Obama’s "dithering," as Bob Kuttner aptly labels it in his current Alternet piece, is particularly evident on crucial economic issues. I believe it can be explained chiefly by the Left (broadly defined) failing to act as the Left.
For example, Obama’s Automotive Task Force, composed overwhelmingly of Wall St. Democrats like Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, is on the verge of delivering a devastating blow to US labor, our manufacturing base, and even Obama’s own stimulus plan with its directives to GM and Chrysler. The Task Force’s essential direction: save the GM and Chrysler ships by tossing tens of thousands more workers overboard. (See my recent articles in Z and elsewhere)
Yet John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO and Andrew Stern of Change to Win have been virtually silent on this, apparently putting all their eggs in the "card-check" union recognition bill (Employee Free Choice Act.) As the NY Times reported 3/7/09, corporations are moving jobs overseas and closing down divisions at an accelerated pace. But local struggles to stop the closings of profitable plants, even with other companies eager to buy the plants and keep them running, seemingly get no expanded visibility or support from the AFL-CIO or Change to Win.
Thus, at this point, the only substantial pressure that Obama feels is from "centrist" Wall Street Democrats in and out of Congress, supported by the vast majority of the punditry, who embrace the glories of corporate globalization and "free trade", view parasitic for-profit insurers as indispensable to our health care system, feel content with the richest 1% earning 22% of all income, and look forward to bringing Wall Street and the bloated financial sector back to the golden era of the early 2000′s (with a few token regulations added in to prevent "excesses.")
Meanwhile, the increasingly hallucinatory Republican Party has ceased competing with Democrats for the sympathies of working-class voters.
Labor and progressive members of Congress seem to be so grateful for a moderately liberal Democrat that they have utterly forgotten their responsibilities to speak up for those who are being shut down, shut up, and foreclosed upon.
But their silence and unwillingness to back up local struggles against plant closings and foreclosures means that Obama will continue to be tugged further and further in the direction of Wall Street Democrats.