Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama's Agenda and the Progressive Movement

Katrina vanden Heuvel comments on recent stories about "demoralized activists" and the "'liberals eat their own' storyline",
Yet what's happening on the left isn't the equivalent of the anti-incumbent anger on the right. Most progressives support Obama and want his agenda to succeed. And although Pelosi may have been bushwacked by a disability-rights group last week, she was celebrated by most of the conference attendees for her ability to forge a majority for hard votes.
And on the purpose of the primary challenge to Blanche Lincoln:
Actually, the point of the exercise was that those opposing Obama's reform agenda will not get a free pass.
My impressions are a bit different, that the message is less about those supposedly "opposing Obama's reform agenda" and more about the suspicion that President Obama doesn't have much of a reform agenda. That he's willing to push things back to the soft conservatism of the Clinton era, but that he's not interested in pushing any harder than that. The concern seems to be that, fundamentally, he's a centrist, and that the comments that emerge from his administration that are scornful of the progressives and the netroots reflect his actual beliefs. Part of the reaction to Obama is the perception that he hasn't pushed back against the G.W. Bush era hard enough, even that there's no real difference - a perception that is removed from reality, even if you hoped for more. (Let's not forget that the "Obama's just like Bush" agitprop was being advanced by Republican Party operatives even before he was elected President - it's not true, but their goal is to demoralize Obama's supporters.)

The rest wasn't exactly difficult to predict - if you took Obama at his word during his campaign instead of assuming that "he's only saying what he has to say to be elected, but once elected he's going to embrace my own, personal philosophy of government and force Congress to bend to his will." When candidate Obama spoke skeptically of the "public option" in healthcare reform, and was tepid in his support during the debate, I don't think that it was merely a reflection of the political reality in which no such plan would get through the Senate - it seemed clear from his words that he would have accepted a bill with a public option but didn't see its absence as a big deal.

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