Obama's Disgruntled Liberal Supporters
The New York Times interviews several progressives, including bloggers about their support for Sen. Barack Obama given his recent FISA vote and the other centrist positions he's staked out in recent weeks.
Will it cost Obama in votes? I hope not. I want a Democratic president. But if it does, it's Obama's own fault. He's now at risk of "being viewed as someone who parses positions without taking a principled stand." On this, the Times quotes liberal writer and blogger David Sirota who says:
“I’m not saying we’re there yet, but that’s the danger,” said David Sirota, a liberal political analyst and author. “I don’t think there’s disillusion. I think there’s an education process that takes place, and that’s a good thing. He is a transformative politician, but he is still a politician.”
I disagree. I see no transformational quality to either Obama or his candidacy. Obama said he was a new kind of politician. He sold an entire younger generation on the theory of change, a new kind of politics in Washington and he's delivered the status quo. He's shown us that on FISA, the death penalty, guns, religion, Iraq, Afghanistan and trade policy (so far) he's all about preserving the status quo and not rocking the boat in his quest for votes. How much more "politics as usual" can you get?
Other Obama supporters interviewed for the article are angry at Obama. One says she's going to vote for the Green party candidate. [More...]
“I’m disgusted with him,” said Ms. Shade, an artist. “I can’t even listen to him anymore. He had such an opportunity, but all this ‘audacity of hope’ stuff, it’s blah, blah, blah. For all the independents he’s going to gain, he’s going to lose a lot of progressives.”
Others aren't angry at Obama and take his latest pronouncements in stride.
“We’re frustrated by it, but we understand,” said Mollie Ruskin, 22, who grew up in Baltimore and is spending the summer here as a fellow with Politicorps, a program run by the Bus Project, a local nonprofit that trains young people to campaign for progressive candidates. “He’s doing it so he can get into office and do the things he believes in.”
How does anyone know what Obama really believes or, even more problematic, what beliefs he'll decide are worth expending political capital on once he's elected?
We don't. I think that's a direct consequence of his having campaigned on generalities like change. People who are unhappy with the current state of affairs just assumed he is on the same side of issues as they are. Since Obama wants change and they want change, they assumed they are all on the same page -- like one big happy progressive family. There's just no way to know that.
Another supporter interviewed says:
“When are these people going to go, anyway?” Mr. Blanchard said of left-wing critics he believes have hurt Democrats in past elections. “My attitude is lighten up on the guy. We want to win. Moving to the center is not a crime in this country.”
True, but that's not the critical issue. In fact, it misses the point. Progressives can accept a centrist candidate. After all, Hillary is a centrist. Before 2008, Edwards was a centrist. Millions of us were fine with Hillary.
It's the bait and switch we hate and it makes Obama a tougher sell now. He wasn't honest with us. He promised reform and a new kind of politics and is relying on the same old Washington play book that's been in use for decades.
I'm not surprised. It's why I didn't support him before the primaries. It's why I wrote dozens of posts debunking his generic change theme. It has always been just campaign rhetoric.
As I was listening to Gary Hart being interviewed in the new Hunter Thompson documentary Gonzo last week (described here), it occurred to me how absolutely disingenuous Obama's whole campaign theme of change has been. There can be no such thing as the politics of change in a presidential race because no one promoting substantial change could ever win. The numbers wouldn't be there. Presidential politics is all about compromise and it's unrealistic to expect anything else.
What's sad is we had a centrist candidate who spoke her mind on issues so you knew exactly where she stood. You knew just what you were going to get with a Hillary presidency. You could practically take it to the bank. I, for one, appreciated the honesty. But, she lost.
Now we have a centrist candidate who said during the primaries he was a progressive candidate for change but now has become more centrist than Hillary, his former centrist competitor.
For me, Obama's switcheroos are not disappointing since I didn't expect anything different. And I don't think talk about "holding one's nose" while voting for him or cries of betrayal are helpful. I still prefer Obama to McCain and a Democratic administration to a Republican one.
My advice to Obama supporters who think he's turned on them? Stop your star-gazing, admit you got hood-winked, but recognize the greater reality that a Democratic president is preferable to a Republican. Don't switch parties or stay home. Wake up on election day in November, go the polls and vote for Obama. If you must, spend the rest of the day in bed like Hunter Thompson did in 1972 after he voted for McGovern even though he had become disillusioned with him and his campaign.
And try not to get fooled again the next time a presidential primary comes around. Do some due diligence before getting carried away. Presidential politics is about getting votes, not staking new ground.
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