Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 4, 2011

PRESENTING THE PRESIDENT WITH AN OPPORTUNITY.... The agenda appears to have been pulled from a Dickens novel. Congressional Republicans, filled with self-righteous certainty about public attitudes, envisions an ambitious agenda, including the privatization of Medicare, gutting Medicaid, taking away health coverage for millions of struggling Americans, and lavishing tax breaks on millionaires and billionaires.

The GOP's immodest goals, in other words, are to turn back the clock -- not to the Bush or Reagan eras, but to a time before the Great Society and the New Deal. Republicans are working under the assumption that working families and the middle class have had it too good for too long.

E.J. Dionne Jr., while detailing the ways in which the GOP agenda is "radical," urges President Obama to "engage the country in this big argument."

Will his political advisers remain robotically obsessed with poll results about the 2012 election, or will they embrace Obama's historic obligation -- and opportunity -- to win the most important struggle over the role of government since the New Deal? [...]

[The Republican agenda] is all extreme and irresponsible stuff. The president knows it. The coming week will test who he is. When Ryan releases his budget, will the president finally engage?

"This is our time," Obama liked to say during the 2008 campaign. This most certainly is his time to stand up for the vision of a practical, progressive government that he once advanced so eloquently.

I have no real doubts that the president and congressional Democrats will oppose the GOP's extremism. There's simply no way, for example, Obama would endorse privatizing Medicare out of existence. It's a non-starter.

But given the scope of the Republican agenda, and the way in which the House majority likes to negotiate -- demand the truly insane, settle for the merely obscene -- this appears to be one of those times a simple veto threat isn't enough.

What Dionne seems to be suggesting, and I think he's correct, is that the White House and its allies should see this opportunity, not only to oppose GOP radicalism, but also to explain why this agenda is so ridiculous.

There's ample evidence that the American mainstream is instinctively opposed to what Republicans have in mind, so the Dems' message should land on fertile soil. It's largely up to Obama, however, to actually make the case.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (63)

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This is easy. The WH has located its re-election offices in Chicago precisely to AVOID engaging these kinds of issues.

The only possibility -- and it's a slim one -- is if they decide to make opposition to the Republicans' plans a central pillar of their re-election strategy. But that's unlikely for several reasons: the public has internalized the "deficits" myth and the WH has enabled it, the banksters want health-care expenditures cut by any means (including screwing over an entire generation of the middle class) and the WH is in bed with the banksters, and confronting the Republicans on ANYTHING is a high-risk strategy while the WH wants to play it safe.

I'll be generous and call it a 1-in-4 shot.

Posted by: bleh on April 4, 2011 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Yes Steve, they should, but they show no signs of grasping that this is a fight they must have in order to win, and a fight they must win for all our sakes. I am sick and tired of watchign the Democrats throw away golden political opportunities, and absolutely necessary political acts, in favor of some bizarre strategy of wait and see, or hope and pray, or anything other than the knock down drag out fight they need to be fighting. How hard is it to simply stand up and say "these are our principles and they are worth fighting for?" Obama's low key announcement of his re-election campaign indicates, to me, that he is still not willing to make a high profile/high stakes fight for anything. Whether that is because its not in his nature or because his advisors still don't want him to expend any political capital is unclear. But if Obama himself isn't willing to at least feign outrage and fight over what the Republicans are advocating how on earth do they expect his voters to experience any real enthusiasm?


Posted by: aimai on April 4, 2011 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Ryan and the GOP are also handicapped by the extremism of Republican governors, who have already raised alarm bells regarding the GOP agenda. Also note Ryan's 'we are not going into the details, that will be done in committee' response to questions about that accompanying tax package. Much more likely now that the MSM will treat that claim skeptically.

Posted by: Bill on April 4, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

The Repiglicans/Corporations are using the social and economic reality of former President McKinnnely as their goal and guide. When he was assassinated his V.P. Theodore Roosevelt took over and then tried to totally dismantle that reality. He was a Republican who would now be considered some wild eyed extreme 'socialist' by not only our Corporate Media, who would 'present' him that way, but the vast majority of the stupid Americans who accept what they are presented with by our Corporate Media. We need another Teddy Roosevelt.

Posted by: stormskies on April 4, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

This could become the defining moment of Obama's Presidency.

Does he go and use his bully pulpit to reinvigorate Liberalism in this country? To eplain why things like SS, Medicare and Medicaid were created in the first place, and why they're no less critical now, after a devastating recession/depression?

Or, does he just sit and let Congress hash this out in the court of public opinion - where the Conservatives have a distinct home court advantage with the MSM.

