Last week Bernie Sanders suggested it would be a good idea, and today I would guess a lot more people agree with him.
“They are all losers, from the White House to both houses of Congress,” said political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. “The condemnation is universal. People are just disgusted with them.”
But Obama may have taken the most damage. Boston University political history professor Thomas Whalen predicted he’s lost friends on his own side with a compromise with Republicans that “probably guarantees some kind of liberal opponent to President Obama in 2012,” he said.
“I think there are a lot of ticked-off people on the Democratic side here, because President Obama, he’s basically giving (the GOP) 80 percent of what they want. I don’t see how he can declare some kind of political victory here.”
At this point a primary challenge would almost certainly be a purely quixotic gesture. Obama has already raised nearly $50 million for his re-election campaign, and it’s difficult to even come up with a name of a plausible opponent (Sanders says he’s not interested, and Obama campaigned hard for Russ Feingold last fall, which would seem to eliminate the two most obvious choices).
Beyond that, would a primary challenge by a prominent progressive be a good thing? This in my view is a difficult question to answer at the moment. The disadvantages of such an effort are obvious. The argument for it turns on the extent to which one believes that the difference in the current attitude of the GOP and the the Democrats towards their bases (fear and contempt, respectively) represents a problem for progressive politics. Given that Obama has done nothing in two and a half years that has displeased neo-liberals (except to the extent that neo-liberals agree with progressives on various issues; in other words Obama has done nothing that any Democrat this side of Zell Miller would consider too “left”), and an enormous amount that has angered progressives, some pushback is probably desirable. But without a plausible candidate for what would almost surely be a symbolic gesture, such speculations are probably academic in the worst sense of the word.
Update: At Davis X. Machina’s suggestion: