Does Progressive Failure Include Obama?

Matt Yglesias says progressives have failed:

I got a great email today from a self-described ďwell-educated, politically literate, 30-something person with a job and a kidĒ who spends ďletís say 45 minutes a day that I spend thinking about politicsĒ [she reads the Klein Group of self proclaimed "wonk" bloggers] and who had a great question:

Iím starting to realize that I am part of the problem as well. I donít actually DO anything besides read and fulminate in the quiet of my own home.

Yglesias agrees that it is her fault:

She wants to know what she should actually be doing to try to create change, since ď[w]atching Jon Stewart tell me things I already know in funny voices is starting to seem hollow.Ē

This has become one of my refrains when talking to people in person. If youíre a progressive and you feel that the political system isnít doing what you want, itís misguided to look at this as a personal failure of elected officials. Itís, if anything, a personal failure of you and people like you. Justice and equality doesnít just happen because itís nice, people need to make it happen. If itís not happening, then its advocates are failing.

I think this is a rather healthy way of looking at the problem. It does, however, utterly contradict the Klein Group view that "the Left" is wrong to criticize Obama it seems to me. Yglesias appears to urge progressives to criticize Obama - especially to friends and acquaintances, if I understand Yglesias' point correctly. I think most of you on the blog are absolved.

I consider Yglesias the latest convert to my "pols are pols and do what they do" philosophy.

< Wednesday Afternoon Open Thread | Wednesday Night TV and Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    I don't (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 03:49:03 PM EST
    know. It has some good points but it's kind of too much of blaming the voter-ish for me.

    I try to talk to people in real life about issues and find that most of them can be convinced to agree with me. I also find that if you stick to issues rather than political parties it is easier to win people over to your way of thinking.

    Perhaps it's the new talking point? (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by nycstray on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 04:07:54 PM EST
    It's your fault, not Obama's :)

    "You are the change you've (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:06:50 PM EST
    been waiting for!"

    But, but, but . . . . (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by nycstray on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:19:31 PM EST
    I've been here all along!  :D

    I just love that line. And I still voted (none / 0) (#16)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:24:29 PM EST
    for him.  

    Run, Ga6th, run! (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 04:59:27 PM EST
    Hahaha (none / 0) (#9)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 05:23:59 PM EST
    You know people have actually said I should run for office. When I explain the Randian nature of the GOP they are horrified.

    Too bad I don't live in the district of the guy who proposed miscarriage as murder. I would be running then just to make sure everybody knows what the GOP is up to. Too many people are blissfully unaware of what is going on with the GA legislature these days.


    Jeralyn probably won't endorse you. (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:07:38 PM EST

    Full circle (5.00 / 6) (#3)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 04:10:40 PM EST
    back to the old "people get the government they deserve" refrain?

    Funny that Yglesias is expounding it as if he is somehow, being a legendary pundit in his own mind, not the problem he describes?

    Hey Matt, if you think you're a 'progressive' and you feel that the political system isn't doing what you want, it's misguided to look at this as a personal failure of your readers. Maybe try the mirror, Matt? Hey?

    Yup (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by cal1942 on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 04:58:49 PM EST
    everyone else is to blame except the 'precious.'

    I think Yglesias is telling us to accept a party made all the more conservative under Obama, to forget sensible progressive policy.

    Policy that wins elections.


    The bigger (5.00 / 7) (#10)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 05:58:21 PM EST
    problem is that nobody seems to have learned anything from the "Obama Experience".

    There are several things that I can think of off the top of my head:

    1. Experience does matter.
    2. A record of backing campaign issues does matter.
    3. The primary system needs to be reformed.
    4. Bipartisanship cannot be achieved with crazy people.
    5. Leadership qualities matter.
    6. Being loved by the press is mercurial at best and dangerous at most because the Washington Cocktail Party Crowd is at odds with what's best for the people of this country.
    7. When Whole Food Nation attaches itself to a candidate run for the hills!!

    And.... (5.00 / 4) (#18)
    by robert72 on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 08:19:19 PM EST
    8. There needs to be proven competence at SOMETHING other than reading a teleprompter.

