosures.” Paulson offered this in exchange for the Senate to speed up releasing TARP money. Paulson demanded that Obama sign off on such a citizen-benefitting deal. To Franks’ surprise, OBAMA VETOED THE IDEA!

Stoller cites Neil Barofsky’s book “Bailout” which highlights Obama's role in fostering the “foreclosure crisis.” Stoller writes:

Tim Geithner said, in private meetings, that the foreclosure mitigation programs were not meant to mitigate foreclosures, but to spread out pain for the banks, the famous “foam the runway” comment. This central lie is key to the entire Obama economic strategy. It is not that Obama was stymied by Congress, or was up against a system, or faced a massive crisis, which led to the shape of the economy we see today. Rather, Obama had a handshake deal to help the middle class offered to him by Paulson, and Obama said no. He was not constrained by anything but his own policy instincts. And the reflation of corporate profits and financial assets and death of the middle class were the predictable results.


Sounds like what a lot of strident “pragmatic” progressives are declaring would happen with Romney and Ryan!

Stoller declares, “The rest of Obama’s policy framework looks very different when you wake up from the dream state pushed by cable news.”

Stoller labels Obama hypocritical in relation to his escalation of the war on medical marijuana given his personal history. Stoller writes that Obama “helps keep a half a million people in jail for participating in a legitimate economy outlawed by the drug warrior industry.”

Stoller calls out Obama for quietly pushing Chinese investment in U.S. infrastructure and seeking to privatize public education, shackling union protection of workers (e.g. the FAA authorization bill) and for having inserted a provision into the stimulus bill ensuring that odious AIG executives got fat and profoundly undeserved bonuses (which he lied about doing). Rigging Wall Street markets, Stoller explains, Obama seems to minimize as clever and savvy business leadership, especially in the case of Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon. Obama praises them and actually blames their millions of victims as "irresponsible borrowers.”

Obama will not be protecting Social Security and Medicare acccording to Stoller. He claims Obama wants these programs ONLY for the “most vulnerable.” All American workers have paid into these programs. Why should not ALL American workers benefit from their own contributions, not just a “vulnerable base”, Stoller asks. Obama and Romney BOTH see basic needs and rights of average Americans as irrelevant.

Stoller takes on what most Obama apologists declare are the two deal breakers for supporting another Obama administration: women’s rights and Supreme Court nominations.

Obama is not a clean and clear advocate for women’s choice Stoller reminds us. Choice would not necessarily stay safe under the Obama administration and ended under a Romney one. Stoller warns privileged women progressives not to ignore the overall struggles of all women in so many dimensions, and not blindly cherry-pick this one, granted very important, issue to base their votes on.

Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel and the rest of Obama’s power clique were not a women-mentoring cabal Stoller discloses. One female White House advisor, Anita Duncan, Stoller quotes as having called Obama’s WH a “hostile work environment” for women.

Stoller reminds us that Obama insisted that women under 17 should not have access to Plan B birth control. He overruled scientists and the FDA backing accessibility to that segment of the population, declaring endearingly but patronizingly that as a “father of two daughters” he didn’t want his daughters able to buy such drugs next to “bubble gum and batteries”. Of course, Obama’s glib, off-the-cuff dismissals of earnest, socially responsible policy proposals never embrace their serious, extenuating circumstances, as in this case, such as young women pregnant from rape and incest.

Stoller suggest that Obama’s healthcare bill is not as women-friendly as people would like to believe. Tax credits and Medicaid will be subject to the Hyde Amendment, which will prohibit use for abortion. Abortion services available via healthcare exchanges is still undetermined.

Stoller emphasizes that women’s rights go far beyond the abortion issue. Women are impacted by “predatory lending and foreclosures” in disproporationate numbers. Their families are impacted by the double standard and racist "war on drugs" and resulting incarceration of hundreds of thousands of young people. Stoller asserts that 1.6 million more women are now in poverty. 1.2 million migrants have been deported by the DHS. Obama’s mass teacher layoffs have impacted women in staggering numbers in that particular profession.

Stoller's indicting conclusion about Obama's policies in relation to the current plight of American women: “Oligarchies in general are just not good for women.”

As for the Supreme Court argument for voting for Obama, Stoller discloses that Obama did not want liberals such as Sen. Patrick Leahy to block Sam Alito from the Supreme Court appointment.

Stoller also reminds us that Sonya Sotomayer in her history has ruled to limit abortion access for women and that Elena Kagan’s position is still not even clear.

Stoller stresses that Obama and Romney have no ideological commitment to women’s rights issues. They are useful to them mainly for campaign propaganda.

Stoller declares that those considered “purist” progressives who get condescended to by more so-called “pragmatic” progressives should not be pressured to voting for Obama even in swing states.

