Dr. Stephen R. Keister : On Biden’s Blaming the Base

Joe Biden, at a Manchester, NH, fundraiser on Sept. 27, 2010, told the Democratic base to “stop whining.” Photo from AP.

‘Perhaps I grow testy’:
On Obama and Biden blaming the Democratic base

By Dr. Stephen R. Keister / The Rag Blog / September 29, 2010

[On Sept. 27] at a fundraiser in Manchester, NH, Vice President Biden urged Democrats to “remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This President has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises.”

[On Sept. 20] at the Pyramid Club in Philadelphia, President Obama said “when I hear Democrats griping and groaning and saying, ‘Well, you know, the health care plan didn’t have a public option’ …. or this or that or the other — I say, folks, wake up… This is not some academic exercise. ”

Perhaps I grow testy in my old age, but I am very much bothered by the statements of President Obama and Vice President Biden demeaning their progressive supporters and the young activists who brought them to office.

To place the blame on the progressives within the Democratic party for their own lack of insight — and their pandering to the Republicans and “Blue Dogs” — strains credulity and reason. Once again Casandra is ignored with, I fear, potential results comparable to the fall of Troy come the election five weeks away.

I look for a personal analogy… In 1938 I applied for admission to medical school. One of my sponsors, who I feel was key to my admission, was the elderly family physician.

Let us assume that at the end of my freshman year my grades were below average, and let us assume that my sponsor admonished me for my lack of dedication and perseverance.I would have two options: (1) to show my gratitude and respect and assure the gentleman that I would do better; or (2) to be cutting, unkind, and show no respect for his efforts in my behalf… put him down, demean him. If I had been an insightful, courteous, and thinking individual I would have opted for the first.

(No such event ever occurred… I worked my butt off!)

The Obama/Biden response to their initial supporters and donors certainly shows complete lack of any comprehension of reality. We are asked to be thankful for the crumbs from their table, and concurrently provide them a scapegoat for their own failings come election night and an overwhelming Republican win.

Of course we must take into account that the administration has been facing a hostile minority, but a minority indeed. We elected these folks to do what is morally and ethically correct, not to cringe and hide behind their dissident Democrats in the Senate.

Whether their response is a product of lack of understanding, stupidity, or gross disrespect hardly seems to matter. Perhaps, just perhaps, these folks can be saved from themselves. Perhaps we can in our actions get it across to them that they are derelict in communicating with the American people, a point that should be repeated time and time again.

Elect Republicans and put in jeopardy your Social Security, Medicare, and tax relief for the great majority of the American people. Elect Republicans and look forward to escalation of foreign wars with the concurrent loss to our national economy. Elect Republicans and deny yourself further ability to make individual choices.

One can hardly anticipate any positive action from these folks who cannot see the forest for the trees, but it might help an iota if the White House would appoint a thinking person, a person of vision and compassion, to the openings in the Treasury and White House staff, rather than more clones of Wall Street or of the Blue Dog stripe.

However, as the followers of true progressive tradition we must hold our noses and GET OUT AND VOTE. We progressives cannot afford to be petty and stay home; we must drag ourselves, our families, and our friends to the polls if we are to preclude a situation that could become unimaginably worse.

This is crucial in many, many states and many, many congressional districts, but none more than here in Pennsylvania where in the senatorial contest Vice-Admiral Sestak faces a very well-funded (by the corporations) political Neanderthal — one Pat Toomey — who is a leader in the drive to privatize Social Security.

I remember while in college being at an FRD rally when Harold Ickes spoke. Oh, to see persons like him, Henry Wallace, and Francis Perkins in Washington again.

[Dr. Stephen R. Keister lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. He is a retired physician who is active in health care reform.]

The Rag Blog

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10 Responses to Dr. Stephen R. Keister : On Biden’s Blaming the Base

  1. Pollyanna says:

    Three cheers for Dr. Keister; my sentiments exactly and better expressed! One cannot cut oneself off from one’s base and then fault the base for being inactive.

    The 2008 Obama campaign gave the impression that everyday folks would have internet access to the halls of power, and be able to give actual input to solving national problems. What happened to that??

  2. Hosea W. McAdoo MD says:

    Dr. Keister,

    Thank you once again for saying my thoughts, but saying them so much more clearly.

    You are absolutely correct. I have been trying to write an article on this important point, but my attempts fell short of your words.

    We face an American tragedy because of timidity of this administration in its zeal to bow and scrape to Republicans and its quickness to blame supporters.

