Friday, August 13, 2010


I have a set of complaints that's slightly different from Lawrence Lessig's:

It's certainly not fair to criticize Obama for not being a Lefty. He wasn't ever a Lefty. He didn't promise to be a Lefty. And there's no reason to expect that he would ever become a Lefty.

But Lefties (like me) who criticize Obama are not criticizing him for failing our Lefty test. Our criticism is that Obama is failing the Obama test: That he is not delivering the Presidency that he promised...

It's precisely the administration that Hillary "lobbyists are people too" Clinton promised....

But beefed up Clintonism is not what Obama promised. He promised to "take up the fight." ...

Or Andrew Sullivan's:

I am crestfallen over two profound issues: civil rights and accountability for war crimes.... you cannot head up a government that uses evidence based on torture and remain the candidate so many of us supported in 2008. And you cannot actually take a position that is directly against the tide of history and morality on gay equality and pretend you are a new kind of politician, prepared to take on the fear of the far right that gripped the Clinton years.

I expected Obama to move to the center and disappoint me on a number of issues. I didn't really ever expect him to "take up the fight" and be the scourge of business-as-usual.

But I did expect him not to be a complete and utter failure at easing the economic pain of ordinary citizens. I realize he prevented further pain. I realize he might never have gotten more economic stimulus through. But he never demanded anything close to a large enough stimulus, not even as a bargaining chip. And everything he's done to try to help people caught in the foreclosure mess has been an exercise in futility.

More important, if I didn't expect him to be a hero of liberalism, I at least expected that he wouldn't preside over the total reversal of conservatism's reputation in the eyes of the public. I expected that he had the communications skills to manage the narrative and sustain the public's disillusionment with the snake oil peddled by the right. In Bush's second term, the public understood that the GOP approach was delusional and wrongheaded -- but now the public has completely forgotten what was widely understood in those years. That's Obama's fault. The right defined him as a socialist. The right rewrote history to make this his recession. Now, on a gut level, the public believes that America is going to hell in a handbasket because the ultimate lefty sent it there.

I've said many times that I don't care whether Obama is as bad as George W. Bush on this or that issue, because he's still better than the next Republican president will be -- Republicans just keep getting worse. Their current ideas on economics (Paul Ryan), immigrants (repeal the Fourteenth), and Islam (ban mosques) are prime examples. But Barack Obama has to accept some blame for the fact that we're now in an era when crazies like that aren't considered crazy, and have a serious chance of seizing all three branches of government in the next two election cycles.

That's why I'm disaffected.

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