    9: "Words Matter" (5.00 / 3) (#31)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 01:15:58 AM EST
    - less than actions.

    Number 6 (none / 0) (#37)
    by cal1942 on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:34:55 AM EST
    is the gold standard.

    Yes, but the humor makes it all worthwhile (5.00 / 4) (#14)
    by Addison on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:18:11 PM EST
    The existence of an email in which a woman apparently alienated by her own privilege seeks out Matthew Yglesias to learn how to get more involved in the real struggles of change and not be "part of the problem" is pretty funny, though. I thank Yglesias for sharing it.

    I'm sure Matt shared that (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:02:40 PM EST
    because it made him feel proud of his ability to help her.

    How about some of the so called (5.00 / 11) (#6)
    by MO Blue on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 05:00:45 PM EST
    progressive pundits and bloggers stepping up to the plate and take their share of the responsibility for what is going on now. How about all of those who played WORM with Obama's statements, especially about Social Security, admit that they really mislead their readers and provided them with p!ss poor information on which to base their voting decisions.

    Thank you (none / 0) (#25)
    by Madeline on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 10:42:44 PM EST
    for that comment

    I think the point is quite valid... (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by kdog on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 05:00:59 PM EST
    I've said before I'm part of the problem...I do nothing to combat the rampant inequality under the law, the economic coup d'etat we've witnessed and continue to witness, the occupations...the lot of the bad news.

    Primary reason for inaction being the tactics required mean a chaining and a caging...ya need huge numbers willing to take great risk, and an extraordinary leader or leaders to coordinate the effort.  

    Voting is as useful as using bubble gum to plug a leak in the Hoover Dam...at least until people stop playing slightly lesser evil and give some also-rans a shot at the polls, that might give us some chance at positive change.  

    Our rants on blogs are a fun release and all, but the rants and $2.50 will get you a ride on the subway...what we really need to do is hop turnstiles and rob banks and lay down on the runway in front of military supply lanes flying to Afghanistan. But who wants to be a martyr?  It ain't me babe.

    good comment (none / 0) (#26)
    by Madeline on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 10:50:52 PM EST
    Reminds me Of Phil Och's protest song, "Love me, I'm a Liberal". oops...I mean Progressive.

    I vote for the democratic party
    They want the U.N. to be strong
    I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
    He sure gets me singing those songs
    I'll send all the money you ask for
    But don't ask me to come on along
    So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

    In stead of martyrs, can we just have some leadership and courage?


    National Lampoon had a better take (none / 0) (#30)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 12:54:24 AM EST
    Middle Class Liberal Well Intentioned Blues:



    The fault, dear Brutus (5.00 / 5) (#8)
    by chrisvee on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 05:23:38 PM EST
    is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

    I'm not buying it.  Good people fighting hard to do good work can actually fail in the face of entrenched opposition.  That's why they call it injustice.

    And that's why when we actually manage to elect someone to represent our views ::coughObamacough:: we expect leadership not capitulation.

    Yglesias is a scold and that's about the last thing progressives or liberals or whatever you want to call us need right now.

    All actions are political! (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Robot Porter on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 07:18:26 PM EST
    Each of us has taken more political actions today than we can count.

    Members of my family have been in government dating back to FDR.  And involved in direct political action at least as far back as the woman's suffrage movement and early labor organizing.

    But I often think the members of my family who did none of this had a greater political impact.  Those whose politics didn't pay their bills but informed where they lived, how they raised children, what products they bought, what music or art they liked and so on.

    In many ways, this type of indirect political action has a greater impact than writing a couple of speeches for FDR or organizing a union local.  Because this type of politics becomes so a part of the latticework of life it is almost impossible to undo.

    Nice but (none / 0) (#27)
    by Madeline on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 10:59:19 PM EST
    we need more.  We need a revolution. No violence if preventable. Unfortunately, we have no one to lead us.

    We're not slaves ... (none / 0) (#36)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 02:19:19 PM EST
    or foot soldiers.  We don't need a "leader" to tell us which way to walk.  It's thataway.  Wagons ho!