Obama seemed to be a fighter when he was campaigning.

Since then, uhm, not so much...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 4, 2011 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Oftentimes lately, I've been feeling as if Obama's been gumming up the works.

If he wasn't there, Nancy Pelosi would once again be responding to suggestions of Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid 'reform' with "How about never? Does 'never' work for you?"

Instead, Obama's the one with the big microphone, and he isn't making very good use of it to make the case for Democratic priorities.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on April 4, 2011 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

They had a chance before the Nov election to totally destroy the Republican party.

All they had to do was hold the vote on equal pay for women. Then when the GOP voted against it slam them until the election with that one single issue.


They chose to hold that vote after the election.

Then barely made a peep about it.

I have no faith the Dems will do the right thing and take advantage of this situation.

See tax cuts for the rich.

Posted by: langx on April 4, 2011 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK


It is not up to Obama to make the case. It is up to EVERY single Dem to make the case. While that includes Obama, PASSIVITY IS NOT AN OPTION. Stop waiting for presidential inspiration; it is a horribly passive way of operating. Get loud and get active now, whether or not you believe the president is making the right pitch.

Posted by: danimal on April 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

two points: obama is going to cement his reputation as jimmy carter redux by failing to make the case, despite the fact that he has the rhetorical gifts to do so. i happen to believe that as a centrist, he half agrees with ryan.

and danimal is right: it therefore can't only be up to obama.

Posted by: howard on April 4, 2011 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

I totally agree with danimal. Placid Americans must become utterly confrontational, go into the streets, just like they are in various countries in Europe. Then and only then can we expect any REAL change.

Posted by: stormskies on April 4, 2011 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

If you're a liberal looking for a champion, Obama is your worst nightmare. Still, this is our battle and not just the president's. I can more than half understand Obama's lukewarm presidency - there's no functional left in America. All the noise, passion, and aggression is on the right. So, how do we create a left in an economically and culturally anxious nation? That's the perennial question and one we can't answer here. If there is an answer, it's outside on the streets.

Posted by: walt on April 4, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Like many left-of-center, I have found Obama, the Dems in Congress, etc. to be huge disappointments. Turning this into the defining issue for the 2012 election is the only way they can redeem themselves. In some ways this is a rerun of social security privatization and it needs to be an opportunity to marhinalize the teabaggers and DLC types all at once.

Posted by: Rich on April 4, 2011 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

You're right. Good point!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 4, 2011 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP hates middle class Americans. The GOP hates unions. The GOP hates Medicare. The GOP hates Social Security. The GOP hates Minimum Wage.

Why does the GOP hate so much?

Why is the GOP ANTI-AMERICAN??????????????

Posted by: Jim B on April 4, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Danimal is right. Every single Republican, current and former, is singing the same song. It will take every Democrat and more to counter their narrative.

But, if Obama doesn't make the case, then it isn't going to matter what congresspeople from California, New York and wherever say.

My money's on capitulation. And I am basing that on a review of Obama's entire career. I don't see a single instance in which he fought the hard fight.

Posted by: James E Powell on April 4, 2011 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

During the campaign there was quite an uproar from the left when Obama talked about Reagan as a transformtive president. Of course, it was true, and what we're experiencing now is the late stages of the transformation Reagan wrought.

But it was Obama's recognition of Reagan that suggested he understood transformative figures and that he hoped to become one himself.

He's had many chances to do that since taking office, and so far has not been willing to risk the confrontation that transformation requires.

I hope I'm wrong, but at this point I don't see that changing.

Posted by: beep52 on April 4, 2011 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Its pretty clear that this agenda will, over time, come to resemble what our forefathers fought to be free from...

Posted by: Kill Bill on April 4, 2011 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Obama declared he's running for re-election this morning. He needs to raise a billion dollars to run against Citizens United fueled GOP opponents.

I have little confidence in bold action from a man who has his hand out for big donations.

Posted by: biggerbox on April 4, 2011 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

You are right that Obama won't endorse privatizing Medicare out of existence, but he will cave into letting it be taken apart piecemeal. The Republican anti-American agenda is like the anti-abortion death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy. The purpose is to gradually erode the social contract until it is meaningless. I don't think the Republicans even understand their own nihilism; I think they all believe that they will be winners in the coming New Dark Ages.

Posted by: Rugosa on April 4, 2011 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

I couldn't agree more and I couldn't disagree more. Obama's presidential campaign is *the* moment when he, as leader of our party, has to step forward and articulate what the party stands for. While progressive and grassroots democrats can and should fight hard for progressive causes--not to be confused with the Democratic party agenda--they don't have the media clout and they don't have the political right to dictate policy at the highest levels.

