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The Obama Primary Challenge That Is

Michael Wilk's picture's news editor, Steve Kornacki, lamented yesterday that "Obama won’t face a credible primary challenge", going on about how the closest thing to a liberal challenge he has comes from Republican candidate Buddy Roemer. While it is true that many liberals aren't seeing any "viable" candidates materialize on the left, Kornacki isn't telling us why that is: the failure of supposedly liberal pundits to report on candidates who are actually running.

And therein lies the catch-22 bloggers like Kornacki can't seem to escape from. They complain about Obama, but they refuse to use the public voice they've been given to alter the political landscape. Pundits influence public opinion simply by reporting on someone or something. And they pass up opportunity after opportunity to do so when they fail to do their journalistic duty.

Because there is a Democrat trying to get himself on the ballot to challenge Obama from the left in next year's primaries: Aldous Tyler is seeking the nomination to run for president as a liberal Democrat. His platform hits all the right notes, including opposition to war, taxation of the wealthy, a sustainable energy policy, cleaning up the environment, and restoring and protecting the safety net, among other positions. Tyler also favors heavily regulating Wall Street and corporations.

So why aren't supposedly liberal bloggers and pundits giving Aldous Tyler any coverage? Kornacki writes that "[t]he depths of liberal despair over his presidency are often overstated", meaning that bitch as they might about Obama, far too many who claim to be liberal aren't dissatisfied with his policies enough to want to be rid of him — and having so thoroughly bought into the Big Lie that Republicans are just so much worse than any Democrat no matter what the evidence disproving that notion, they fear that any challenge might weaken Obama to the point that the GOP nominee might manage to cheat his way to victory next year.

But it's Obama's fault that he is even in such a precarious political position in the first place. Having made big promises only to cold-bloodedly refuse to even try to deliver on so much as one of them, and after literally adding insult to injury by dissing his party's official base, it's no wonder that his campaign is looking a lot more like Al Gore's and John Kerry's lackluster, doomed efforts than, say, Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election drive. So coming out of a primary challenged beaten up and vulnerable isn't exactly a legitimate excuse not to cover challengers, especially ones from the left of the political divide.

Isn't it time to break the self-imposed media blackout on left-wing challenges to Obama? If Democrats are truly fed up with him, and are seeking alternatives, it only makes sense for those blessed with public voices, such as Steve Kornacki, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, or Ed Schultz to use their gifts to report on people like Aldous Tyler. The media might lament the lack of candidates, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. They only need to be reported on objectively, so voters can render their own decisions.

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coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

(that is, get more recognition and hence a broader knowledge of his plans) if he ran as a third party candidate?

IMHO, the Occupy Movement may be fertile ground to get moving on that front.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

Oh, for sure we need a primary challenger. Just not this one. He doesn't have name recognition- at all- and as far as I can tell, he's never participated in politics on a federal level. Neither has Herman Cain, right? Yes, but until recently, no one really took Cain's candidacy seriously. And now they don't anymore.
The last thing we need is to replace an inexperienced neophyte with an even more inexperienced neophyte. Anyone over 35 who is a natural born citizen can run for president. That's what this guy's website looks like.
Now, can you get a real third party challenger? I don't see why not. Or someone else from the D side, like Sherrod Brown or Ed Rendell or someone you really, REALLY don't like but who the vast majority of the American people have no problem with? Yeah, I think so.
As Nucky Thompson once said, "Everyone has to decide how much sin they can live with."

illusionofjoy's picture
Submitted by illusionofjoy on

Your argument against Ed Rendell is compelling, well-thought out and utterly convincing. I am particularly swayed by your excessive use of punctuation. Furthermore, the way you've opted for emphasis using all capital letters on certain words rather than the more contemporary bolding of the typeface carries a certain nostalgic charm which harkens back to the days when email software could not properly render HTML.

illusionofjoy's picture
Submitted by illusionofjoy on

If he'd replied in the way you did, I would have taken him seriously. You've given a solid argument against Rendell in one sentence, backing it up with a link to a source. This is something I (and others) can work with; this gets the mental gears turning.

Excessive punctuation, vulgarity and implied shouting tend to have the opposite effect.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

My problem with Mr Tyler's site is that his primary challenge is framed entirely as a symbolic exercise. That's how I read it, anyway.

What does Tyler's campaign hope to accomplish? He says "we must stand up and reclaim the one major party left that has any hope of being redeemed"; his "challenge to the rest of us" is what's stopping us from battling "Blue Dog Congresspeople and state and local Corporate Dems"? There's nothing about winning and almost nothing that challenges the incumbent directly. The intent of the site seems entirely to lay out a progressive platform as an oblique counterpoint to the current corporatist one of the Democrats—in other words, a completely symbolic exercise. (The site does say "Aldous C. Tyler for President" in the subheader but that's about the only place where the idea that he actually might be President is mentioned.)

Tyler's challenge might, in fact, be only a symbolic exercise but that, by its nature, undermines his challenge as one that's credible. If Tyler himself doesn't view himself as credible, no one else will. To be sure, the media blackout on primary challenges to President Obama is real but Tyler isn't helping matters any.