With the incumbent Republican president's approval rating around 30 percent and Republican Senators already conceding two seats they currently hold, many see this as the best chance a liberal Democrat has to win a presidential election since the last liberal Democrat won one: Jimmy Carter, in post-Watergate 1976. Apparently, Barack Obama does not agree. In the last week or so he has moved to the center on a range of issues almost as quickly as John McCain has moved to the far-right.
The traditionally liberal net-roots is outraged. Most telling is that the largest group on Obama's vaunted social networking site, My.BarackObama.com, is in effect a protest group. Titled "Senator Obama -- Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity -- Get FISA Right," the group has amassed more than 20,000 members.
Indeed, Obama's decision to support the updated FISA bill, which grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications corporations that cooperated with the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, has thrown bloggers into a frenzy. The fact that Obama later said he is working to remove the immunity clause before voting in support of the bill has not lessened the fury.
"This is a big capitulation by Obama, and a big disappointment. It's an obvious general election move; one can see the logic, while simultaneously deeply regretting that Obama saw it as necessary."
Andrew Sparrow of TeresaCentric.com wrote:
"I'm still in shock over Obama's announcement that he will vote to give the telecom's retroactive immunity after they allowed the NSA to illegal wiretap people without warrants...I have yet to hear any evidence that the wiretapping has made us any safer. President Bush has already whited out the Eight Amendment with his policy of torturing potentially guilty "enemy combatants". The wiretapping vote effectively whites out the Fourth Amendment. I was hoping that Obama would move the debate back into the realm of reality."
Although the netroots objections to Obama's FISA position have provided fodder for the national media over the past few days and weeks, his shifting on other issues has also caused some to raise eyebrows and voices.
"Unfortunately, too many evangelical organizations basically see the promotion of their ideology itself as the primary act of charity in many of these endeavors. Sure, we'd like to get you off drugs. But it's getting you hooked on Jesus that will really help you."
Deb Cupples of NoQuarter.net described Obama's decision to forgo public finance as "a bit like McDonalds trying to sell Big Macs as health food to kids during Saturday morning cartoons -- or President Bush's trying to sell the Iraq war as aimed at securing freedom for the Iraqi people. "
It's not enough, either, that Obama seems to be tacking generally on issues that might appeal to more conservative, blue-collar swing voters. Now he seems to be tacking on the holy grail of liberal issues: abortion. Recently, Obama has been arguing that there is no need for a mental health exception to allow for late-term abortions. And while he still supports a woman's right to choose, this tacking is a marked shift from his previous radical pro-choice position. Blogger Betsy Newmark of Betsy"sPage wrote:
"As [Jan Crawford] Greenburg points out, this is a strong U-turn from a position that Obama has taken his entire political life. Remember this is a guy who voted in the Illinois State Senate against the Induced Infant Liability Act which protected babies born alive after a "botched" abortion. A very similar law, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate. Even NARAL didn't oppose that bill."
"Clearly, on abortion as on so many other issues, Obama is conscious of the need to appeal to a broader swath of voters in the general election. But, as with his brushing aside of pregnant women's mental health concerns, it is disheartening to see him parrot the ineffective responses to the problem of unintended pregnancy, such as abstinence education, that conservatives have championed."
Even now, though, amid the furor, many that make up Obama's blogging base are accepting what they see as a political reality -- a particularly depressing one for its being an increasing part of the "change" candidate's campaign. As Newmark writes,
"...Senator Obama has shifted to the center on an issue in a way that will please conservative and centrist voters. His more liberal supporters will grin and bear it because they want to win and he's their guy. Perhaps they are confident that he is still with them in his heart of hearts and is just pivoting for political advantage. They want to win just as conservatives [who] want to win are willing to talk themselves into supporting John McCain."