Since the days of Frank Luntz the GOP has grasped the importance of a strong message delivery system, top to bottom. That we still don't have such a strong message system that includes the President down to the lowest staffer on the Democratic side is an astoudning failure of leadership by Obama and his team--and of course of the congressional dems who have never fully supported Obama. I blame absolutely everyone. But its not correct to argue that if the grassroots were on message everything would be fine. Because the grassroots doesn't have the ability to make their message heard. And because the grassroots message isn't the same as Obama and the Dems message. Look at the fate of hte god damned public option? Or the end of the Iraq war? or lots of other things. The grassroots wanted Obama to fight for the public option and he wouldn't. They really, really, want him to come out swinging for Social Security and Medicare and for the ACA and for unions. We can "draw a line in the sand" all we want but until Obama backs it up with words and actions its meaningless.

I'm not waiting for Obama to be the candidate I want. I've got to work for him and fight for him regardless of how inept he and his team are. But I'm not expecting the Dems to get their frackin' act together at this point and figure out that they need to sell a progressive agenda. They simply show no signs of being willing to do so.


Posted by: aimai on April 4, 2011 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

We can only hope that Obama will not piss this opportunity away, as he often does as e.g. with the chance to pinch Wall Street etc.
BTW, evidence about how inequality hurts almost everyone:

Posted by: neil b on April 4, 2011 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

When Bush started his SS privatization crusade in 2005, I was there. I spoke out, I signed petitions, I sent letters to Congresspeople. I didn that because I knew were fighting the right fight, but I also did it because Democrats in Washington were fighting too.

I get what danimal is saying, but it's really hard for the rank and file to motivate ourselves for a fight when the POTUS appears to lack the fierce audacity of now.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on April 4, 2011 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Wrong, danimal. Great leaders lead their troops and/or Party. Some of us are very fortunate to live in solid Democratic and Progressive districts. Now, how, are we going to change views in the Heartland or Deep South? Yes, there is yeoman's work being done by such as Blue Girl and her cohorts at theygaveusarepublic, but, it would help if we thought the President really cared about Progressive principles instead of compromising and hiding behind the myth of being a three dimensional chess wonder.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 4, 2011 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

obama has already ceded the argument; he'll eagerly cave to the republican budget demands to show how serious he is about aligning himself with the oligarchy.

Posted by: bkny on April 4, 2011 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Where is OUR "Tea Party"?

Posted by: DAY on April 4, 2011 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

This fight needs to be taken to the forefront. MSNBC advocated the ‘class warfare’ approach to understanding Republican actions, but only for a week’s news cycle. Yet, ‘class warfare’ describes perfectly what the Republicans are doing. The Democrats and, God forbid, President Obama need to be yelling this on every street corner and talk show. It just takes the courage of your convictions. Unfortunately the Republicans are showing far more courage than the Democrats when it comes to political convictions. Might this have had something to do with he 2010 election results?

Posted by: Harun Magnuson on April 4, 2011 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

As noted above, why would you think that at this point Obama is going to take any leadership in defending progressive programs/ He has shown repeatedly that he has no sensitivity for the needs of the middle and lower classes, and that his objective is to placate Republicans. He has not shown any inclination that he will assert his veto power to turn back the assaults from the right. He caved to corporate greed on the health care reform, He caved on letting the tax breaks continue for the obscenely wealthy. He is palling around with wealth and power, and seems to like it a lot.

Posted by: candideinnc on April 4, 2011 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

It's largely up to Obama, however, to actually make the case.

Which is why I continue to fear for the working people of our country!

Is there anything that The Obomination believes in enough that he will stand up and fight the repukes over? It is unfortunate that next fall's election will be between the repuke-lite compromisor and a corporately owned tea-pukelican.

Posted by: SadOldVet on April 4, 2011 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

EJ should know by now that it ain't gonna happen. As much as Dionne and the rest of us might wish to see some spine, there is nothing - not one scintilla of evidence - that suggests Obama would do anything but capitulate.

Some congresspeople have tried to lead the charge, but their efforts have fizzled and there's no way that Obama is going to stick his neck out. Got an email soliciting a donation from him this morning and I unsubscribed without reading it. I'm disgusted with him and his ways.

