The Measure Of A Great Politician

I keep getting e-mails from people who think we should stop pressing Obama on torture. The basic argument is, would you rather have this inquiry or would you rather have health care? I think it's becoming clear that we may not necessarily need Obama, himself, to launch an inquiry. But be that as it may, I want to push back against this idea that the only job of a great politician is to set a list of achievable priorities. It's, of course, a large part of the job--but the other part is making sure as many of those priorities get done as possible.

I expect a lot out of Obama, mostly because of what I saw in the campaign. He was not a politician simply capable of taking what was given to him. Not to rehash this, but that was I saw in Hillary. Obama was the politician who was capable of creating more, of expanding the coalition. People laughed at a lot of us Obama supporters when we talked about expanding the map. I begrudge any of that. In 2004, none of us thought that a Democrat running in 2008 could win--not just Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania--but Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana. Had someone told us this would happen, we would have assumed it was some grizzled white war hero, not a black community organizer, who'd done this. You don't get to win, in the manner Obama won, and not have some demands put on you,

I believe that while a good politician accomplishes what is possible, a great one expands the realm of possibility. He doesn't simply accept the lines of argument as they're drawn and hew to the side with the most soldiers, he tries to redraw those lines to benefit his ideals. Obama's jobs isn't simply to spend his own political capital, it's to grow his capital, and by extension, the moral weight of his ideals. Perhaps pushing torture investigations would make passing health care harder. But this is the business he chose. This is the business of becoming great. And after what happened last year, we have the right to expect more of him. We have the right to demand more.