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Obamapologists vs. Real Progressives

August 12th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I suspect that the best place to get noticed in the progressive blogosphere is Daily Kos. Thus far I’ve avoided that site because I think its founder, Markos Moulitsas, is a pompous asshole wonderful guy. But seeing as how it doesn’t matter at all who how wonderful the site’s founder is, I’ve decided to start cross-posting certain entries over there in the hopes of boosting traffic over here. This is that first post:

Hi everyone, I’m Kemstone. I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now on my own website and I’ve recently stepped up my game, adding one to three posts every day. My site doesn’t get too many views yet, so if I want comments I have to cross-post to other forums. My first few diaries will be to test the Daily Kos waters, to see what kind of reaction I get and whether it’s worth it to keep posting here. If you like what you read, I’d humbly ask you to check out my blog where you’ll find much, much more.

I wanted to introduce myself by making a specific point about a very general issue—the issue that seems to dominate the threads here lately, especially now in the wake of Robert Gibbs’ insults hurled at the “professional left”. The issue of course is whether progressives are being too hard on Obama.

We’ve all had this argument. Hell, most of you have probably had it every single day for over a year. There are those who lambaste the president for not going far enough to deliver on the kind of Change he promised, and those who point to his various accomplishments and say we should just be satisfied with what we got. I am firmly in the “Obama is not going far enough” camp, and I suspect most Kos readers are as well. My view is that even we are criticizing the president too harshly, it’s actually a good thing.

Those who rush to defend the president are what I call “Obamapologists”. You’re familiar with their arguments: The president is doing the best he can. He needs 60 votes in the senate to get anything passed so it’s not his fault if he has to make compromises. Yes, he gave up on the public option but he got health care reform passed. Yes, he didn’t break up the big banks or include the Volcker rule in financial reform but he got the bill passed. Yes, he conceded to more offshore drilling but he had to in order to get the climate bill moving forward (even though it then blew up in his face). It’s not his fault that he can’t be as progressive as those on the left would like—he has to be the president of all Americans—not just liberals—and most of the country is centrist or conservative.

We have our replies at the ready: If you look at the poll data on specific issues, you’ll see that the country actually is liberal, even though most people don’t self-identify as such. What we want from the president is leadership. The majority is behind him and if he doesn’t have the votes in the senate we’re standing ready to sign as many petitions and make as many phone calls as we need to pressure the hold-outs. To use the public option as an example, with as much as 73% of people in favor of the policy, the president could have easily leaned on conservadems to get behind it. He could have threatened to remove chairmanships or withhold electoral support, but he didn’t. And this is just one example from a very long list of battles he could have won but chose not to fight.

Meanwhile, we see him cave in to every right-wing talking point that gets hurled his way. From de-funding ACORN to throwing Shirley Sherrod under the bus, Obama bends over backwards to deflect any and all criticism that comes at him from the conservative media. He even gives Fox News a front-row seat in the White House briefing room! As for progressives, they’re either high on drugs or a bunch of “fucking retards.”

The political calculation is obvious. Obama, under the ever-so-wise guidance of Rahm Emanuel, believes that progressives are with him no matter what. He can shit all over us and we’ll still come out and vote because the republican party is so far to the wackaloon right that we can’t afford to let them win. So he moves to the right as much as possible in an attempt to pick up a few right-leaning moderates to add to the liberals he already has in-the-bag and get that 50%-plus-one victory he needs.

Whether this calculation is correct, only time will tell. Progressives really are stuck in this election, as we neither want to reward democrats for their endless capitulations nor the republicans for their endless obstructionism.

But the point I want to make is that even if you are an Obamapologist who believes the president really is doing the best he can, you’re not accomplishing anything by telling the rest of us—the real progressives—that we should shut up, stop criticizing Obama, and just celebrate whatever small amount of Change he manages to deliver. You need us. Without strong criticism from the left, the president will just happily move farther and farther to the right in pursuit of those right-leaning moderates he thinks make up the majority of the country.

Just imagine if we’d stood behind him when he abandoned the public option. “Yes, Mr. President, go ahead and do whatever you need to get the bill passed, even if it means scrapping everything and letting the republicans write the whole thing.”

Imagine if we weren’t pressuring him to appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? He would have already appointed Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, or some other Wall Street tool to fill the post and make sure the Bureau doesn’t do a damn thing to protect consumers.

Strong criticism from the left is the only thing preventing this president from moving from the center-right to the far-right, and it’s the only thing that has the potential to bring him back to the center, or (if you want to be wildly optimistic) to the center-left.

That said, we need the Obamapologists as well. Someone has to defend the guy or his approval rating would drop to 0% and he wouldn’t be able to get anything done. He also needs to win in 2012, as whoever the republicans run against him is likely to be an insane moon-bat who would make George W. Bush look like Noam Chomsky. It’s important to have people reminding us of the many things Obama has accomplished, lest we forget just how awful it could potentially be.

I’m currently living in Germany, and I recently attended an anti-war protest in which the crowd was shouting “murderer” at the soldiers. I would never say that, but I appreciate the impact of someone saying it. Because Germany has such a radical left-wing fringe, the political spectrum is shifted that much father to the left and more moderate liberals are free to embrace certain socialist ideals without being accused of going off the deep-end. In America if you so much as suggest that the government should pay for anything you’re some kind of Stalinist or Maoist.

You need the far left. You may not agree with everything they say, but you should be glad that somebody is saying it. You may not believe that Obama warrants all the criticism he gets from the left, but you should be glad that the left is criticizing him.

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