Monday, July 19, 2010

Obama and the Democratic base

Being a Democrat is also a challenge

The latest round of "punch the hippies" is exemplified by this Politico article: John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei, Why Obama loses by winning 07/15/2010. Allowing various White House and Congressional officials anonymity to trash the DFH's (dirty freaking hippies, in the politer version), Harris and VandeHei singled out this column by Eric Alterman, in particular: Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now The Nation 07/07/2010.

Digby gives an excellent description of the dissatisfaction of the Democratic base in Goldilocks Triangulation Hullabaloo 07/15/2010:

Therefore, his political advisers should know that when the country is still reeling from unemployment and foreclosures after nearly two years, the passage of an inadequate stimulus bill, which unrealistic benchmarks and a giddy victory party ensured would be the only chance they got, the only people who will consider that a "success" would be beltway insiders. They should have realized that a health care bill that nobody in their right minds would have designed from scratch, the worst aspects of which liberals will be asked to defend for years to come, would be met with dampened enthusiasm by those who watched the process devolve from a sense of progressive purpose to an exhausting farce. They are expected to be able to predict that financial reform without accountability for what's gone before, combined with the administration's unwillingness to confront the civil liberties abuse of the last administration -- indeed expanding on them in some cases -- would show a lack of fundamental concern for justice among those who care about such things. [my emphasis]
And she points to the poison dart sticking in the neck of the Democratic Party, the neoliberal economic ideology:

Which brings us to the real problem for Obama among all Americans, not just his base, which is his neo-liberal economic policy and the often dry New Democrat political rhetoric that enables it. It does not surprise me much because he signaled early on in the campaign that he was going to govern like a cautious centrist and immediately upon taking office started chattering about "Grand Bargains" on social security and medicare. I took a lot of criticism for pointing that out at the time, from people who felt I wasn't giving him a chance (and who oddly believed the right had been completely vanquished...) But I don't think there was ever much of a mystery about whether or not he was a technocratic "pragmatist" who believed that this recession was simply a market correction that would turn itself around with a few tweaks here and there to make it more "efficient." Everything the administration did signaled they believed they were forced to intervene by political rather than economic necessity. Their eyes were on an "Obama Goes to China" legacy on so-called entitlement reform. The tepid stimulus and continued insistence on coddling Republicans all flowed from that. [my emphasis in bold]

Eric Alterman returns to the topic in No Bounce for Obama The Daily Beast 07/07/2010:

It turns out that Obama, advised primarily by Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, was so committed to his strategy of bipartisan governance that he insisted on pursuing it, not only at the expense of his campaign promises, but also of his own (and his party's) popularity. Holding his own ideologically disparate party together was difficult enough. But bringing along enough Republicans to demonstrate a good-faith effort—whether they ended up supporting him in the end or not—resulted in legislation that however historic, was so watered down by compromise with corporate lobbyists that it pissed off almost everyone and satisfied pretty much nobody.
And, referring directly to the Harris/VandeHei piece, he writes:

This is rather rich. It wasn't so long ago, that liberals were being called "f------ retards" by Rahm Emanuel for refusing to get behind the president's compromises on health care. When they finally did, they were chastised for insufficient enthusiasm for a bill that they were instructed to hold their noses and support. Ditto financial regulation, which, in many respects, is a gift to Wall Street, not Main Street. And environmentalists, labor, and feminists have all received not merely nothing, but genuinely regressive rulings by the administration and told to take it and like it. That's when it can be bothered to notice that they exist at all. Dana Goldstein's story on the administration's gratuitous slap at feminists Friday is just one of an ongoing series.
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