I’ve been playing around over at The Great Orange Satan the past few days, cross-posting some things and leaving comments here and there on others’ diaries. I enjoy being part of the politically aware, on-line Leftist community not least for the opportunity it gives me to share a back and forth with others who care enough to spend their time paying attention to news and thinking about what is going on in the world.
One of the things that always strikes me is how diverse are the people on the Left side of the political spectrum . . . at least compared to those on the Right. There is a reason that for 30+ years – year in, year out - the political pundits have been able to pull out that tired trope: “Democrats in Disarray.” It is because the Democratic party always is.
Where the Conservative/Republican party has no difficulty circling wagons and attacking everyone who is The Other, the Liberal/Democratic party doesn’t really see it that way. As inclined toward inclusion as we are, we naturally take in everybody willing to fight the good fight. Unfortunately, after doing so, we tend to argue with each other about who is really a “Good Liberal” -- as if there is some “elect of the elect” toward which we should aspire.
Broadly, this breaks down into two groups: the ideologically liberal pure, and the pragmatists. The ideologically liberal pure constantly sneer at the pragmatists for being “sell-outs,” and the pragmatists always sneer at the ideologically liberal pure for being “electoral losers.” Every once in an election year the two factions join together (more or less) to try and defeat the Evil Conservative Republicans, but even when they succeed they almost always forget their common foe immediately thereafter and turn upon and start savaging each other.
Personally, I find it quite frustrating.
Which is one of the reasons I am very happy to have Barack Obama as my president, right now. Everyone says that the Presidency ages you, but rarely have we seen it age someone this quickly. Still, he isn’t giving it up. He is still fighting to try and do something to get the country moving again.
I am not sure I could do that. I have my problems with the way Obama has used his presidency; I, personally, would have taken a much more liberal and partisan approach to the job. Unlike Obama, I would not have made a fetish of “bipartisanship,” and I certainly would not sacrifice effective economic policy on its altar.
But right now Obama is still trying to get a deal done to keep the country from going into the economic crapper and he is facing an unhinged opposition party, and he is at the same time contending with a “liberal base” that at least 5 times out of 10 considers him a “sell-out.” As tough as his job is, it’s gotta be even worse knowing that a sizeable chunk of the people who voted for you no longer have your back.
Just last night I came across this sentiment from James Kunstler:
If I were Barack Obama, I'd think twice about presiding over this irresolvable muddle of engineered swindles, sinking prospects, booby-trapped budgets, and played-out lies for another term. Let Hillary step in and try to keep this leaky Flying Dutchman out of the drink.
When I read that I suddenly imagined how alluring the idea of simply quitting must sometimes seem to Barack Obama. Obama was sworn in to preside over cleaning up maybe the worst mess ever left behind for a new president. And for the entirety of his term, he has been forced to deal with the most recalcitrant, reactionary opposition party any president has ever seen; a party determined to let the country go down in flames before it will grant him even the slightest degree of cooperation. Moreover, Obama has had to deal with not only the opposition, but with those of us on the Left so busy trying to “out-Left” each other that we publish headlines that ask whether Obama is: “The Worst President Ever.”
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Now, if Obama were a Conservative I’m sure he wouldn’t be running for re-election; it’d be so much easier to just retire and cash in. Isn’t that what Conservatives do? Sarah Palin cared so little about the job she had been handed – Governor of Alaska – that once she hit the national stage she up and quit that job, trading it in to be a B-list celebrity on a basic cable channel hawking her own books.
Obama could easily quit and coast on his laurels. Not only is he a President, he is the First Black President and for that alone he has secured his place in the history books.
But, from all that we see now, Obama isn’t about to do that. Obama is still trying to cut a deal and do what he thinks is the right thing for the country – as much as I and others might disagree with him on the details – and he is still the only thing standing between us and the utter corporatization that will occur should the Republicans take complete control in 2012.
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Hey . . . I don’t know where I fall on the “liberal spectrum,” whether I should be viewed as a True Believer or a Pragmatic Sellout. I believe in my goals, and I also believe that sometimes you have to give ground to get ground. Sometimes you cede territory to gain a strategic advantage. And I recognize that when someone else is calling the shots it is difficult to know whether that guy is doing something smart, or doing something feckless.
But what I do know is that Kunstler was right: it would be amazingly easy for Obama to just walk away from the problems he’s inherited, and if he did so his historical legacy would remain intact. I think the man deserves just a little bit of appreciation for hanging in there and fighting the fight, and not giving up and rolling over even when it seems he has so little support from so many of us.