Thomas McKelvey Cleaver : ‘I Agree With President Obama’

Photograph by Mark Seliger /

Put aside the President’s botch-ups:
We cannot ‘stand on the sidelines’

The Republicans are dedicated now to overthrowing everything I have worked for or supported for the past half century.

By Thomas McKelvey Cleaver / The Rag Blog / September 29, 2010

Let me just say that, as a person who has been politically active for change in this country for 45 years, I have had a rough time in the period since President Obama’s inauguration last year, watching things go as they have, particularly since I invested so much time and energy into working for his election.

I can specifically look at the botch-up of the fight over health care, the way the President ignored the base and let the organization he had built for the campaign turn into nothing when it could have been used across the country to build the kind of support that could have led to a really worthwhile health care reform.

I can specifically look at the idiocy of appointing Senator Salazar as Secretary of the Interior, where he has managed to make what is supposed to be the “greenest administration in history” look nearly as bad as the Bush Administration in their approach to environmental management.

I can specifically look at the war in Afghanistan, which has gone from bad to worse under leadership that fails to see the obvious right in front of them. I need not go into my dismay over the way they have handled things like DADT, marriage equality, and the rest.

At the same time, the mere fact there is a health care reform law in existence is good. For those who don’t pay attention to history, the original Social Security law in 1935 and the original Medicare law in 1966 were mere shadows of what they are today and what Social Security has been throughout my lifetime in the 50-odd years since I first got my Social Security card.

After these laws got their “foot in the door” they got amended and improved over the years. One can look at much of the environmental legislation in the same way — a foot in the door and then improvement. That is the way things work here in this country.

Or at least that’s the way it has worked in the past, back when there were two political parties that believed in actually governing and improving the country.

Today we have one party that has been taken over by a revolutionary far right political movement, which is dedicated to the overthrow of the system we all understand and support, and to the ultimate imposition of a theocratic corporate-fascist dictatorship — they are not “conservative.” They are radical and revolutionary.

Things are as dangerous for us right now, in my view, as they were in 1931 in Germany. Lots of people (myself included) have been pointing to the example of the 1933 German elections, but that misses the point. Had the Nazi party not managed to become the single largest party in the German Reichstag as a result of the 1931 elections, they could never have pulled off the victory in 1933.

So, to me, the election of 2010 in America is as important as that of 1931 in Germany. If the Republicans get the majority they are looking at, we can kiss all chance of getting any progressive change anywhere good-bye.

As a result of that analysis, I am willing even to vote for Jerry Brown, a politician I have not-so-cordially detested for 35 years, due to my personal direct knowledge of his role in creating the political/social/financial disaster we face today in California, back when it would have been easy to fix in 1975.

In this case, it really does come down to the lesser of two evils, because letting Whitman in completely wrecks the possibility of stopping things from getting a whole lot worse.

In fact, if we let the Republicans in, every last one of my concerns listed above will only get worse, with no possibility of “getting a foot in the door and then changing things as the opportunity arises.” The Republicans are dedicated now to overthrowing everything I have worked for or supported for the past half century.

And so I find myself in complete agreement with this statement by President Obama, in the new Rolling Stone interview. And I hope Rag Blog readers will see it for the good advice it is (emphasis mine):

One closing remark that I want to make: It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. There may be complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises. But right now, we’ve got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.

The idea that we’ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible.

Everybody out there has to be thinking about what’s at stake in this election and if they want to move forward over the next two years or six years or 10 years on key issues like climate change, key issues like how we restore a sense of equity and optimism to middle-class families who have seen their incomes decline by five percent over the last decade. If we want the kind of country that respects civil rights and civil liberties, we’d better fight in this election.

And right now, we are getting outspent eight to one by these 527s that the Roberts court says can spend with impunity without disclosing where their money’s coming from. In every single one of these congressional districts, you are seeing these independent organizations outspend political parties and the candidates by, as I said, factors of four to one, five to one, eight to one, 10 to one.

We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. Bringing about change is hard — that’s what I said during the campaign. It has been hard, and we’ve got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.

If you’re serious, now’s exactly the time that people have to step up.

[Thomas McKelvey Cleaver is an accidental native Texan, a journalist, and a produced screenwriter. He has written successful horror movies and articles about Second World War aviation, was a major fundraiser for Obama in 2008, and has been an activist on anti-war, political reform, and environmental issues for almost 50 years.]

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2 Responses to Thomas McKelvey Cleaver : ‘I Agree With President Obama’

  1. Pollyanna says:

    If Obama’s frank appeal to progressives in the pages of Rolling Stone is to have any effect, it needs to be seen among Democratic candidates nationwide, who seem to be distancing themselves, where they can, from the President. This is itself is a recipe for failure. A party with a sitting President and Congressional majority ought to be able to muster some enthusiasm among its officeholders and aspirants.

  2. Anonymous says:

    too little, too late.

    he tried to take “the high road” of appeasing the right wing — when he should have gone after the other side with subpoenas and investigations of the previous administration.

    his reward for following the same war/torture/bank/corporate policies as his predecessor?

    escalating unemployment & getting blamed for everything that has gone so very wrong.

    he blew it, & now he wants to blame us. the hell with him.

    sit this one out.

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