    Matt, as usual, is wrong (5.00 / 5) (#19)
    by koshembos on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 08:48:33 PM EST
    The woman who talked to Matt is not progressive; she believes that her socially liberal views make her a progressive. Matt thinks so too.

    Progressives are people who got involved in the fight in Wisconsin, joined demonstrations, send money, read everything people on the ground in Wisconsin wrote and were involved in the big fight.

    Obama and the Democratic party went into hiding in Wisconsin. If you are progressive you care about unions, you join picket lines, you bug your congressperson and senators.

    If you are progressive, you know that Obama is a political liar, a coward, an empty suit, a right wing politician and plans to destroy our safety net.

    Everybody else is just middle class Democrat.

    Uh no... (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by masslib on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 08:49:47 PM EST
    I don't think the voters voted in Obama to continue the policies of George Bush.  It's ridiculous to say well, that's because you haven't forced him to.  He was elected to end the policies of the Bush administration.  Voters will act in the voting booth.

    And yet Yglesias (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by lilburro on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 11:54:01 PM EST
    tried to get the public option activists to quiet down?

    They don't seem to acknowledge the importance of groups that don't support the President's initiatives as announced, so it's hard to see what Yglesias says as anything else than "donate to the DNC."

    It reminds me of some of the infighting before DADT was passed.  I don't recall Yglesias or Klein telling gay rights groups to shut up, but other bloggers did.  Some people like to think Obama had some master plan that took two years and thus DADT was overturned.  Would that have happened without outside activist pressure?  Absolutely not.  Activists are the reason overturning DADT was even contemplated.

    Not all progressives are "failing."  Some just like to ignore groups pursuing progressive goals that don't entirely match what Obama is offering at any given time.

    Heard a guy from Cato Instit. on (none / 0) (#13)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:11:07 PM EST
    on NPR explaining why most people in U.S. no longer pay attention to what is happening in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.  First:  we have short attention spans and these wars have been going on a long time.  Second:  we have moved on to thinking about jobs and the economy.  Cata Instit. probably hopes against hope none of us are thinking about Iraq anymore.

    The Cato Institute has been against (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by me only on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:52:27 PM EST
    the Iraq War for a very long time, at least since 2003.

    It could also be (none / 0) (#28)
    by Madeline on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 11:09:53 PM EST
    because the government has removed us from it. We cannot see action except for short clips; cannot see caskets; cannot see most destruction and death.  

    We do not share in these wars at all.  If it has not happened to us, we have empathy but no anger nor experience. Most do not or cannot even view pictures of the wounded returning.

    Notice that the battles in Egypt, Libya, Syria were allowed in living color with reporters on the ground, not embedded. What we know of the personal and horrific results of war is what we are told.


    It could also be because (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 02:30:32 AM EST
    we voted for the guy who said he was going to get us out, and nothing has changed, and the guy himself and his aides have repeatedly expressed utter contempt for criticism from the left.

    Site Violation - spam (none / 0) (#24)
    by MO Blue on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 10:07:06 PM EST

    As I pointed out before (none / 0) (#33)
    by Wile ECoyote on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:00:43 AM EST
    the Liberal meme: Let someone else do it.  

    Republican meme: Nobody can do it (5.00 / 3) (#35)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 08:22:45 AM EST
    Buwhahahahaha (none / 0) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 08:22:19 AM EST
    It contradicts almost the WHOLE of blogospheredom which rhymes with kingdom, but also boredom, and sort of also conundrum :)

    For instance, doing something is sending money to candidates right?  We go out into the big wide often inhospitable world and toil and sweat, and then we donate our fruits of labor to progressive candidates right?  That's doing something, and in this economy that is actually doing quite a bit.

    Just tell some progressive candidate in the blogosphere that you will be sending all of your money to her because so far she seems to solidly espouse the principles of what used to be the Democratic party and see how popular your a$$hole self is out there :)  Cracks me up.  But I will be doing progressive things out there whether the kings and queens of the blogosphere like me or not :)