If fear of Romney authoritarianism induces progressives to vote for Obama is so strong, Stoller accepts that. Stoller admits that Romney would be readier to attack Iran than Obama, more than likely, but that does not mean Obama would not attack Iran.

Stoller sees Obama as more dangerous. Stoller is gravely troubled by an Obama administration that instead of championing civil liberties has helped to normalize such horrors as torture, drones, war and general state authoritarianism!

Stoller concedes that though Romney may be just as anti-democracy a leader as Obama, more so-called progressive citizens under Romney would be more awake and put constraints on him. The progressive community would unite more and one large segment, as with Obama, would not cut Romney the same enormous amount of slack Obama was so often granted, only to have been betrayed over and over by an Obama who never felt responsible to explain himself. To be accountable for anti-democratic, anti-citizen welfare decisions.

Stoller declares that Bush may have “popularized” a “thuggish political culture” but Obama has “solidified” it!

Stoller praises third party efforts and those willing to say no to political, governmental “EVIL”. He has high praise for third parties and third party voting. He writes:

Well, voting third party or even just honestly portraying Obama’s policy architecture is a good way to identify to ourselves and each other who actually has the integrity to not cave to bullying. Then the task starting after the election is to build this network of organized people with intellectual and political integrity into a group who understands how to move the levers of power across industry, government, media and politics. We need to put ourselves into the position to be able to run the government.

After all, if a political revolution came tomorrow, could those who believe in social justice and climate change actually govern? Do we have the people to do it? Do we have the ideas, the legislative proposals, the understanding of how to reorganize our society into a sustainable and socially just one? I suspect, no.

When the next crisis comes, and it will come, space will again open up for real policy change.  The most important thing we can use this election for is to prepare for that moment. That means finding ways of seeing who is on our side and building a group with the will to power and the expertise to make the right demands. We need to generate the inner confidence to blow up the political consensus, against the railings of the men in suits. If there had been an actual full-scale financial meltdown in 2008 without a bailout, while it would have been bad, it probably would have given us a fighting chance of warding off planetary catastrophe and reorganizing our politics.

Instead the oligarchs took control, because we weren’t willing to face them down when we needed to show courage. So now we have the worst of all worlds, an inevitably worse crisis and an even more authoritarian structure of governance.

At some point soon, we will face yet another moment where the elites say, “Do what we want or there will be a meltdown.” Do we have enough people on our side willing to collectively say “do what we want or there will be a global meldown”?

This election is a good mechanism to train people in the willingness to say that and mean it. That is, the reason to advocate for a third-party candidate is to build the civic muscles willing to say no to the establishment in a crisis moment we all know is coming.

Stoller recognizes how “lesser evilism” reactionism negatively impacts the progressive community. It fosters cynicism, hopelessness and surrender.

We as progressive Americans need to be courageous and fight a malevolent elite, profoundly sponsored and enabled by the Obamas and the Romneys. We need to defiantly cultivate an American society that is just and sustainable for ALL CITIZENS, not continually strengthening a sociopathic and capturing financial aristocracy!

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Submitted by MontanaMaven on

If you read comments on Salon or Escheton, it's as if nobody really read the article. They scream "But Nader!"

It's very important that you start out with the paragraph that says things got much worse for the 99% from 2009-2010 when the Democrats held sway. It's very important that you emphasized Stoller's disclosure that Paulson was willing to cut a deal to help homeowners in exchange for TARP. But Obama nixed that. Betrayal of a huge magnitude.

Where is the discussion of these facts? "But Nader! And the Supremes!"

Basically we are now in a place where the country in debt is a very bad thing. But the people in debt is a very good thing. Cheshire Cat thinking. Orwellian to a tee.

Thugish indeed. The first step is to acknowledge this. Having read since 2007, I wasn't caught off guard. I recommend it highly.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I am having a serious struggle on open salon these days, the non-choir. They scream Supreme Court and abortion and all of Obama's horrifying choices past and present they totally IGNORE! I was thrilled to bring Stoller's arguments to them but I think I may have jumped the shark saturating the site with Obama-bashing. Not getting reads and comments i hoped for.

I learned even more from Stoller. And so much of my emotionalism goes to the war crimes. But the domestic crimes are also disgusting. And Obama's incredible degree of disdain for what he calls "irresponsible" citizen investors as he protects illegal and unethical acts by his corporate buddies sickens me. I have been watching four years for Obama to lift his little finger one molecule's worth to help the citizenry. I don't know what his apologists are seeing, cuz I ain't seeing any of that little finger's tiny lift!

I am a regular visitor to b-a-r. God, yes, ford et al. had Obama's number from the get-go!

best, libby