Truthdig - November 20, 2019

"At the event where Obama chastised the left, he also claimed, “It turns out people are cautious, because they don’t have a margin for error.” It is as if Obama entirely missed the 2016 election triumph of the least cautious presidential candidate in recent memory. “People” are not cautious; those who want to preserve inequality are the cautious ones, and no amount of wishful thinking on their part will change the reality that their time is over."

As we gear up for next year’s presidential race, the only political class in the United States that may be as terrified of losing power as the Republican Party is that of centrist Democrats. Former President Barack Obama embodied this fear in his recent remarks at an event for wealthy liberal donors when he said, “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.” It was a not-so-veiled reference to the rising chorus of demands for a “Medicare for All” health care system, a climate action plan like the Green New Deal or taxes on billionaires that redistribute some of their obscene wealth.

Obama’s statements prompted a backlash on Twitter under the hashtag “#TooFarLeft,” with people asserting that if their demands for drastic solutions to solve our many serious problems are seen as too far left, then so be it. It was the second time in the last few weeks that the former president, who still enjoys a great deal of popularity, admonished leftist activists. At an event in late October, he said, “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff … you should get over that quickly.” He was referring to what an older and more conservative generation of Americans have denounced as “cancel culture” on the left.

Presumably, Obama feels threatened by not just the vocal left flank of his party’s base, but also by the two most popular presidential candidates who generally embody leftist politics: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who consistently draw more cumulative support in polls than the centrist front-runner, Joe Biden, Obama’s former second-in-command. Obama’s view is the reason millennials have adopted scathing retorts like “OK Boomer.” They are tired of being told to shut up about injustice.

Centrists are terrified that if the Democratic nominee is far to the left of Biden and Obama, they will be forced to coalesce around a candidate who represents a threat to the establishment of which they are a part. The unflappable Sanders brushed aside Obama’s criticism in an interview with The New York Times, saying, “When I talk about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, I’m not tearing down the system. We’re fighting for justice.” On the health care front, he added, “When I talk about … ending the embarrassment of America being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for every man, woman and child, that’s not tearing down the system. That’s doing what we should have done 30 years ago.” His words resonate with the millions of Americans who are struggling every day, but they grate on the nerves of those who have thrived in our unequal society.

In a nutshell, American politics have tilted our economic system so far in favor of wealthy elites—and this has been by and large a bipartisan project—that establishment lawmakers are really the ones guilty of “tearing down” a modest (if flawed) system that once upon a time distributed riches more fairly. When Americans—the vast majority of whom are not millionaires—read reports like this one showing that “[f]or the first time in history, U.S. billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class last year,” for Obama to ask us to not tear down the system is deeply insulting. The system has already been destroyed—by billionaires and their backers in Congress and the White House, including Obama. ...
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