Trust but Organize

05/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mike Lux Co-Founder, Democracy Partners

Chris Bowers' interesting post on trusting the Obama administration issue ("Do you trust the administration or not? For progressives in many ways this is the fundamental economic and political question of our times") raises some questions for me:

1. How much does it actually matter whether any of us trust him?
2. How do you define people like me who actually trust him and his team quite a bit but still strongly disagree on some important issues?
3. Isn't there another category on the trust/no trust thing, especially given a highly diverse administration?

Here's what I mean: I don't think our behavior change depending on that whole ephemeral "trust" question. Whether or not I trust the Obama administration makes no difference in how I should act, in my judgment.

In my case, I rate pretty high on the how much I trust the Obama administration. I have known Barack Obama personally for quite a few years now, not well but enough that I have a great deal of confidence in his intelligence, leadership skills, motivations, and generally progressive nature. I am friends with many others who also know him well, including some who are very close to him, and have a lot of faith in them. I am friends with quite of a few of the senior officials in his administration. I served in his transition proudly and loyally. I like what I see in terms of the boldness and progressivism of many of his early policies. I have no doubt whatsoever that Obama wants to do right by the American people, and that he wants to lead us in a generally progressive direction.

If you rated me on a scale of 1-10 about how much I trust Obama, 1 being lowest and 10 being highest, I'd probably rate at close to a 10. I will give him the benefit of the doubt just about every time. And if you asked my number one political goal over the next year, or four, it would be simple: help Barack Obama be a successful President.

Then why, you may ask, have I been so tough on the administration on the banking issue? Because my trust in his overall goodness and progressivity, and being willing to give him and his team the benefit of the doubt, does not mean that I shouldn't speak out clearly when I disagree, or hold him accountable as he repeatedly asked us to do throughout his campaign and transition.

To Obama's great credit, he has never been a leader who has demanded blind and absolute loyalty. Instead, like the old community organizer that he is, he has actively encouraged people to hold him accountable, to disagree with him, to "make him do it" (the famous FDR quote to labor leaders Chris referenced in his post).

Ronald Reagan used to say "trust, but verify." With me, I guess the operative phrase is "trust, but organize." I am proud of this President, proud that I supported him in the primary, proud that I raised money and knocked on doors for him, proud that I had the honor of working for him in the transition, proud to support all the great things he has already done and proposed. But if progressives believe he is wrong on something important, we should still speak out and still organize.