    I remember when you and I and many, many others thought Obama would lead the majority out of the dark ages of Bush. As soon as he refused to investigate Bush, refused to undo the dangerous executive orders, closed his open line for citizen input, didn’t close Gitmo, allowed torture to continue by proxy, continued to think of habeas corpus as an option, I knew the dream was over. Now he promotes assassination of anyone he doesn’t like by his version of the KGB (The CIA). He probably won’t like us after this day.

    I am just devastated by the realization of where we could have gone considering the strong voter enthusiasm; we lost almost all the momentum, lost almost all the cheering mobs and what we have is slightly better than McCain. What utter disappointment. Remember the cheering throngs at inauguration? The fears for his safety?

    We will now face the typical American election: a choice between two very bad choices and it will never change as long as corporate money buys elections. There is no chance for a really honorable, intelligent new candidate, one that is not funded by the corporate mafia.

  3. Dr. Keister has produced another excellent article.

    I very much agree with Dr. McAdoo’s fourth paragraph. Perhaps Obama fears he would go the way of JFK if he did not go along with the national security state apparatus.

    His course in Afghanistan is a mistake, but the sad fact is that we have become a warlike people. What seems to be the conventional wisdom is built on three pillars: Social Darwinism, unrestrained market capitalism, and the ugliest sort of Social Darwinism. Very few question the expenses that war brings, and pulling out of Afghanistan too soon would make him unelectable and expose the Democrats to the charge of being soft on terrorism.

    Obama and Reid should have battled the obstructionism after the first few months. They didn’t and allowed the GOP to define the political debate for 21 months. Now people are so panicked that they blindly revert to default thinking– the conventional wisdom mentioned above.

    It seems crazy to let the people who nearly destroyed the economy and financial system back in power, but from the perspective of psychology, it makes perfect sense. People want mental stasis and comfort above all, and they have been taught to believe in the conventional wisdom. Since the collapse of the New Deal coalition, the Democrats have not had a good political narrative.

    One thing the present situation seems to prove is that Proverbs might be wrong in stating that he who sews hatred ends us destroyed. It seems to work all too well.

    There is even a chance that Obama’s fiscal and economic policies are beginning to kick in and could bring better times in 2011. Then the Repugs would find a way of taking credit, and most voters would believe it.

    Steve Keister is right. If we want to keep Social Security, Medicare, and Health Insurance, we need to get out there and elect Democrats. Eventually, under the Repugs, the cost of the permanent tax cut and contionued aggressive foreign policy will drain so much revenue that they will have no choice but to go after SS, Medicare, and social programs. At the state level, they are already talking about gutting pensions, and any state worker or retiree who votes Republican needs to have her or his head examined.

  4. Anonymous says:

    what’s the difference?

    Dems have a majority right now — it’s paralyzed by cowardice, ineptitude, and the filibuster. They get NOTHING constructive done.

    And if they lose the majority, ohmygod — we’ll be able to get the exact same NOTHING done.

    to stop the right wing bad stuff that Obiden are scaring us with, GEE, it will be necessary for the congressional Dems to ‘man up’ & filibuster and the Pres to veto.

    Congress will waste time, sure, but don’t they already? at least we will see if Dems really mean what they say about their principles.

    No difference between before election and after.

    No need to panic.

    No need to give either money or time to people like Biden and Obama who disrespect you.

    sit this one out.

  5. Didier says:

    The difference is between bad and worst
    Create an alternative or avoid the worst. Repugs are a plea not only for America but for the whole world

  6. Anonymous says:


    Look how Obiden doesn’t speak to progressives, except to bully us into fighting for their failed reputations.

    we are told that a dark night of fascism will befall us if we don’t help them continue to screw us. this is a transparent ploy to rally a disenchanted Democrat base that is tired of failed promises and manipulations from its so-called leaders.

    it’s a no-win situation. but, as I explained above, it’s really a no-lose situation too, if we go ahead & let Obiden crater w/o our donations of money and volunteer help.

    We will be saving our precious personal resources for better things down the road.

    the scene at the national level is not affected one whit by the election outcome, which WILL be bad for Dems. but the result is the same, win or lose: NOTHING gets done. No need to panic.

    maybe on the state level, it’s important to keep Dem majorities for redistricting purposes. however, that’s uninspiring as a rallying cry for most people who aren’t political junkies.

    Most progressives are people whose main concerns are for humanity, not electing Democrats for the sake of electing Democrats.

    Partisans like Obiden are manipulating progressives while insulting them (calling war, torture, climate inaction, offshore drilling, and single-payer health care merely “academic” differences as Biden did).