Posted by: CDW on April 4, 2011 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

One of the most discouraging things I've recently read in regard to the President's advisors is their stance that they're not going to respond to every little thing vis a vis the nonsense that passes for cable news these days. I understand that, but it's the "little things" that build into big, all-encompensing hysterical nonsense, e.g., "death panels."

I hope they start to see the bigger picture, in that it's not just about pushing back against attacks on Obama, it's about pushing back against nonsense that has the potential to adversely impact the public at large.

And I also feel that going into this campaign, the President cannot be content to talk about the damage Republicans are doing and will do, in terms of cute metaphors (e.g., driving the car into a ditch, etc.). As Benen states, Obama really needs to outline in plain, frank talk just what the GOP plans are for the country and not sugar-coat it, and not provide cover for the GOP ("I'm sure they love the country as much as anyone") because it's certainly no laughing matter. The Republican vision for the country is in reality, truly dangerous to the continuation of this nation as a democracy.

Posted by: June on April 4, 2011 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

At this point it doesn't seem realistic to me to expect Obama to engage in these crucial issues. He is not who he sold himself to us as, and there is little to no reason to expect him to suddenly shed his timorous, cautious personality to become the torch bearer for the middle-class. He is a gigantic disappointment, and the many of us not super rich are in great peril because of his passive, day-late-and-dollar short approach to dealing not only with congress, but the American people in general. He doesn't even try to control the message, and neither do the Dumbocrats. The Rethugs frame the issues their way, create the propaganda to sell it with, and the corporate media dutifully repeats it all unchallenged.

We live in a truly disgusting time.

Posted by: rrk1 on April 4, 2011 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is a Third-Way Democrat. As soon as the GOP shifts the Overton Window and makes attacks on Medicare politically safe, Obama will "jump in it".

Liberals need to wake the fuck up. Corporatist, anti-middle class Third-Way Democratic policies are not popular with voters. Liberals have two choices. If liberals keep hitching their wagon to Third-Way Democrats what will happen is that liberals will get blamed for the failures of the Third-Way corporatists and then, with nowhere else to go, the voters will give political power back to the GOP. First the Senate in 2012 or 2014, and then the White House in 2016. Could this be more obvious?

Or liberals can finally make a stand and, like the tea partiers, distinguish themselves from the party leadership. The obvious risk is that the GOP might reap some short term benefit from Democratic disunity. But since the alternative inevitably leads to Democratic failure and GOP rule, I really don't see how there is a choice.

Posted by: square1 on April 4, 2011 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

What E. J. Dionne is suggesting is that the Democratic Party establish a national political voice and start speaking to the nation - as a political party.

The Democrats have always been a collection of state parties who allied to take national office. The Republicans grew up as a national party with the TV industry, but the Democrats, trapped between liberal Northerners and the segregationist Southerners who were necessary to gain national power, never developed the national "voice" as a party to compete with the Republicans.

E. J. is right. It's time for Obama and the Democrats to change that.

Posted by: Rick B on April 4, 2011 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

There are mornings when I wake up and wonder "could a President McCain really have been worse than this?" McCain might be plotting to privatize Social Security and Medicare too, but if it happened, at least I wouldn't have been responsible for helping to elect the jackass who did it. When Gutless Obama dismantles the American safety net, I'll be told by the Democratic Party that I should be proud of his efforts because somehow Republicans would have fucked me even harder.

Posted by: Citizen Alan on April 4, 2011 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

One thing I will not do is engage in destructive, tea-party-like criticism that has become so typical of "the left" and as is evidenced on this thread.

Obama has been a champion of liberal, progressive causes and has made significant progress in these areas in spite of the seemingly genetic disposition of liberals and "the left" to tear him to pieces each step of the way.

"We" want Obama to be 1000% percent loyal to our "ponies" - yet from day 1 have practically done nothing but snipe at his heels, called him names, and even sided with the racist, ignorant Tea Party over a Democratic president. In spite of that, Obama's administration has accomplished quite a bit in the direction of progress with little help from "progressives."

And here we are again, his re-election is barely out of the gate and "progressives" are chomping at the bit to put in a GOP prez.

What price glory.

Posted by: June on April 4, 2011 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

In my view, this Ryan announcement is simply a cynical ploy that will let the Republicans off the hook for not holding the government hostage to their ridiculous budget cuts and not shutting down the government.

It's an implicit promise to their corporate/tea party/Koch backers that 'yes they will' just later....

I see nothing of real substance here. They lost gigantically in '06 when this was their agenda.

