Despite the tax cut deal they hate, progressive forces will be on the fighting lines for President Obama in 2012. That’s the word from Democracy For America, the progressive advocacy PAC forged from the remnants of Howard Dean’s 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In a wide-ranging interview Friday, DFA communications director Levana Layendecker discussed the ways Obama has hurt progressives over the past couple weeks. But she said that despite it all, the left will still stand by the man they backed in 2008 when he runs again in 2012.
The comments echoed those from Dean himself, who was briefly mentioned as a possible primary opponent for Obama by liberals angered by the tax cut deal’s two-year extension of the Bush cuts on the highest incomes. Dean has said he won’t run against Obama in a primary and that he doesn’t expect anyone else will, either.
But if they don’t primary him, will progressives just stay home, leaving Obama without an important part of his activist base? Layendecker says no. They may be mad at him now, sure. But the liberals are coming home to Obama.
“That’s what I predict right now,” Layendecker said.
“I am prepared to do that,” she laughed when I asked if she’ll be working on the front lines of Obama’s 2012 efforts. “It’s been a tough week!”
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The progressive base — and the netroots and grassroots activists it includes — played an important part in Obama’s tech savvy and youth-oriented 2008 bid. Should progressives sit on their hands — or mouse-clicking fingers — the president could find it tougher to reengage key parts of the base vote (like college-age voters) that propelled him to his landslide victory over John McCain in 2008.
Based on the nasty rhetoric thrown Obama’s way from the left since he announced the tax cuts deal, which he said was the only way to get an unemployment extension for American workers still facing a nearly 10% unemployment rate, some have wondered if the left is over Obama. Layendecker said progressives are upset, but sill see great potential in Obama.
“People still believe that he’s a change agent,” she said. “I think the change he sees as change in the way we do business in Washington and not having political fights I think is probably a wrong way to look at it, but it’s still a change and I think people see that.”
That said, the main reason Layendecker said Obama won’t face a primary from the left in 2012 is that there’s no chance a primary opponent would win. What’s worse for liberals, she said, is that a defeated progressive primary opponent could separate Obama from the movement even further.
“I don’t think there’s any viable chance that he would be beaten in a primary,” she said, “And I don’t think that if you don’t beat him that [you] wouldn’t just push [Obama] farther to the center.”
Layendecker said the progressive plan moving ahead is to “keep fighting” Obama when he goes astray, and to push him back toward the left. She said that the incoming Republican class in Congrees (which will control the House and have a much larger minority in the Senate) could make that easier.
“I’m hoping that when we see that there’s a clear opposition, Republicans are in control of the House, we have an enemy, that we can all say, ‘Hey, let’s figure out how to oppose all the bad things that are happening and make sure none of that happens under a Democratic president,” she said. “Ideally that will crystallize and I think solidify everyone on the right side, including the White House.”
Key fights on campaign finance reform and “protecting Social Security” could be the things that reunite Obama with his liberal base, Layendecker said. She hopes that Obama will ignore the calls from some to cut Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age. That would go a long way toward repairing the relationship between Obama and angry progressives, she said.
In the end, the job of progressives is to stay vocal, stay fired up and stay ready for action, Layendecker said. When Obama comes calling as the election ramps up, prorgressives need to ensure he knows who’s on his team.
“I think our job is to continue to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got all the supporters out here and we’re going to do all the hard work to get you elected,’” she said. “‘And we also know what’s right for America.’”