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Saving Progressivism from Obama

Progressives must move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.

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The closest that the progressive movement came to realizing this strategy was of course in 1968, when Lyndon Johnson decided to abdicate in the face of mass protest. But in that tumultuous year, we had a surfeit of anti-war candidates and a real movement. Even so, we ended up with Richard Nixon. This year, it is hard to think of a plausible candidate (Howard Dean? Russ Feingold?) who could unseat Obama without further weakening the Democrats in the general election.

So our task is to step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America. Our movement needs the passion and single mindedness of the Tea Party movement, and it helps that we have reality on our side. If we do our jobs, we can move public opinion, discredit the right, and elect progressives to office. Even Barack Obama might embrace us, if only as a last resort.

Robert Kuttner is the author of A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama’s Promise, Wall Street’s Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future, recently published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company. Kuttner also authored Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency and several other books on politics and the economy. He is coeditor of The American Prospect magazine and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the progressive think tank Demos. He is a regular commentator on TV and radio, and a contributor to The Huffington Post and The Boston Globe, and a former longtime columnist for BusinessWeek. Previously, he was chief investigator of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee and a national staff writer on The Washington Post.

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