Posted by: jjm on April 4, 2011 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

June, that is such bullshit. This is not a question of each and every liberal sparklepony shibboleth. These are core principles of the Democratic party and of liberalism: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and now Obama's own *&^% ACA. We are simply asking that Obama lead where we want to follow and fight to defend basic, core, principles of the party. And we are asking him to do that because we think its smart politics as well as smart policy.

Right now Obama and his team are fighting on two fronts: to raise money, and to energize votes. Its already been made crystal clear that in order to get back into power any politician has to please the naturally right wing corporate oligarchy that really runs this country. Only they can produce the billion dollars needed to win the next election. And they aren't willing to let Obama even pretend to a strong populist voice to turn out his own base electorate. So we are going to see Obama triangulate and trim trying to please the big money men on the one hand--who woujld really prefer a republican president and congress--and his own liberal base on the other. He can't trust us and democratic principle to catapult him back into the presidency, apparently, so he's not going to go naked into the fight armed with nothing but principles and promises to us. Instead he's going to promise a lot to the money men and try to promise just enough to turn out the actual voters.

That's pretty much what we got on the ACA. I admit that Obama faced very heavy opposition from the Republican party but if Obama and the Dems had countered that opposition with aas clear a sense of mission and drive and anger as the Republicans we'd be in a lot better shape today. The failures of the Obama presidency can be laid at no one 's door but Obamas. That's what happens when you run for President and not dogcatcher. People expect you to perform as President, not pretend that you couldn't get anything done because of lack of grassroots support when you never asked for grassroots support but actually shut that down. REad the recent articles about Jim Messina and the cock up that was the ACA negotiations if you don't believe me.


Posted by: aimai on April 4, 2011 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

re June @ 12:24

Unless, I missed something upthread, I haven't heard anyone asking for Obama to delivery on every liberal cause. What I, and I think a lot of others here wanted was some pushback to the constant, decades-long shift to the right in the public dialogue. Given the way Obama sold himself, the size of his victory and the margins he had in Congress, I don't think that was unrealistic.

Instead, we saw an even further shift to the right, thanks to the highly manipulated and foolish teabaggers.

The only way for the US to recover from the last 40 years of conservative ideology is to point out that it has not delivered on its promises, but is responsible for the damage we now suffer.

With his oratory skills, Obama could do that better than anyone to come along in years. But he won't.

Posted by: beep52 on April 4, 2011 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

What more needs to be said to prove my point, @aimai, than your post? What more?

Posted by: June on April 4, 2011 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Obama sold us out right after he was elected and the dems fell in line with him. Don't expect the turkey and his flock to change course now.

Posted by: Schtick on April 4, 2011 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

You know, @beep52, when I read posts like yours, it is hard to know where to start. It's the same sensation I get when reading tea party opinions.

And the thing is, I know I could post factual rebuttals with links 'til the cows come home, and we would end up right back here.

Not only does the right deserve the government we have now with the GOP in charge of the House, but so does a certain segment of the left where the narrative is always must needs be that Obama is a disappointment.

"The left" is a bigger and more bitter disappointment to me than anything else.

Posted by: June on April 4, 2011 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Actually both sides here (I mean, sub-sides of opinion here) have a point. Obama has disappointed in many ways including big-picture and specifics (did he really offer to cut the heating oil subsidy for lower incomes?), but still has accomplished lots of particulars. For example, all this time going by and finally oversaw getting gay exclusion repealed from the military. For examples, see http://www.whattheheckhasobamadonesofar.com/.

Posted by: neil b on April 4, 2011 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's largely up to Obama, however, to actually make the case.

While I strongly hope that the man will live up to my hopes, rather than down to my expectations, I am not holding my breath, given how he has caved in on every important progressive issue from the day he arrived in office.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 4, 2011 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

June, are your eyes brown? You're so full of shit they must be. Talk about ignorant Republicans, people like you really take the cake.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 4, 2011 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a yellow dog Democrat. I am far to the left of any Democrat I've ever gotten a chance to vote for, but I never miss a chance to vote and I have worked most elections--either doorknocking or as a clerk in my ward--for about the last 12 years. My beef with Obama and the Democratic party is that I actually have to go out--door to door--and sell the party retail to actual voters. I have political discussions and arguments with other liberals, republicans, independents, you name it *all the god damned time* and it goes like this:

Me: historically and logically the democrats are offering to do X, Y and Z. The Republicans are undercutting that and will do great harm.

Them: hey, you are making sense, can you demonstrate to me that the Dems will, in fact, carry out these sensible policies on X, Y, and Z.

Me: well, no, actually, right now the Dems are only promising to maybe limit the damage that the Republicans are probably going to do. But I'm sure any moment they will fully implement the very sensible policies they promised us during the last election.

