If we lose in November, will it be the fault of the “professional left”?

It started a few months ago, in the wake of the national health care debate, when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed the criticism of Progressives over Obama’s decision not to pursue a public option as the delusional complaints of the “professional left” – those individuals who, in his words, wouldn’t be satisfied until the Pentagon was “eliminated.” And, since then, the administration has been fleshing out this narrative, and painting the base of their party as radicals for wanting Obama to follow through on his campaign promises concerning things like torture, domestic spying and the availability of affordable health care for all Americans. (No one, to my knowledge, has suggested that the Pentagon be eliminated.) But, for some reason, they’ve made the decision to paint us “crazy” people, who wouldn’t be satisfied until such time that we’ve allowed Cuba to annex us. And, a few days ago, Vice President Joe Biden picked up the Progressive-bashing baton, saying that us folks who make up the base of the party need to “stop whining” about stalled priorities and instead consider what the country would be like if the Republicans retook Congress. And, just in case we didn’t grasp the point, President Obama reiterated it in his recent interview with Rolling Stone. The point couldn’t be more clear – if the Republicans retake Congress in the coming midterm elections, it will be the fault of the irrational Progressives, who chose to sit on the sidelines complaining. Here’s a clip from the President’s interview:

[I]f people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place…The idea that we’ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible.

Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake had the following to say in response to Obama:

…When people scratch their heads and wonder how a campaign based on hectoring your supporters expects to turn out voters, the answer is, it doesn’t. And you don’t see anyone who’s actually running for office this November engaging in it. They well know that your job is to inspire and energize voters in advance of the election. Obama did too — when he was running for office himself.

No, this isn’t about getting voters to the polls in November. It’s about setting up a narrative for who will take the blame for a disastrous election. And once again, the White House doesn’t care if they make matters worse in order to deflect responsibility from Obama…

So, what do you make of that, my invisible friends of the internet? Is Obama looking to make us the scapegoats come election day? If the Republicans take the House, will it be because we weren’t out in the streets, dragging people to the polls like we were in 2008? Does he have a legitimate point? Before you answer, here’s a little video from MSNBC’s morning roundtable show, Morning Joe, in which they discuss Obama and his recent attacks against the Progressive base of his party.

It does seem odd to me that, here, just a few weeks away from the election, the President would be taking this tact, instead of talking about his accomplishments and encouraging the people who voted him into office to reengage. It still seems possible to me that we could hold on to the Senate, and possibly the House, but not like this… But, maybe he doesn’t want to articulate his vision, for fear that it will come across to the rest of America as Socialistic.

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34 Comments

  1. Brackinald Achery
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    They’re not trying to win, you’re right. I figure the best bet of both the Democrats and neocons is to let the tea-partiers win this round, cause the economy’s going to get a lot worse, and they can nip that small-government “revolution” in the bud if they saddle the tea-party with the even worse economy. It would demoralize their opposition, and rob them of their popularity. Then they’d have no legitimate opposition to their power, even if everything stayed crappy forever. I don’t know if that’s what’s up, but that’s what I’d do if I were an a-hole. I could be wrong.

  2. Peter Larson
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I hope the fleabaggers and republicans take both the senate and the house. It might go a long way toward defusing the incredibly racist, xenophobic and batshit political climate we are experiencing now. Granted, many people will lose their jobs, research will go stagnant due to loss of funding, wars, aggression and violence will continue unabated and the kong term health of our economy will likely suffer, but at the very least the incredibly uncomfortable rhetoric flying around recently may be somewhat abated.

  3. Brackinald Achery
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    many people will lose their jobs, research will go stagnant due to loss of funding, wars, aggression and violence will continue unabated and the long term health of our economy will likely suffer

    Unlike what’s happening now?

  4. Peter Larson
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t say it wasn’t, just pointed out that it will continue. The republicans made it plainly clear in their pledge to america.

  5. Oliva
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    During the Bush/Cheney (with FOX) years, as “liberal” became a tainted, derided word, a lot of frustrated, well-meaning people on the left went for “progressive” again, whereas some people have long been calling themselves “progressives.” Seems since Inauguration Day 2009 this term is being muddied (more than usual–though it happened strikingly during the 1960s) in unhelpful ways–and I don’t think it’s being done by Obama et al. I think we should keep trying to widen the embrace and be watchful of unhelpful divisions–and watchful of who would love to see the left ripped in pieces. (Right-wing columnists don’t just name-call Obama as a “socialist” and “liberal” but also a “progressive”–while self-described progressives shudder at their vast difference from him.) One can be a pragmatic progressive, among other choices–some differences have to do with pacing and priorities, not fundamental political beliefs. (That is not to say someone like Ben Nelson could ever be called a liberal or progressive, but I can’t imagine he’d want to be.)

