In 2008, the Backbone Campaign and a coalition of allies responded to the proposed "Paulson Plan" with a plan of our own. The online and on the streets campaign generated over 35,000 emails to Congress. Conservatives and progressives were united against bailing out the "Too big to fail" banks. We argued that anything "Too big to fail" was actually TOO BIG TO EXIST.
Though political science is considered part of the liberal arts, I am ever more convinced that principles of physics and biology are as much at play in society as in the physical sciences. Obama's response to the financial crisis, even before his inauguration signalled that he would never be a strong enough progressive champion to challenge the oligarchy. His failure to lead with backbone and stand up to Wall Street at that key moment ceded moral territory and created a vacuum.
Nature abhors a vacuum. For this reason alone, it is more than fair to attribute considerable blame upon Obama for emergence and ascendance of the populist right, i.e. the Tea Party and its logical manifestations in Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Obama's failure to take the mantle of modern populism at a time when it was desperately needed, when the winds of change were heralding its inevitability was cowardly and shortsighted. It was also a tragic betrayal of the "Change We Can Believe In" rhetoric of his campaign. Millions of Americans had invested their aspirations in his administration and they were cynically abandoned.
But just as the Tea Party emerged with its populism of xenophobia, fear, and racism - Occupy offered a more positive populism. Despite disappearing from the front pages, Occupy did not disappear, but rather melted into multiple democracy, environmental and economic justice movements. Those movements are gaining ground with victories and taking territory in the hearts and minds of Americans. Today progressives see a new wave of possibility, a way to channel their energies into a political revolution. That revolution needs a program.
In 2004 the Backbone Campaign and allies created a Progressive Cabinet Roster. In 2005 through 2012, Backbone produced 87 podcasts called Conversations with the Cabinet. The theme of those participatory interviews was that we have the leaders and ideas to run the country. A rainbow of progressive visionaries, movement leaders and policy experts repeatedly articulated not only what we oppose, but more importantly what we propose.