  7. Didier says:

    I do agree with your analysis . It’s definitely a no-win situation because progressists have not established a balance of power with the Obama Administration. Are they capable to do so ? Our support in exchange for …(and not electing Democrats for the sake of electing Democrats)
    I think people like Carl Davidson, Tom Hayden and others can help.
    I have a request, Anonymous : If you don’t want to let your voice be heard, make OUR voices heard, we, the progressist people of the world. (I’m writing from France)
    The world needs a progressist America, but one step at a time .First contain the Repugs die-hard policy and the tea baggers gang. Then, deal with the Dems.

  8. Didier says:


    I’m going to quote a friend of mine, who wrote an essay entitled “Beyond Voting”

    Two years ago, he wrote:
    “Like many other people, I am delighted to see the Republicans collapsing into well-deserved ignominy, with the likelihood of the Democrats recapturing the presidency and increasing their majorities in Congress. Hopefully the latter will discontinue or at least mitigate some of the more insane policies of the current administration (some of which, such as climate change and ecological devastation, threaten to become irreversible). Beyond that, I do not expect the Democratic politicians to accomplish anything very significant. Most of them are just as corrupt and compromised as the Republicans. Even if a few of them are honest and well-intentioned, they are all loyal servants of the ruling economic system, and they all ultimately function as cogwheels in the murderous political machine that serves to defend that system.
    I have considerable respect and sympathy for the people who are campaigning for the Democratic Party while simultaneously trying to reinvigorate it and democratize it. There are elements of a real grassroots movement there, developing in tandem with the remarkable growth of the liberal-radical blogosphere over the last few years.
    But imagine if that same immense amount of energy on the part of millions of people was put into more directly radical agitation, rather than (or in addition to) campaigning for rival millionaires. As a side effect, such agitation would put the reactionaries on the defensive and actually result in more “progressives” being elected. But more importantly, it would shift both the momentum and the terrain of the struggle.”

    In a 2010 version, he adds :

    “The Democrats did indeed recapture the presidency and increase their majorities in Congress, but their accomplishments since then have been as pathetic as could be imagined. Some people will say that they are still better than the Republicans. But being better than a party of sociopathic demagogues and gullible ignoramuses is hardly much of an achievement.

    The side that takes the initiative usually wins because it defines the terms of the struggle. If we accept the system’s own terms and confine ourselves to defensively reacting to each new mess produced by it, we will never overcome it. We have to keep resisting particular evils, but we also have to recognize that the system will keep generating new evils until we put an end to it.

    By all means vote if you feel like it. But don’t stop there. Real social change requires participation, not representation.”

    I would say, vote AND don’t stop there.

    This (rainy and windy) afternoon, I will join millions (I hope so) in the streets, protesting against the pension reform in France. It won’t be enough, probably, and the next step must be a general strike and a blokade of the economy.

    Yes, we can (just kidding). Well, we’ll try.

  9. I can sympathize with the dilemma the left faces. It was the same dilemma we conservatives faced in 2008. We had a bellyful of fake conservatives in DC including Bush. We had voted Republican thinking they would “be the lesser of two evils”. Sound familiar? About 2005 some, including me, started openly questioning that strategy.

    Continuing to support the lame RNC candidates only made us enablers of the very things we detested. When McCain was nominated it was the last straw for many of us. The collective response was something like this. “Its time to shake things up. We have to destroy the Republican party as we know it so that that we can replace it with something better”. It was a risky and dangerous strategy. We knew that we would unleash tremendous damage upon America in the form of an anticapitalist antibusiness progressive Obama administration. But without pain, there is no gain. We correctly predicted that even moderate democrats and independents would be turned off by the Obama administration policies and idealogical arrogance.

    As we did our best to burn the old Republican party to the ground, conservatives worked to ensure something new and better would arise. And in fact the TEA Parties did arise. I am proud of my vote to slay the rotten corpse of the old Republican party. Sometimes a bit of anarchy and chaos are good things.

    Progressives now face the same issue. Do you continue to vote for the “lesser of two evils”? Or do you dare risk an attempt at something more? Its a dangerous strategy. My guess is that you will turn out in modest numbers and vote for the DNC approved candidates. I do not believe that anthing analogous to the TEA Parties is on your horizon. No grassroots liberal movement that can turn millions of soccer moms and dads into political activists will emerge. The unions can muster members for some rally or event. But a nationwide, long term grassroots liberal movement doesn’t seem to be a possibility. That limits your options.

  10. Didier says:

    Oh, here is our beloved tea bagger. And here is the very reason why you should vote next november.
    Can you please DHS ? Of course not. Friends, the worst is to come

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