  6. Posted October 3, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting that, when the Tea Party wins Republican primaries, we say “HA HA, the Republicans are totally going to lose because they couldn’t listen to the party establishment and appoint ‘electable’ ‘moderates’!”, but, when the Democrats tell us that we need to get behind “electable” “moderates”, we get all in a huff.

  7. Oliva
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think I said that well what I was hoping to say. How about this–that media sources called yesterday’s gathering in Washington a rally by “over 300 progressive groups.” It was a fine demonstration, really heartening, “traditional” Dem all the way. But I can imagine a lot of people on the left who were annoyed and impatient with Obama even before he was elected would scoff at the label “progressives” about the people who spoke on the Mall yesterday (Al Sharpton, Van Jones, Ed Schultz, among many, many others). Jon Stewart’s rally is positioned to stand apart from the “hotheads” on the left and right, whereas I can imagine many of the people at the rally yesterday showing up for Stewart and Colbert–know some of them who plan to be at both.

    I also know Obama continues to tell progressive activists to keep agitating because without it he can’t get the things done that he and they want. And he did a wonderful job rousing passion and movement at the Gen44 event the other night (speech available at C-SPAN: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/295745-2).

    I’ve been one of those who was dismayed at the intolerance and impatience toward the Obama administration so early on in his administration, when the creepiness that turned out to be tea-partyism was already evident, bigotry was abundant, obstructionism already flagrant, and the message still lingered from the campaign that change takes time and hard work and work by all of us–“the arc of history” being long, long, long, and too slow, but bending toward justice. Some writers on the left, some who’ve done great things but don’t necessarily contribute at the level of their earlier work (I’m thinking of Naomi Klein), seemed hell-bent on demeaning Obama because of his cabinet picks and other early moves. Sure there were big disappointments and also mistakes, but some of these people seem like they were poised to never acknowledge anything favorable Obama did. Was that a helpful kind of agitating or just a way to demoralize people who were already struggling with life under a broken system? I pick on Klein because she wrote a frivolous anti-Obama screed in Alternet way back when, and it seemed wholly made to earn her money, with little other value. Maybe I’m being too hard on her.

  8. TNA
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    So here we go renaming ourselves and rebranding again, hoping it will make us more popular.
    The “progressives” got all the credit when Obama won. Just ask Hillary. Now when the party hits a slump, “progressives” are trying to dump their share of the blame on somebody else.
    Business as usual.
    Obama is just saying, “Grow up, hipsters.” It is a message Dr. Phil would be proud of.

  9. Knox
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    The party in power almost always loses seats. It’s amazing to me, however, just how short the memory of the American people is. We voted the Republicans out for a reason two short years ago. And their Pledge proves that they don’t have anything new to offer. If we put them back in power, it’s with the understanding that they’ll do the exact same thing.

  10. Robert
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    The really sad thing is that we are going to lose some of the best Democrats in the congress. The worst people in congress, both Democratic and Republican, are the ones in relatively safe districts. A good portion of the moderates are from those districts that could go either way.

    Obama is right that anybody who doesn’t vote in this election is really not sincere about their desire to see things improved in this country. Anybody who voted in 2008 and doesn’t this year is just a flake. A person does themself no favor by pandoring to them.

  11. Posted October 4, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Obama has proven that he is no friend to the left.

    To quote a former president, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…won’t get fooled again.”

  12. Bob
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    “Obama is right that anybody who doesn’t vote in this election is really not sincere about their desire to see things improved in this country.”

    Did he really say that? Fuck Obama if he did. He and Rahm sold the progressives out the day they stepped in to the White House. He has passed plenty of good legislation but has clearly misrepresented himself with regards to being any kind of “change.” And on the PR front he has failed miserably. He is even losing the majority of people on issues like the health care bill, which he really dropped the ball on continuing to sell, after he signed it.

  13. Posted October 4, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Yeah this really pisses me off. Why are we as “progressives” compelled to be enthusiastic Democrats? At least the Republicans are usually straightforward with what they intend to do (even though it is usually rather evil). Democrats seem to insist that supporting them is necessary for anyone aligned with the people and then do the same evil corrupt shit (with a few minor but important differences).

  14. kjc
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I’ve been one of those dismayed by being painted as intolerant and impatient—and particularly at being imagined as someone who for petty reasons would be poised to not give Obama a chance.

    I’m not a moderate. And I don’t admire them.

  15. Edward
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone is saying that they won’t go out come election day and vote against the Republicans. And I don’t think that anyone is saying that Obama hasn’t done some good while in office. Why, however, can’t we express our frustration? Why do we need to shut up and take it, just because he’s moved us a little in the right direction? How will things ever change if we don’t? Obama should have found harder for meaningful health care reform. He should have come out definitively against torture. He should have addressed the economy earlier with tax incentives for R&D and increased spending in alternative energy. He should have stopped the banking bonuses with US taxpayer dollars. He should have done more to get the money and corporate influence out of electoral politics. If we don’t speak up on these issues, who will? I’ll vote for the man, but I won’t shut up about what I believe.

