During the Bush years, fighting excessive American militarism and executive power were priorities on the left. Now they're glossed over.
During Election 2008, Ezra Klein and I lived in the same city, Washington, D.C., where people spilled into the streets when the networks declared Barack Obama the victor. "America has forgotten," Klein wrote on November 4, 2008. "September 11 has not disappeared from our memory, of course, but we have recovered from the blow. We have forgotten how it felt to be afraid, and so, yesterday, we forgot to vote our fears. And in doing, we have elected a black president with a Muslim name. Fear again proved but a temporary detour from our history's long arc toward justice."
I am not a progressive. I don't think that the federal government is suited to managing the health-care sector from the top down, or that public employee unions should be strengthened, or that green jobs are a strategy. But in 2008, I celebrated the end of the Bush Administration and nodded along to Klein's assessment, because I witnessed what I wouldn't have thought was possible: a black Democrat rising to the presidency while unapologetically affirming that the Iraq War was a mistake; that the choice between safety from terrorists and civil liberties was a false one; that spying on Americans without a warrant was unconstitutional; that indefinite detention without charges was illegal; that it made no sense to incarcerate so many people for possessing drugs. I knew Obama would implement some domestic policies with which I disagreed, but I felt good about his victory, if only because he affirmed that an American president couldn't launch a war without Congressional permission unless we were attacked; that transparency was vital even in the executive branch; that whistleblowers were heroes.