If you don't like the stuff a store is trying to sell to you, you can walk out without buying anything. But what if you don't like the candidates you have to choose from in an election?
A lot of people feel like walking away from Obama. They feel he just isn't good enough. He hasn't done what he said he would. Obama supporters say he's better than any of the Republicans, but who wants to accept shoddy merchandise just because someone else's merchandise is even worse? As Americans we are told we have a history of striving for excellence, not settling for the inadequate. Obama supporters say he has tried, but the Republicans wouldn't let him accomplish what he wanted to. The truth is that on most of the key issues, he hasn't even tried. His policies were Republican polices. Obama supporters point to a list of his achievements, but the list is awfully short and the achievements pretty insignificant.
Obama ran on a promise of hope and change. Now we are being told not to hope for so much change. What are people to do?
We could back a third party candidate, and many of us would, if a credible candidate would emerge. But no one has thrown a hat into the ring yet. We could sit the election out, let Obama lose, and watch the Republicans spend the next four years continuing to do what they have been doing despite Obama's ineffective opposition, and often with his cooperation. Maybe the Democratic opposition in Congress would become more energetic if it didn't feel it had to go along with the Republicans every time Obama told them they had to pull together as a party and support him as he capitulated. We could vote for Obama and hope he would win and that after the election we could persuade him that he should repay us by actually standing up to the Republicans and promoting a progressive agenda, but that didn't happen the first time we elected him. He turned his back on the people who put him in office.
The frustrating truth is that we don't have any good options at the moment. But there is another way to look at it. We are free to do whatever we want. We don't owe Obama anything. We gave him a chance, and he blew it. We don't owe the Democratic party anything. It didn't hold Obama to his promises, and for the most part, Democrats in Congress sided with Obama as he accepted Republican proposals. We don't have to buy the junk the Democratic party is selling. We may end up without much after the election, but no one is offering us much anyway, and at least when it is over, we won't feel like we have been swindled.
The best option may be to start working for third party candidates, not so much because they will win this time, but so that they will have a foundation to build upon in the next election. The problem with that strategy is that until third parties win more seats, it is very difficult for them to gain any influence or sustain people's interest from one election to the next.
If progressives don't support Obama and he loses, we will be called spoilers, and the Democrats will blame their failures on us. This shouldn't deter us. We have been called all sorts of names before, and it didn't stop us from doing what we thought was right. And come the next election, the Democrats will still ask us for money.
Maybe forming a spoiler coalition is the way to go. The Republicans probably won't field any candidates that we would support, but we would be able to say to the Democratic party, “You can start acting like progressives and, with our support, win elections. Or you can keep doing what you are doing and not get our support and lose.” Maybe they'd get the message.