Arianna Huffington -- who represents the "professional left" about as well as anyone -- says the president is "not all that into" the middle class. I don't think she's being very original or very funny. Worse, I put that sort of rhetoric in the firebagger category, as it isn't useful. There is nothing anyone can do about the president until 2012 at the earliest -- and as I have said consistently throughout the body of my work, Congress is where most of the blame lies for any progressive disappointment.
Sorry if you're turned off by the music in the video; it's loud and angry because I want the righteous anger of the just focused where it belongs, which is not on the man least responsible for legislative reform. Much more after the jump...
Arianna quotes Krugman:
"Why does the Obama administration keep looking for love in all the wrong places? Why does it go out of its way to alienate its friends, while wooing people who will never waver in their hatred?"
Actually, given how little the left has done to turn out in the streets and mobilize I'm surprised it took this long for the Press Secretary to get our attention. We've needed to have a democratic conversation with the president -- one that wasn't founded on the cognitive dissonance of right-wing insanity.
But as to the second part of that question, "wooing people who will never waver in their hatred," the answer is simple: it's what Martin Luther King or Mandela would do.
Arianna quotes Yglesias:
The president...likes to present himself as a 'pragmatist' uninterested in questions of ideology, and his political strategy is largely organized around a posture of unctuous reasonableness in which he never loses patience with the opposition or affiliates himself emotionally with the passions that drive activists."
I like Yglesias and very much enjoy his work; but "pragmatist" hardly begins to cover it. Obama is a Neibuhrian realist and rational empiricist who never shows us the "angry black man" of Beckian stereotype, not even when Bret Baier badgers him for a half-hour. Obama's actually been quite consistent. He
never loses patience with the opposition or affiliates himself emotionally with the passions that drive activists
because it's what Martin Luther King or Saul Alinsky would do. You know, like a community organizer? In response, America's online and cable news "democracy" has screamed at this president to twist arms, to argue more vociferously for a public option, and otherwise save the country alone by just wanting it more than he has.
Arianna herself adds:
those who voted for transformation can't simply sit back and wait for the man of their dreams to do it for them.
Arianna has lots of ad revenue to help arrange for buses to bring lots of progressives to Washington, DC so we can put on our street show. Yes, I know the standard progressive complaints: 'the media pays no attention' (ridiculous; we have our own progressive media. You are reading it now) and 'it's hard getting to DC.' (Did I mention buses?) Why does FreedomWorks understand this, but suddenly not the online left? You'd almost have to believe there was no such thing as a "professional left" at all. I've been writing about this bizarre progressive failure for a while, actually -- and at Arianna's website. So far I've mostly heard excuses in reply.
Which is not to say that Arianna is solely responsible for the dispirited state of the left; but she has far more power over the mood of progressives than the president, who "still wants to feel pressure from the left" even as progressives moan about staying home to teach him a lesson instead. Arianna is dangerously close to joining Ed "Anger" Schultz in the unhelpful category of left/center media figures who show up at confabs to tell me there will be no "sixties-style" street show anymore, and that this is because the coalition behind the Democratic surge of 2008 is too lazy. Or something.
I know better: if there hasn't been a progressive march on DC yet, it's because the Democrats, liberals, and progressives with the fancy websites and big organizations haven't made it happen. I keep saying that reform is hard -- that progress will be slow -- but mostly see the online left engaging in firebaggery because they're the cool kids and Obama's too square to get it done for them.
There's another analogy in Martin Luther King, who was too square for the more radical elements of the era. But unlike even Malcolm X, the "professional left" has utterly abandoned America's democratic showcase to teabaggers. Last time I checked, it took lots of us to have democracy. Heck, even with King you needed tens of thousands of people to make the Civil Rights Era happen:
Nonviolence is an active, dynamic strategy to meet determined resistance and overcome it. Nonviolence requires time, patience, and persistent courage. More importantly, the left doesn't win because of charismatic leaders but because it shows up to march, to petition, and to win. Just as the right seeks to steal their act, the American left forgets how to be angry in public? Wrong. First, because immigrants have nothing to lose and their advocates can get them to DC en masse. Second, because we do this a whole lot better than the right.
The president has applied the King formula to build a consensus for reform on health care and consumer financial protection. The left sneers at these achievements because the president hasn't farted a global green-energy socialist paradise out of his armpit. Obama does not write legislation with his veto pen because he is a constitutional law professor; indeed, he understands his appointed role only too well.
He's not enough change from the unitary executive to bother getting excited about. That seems to be the perspective of the opinion-leaders, anyway, who don't see Obama as a president with limited powers. They do not accept that against a center-right legislature he does not control, his powers are limited. That he respects those limits simply earns him no cred with teabaggers or firebaggers.
The president can be wrong. The White House can be wrong. I'd give Rahm Emanuel an earful about Guantanamo, for example, but I would do it knowing that Congress has refused to fund closure and Democrats have actively pandered to the Liz Cheney fearmongering demographic. I also know that Obama's Congressional majority is weaker than what FDR or LBJ enjoyed:
So while I'd love to talk about the president some more, it seems rather irrelevant to the question of electing a new, more progressive Congress in 2010, doesn't it? And as I'm not holding my breath for Arianna and her class of lefties to get busy, I'll be in DC Sept. 25-27 to march with Appalachia Rising because that's what Martin Luther King would do. More importantly, it's how he won.
But it's not what I'm seeing from the "professional left," which seems to think it can win by surrendering. Obama is not Alcibiades, and it would be a tragedy if the coalition that put him in office stayed home this November instead of advancing their agenda. In fact, I say they are already squandering huge opportunities and have no one to blame but themselves if the pace of reform slows between now and 2012.