A reader writes:
In defense of the “loud mouths on the left” as your other reader nicely put it, we need these people to continue to be as loud and vocal as possible.
We’ve seen how the right in this country gets things done today. They get on TV and scream out “DEATH PANELS DEATH PANELS KILLING GRANDMA”, and you know what happens? Rather than trying to explain themselves, the Democrats remove a perfectly reasonable part of their bill. Like it or not this is how it works.
This is why you have Democrats ceding huge parts of health care legislation without even debating their merits. Before this debate even started Democrats told us that Single Payer was not even on the table and we already know Obama has cut a deal with Pharmaceutical companies to make sure their prices don’t go down too much (consequently this year has also seen one of the largets rises in pharmaceutical prices ever). This is why you have Democrats in the Senate willing to change large parts of the bill just to get one, I repeat, ONE Republican to vote for it (which will never happen). Negotiations are a compromise between 2 sides, but from my vantage point it just looks Democrats keep taking things out of the bill chasing that elusive “bi-partisanship” that just isn’t there.
In all fairness this probably has more to do with the Senate than Obama but they both need to feel heat from their base to match the decibel level of the Republicans. As Obama is fond of saying, “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Well, usually in a negotiation you begin negotiating for the perfect and settle for the good. In this debate it seems that they started with the good and are now settling for the even less good. And if the left stopped “bothering” them, they’d gut this thing even more.
Many years ago a voter approached FDR urging him to act on a cause that he felt was important. In response FDR said “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." Obama needs a vocal left to get this done. If for nothing else to point them out to the public and say, “look, these crazy people want single payer, but I’m going to meet with you in the middle and pass a public option instead.”
The discussion on your site regarding the left's reaction to Obama is very interesting. I like that subsequent commenters have brought up their support for Obama, but perhaps I could lay out the left's case that our 'defection' from Obama is not equivalent to the right's automatic rejection of Obama is nearly every way, shape, and form.
I did not expect to get everything out of Obama that I wanted, and while surely those who are crashing the most in his eleventh month in office are those who invested him with the full measure of their hopes and dreams for a better America, I don't think that this characterizes the left as a whole. Those people (and I speak from the gut here) are more likely to be ones who are not familiar with politics, who either chose not recognize to or were ignorant of the inherent limitations in the system that would prevent Obama from sweeping in and achieving his goals.
But by the same token it is difficult even for those of us who on the left demanded no more than good governance to not be disappointed with Obama. The most basic things that we demanded are also the easiest to fix in procedural terms, the closing of Guantanamo, the repudiation and prosecution of torture, and the ending of Abu Ghraib like practices at Bagram. Surely these things are not in reality easy and carry with them a very real political cost, but Obama as commander in chief and the executive has the power to do these things (and indeed has pursued some of them) without entering the political landmine of Congress. This is an area where one would think Obama's strengths would give him an advantage of his opponents, his ability to speak to the better nature of America, to rally his supporters and given one heckuva speech.
Yet Obama chose not to. He refrained from the battle. To get back to the commenter's point I brought up, Obama has refused to lead, and the democrats in general have refused to govern.
I use 'war on terror' issues merely as an example. I appreciate that you believe that Obama is playing a longer game against opponents trapped in short term thinking (meep meep), but those of us on the left are rather uneasy with Obama's apparent hands-off strategy. Liberals are harsh on Obama not because we are selfish or because we are cry babies, endlessly demanding all or nothing, but because we recognize that the country is at a critical moment that demands a kind of leadership and activism that has been missing in Obama's early presidency. If not now, when? If not Obama, then who?