THE BLOG

Don't Blame the Left, Blame Your Rhetoric

08/11/2010 01:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Robert Gibbs railed at the 'professional left' in an interview published yesterday. We're all familiar with it by now and the reaction from the left has been swift and unforgiving. One of my favorites was from Glenn Greenwald.

At first look, Robert was frustrated that the left wasn't more satisfied with the accomplishments of the Obama Administration and that the left had no understanding of the overwhelming Republican opposition at every step along the way of progress.

Leaving aside many of the arguments that have been made in response already and taking a deeper look at what unfolded in his comments, I'd suggest that Robert's frustration really has nothing to do with the left. In fact, polling shows that the left remains overwhelmingly supportive of the President, even if some of us think he could be doing better.

Robert's frustration is really that the Obama Administration is unable to meet expectations. From the moment he was elected, Obama needed to lower expectations. He ran a campaign that was low on specifics and high on rhetoric. In the primary Obama faced a knowledgeable and well-prepared Hillary Clinton, who could espouse the minutest details of every nuance of domestic or foreign policy. As comfortable as many were with Hillary, she did not breed inspiration in the masses.

It must have been a well-considered strategy for Obama to stay above the fray with his inspiring oratory. Such a strategy avoided the dissection of ideas and policies and yielded arena sized rallies brimming with hoards of supporters mesmerized by the high-minded rhetoric. Without specifics, it allowed these people to ascribe their own dreams to Obama, making him the proxy of their own hope. Inspiring rhetoric undoubtedly yielded big ideas -- and big expectations -- from the millions of ecstatic Obama supporters during his campaign for the White House.

Obama was flying high on Inauguration day. Even some of the most cynical of our nation recognized and celebrated the historic occasion of his ascension to the Presidency. Even the most diehard of Hillary supporters found themselves brought to tears with pride in our new President. All across the country, people took to the streets to celebrate.

That all translated into big expectations for President Obama. So far, he has been unable to meet those expectations.

While many in the progressive movement have been the most vocal in adhering to the President's repeated call to pressure him and hold him accountable for his promises, it is not our support he has lost. With support from the left holding steady, as polling shows, it is independent voters that have abandoned the President.

Robert Gibbs and others in the Administration seem to be stuck on the idea that American political ideology is black and white and lies along a linear spectrum. It's just not so. It's a huge mistake to think that Independents did not share the same expectations of President Obama that those of the left did.

Here's some free advice for Gibbs and his colleagues in the Administration. You need to meet or manage the expectations of those who elected you. Whether we identified as liberal, progressive, moderate, or independent, we backed the ideas you sold to us during the campaign. The way to win our approval is to govern by putting those ideas in practice.

Negotiating with Republicans, whose ideas lost in the election, won't get us to the kind of change you promised. Whether we identify as liberal, progressive, moderate, or independent, this was not our expectation for you.

Don't blame the left. Blame yourselves for a complete failure to transition from a campaign based on inspiring rhetoric to governing by negotiation, sacrificing the values your voters enthusiastically embraced.

You're losing the expectations game. Badly. And you have only yourselves to blame.