Them: OK, get back to me when the Dems really are going to a) give us a public option, b) end the wars, c) protect Social Security, d) stimulate the economy, e) protect the poor...etc...etc...etc...

I have this discussion all the time! Its not that I'm not a good Dem. Its that I can't make the case for my g*&&^ed party to stay in power if they consistently don't deliver what they promised, or waffle, or undercut their own promises with vague generalities.


Posted by: aimai on April 4, 2011 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Bit of a problem for Dems to criticize Ryancare, given that Obamacare for those under 65 relies on partial government subsidies toward buying private health insurance. That's the new and improved GOP Medicare. If the current Medicare is fundamentally better than privatized Medicare would be, then why didn't Obama even try to get a single payer system for the rest of us?

Posted by: smintheus on April 4, 2011 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

June cracks me up.

Posted by: square1 on April 4, 2011 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with June on this one , the left has disappointed me as much as the right, I expected the right.Neil has it spot on too, Whiners will just have to wait till the iron is hot for Obama to strike.

Posted by: Michael on April 4, 2011 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

If we want Obama (or the next Democratic president) to enact liberal policies, then we have to make him (and Dem leadership) fear us more than the republicans fear their base.

This will take action on our part, but we should not let him off the hook. All my time and $$ going forward are to support a liberal candidate in the Democratic primary to give him the hardest fight in his life.

Posted by: bdop4 on April 4, 2011 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

@Aimai, I appreciate what you're saying, but are the answers really so hard to come up with for the "get back to me" folks? For me, it comes down to what **has** been accomplished -- for those longing for the public option -- are they aware there is a provision in HCR that opens the door to single-payer state-by-state? Or of the provision that nationally funds new community health centers to the tune of billions? Or that the guy that came up with the concept of the public option (Jacob Hacker) still calls the final HCR bill a significantly progressive piece of legislation - and that Obama's President's Proposal incorporated all of Hacker's suggestions to bring the final bill in line with the original goal of including a public option?

Yes, I agree it's challenging to have these conversations, but what I see so much of the time is that people are woefully underinformed, and sometimes if I can actually get a word in, they start listening again.

It is a constant source of frustration to me, too, that Democrats STILL don't seem to know how to overcome FAUX and right-wing hate radio, (and the haters on the left, too) to get the word out about what they've actually accomplished, but in no way am I convinced that the constant tearing down of Democrats, without ever acknowledging the progress that has been made, is actually a progressive value.

Yes, I'm passionate about Democrats, and that may get me laughed at here, but to borrow a phrase from an unlikely source, "so be it."

Posted by: June on April 4, 2011 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

I for one appreciate June piping up with a "not all bad" view of Obama. Obama deserves passionate critique, but not one-sided derision.

But neither will I feel I've gotten my money's worth until the man shows some spine in the ring.

However, I haven't written him off yet. I once won a very nasty political battle by waiting out for the other side to hang themselves, which they inevitably did. I can hope Obama's doing the same, but I am certainly not counting on it.

Posted by: jTh on April 4, 2011 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I for one appreciate June piping up with a "not all bad" view of Obama. Obama deserves passionate critique, but not one-sided derision.

But neither will I feel I've gotten my money's worth until the man shows some spine in the ring.

However, I haven't written him off yet. I once won a very nasty political battle by waiting out for the other side to hang themselves, which they inevitably did. I can hope Obama's doing the same, but I am certainly not counting on it.

Posted by: jTh on April 4, 2011 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

No one is, or should be, writing Obama off--why, just today I received notice that he's running again and the Democratic Party is, as usual, knocking at my door for money, money, and more money. I gave tons of money last time and for the midterms. Hell, I even took my children to a very small fundraiser for Obama so they could get a real glimpse of their president. The objection "the left" is having, generally speaking and not speaking for everybody on the left, is that Obama has not shown himself to be a great fighter, or even a good, strategic, fighter on a number of important issues.

I get the memos from Obama and the dems about the things they are pleased to have passed. And I know really well how hard it was to get anything passed in the previous congress what with the intransigence of the right wing and the spinelessness of the actual democratic members who refused to stand lockstep behind Obama. But them's the breaks. He went to war with the congress he had, not with an ideal congress of brilliant democratic tacticians. And he squandered opportunities to allow the Republicans to "win" the battles they did win while losing the battle for public opinion.

