01/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Time For the New Whine

We were all outraged with Bush for mutilating the Civil Service and substituting his incompetent and corrupt cronies, but now the armchair leftists are scandalized that Obama isn't doing the same thing--isn't putting together a government of yes-men and clones, and creating a bubble of Groupthink. Speedy as he is, Obama can't top the armchair leftists for early starts--they're on the attack before he even takes office.

Armchair leftists seem to have a hard time distinguishing between talking and doing. They admire the political talkers but disdain the political doers of America, who are never progressive enough. Armchair leftists know for sure that their opinions are the correct ones, and like to listen endlessly to other people who profess them. They vote piously for fringe candidates who don't have a prayer of winning--ideologues who couldn't mount a viable political campaign if their lives depended on it. Fringe candidates in America have this advantage, after all: they will always remain pure, like a bug preserved in amber. They'll never get sullied by having to participate in the messy business of negotiating with the conservative unwashed. (This would change, of course, if we had proportional representation, but we don't). Fringe candidates have the further advantage that you can vote for them and feel you contributed to a progressive cause, and then go home and get back to the more comfortable business of whining about the status quo and the perfidy of politicians.

Armchair leftists don't really like democracy--don't like having to deal with people of different opinions. Much too messy and difficult. They would prefer to see their own opinions imposed on the ignorant masses by force. If only somebody would go and do it. At bottom, they're closet authoritarians. They would feel much happier with a left-wing dictator, at least for a while. Sooner or later they'd probably complain about him, too, only more quietly.

Obama has always been a moderate liberal--never claimed to be anything else. Only the fundamentalist Red State crazies see him as socialist or communist. But he's the most progressive president-elect we've ever had, except possibly LBJ and FDR. But he's far less likely to embark on stupid military escapades than LBJ was, while FDR couldn't have accomplished anything if he didn't have what was then the Solid South behind him. They didn't care what he did as long as he preserved segregation. Which he did.

Keep in mind that Bill and Hillary were pretty progressive when they started out in 1992. Bill wanted gays to be able to serve in the military and Hillary was going to reform health care. And they were both promptly squashed. They over-estimated their power and under-estimated the opposition, something Obama is unlikely to do. All they managed to achieve was to eliminate excessive secrecy in the federal government, which was undone, in spades, by the Bush administration.

The important thing to remember about Obama is that he was a community organizer. The Republicans stupidly sneered at him for it, but it's how he won the election, and it's how he's building his cabinet. What he'll be able to accomplish in the present chaos is anyone's guess. But he's creating a solid foundation right now, with no one opposing him except fundamentalists and a few die-hard neo-cons. And, of course, the armchair leftists.

(Check my website for information on my new book THE CHRYSALIS EFFECT: THE METAMORPHOSIS OF GLOBAL CULTURE).