  16. Robert
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Sorry, Bob, I didn’t mean to make it sound like Obama literally said those words. The words you quoted were purely mine. They are just sort of my interpretation of what Obama was saying, at least in part.

    I can’t speak for anybody but myself, and usually do a pretty poor job at that even.

  17. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    @CMadler:
    To quote a former president, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…won’t get fooled again.”
    This can be said of the republican leadership, who if they win will take us back to their FOOLISH ways of the past 10 years. I won’t abscond my responsibility as a citizen and not vote or worse yet, vote against my interests, like the “head in their sand types” who crybaby because didn’t get everything they wanted…boo hoo. They do not understand our gov’t. Yah I won’t be fooled, I’m sticking w/ Obama.
    And oh yes, Obama should have waved his magic wand and dictated to the banks and the republican half of the senate that protects them and to the Supreme Court about campaign financing. I mean isn’t he omniscient, as he is the president eh?

  18. Posted October 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Wetdolphinmissile, omniscient means all-knowing, I think you meant omnipotent. Obama is still my #1 favorite president, but this argument is bullshit. Obama has fundamentally failed to address several issues that he built his campaign on (just as a sampler: illegal robot wars continue, torture continues, fundamentally corrupt and broken economic system continues). Please explain your superior understanding of our gov’t. You mean these “crybabies” don’t understand the fact that our gov’t is incapable of accomplishing anything and your responsibility as a citizen is to go and cast a vote for some asshole because he or she has the corporate connections to get a nomination and campaign funds (tapping in to taxpayer dollars), suspending everything you believe in because they have to dumb everything down to appeal to the fictional “moderates.”

    The Democrats are the crybabies, after being Bush’s lap dog for 8 years letting the Republicans do whatever they want, they are completely incapable of doing anything because the Republicans have this power to block it that Dems for some reason are completely unable to use. So now ignore everything they are campaigning on and everything in their records to vote for the Dems because the Republican/tea party is such a dangerous threat? Not that it even matters for me, since electoral redistricting has guaranteed the Dingell Dynasty will endure in Congress forever.

  19. Oliva
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Well, David Bonior didn’t fare so well with the last redistricting, which also affected the shape of Dingell’s district, giving him a whole bunch more students to get across to.

  20. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    RE: “Please explain your superior understanding of our gov’t. You mean these “crybabies” don’t understand the fact that our gov’t is incapable of accomplishing anything and your responsibility as a citizen is to go and cast a vote for some asshole because he or she has the corporate connections to get a nomination and campaign funds (tapping in to taxpayer dollars), suspending everything you believe in because they have to dumb everything down to appeal to the fictional “moderates.”
    Not claiming any superior knowledge, just I believe in it, which you obviously do not, sorry about that. (omniscient means all-knowing, I think you meant omnipotent) maybe I mean both…So much is expected, Obama would have to have super-powers. Not participating is being part of the problem rather than part of the solution. And you think this bad time is the only bad time there has ever been? Myopic and egocentric attitude, did I use those big words right?

  21. ypsijav
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for responding! What is the solution? Not participating is not giving implicit approval to all the evil shit that continues to happen in the name of America even though we now have a literate and thoughtful light-brown skinned man in the White House (which I sincerely do appreciate, especially compared to GWB and the current crop of fanatical anti-diversity anti-free thinking anti-masturbation candidates).

    What is it that you believe in? The current situation of how the US government and election system works? I certainly don’t think this is the only bad time and I don’t get what would be myopic or egocentric about my point. I didn’t ever expect much from Obama than what we’ve gotten (the most well-spoken and thoughtful American President, by far, in the last 50 years) but what we are getting is more and more of the same awful policies and ineffectiveness of the federal government.

  22. Posted October 4, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t plan to vote for the Democrats running this time out. I want desperately for them to win, as their losing would mean an even greater likelihood of war with Iran, Social Security privatization and any number of other poorly thought out initiatives. I will not, however, be voting enthusiastically, as I feel the Democrats, when they had both the House and the Senate, did not make the most of it. While quite a bit was accomplished, I had hoped for more.

  23. Posted October 4, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I share these strong concerns, but as I said the only congressional post on the ballot is for the fightin 15th district which has been engineered to guarantee John Dingell Jr. the House seat as long as he can manage to stay alive (he’s 84) while simultaneously isolating the left-leaners in Michigan within one contained district.