That's what I'm objecting to here and now: the Republicans have put medicaid on the chopping block as well as medicare. They are going after seniors and the AARP. Where is the hot and fast "war room" style attack by Obama and his supporters telling the same fat old white voters who voted the Republicans in last time "this is what you get for your votes! You got rolled. Now come home to the democratic party!" Or "they lied to you about Social Security and Medicare--now they are lying to you about the deficit."

This is not rocket science. The Democrats are refusing to make hay while the sun shines. I will have to poney up and fight for Obama and the Dems throughout this election but god I wish they would do me the courtesy of fighting with me for the things they whisper are important to us all.

**And to June's point, up above, "people" are not "misinformed" in the passive tense. With the media landscape as screwed up as it is the Democratic party is enabling that misinformation every time it refuses to show message discipline. And message discipline would come with a strong whip hand on the money from the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC. There should be funding for "good soldiers" and no funding for "bad soldiers."

Posted by: aimai on April 4, 2011 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

@Aimai, there are some points you make that I agree with (e.g., message discipline among the Democratic Party is at best sotto voce, and at worst, all over the place), but I still cannot agree that Obama has not fought and fought and fought to deliver on the campaign promises he made. Even when his own people were telling him don't take this or that on, he still poured his political capital into progressive issues. They may have not turned out to be 100% progressive, but I still don't agree that he has not fought.

But I will agree with you on this - we DO NEED to hear from the Democratic Party loud and clear that they have our back while we're out there fighting for votes for them. I pray to God Obama stops providing cover for the GOP at some point with his "we're all good Americans"-type remarks.

No, I don't expect him to call out the GOP as dangerous clowns, but he doesn't have to go so far as to validate the Koch-fueled Tea Party, either. One of the most mystifying political statements I've ever heard was Joe Biden's "I never question a person's motives" story. That's a strange way to live in politics, especially these days. If there's a short way to say what I want from Democrats it is, question those motives! And then act on it.

Steny Hoyer taking down Eric Cantor this past Friday re: the GOP April Fool's Bill was more of what I'd like to see from Democrats going forward. But Democrats have to find a way to get that kind of footage the kind of play that makes it end up on my local news channel and not just on C-SPAN at 10:00pm. (And I do understand that rank-and-file Dems have to be part of this solution, too.)

Posted by: June on April 4, 2011 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, lots of passion and unfortunately, lots of cynicism and defeatism.

Two quick comments. First, during the 2008 campaign, Obama showed a pretty good mastery of political jujitsu. That is, he showed a good sense of knowing when to respond immediately to Republican attacks and when to let them crawl farther out on a limb so Obama could cut it off behind them.

Given the insane nature of the modern Republican party and the media's complicity in pushing the Republican message, there hasn't been a lot of opportunity for pushback from Obama to fundamentally change public opinion, not just on his possession of lack of a backbone but on the issues themselves and on the partisan divide.

However, given the insane overreach that the Republicans have engaged in for the last three months, the opportunity is here. If the Republican House actually passes a budget bill with this prescription for the future of Medicare, they will have passed up their last opportunity to pretend they didn't really mean it, and provided Democrats with the opportunity to create the starkest possible contrasts. I can't guarantee Obama and the Democrats will take advantage of it, but the opportunity is there is a way that it was not previously.

Posted by: tanstaafl on April 4, 2011 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

My second point (and I apologize since these have not turned out to be "quick") is that while Obama has definitely been a disappointment for not pushing more liberal policies and for his weak negotiating stance towards Republicans, his critics on the left deserve a significant amount of the blame. Too many of them (not all, but too many) seem to have felt that by electing Obama, they have done all that was expected of them and have put all their effort since then into criticizing him for disappointing them.

What was needed, and what Obama asked for from the beginning, was for the energy and organization that went into electing him be deployed on an ongoing basis to push for progressive policies. The recent demonstrations in support of collective bargaining, particularly in Wisconsin but also in Ohio and other states, is an example of what has been needed all along.

In particular, what might have happened if the first reports of Tea Partiers disrupting Congressional town hall meetings resulted in liberal groups flooding future meeting with people loudly demanding single-payer? If the tea party marches on Washington had resulted in much bigger marches by progressive organizations? If the demonstrations against the mosque in New York City had been countered by even bigger demonstrations demanding the closure of Guantanamo?

Posted by: tanstaafl on April 4, 2011 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

"You know, @beep52, when I read posts like yours, it is hard to know where to start. -- June @ at 1:11 PM"

How about taking the time to understand what others have written before popping off? Until then, I think TCinLA summed things up in his second comment.

