As the Democratic Convention continues, and generates positive headlines due to competent storytelling and effective use of show business tactics, it’s important to recognize that the ultimate meat of governing – policy – is disconnected from the election. It’s not that the election doesn’t matter to people, because clearly, people care deeply about which icon is on their TV telling them about their political system. But recognize that the showbiz is not the policy, that the showbiz isn’t even related to the policy.
There is a generalized and acknowledged sense that Obama has been a disappointment in certain policy areas, like prosecuting Wall Street criminals. But still, the argument is still held in certain corners that Obama has largely followed through on his campaign promises from 2008, and if he did not meet the expectations of his supporters, that is because they read things into his candidacy that were not there. This is an unfair slur on his 2008 supporters, a group that has every right to be disillusioned. In fact, if you read the 2008 Democratic party platform today (here’s the platform), it’s clear there are plenty of important promises in the platform that the Obama administration and Democrats failed to honor.
Here’s a list of some of the broken promises from 2008.
We will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions and fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
This did not happen. The labor law never passed.
We will ensure that federal employees, including public safety officers who put their lives on the line every day, have the right to bargain collectively, and we will fix the broken bargaining process at the Federal Aviation Administration.
We will fight to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, so that workers can stand up for themselves without worrying about losing their livelihoods.
We will also ensure that every American worker is able earn up to seven paid sick days to care for themselves or an ill family member.
To help workers share in our country’s productivity, we’ll expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation.
Didn’t happen. And the minimum wage hike is actually in the 2012 platform, again.
We will encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.
Well, Comcast did buy NBC.
We will ensure that the foreclosure prevention program enacted by Congress is implemented quickly and effectively so that at-risk homeowners can get help and hopefully stay in their homes. We will work to reform bankruptcy laws to restore balance between lender and homeowner rights.
Larry Summers and Tim Geithner opposed cramdown, so it didn’t happen. And I think it’s safe to say that foreclosure prevention was not a priority for this administration.
We will work with Canada and Mexico to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement so that it works better for all three North American countries.
We will put all non-emergency bills that Congress has passed online for five days, to allow the American public to review and comment on them before they are signed into law.
We will require Cabinet officials to have periodic national online town hall meetings to discuss issues before their agencies.
We reject illegal wiretapping of American citizens, wherever they live.
We reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.
We reject the tracking of citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war.
We reject sweeping claims of “inherent” presidential power.
And we will ensure that law-abiding Americans of any origin, including Arab-Americans and Muslim- Americans, do not become the scapegoats of national security fears.
We will respect the time-honored principle of habeas corpus, the seven century-old right of individuals to challenge the terms of their own detention that was recently reaffirmed by our Supreme Court.
These aren’t just broken promises, these are all broken promises that have to do with the economic and political rights of the relatively powerless. Privacy, union rights, debtor’s rights, activist rights, etc – they were promised tangible stuff, and didn’t get it. It looks like the Obama campaign will get a bounce from the convention, because the convention is well-organized and a good show. Just recognize that this show in 2008 had nothing to do with the ultimate policy that was enacted, and it’s likely that the 2012 convention will see a similar outcome.