Liberal friends have been forwarding me this article that encapsulates all the recent Left Wing whining about Obama being too “moderate”. I’ll avoid quoting it extensively, since it’s simply too long-winded and long-haired. But the gist is that liberals hoped this was New Deal II — that Obama was stepping into an historic opportunity to remake the country — and he has failed to follow through.
In contrast, when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze. Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it. He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it. Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century. He would have offered them a counternarrative of how to fix the problem other than the politics of appeasement, one that emphasized creating economic demand and consumer confidence by putting consumers back to work. He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it. But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far.
Most of that is untrue, actually, but we’ll give Westen enough rope to hang himself. His specific breaking point was the stimulus and his complaint that Obama didn’t make it bigger. Let’s push aside the Keynsian bullshit for a moment. Let’s push aside that we’ve had $6 trillion in stimulus spending, at least half of which was specifically advertised as stimulus. Let’s instead focus on what is brought up in this masterful deconstruction of Westen’s whining: a bigger stimulus was simply not possible.
Obama speechified all he could. He dealt as much as he could. He was beating the stimulus drum daily. But this isn’t, as McArdle often reminds us, an episode of the West Wing. Neither the American People nor the Republican Party capitulates after the President gives a great speech to the sound of violins. A huge number of Americans disagreed with the stimulus. And so Obama got what he could. The same applies to the deficit and to Obamacare — both of which have sent the Left Wing base into paroxysms of tears. Obama got what he could get. This is the difference between governing in reality and governing on TV.
(If this all sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve been saying the same thing to the conservative base lately: politics is the art of the possible. We’re never going to get 100% of what we want. But we can move the ball in our direction. Obama understands this; his supporters and his critics … don’t.)
Westen also, as is typical of any political base, assumes that Obama’s opinions are identical to his own. This is especially tempting for liberals when dealing with a politician is also a minority — there is the intrinsic assumption that he must be very very liberal. It never occurs to him that Obama may disagree with the base on certain issues. That’s the problem with getting wrapped up in politicians’ words instead of their actions. The latter tells you what someone really wants; the former only who he is selling it to.
The whining on the Left has gotten so bad that some are even saying that Hillary would be better. I’ll let TNC take that apart:
She is “tougher.” A nebulous existence in the fever dreams of frustrated liberals tends to do that to you. Everybody’s “tougher” before they’re in the actual knife fight. I could just as easily see an alternative fever dream–one launched by President Hillary Clinton political failings, which she surely would have had, in which another camp of liberals look fondly back on how the Obama of hope and change would have altered the political calculus via magic.
The handsome gentleman at the office with whom you share no bathrooms is also “sexier” than your husband. We’re all sexy to someone until the years find us explaining how, precisely, we allowed Junior to have Oreos and potato chips for dinner.
Obama could give the impassioned angry speeches that Westen and his fellow travelers want. And it would alienate moderates and play into the picture of him as an “angry black man”. But he understands that speaking softly (or not so softly) and getting most of what you want is better than shouting down the rooftops and getting nothing.
If this sounds like I’m praising Obama, it’s because I am. I’ve said this a million times: Obama’s opponents, both Right and Left, severely underestimate his political skills. He has gotten the biggest change in healthcare law in forty years, gotten trillions in “stimulus” spending, advanced a number of liberal goals … and still commands about 45% in the polls in the midst of a dreadful economy. He may even, to judge by the polls, have beaten the GOP on the debt issue and will, in two years, at last grant the Left their ultimate over-riding wish — higher taxes on the evil rich.
I wish George W. Bush had been such an “obamateur”.
The reason he has been so successful in advancing a liberal agenda is because Obama, being of the Left, understands that whining defines them. They got huge spending increases under Bush, even bigger ones under Obama and they’re still complaining about “underfunded schools” and “not enough stimulus” and “gutted” social programs. There will never come a point when the Left will stop whining and only a fool would set placating them as his goal. And the recent spate of “wither New Deal II” tripe only confirms this.