I don't have to tell you how most progressives feel today. It's in all the papers, it's all over cable news, and the blogosphere is on fire beneath our fingers. I spent yesterday morning commiserating with a number of politically active friends including one former DNC worker and another formerly ardent Obama organizer. The consensus was pretty clear -- with the impending Bush tax-cut compromise, the president we had busted our bloomers to elect was about to sell us out.
I was a die-hard Obama supporter in 2008 and have stood by him through the ups and downs on healthcare reform, financial services regulation, and even the decision to raise our military footprint in Afghanistan. But on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy? Mr. President... I cannot dig it.
After the president's announcement yesterday afternoon, I could hear the wind going out of progressive sails. It was audible in the voices of smart and dedicated public servants like Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York and Senator Sherrod Brown* of Ohio as they took to the airwaves to decry "the compromise," if not to outright denounce the leader of their party. Pundits have been speculating that a Democratic revolt is brewing in Congress, though far too few note that many of the same sanctimonious public servants lacked the heart to heed the president's call to put this vote on their pre-election legislative agenda.
Incensed anonymous commenters across the web have been saying that Obama is just the same as a Republican -- despite his passage of the economic stimulus bill, financial regulatory reform, student loan and equal pay reform and of course a sweeping reform of healthcare that liberals had been advocating in vain since well before my parents were born.
Some folks are so mad they're railing that the two parties are the same. Truth be told, many of them have been saying the same since Bush v. Gore, though I haven't heard a credible argument yet that Al Gore would have been the same president George W. Bush was...
And on the final fringe we've even got some lefties doing intellectual backflips trying to justify a primary challenge to President Obama, having apparently learned nada from the Teddy Kennedy facilitated smackdown of Jimmy Carter by that great liberal icon, Ronald Reagan.
Still I can't lie... I am as salty as the next dog about the perceived lack of intestinal fortitude of the "Party of Punking Out," and yes of its leader, President Obama.
The most disappointing thing for me is that part of the reason I voted for President Obama is because I not only believed he was the right candidate -- I believed he had the right machine. The 2008 Obama campaign arguably built the most impressive grassroots political organization in the history of American politics. From the record amount of online donations, to the prescient organizing in caucus states during the primary season, Candidate Obama had an army conquering hearts and minds nationwide, and it augured for an impressive means of exercising leverage in Congress. The election came, we won and... nothing.
I'm no political strategist, but since the professionals apparently have not been getting the job done in DC, let me throw in my two pennies as a concerned citizen:
Dear Mr. President. A lot of us are really pissed at you right now for reasons you are well aware of. That's not what I'm here to talk to you about. I think it's time for you to ask us to do something. I know it probably sounds ill-timed, but hear me out. We fought for you, made calls for you, vouched for you with every ounce of social capital we had. And since you were elected, we've been waiting in vain for you to give us our marching orders.
I want you to take this moment while we all feel adrift at sea to ask us to do something hard, and I want you to commit to fighting tooth and well-manicured nail with us to make it happen. Now I'm not sure what you should ask us to do yet (maybe that'll be next week's blog), and I can't say as many of us are going to respond initially this time around. But if you approach us with the right combination of humility and some much-needed presidential swagger many of us will respond, and over the next two years we will reach and retrieve others.
In 2008 you built a team that put boots on the ground across the country and in every digital nook and cranny we could find. We've invested too much in you to give in now. Don't let the GOP punk you, sir. It's time for a new strategy.
Don't Retreat. Reboot.
Editor's Note: This statement has been corrected. It originally named Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island instead of Sherrod Brown of Ohio by mistake.