Obama Losing the Left

Tuesday, 04 Oct 2011 12:25 PM

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The list of constituent groups that President Barack Obama is on the outs with continues to grow, calling into question the level of support he will get on the street and in the voting booth from such core groups on the left as unions, environmentalists, Jewish voters and even African Americans.

The liberal group MoveOn.org best summed up the feeling on the left when it issued a statement earlier this month after Obama pulled the plug on clean-air regulations designed to reduce smog.

"Many MoveOn members are wondering today how they can ever work for President Obama's re-election, or make the case for him to their neighbors, when he does something like this, after extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich and giving in to tea party demands on the debt deal," Justin Ruben, MoveOn’s executive director, said in a statement.

Unions, who supply thousands of volunteers and millions in campaign funds, were among the first to publicly challenge Obama. In July, the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, publically expressed their anger over the president’s willingness to discuss cuts in Social Security as part of the debt ceiling talks.

“At a time when retirement security remains an elusive goal for most Americans, cuts to Social Security benefits – in whatever form they take – should not be on the table,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.
“Furthermore, Social Security, our nation's most effective anti-poverty program, has not contributed one dime to the deficit and should not be part of any deficit-related trade-offs.

The comments came just two months after a broadside from the nation’s largest firefighters union that decided to bail on federal candidates this election cycle. The International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger blasted both parties, but said that “too few Democrats are standing up and fighting for us.”

More recently, Jewish voters have expressed dismay over the Obama administration’s Israel policy, which may have cost the Democrats New York’s 9th congressional seat. And, the president also drew fire from African Americans when he said to the Congressional Black Caucus, “I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC.”

However, Obama has adopted a tougher stance of late and is directly appealing to core Democratic groups with his jobs plan, calls for an extension of unemployment benefits and plans to raise taxes on the wealthy. Whether it is too little too late to motive the troops to make campaign donations and volunteer to man phone banks and canvas neighborhoods is another matter.

“Republicans will begin with an advantage,” Thomas Mann, a political scholar at the Brookings Institution told The Washington Post. “Obama is going to have to work very hard and build an extensive grass-roots effort.”

Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political scientist, told The Hill that the “president's problem with his base is not desertion or defection but demobilization. No serious observer believes that Massachusetts liberals with PhDs would vote for Rick Perry or even Mitt Romney but they can exercise their right to stay home on Election Day.”



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