Elizabeth Kubler Ross famously broke down the process of grieving into five stages: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While Kubler Ross was focusing on death and dying, the same stages apply to the death of relationships. And I think even a cursory glance throughout the progressive blogosphere shows a rather bad case of heartbreak going on with President Barack Obama.
I'll be the first one to admit that I fell a little bit in love with Barack Obama during his 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. I felt lost in the wilderness during those Bush years and here was a man who spoke about "our better angels" and made me feel hopeful again.
I got another glimpse of our collective heady infatuation with Barack Obama during the primaries where blogs and comments sections divided stridently into Team Barack vs. Team Hillary. Anything we posted that could be perceived even slightly as pro-Hillary (and remember, the site officially took no position on the primary; we were going to support whoever won against the Republican candidate) would unleash a barrage of defenders, unwilling to hear anything disparaging about their chosen candidate.
But then Candidate Obama became President Obama, and the besotted progressive blogosphere got to see what it was like to actually live with the man. And like the guy who seemed great when you were dating but is annoying as a husband because he never picks up his socks and has to be reminded to take out the trash, the reality didn't quite match up with the expectation.
Thom Hartmann spoke to this on his show this week. His advice? Don't fall in love with a politician:
The majority of American voters don't consider themselves strong liberals or conservatives, and thus don't "fall in love" with the politicians they vote for.
They just figure they're voting for a politician - what the heck - and probably the lesser of two evils.
But conservatives fell in love with George W. Bush, and liberals fell in love with Barack Obama.
Today it's hard to find a conservative who'll defend Bush's illegal wars or doubling of the national debt.
And increasingly it's getting hard to find liberals who aren't in some stage of grieving shock as Obama participates in compromise - what some would call sellout - after compromise.
What we all need to realize is that Obama - like Bush - is just a politican.
He doesn't walk on water, and while he has a political compass, he's more driven by pragmatism than ideology. He's not our progressive saviour.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't support him or work for his election.
If nothing else, the Supreme Court - the most powerful branch of government - is on the line.
But more important, instead of being elated and then depressed every time a new issue is put on Obama's plate - progressives will see better results investing their physical and emotional energy in movement politics - working with grass roots groups like Tim Carpenter's Progressive Democrats of America, or Howard and Jim Dean's Democracy For America.
Hartmann's point is apt. It really is counterproductive to wail and scream over how angry/disappointed/betrayed/pick your emotion we are at the choices Obama has made. However we perceive it, *WE* are not the whole country. And unlike both Clinton and Bush when they lost their majorities in Congress, polls show more Americans trust Obama than they do the Republicans they just elected. Like it or not, his choices are working for his political career, and first and foremost, Obama is a politician.
So let's move past the anger and denial over what Obama's job performance could or should be, past the bargaining over primarying a sitting president, past the depression of not getting everything we had hoped would come with an Obama presidency and let's get to a place of acceptance. Bob Cesca:
Somehow, though, certain progressives don't get it. They believe the president is betraying progressive principles and deliberately sticking it to "the base."
First of all, the progressive movement is hardly the president's base. Most progressive leaders supported John Edwards during the primaries, and many were ambivalent about the president once he was nominated. The president's base is made up of mostly non-political Americans -- many of whom desperately need their unemployment benefits to continue until the jobs return.
Second, stop whining and wise up, progressives. The president isn't going to pass every last thing on your personal wish list. Just because he compromised on something that you've been frantically tweeting about doesn't mean it's time to pitch a tantrum and hurl the board game across the room -- storming off in a snit.
The volume of progressive crabbery and moping lately has been staggering -- otherwise sane progressives vowing to not vote in 2012, or to somehow conjure up a viable primary challenger to run against the president. Suffice to say, both ideas are ridiculous and ultimately self-defeating. Fun to bitch about as a way to blow off steam, but also a great way to elect Awful Republican President X.
Good gravy, are we really this fragile? The president accurately criticizes progressives for not understanding the political climate on the Hill, and we stomp and flail like a gaggle of infants? Pathetic.[..]
Okay, okay. I'm not making any friends here, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to participate in a movement where so many colleagues have careened off the rails. We're supposed to be the smart ones, the reality-based people.
And yet, out of some sort of manic-depression or desire for hipster cred, we've become overly preoccupied with tearing down the most liberal president in decades using non-reality-based criticisms instead of laser-focusing our efforts and resources on tearing down the real killers -- conservatives, Tea Party people and the GOP.
We need to focus and engage in smart accountability -- carefully pick our battles with the White House and, when we fight, we need to employ airtight, concise, reality-based arguments designed to convince rather than to hector. Otherwise, we're everything the president said in his press conference last week -- or worse -- and our attempts at accountability will increasingly resemble Tea-Party-style screeching. Featureless, brainless white noise in the distance.
But mainly, enough with the pouting. We have to stop mistaking petulance for "principle" and get something done.
I'm an unabashed, unapologetic liberal. I know (know, not think) that moving the policies and governmental programs way to the left will help this country, because the constant push to the right that we've suffered through since Reagan has done nothing but hurt all but a small percentage of elites. But I'm also a pragmatist and I know that not everyone sees things as I do. Sometimes you have to accept the watered down incremental step, to keep the momentum forward. And yes, it can be frustrating not to take the big leap.
But we need to keep an eye on the big picture. The two parties are NOT the same and there are big stakes involved that make hating on President Obama about as smart as cutting off your nose to spite your face.