  24. Oliva
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I really do think it’s worth keeping in mind the economic situation when Obama took office, the overheated animosity toward the stimulus and other efforts (which turn out to have been successes by some legitimate measures and very likely saved us from a much worse state of things), the fact that Franken was in that protracted recount fight for something like eight months so the Senate was missing a key Dem vote for a very long time, among other meaningful factors.

    The fact that Feingold is so far down in the polls shows this country is presently demented–or worse, DeMinted. All those years of highly stoked fears following 9/11, then a chance to change course, and then . . . like a (different) hothead from SC poking a hole in the balloon (Mr. “You Lie”) or Palin staying afloat despite all evidence to say she’s a muddleheaded crackpot or the Supreme Court ruling for corporate power or churlish McCain refusing to give up the fight or the creepy/creeping power of FOX, among so many things . . . it’s just frustrating to hear people speak about Obama angrily and impatiently (as plenty on the left have been doing since he took office), when I can’t imagine a less hopeful context to try to get anything done. This is not to be an Obama apologist. But the forces working against him–and he won, so those forces are in real ways against all who voted for him, a majority of voters–have been daunting, to say the least.

    As for the Dems in Congress, so many disappointments. But there is the possibility that a number of them could be empowered, given their spinach, so to speak. But the ones who have been powerful and vital all along, like Feingold–how to explain the fact that he’s trailing so badly? (Thankfully, the trend seems to be changing with some funding efforts and other attention. May he please be triumphant. We need him.)

    Anyway, it’s frustrating. But not without hope.

  25. kjc
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Oliva, a lot of people who are “angry” and “impatient” are people without health care. The idea that they should sit around thanking their lucky stars for Obama is ludicrous to me. Instead of hope and change he should have campaigned on bipartisanship compromise perhaps? He’s a victim of his own rhetoric when it comes to expectations. In any case, perhaps you should be less impatient with those who express their disappointment (and fight) differently. You couldn’t have elected Obama without them.

  26. Kim
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Feingold, can we all agree that he needs and deserves our support?

    If so, you can contribute here.

    http://russfeingold.org/

  27. Oliva
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    “Thanking their lucky stars”–who said that? And many Americans had various lofty expectations, which, sure, a word like “hope” can conjure or give various shape to–so it’s probably still on all of us, plus the corporations that are people too. Just is not completely simple. (I elected Obama? Oh gosh, there’s some pressure–and some power I sure didn’t know I had!)

    (I think I said I was frustrated, not impatient.)

    Steve Benen had a nice little post re. “poetry vs. prose,” re. campaign rhetoric, among other things. Here’s a bit:

    . . . The concern among many throughout the campaign process was that Obama was overly reliant on charisma, style, charm, and emotion. What would happen when the crowds went home and the guy had to actually run the joint? Well, now we know — what would happen is Affordable Care Act, the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform, student loan reform, Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, a nuclear arms deal with Russia, a new global nonproliferation initiative, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, etc. . . . http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_10/025954.php

  28. kjc
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    right, you paint others as impatient, yourself as justifiably frustrated. you might wanna allow that distinction for people who are not you. as you say, it’s not so simple.

  29. Oliva
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    kjc, I think others have said themselves they’re feeling impatient–also frustrated. And I just feel frustrated, am not claiming it’s justifiable, just actual for me. I’m sorry I have frustrated you, though. Would rather work on figuring out (workable) ways to help things get better actually–knowing we’re in a big messy stew.

  30. kjc
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    the cost of no public option. and this will be just the beginning no doubt.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/business/07insure.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1286470837-w82yxM%2F5XCRXrHv+7jhphw

  31. Mark Higbee
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Obama’s presidency is less than 2 years old, but his record of accomplishments, while substantial, is also plainly not enough to have built him any political capital for the 2010 elections. That a GOP take over of congress is possible, imaginable, is a measure of how little credit Obama has won with voters for his deeds.

    I hope congress doesn’t go GOP, and it’s not certain what happens until after the election is over, obviously. But I think Obama’s biggest errors were going deeper into the unwinnable Afgan war, which is very clostly in lives and money, and also in terms of political attention it takes for the White House. He’s spent more time on that than on job creation — and the domestic crisis is largely about jobs! He’s neglected Job One, and voters won’t likely forget….

  32. Peter Larson
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    There is absolutely nothing Obama could have done to save his presidenc nor the impending 100 year Republiglican takeover of The Congress and the Exec in 2012.

  33. Oliva
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Check out this little video, brainchild of Steve Benen, put together by his friend Bill Simmon: http://vimeo.com/15642527

  34. Posted October 8, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know how accurate the poll was, or what the methodology was behind it, but I saw in the paper this morning that, according to one pollster, Dingel was running four points behind his challenger here in Michigan. As much as I’ve had issues with him the past, we can’t afford to let this seat fall to a Republican. We absolutely need to vote.

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