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Evidence of Incompetence

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
There's a fascinating debate going on over at Talking Points Memo. You might have heard that Barack Obama recently criticized liberals for being disengaged from the election. Obama's comments have sparked both rebuttals and counter-rebuttals. Blogging heavyweights like Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein have chimed in, arguing that civil libertarians have every reason to be outraged but other sorts of liberals really ought to be more understanding of the constraints liberal presidents have to operate under. Finally, I think Greg Sargent gets the closest to the truth when he notes that some of the criticism is tactical - that it is politically advantageous to fight the occasional battle on behalf of liberal causes even if you lose.

Here's my take on things. First, there is going to be some fall-off in enthusiasm after any election, particularly when the economy is still in the dumps. Not all of that can be laid at Obama's doorstep. Second, Obama's position on civil liberties is simply appalling - he is effectively consolidating the Bush agenda and undermining the republic. I will never forgive him for it.

Third, the White House's inability to recognize the political benefits of picking symbolic issues to take a stand on is simply stunning, and points to how imbecilic their political strategy is. From day one Obama has proved manifestly incapable to develop and implement a coherent messaging strategy. I've watched opportunity after opportunity pass by to put the Republicans on the defensive and to rally Democrats behind the administration, but they seem to have an allergy to partisan combat. It is this reluctance to battle against right-wing conservatism that is contributing to the demoralization of the Democratic party.

I've said it a million times, but liberals really aren't that hard to please. Pick a few substantive issues where liberal positions are generally popular and fight for them (the recent tax cut debate is a good example). Even if the Republicans obstruct and we don't get what we want, liberals will remember that you were with them when it counted. We don't expect you to fight to the death on every issues, but fight on something. Pick something, anything, about which you won't compromise. You won't be sorry.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:19 AM
  • I couldn't agree more. Except...

    I think a large part of the economy being in the dumps can be laid at his doorstep because of the way he's handled the stimulus and financial reform - the same way he's handled everything else, by backing off.

    But yeah, he doesn't even fight for issues supported by public opinion - which he campaigned on, then yells at and ridicules the people who put him in office. Politically and ethically, big FAIL.

    By Blogger Rebecca, at 2:29 PM  
  • Well, one could make the argument that there just weren't the votes for a bigger stimulus in Congress or the public option (and he didn't make the public option a central part of his campaign), so I think a reasonable argument could me made that on those issues he really did get the best deal he could. The bigger point I think should be made was that even if one accepts the idea that Obama has been getting as much legislation through as he realistically could, with proper political messaging he could have a much more contented liberal base than he does now. And this is to say nothing of how his civil liberties record is a product of his free choice - he's actually siding with evil.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 7:59 AM  
  • To be clearer, there have been "smaller", symbolic issues where he could have earned a lot of credit with us, even if his record of the big ticket items was basically the same.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 8:00 AM  
  • I don't agree that he got the best legislation he could, because he totally screwed up the negotioations and he didn't fight at all for those things we could have gotten.

    He started waffling on the public option almost from the beginning, even though he kept hammering Clinton about the fact that requiring people to buy insurance without providing a public option is just giving the insurance companies a huge gift. And that is exactly what happened. When they finally passed his so-called historic reform package, insurance industry stocks went up higher than they had been for 50 years.

    He took single payer off the table then lost negotiations for the public option. We were left with crumbs. He supported people like Blanche Lincoln even though they obstructed his efforts, instead of strong arming them to vote right if they wanted his support. Who the hell does that?

    He cut the stimulus in half before negotiations began instead of twisting arms to get some votes. Seriously, look at what George Bush managed to do without anywhere near 60 votes. It was all the wrong stuff, but he pushed a great deal of his agenda through.

    Obama has not fought for a single thing he campaigned for. He just keeps making nice with conservatives as they continue with their open agenda of blocking him.

    Now that we're so close to election time, he's started ridiculing Republicans in his speeches. But it hasn't been just Republicans, it's been members of his own party that he's let run right over him, too.

    Again, he went into office with amazing political capital. And he squandered it. I don't see where he's used a shred of it. And, in being such a pathetic party leader, he's hurt the chances of us getting some more really good candidates elected. Some people who would work hard to achieve the things he promised to work for that he immediately turned his back on.

    And now, with the White House insulting our base again - telling Labor, women, gays, etc. to stop whining and be grateful for their incremental improvements - 5 weeks before the election...

    Seriously, who does that?

    By Blogger Rebecca, at 2:38 PM  
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