09/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Left Is Also Obama's Problem

Can the left learn to keep its mouth shut once in a while? Does the American left know how to win wars or just skirmishes? Does the left want change or does it demand perfection? You can't have both in this life.

No one has been a tougher critic of the Republican Party, the Religious Right and various wing nuts out to destroy the Obama presidency than me. Few ordinary Americans (that I know of) have taken more heat (and hate) for their support of the President than me either. Former right wing religious right leaders like me are never forgiven for joining the reality-based community!

Believe me, with my old "friends" on the right I don't need more enemies! (Just check out Fox News smearing of me last week with insanely out-of-context clips on the O'Reilly Factor lifted and edited from Maddow interviewing me.) So I'm hesitant to knock the left. I guess I don't like the idea of all sides pissed off with me at once. But in the light of how and why the debate over health care is being dominated by the loony right maybe the left is partly to blame for the stalemate on health care reform.

Last week the New York Times noted a lack of enthusiasm on the part of Obama's former foot soldiers when it comes to rising to the occasion and pouring on the support for health care reform. ("Health Debate Fails to Ignite Obama's Grass Roots," August 15.) Why the lack of enthusiasm?

It's because the left has made the classic mistake of going for a whole loaf and therefore risking getting nothing. The left has proved itself as impatient as the right and just as shortsighted, given that the lefty sniping at the Obama administration started almost from day one. And now after barely six months in office the people who worked so hard to get him elected have seemingly lost their enthusiasm for another fight on behalf of Obama.

What sapped the yes-we-can optimistic, hope-filled bedrock supporters' will? Who sapped it?

There is a connection between sniping from the left -- the drip, drip, drip of criticism, the demand for instant perfection, be it from those taking shots Obama's economic policy and claiming that the President is in the hip pocket of Wall Street -- and those saying he cut some sort of evil deal with pharmaceutical companies, and the lop-sided "debate" on health care. The right didn't sap anyone's will who voted for Obama. The left shot itself in the foot.

It seems to me that Obama's critics on the left just don't understand governing. If Franklin Roosevelt had had this quality of "support" from his bedrock constituency there would have been no New Deal and we would have never entered the war to defeat fascism. In fact today's left seems to have a death wish of exercising the "right" to snarky frivolity when it's time to get serious.

The American left has a choice: follow our moderately progressive Democrat president and support him when he most needs it most, or allow our whole project to be derailed by the far (increasingly fascist) right. If it is derailed, sure -- the Republicans played a part. But so did the know-it-all left, all because the left's pontificators -- including those right here in the Huffington Post -- would rather be heard than humbly offer their support to our President (or anyone else) and see change actually happen.


It strikes me that the left suffers from a sort of crazy First Amendment knee-jerk twitch comparable the the right's sick Second Amendment twitch! The right thinks it must collect guns, the left thinks it must express opinions, and damn the real world consequences. Hey, so Obama fails! Well at least I got my say!

The right is irredeemably sick. The left is just silly. Together the silly and the sick may just do us in. If Limbaugh gets his Obama-must-fail wish, look in the mirror.

On the right the election literally broke their racist brains. This is now the day of the old angry white men once again. And how has the left responded? Did we circle the wagons and hang tough with our young black president? No everyone waded in.

The open question is this: Is the left going to be dominated by its talkers or get on with governance that can only happen with near infinite patience and loyal support? Does the left know how to follow a leader and get something done?

Q: "You mean I have to behave like a regular citizen once in a while and let the people I elect do their job?!"

A: If our self-styled free thinkers decide loyalty is beneath them and have forgotten how to compromise and live in the real world, a few election cycles from now the left is going to find itself reduced to screaming down their far right opposition at town hall meetings.

We have a great president. We have a chance for real change and we'd better use it. Sarah Palin and company are waiting in the wings.

My old friends on the far right are counting on the stupidity of right wing white America to believe their lies. They are also counting on the left being so in love with the sound of its own voice that the left can't govern.

How different things would be right now had everyone who voted for President Obama stuck by him and his administration with total determination, and waited until he had a chance to implement -- and test -- his programs, before wading in with the nit-picking.

The left faces the implacable and loony right. The chips are down. Support the President.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and the forthcoming Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism).

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