Liberal Activists and Academics Seek a Primary Challenge to Obama

The group says a challenge will help activate the president’s base.

Posted: 09/20/2011 07:57 AM EDT
Barack Obama

Activist and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, Princeton professor Cornel West and other Democrats and progressives announced on Monday that they’re searching for a candidate to launch a primary challenge to President Obama. In a “Dear Colleague” letter to people they think would sympathize with their cause, the group said the president “has turned his back on his liberal base and the progressive agenda,” The Los Angeles Times reports.


“If [Obama's] smart, he'll welcome it, because nothing's worse than an incumbent president slipping in the polls, being constantly on the defensive, being accused by supporters of having no backbone and running an unenthusiastically received campaign. That's a prescription for defeat,” said Nader, who contends he doesn’t want to hurt the president’s prospect for re-election next year. "He's got a lack of enthusiasm with his base. If he goes through a one-year presidential campaign with mind-numbing repetition, responding to crazed Republican positions, he is not going to activate his base. He will be put on the defensive, just the way he is now."


West and Nader, who head a group called the New Progressive Alliance, say that Obama has acted wrongly by extending the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans, supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and engaging the U.S. in a military operation in Libya. They are still working on a list of possible Democratic challengers and acknowledge the need to act quickly to meet state filing deadlines.


“We need to put strong Democratic pressure on President Obama in the name of poor and working people” said West, who spent part of August on a poverty tour to highlight what he and PBS host Tavis Smiley said was a lack of support and attention to poor communities. “His administration has tilted too much toward Wall Street, we need policies that empower Main Street.”

(Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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