By Brent Budowsky - 08/14/13 10:00 PM EDT
When the great actor Matt Damon recently said that President Obama “broke up with me,” he hit the jackpot of telling political truth in the eyes of many progressive Democrats and independents.
Obama “broke up with” many of us sometime after he named Timothy Geithner to be Treasury secretary, and before he privately gave up the public option, which he never really supported. Before these events, the president had won the 2008 campaign with a slogan bannered over his head and across his podium that promised “change you can believe in” and assumed office with almost 70 percent public approval, along with nearly 60 Democratic senators and an almost 80-vote Democratic majority in the House.
We now learn that Jim Messina, the president’s campaign manager and the current chairman of Organizing for Action, has signed up to make the big bucks pushing hard for the reelection of a British prime minister, David Cameron, who imposes cruel austerity, attacks labor unions, destroys huge numbers of jobs and promotes economic policies that make the last two Republican nominees for president look moderate to liberal by comparison.
I predict Larry Summers will not be nominated for the Fed job by the president mostly because his financial disclosure forms would not reveal, to put this diplomatically, a man who believes in “change we can believe in” from the financial wrongs that elected Obama in the first place.
I found Damon’s formulation — that “the president broke up with me” — brilliant. Damon and I and other progressives did not break up with the president. He broke up with us. It was the president’s staff, at the apex of his clout with large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, who insulted liberals with nonsensical pittypatter, calling them (us) “the left of the left” and “the professional left.”
Imagine the staff of FDR or JFK talking like that about those who had worked their hearts out to elect them!
If liberals championing what the president himself ardently championed in 2008 are “the professional left,” what does that make Messina and the many other former Obama officials who “cashed in” doing things Republicans — and British conservatives — normally do?
Personally I think the whole thing is a damn shame. Obama could have been, and should been, and promised to be, a great Democratic progressive president carrying the torch of a great legacy of transforming Democratic presidents.
In my view, the left was right in opposing the repeal of Glass-Steagall, fighting for stronger regulation of derivatives under Bill Clinton, warning about the financial crash, fighting for the public option and single-payer health or Medicare for all, supporting far larger jobs programs and fighting for these jobs programs year after year — and not forgetting about them for the last four years. The left was right about opposing cuts in Social Security benefits and championing far stronger regulation of Wall Street and protection of consumers.
Obama has done some good things, but a great progressive Democratic president would have invited Occupy Wall Street to the White House to hear them out, and not allowed his administration to evict the protesters from federally owned property around the corner from the White House while his staff ran through the revolving door to Wall Street firms and hedge fund traders.
Progressives will help Obama whenever he champions the values we care about — hopefully very often.
In the meantime, Matt Damon is right. Obama broke up with us, but:
As Bogart always had Paris with Bergman in Casablanca, Obama will always have Summers. Summers will always have hedge funds. Messina will always have British conservatives. And progressives will always have — bless her heart, she is the real deal — Elizabeth Warren.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at email@example.com.