Late last week, I published a 17,000 word article on The Nation's website called "Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now." The article is here and the Atlantic Wire did a short summary of it here. Thanks, I'm guessing in considerable measure, to the incredible reach of Mike Allen's "Playbook," where it was generously featured on the morning it appeared. The article garnered a tremendous number of responses in the blogosphere and in the larger media.
The various reactions have been extremely instructive. Given the length of the piece, an awful lot of people did not bother to read most of it or even enough of it to understand its central argument before commenting on it. My main point -- as I understood it anyway -- was that while Barack Obama has unarguably failed to make good on many of his most significant campaign promises so far, this is less a reflection of the administration's strategic errors or any demonstrable backing away by Obama from those promises in most but not all instances. Rather, this failure results from a series of structural bottlenecks in our system that encourage conservative transformative change but stand in the way of its progressive counterpart.
Broadly speaking, I identified:
-- The legacy of the Bush administration
-- The structure of our political system and the antiquated rules of the Senate
-- The political power of money
-- The ideological antipathy of many Americans to strong government
-- The power of right-wing media
-- The varying weaknesses of mainstream media
-- And the disciplined and yet entirely-divorced-from-reality character of contemporary conservatism coupled with the disparate ideological composition of the Democratic Party, among others.
Most of the commentators ignored these larger points, however, and focused on the introductory paragraphs where I set the stage by describing liberal unhappiness with the Obama administration. An (un)healthy percentage did not manage to get past the very first sentence.
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