Posted by: beep52 on April 4, 2011 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK


I think this paragraph in your post shows you simply don't know what you are talking about:

In particular, what might have happened if the first reports of Tea Partiers disrupting Congressional town hall meetings resulted in liberal groups flooding future meeting with people loudly demanding single-payer? If the tea party marches on Washington had resulted in much bigger marches by progressive organizations? If the demonstrations against the mosque in New York City had been countered by even bigger demonstrations demanding the closure of Guantanamo?

It was the left that very loudly warned the Democrats of the dangers of letting Baucus drag health care proceedings out until the August Recess--which led to the wholly faked grassroots takeover of the "town hall meetings" by the tea party. If you had been paying attention to the fundraising and organizing that "the left" was doing at that point you would know that Obama and his team--in particular Jim Messina who was an ally of Baucus's--told all the outside groups to sit down and shut up because everything was going to be handled "inside." That is exactly what happened to single payer. As for guantanamo I don't blame Obama for the cowardice of the congress. I only blame him for failing to use whatever power he had to bring his own party to his own side.

One of the biggest disapointments to Obama's own supporters was a very early decision (which I understand but which I thought was ill advised) to fold Obama's own grassroots support organization back into the DNC and to remove any taint of local organizing and local energy from a now top down organization. Obama and his team killed the energy of his own volunteers by explicitly telling them to stand down and that they would be activated when their betters decided it was time. They were then tapped for some spectacularly stupid things like phoning in to support very unimportant events, or weak tactical moves. Since I was on those lists I got both the calls to action which were extremely ill informed and badly thought out, and the requests to sit down and shut up about things that did matter to me.


Posted by: aimai on April 4, 2011 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

@beep52, I have taken the time. Your turn.

Posted by: June on April 4, 2011 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

animai, it would NOT have been appropriate for the President's campaign organization, even one that had been reformed into an semi-independent group, to be involved in organizing on the issues.

It would have been entirely appropriate for the various independent interest groups that backed him to continue to agitate on behalf of the issues that mattered to them. I was not on the lists you were (I will admit to being part of the problem as far as not being as active as I should be) but I do remember President Obama asking in a public speech for people to "force me to be more progressive" which I interpreted as saying that he did want outside groups to keep pressuring him and Congress and helping to shape public opinion.

Either way, your complaint that Obama "killed the energy of his own volunteers" supports what I was saying. Namely that too many people felt that electing him in the first place should have been enough and that having done so, they could sit back and let him call the shots.

Posted by: tanstaafl on April 4, 2011 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Citizen Alan: "There are mornings when I wake up and wonder "could a President McCain really have been worse than this?"

Yes. Yes, President McCain would have been worse. We aren't getting the leadership we hoped for from Obama, but we are better off than getting Batshit Crazy from McCain. Plus I would no longer sleep at night if Sarah Palin was VP.

I too worry that Obama is a mole who gives away for free what he should be defending, but even weak, tepid and deluded, he is better than McCain-Palin.

Posted by: PTate in MN on April 4, 2011 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK


You have it exactl backwards. If you knew anything about the various negotations that went on between the 501c's and the President's people, between moveon and etc... you'd know that the kind of message discipline and coordination that was required between the President, Congress,and the "base" simply couldn't be achieved if the President's people were going to refuse to include outside groups in strategy sessions and in the project of getting particular pieces of legislation through. This had nothing to do with the base/voters "giving up" on the President and their own goals. It had to do with a new, top down, directive. The notion that OFA couldn't have been turned over to itself, for instance, and empowered is also totally ludicrous and you are simply making shit up at this point.

Basically you are simply advocating for exactly what the various outside groups were advocating for--a "make him do it" outsider strategy but they were cut off at the knees by the Obama administration for doing this. People were told to stand down and leave the organizing and the strategizing to the insiders. And the end result was that with no where to put their energy and their money people sat on their hands during the midterms. That result was totally expected and expectable.

The Nepalis have a great expression "If you don't know how to dance/blame the dance floor." This strategy of blaming the democratic voting base for insufficient knowledge/passion/etc.. is a loser's strategy. If Obama and the dems want to dominate the Republican party from now until the end of time they can start sucking up to their base and making the base feel needed, wanted, and catered to. Its a perfectly straightforward and time honored strategy.


Posted by: aimai on April 4, 2011 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK


Yeah, maybe Lucy won't pull the football away this time.

Obama make the case? Surely you jest. Obama, like most of the Democratic cowards on the Hill, is a known pussy. Ain't gonna happen.

Posted by: The Fool on April 5, 2011 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK
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