The left's core complaint is that he promised to challenge the political system but worked within it instead, never even attempting important reforms
In the course of endorsing most of Jonathan Chait's essay on liberal discontent with President Obama, my colleague Clive Crook sums up its argument. "If liberals were to judge Obama by any intelligent standard -- comparing him with the Republican alternatives, or with previous Democratic presidents -- they would surely be impressed," he writes. "Healthcare reform, financial regulation, the stimulus: by progressive lights, these are notable, even historic, achievements." So why is it that American liberals seem "congenitally unable to apply such a standard"?
This ignores the source of the allegedly unreasonable liberal standards: Barack Obama. As I've argued at length, Obama defenders just ignore his broken promises on civil liberties, executive power, and national security. But set that aside, for there is something else that he promised his supporters in order to triumph over Hillary Clinton and John McCain, then totally ignored.
Take a look at some representative Obama quotes from Campaign 2008:
- "If we do not change our politics -- if we do not fundamentally change the way Washington works -- then the problems we've been talking about for the last generation will be the same ones that haunt us for generations to come."
- "But let me be clear -- this isn't just about ending the failed policies of the Bush years; it's about ending the failed system in Washington that produces those policies. For far too long, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, Washington has allowed Wall Street to use lobbyists and campaign contributions to rig the system and get its way, no matter what it costs ordinary Americans."
- "We are up against the belief that it's all right for lobbyists to dominate our government--that they are just part of the system in Washington. But we know that the undue influence of lobbyists is part of the problem, and this election is our chance to say that we're not going to let them stand in our way anymore. Unless we're willing to challenge the broken system in Washington, and stop letting lobbyists use their clout to get their way, nothing else is going to change."
- "Unless we're willing to challenge the broken system in Washington, and stop letting lobbyists use their clout to get their way, nothing else is going to change."
- "If we're not willing to take up that fight, then real change--change that will make a lasting difference in the lives of ordinary Americans--will keep getting blocked by the defenders of the status quo."