Friday :: Feb 20, 2009

Patience Progressives, Patience

by Deacon Blues

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama expressed some degree of disdain for the center-left political message machine and blogs, throwing them into the soup along with the right wing echo chamber as distractions from his new kind of politics. Bloggers and the newly growing and effective progressive media machine, which had just come off a successful 2006 midterm effort to beat back the right wing smear machine, were rightly offended at the disrespect from the future president.

Now the Obama administration wants help from progressives to help sell the president's agenda.

There may be an urge among some progressives to say “Forget it.” There also is a legitmate question as to how progressive Obama really is. Please, put that aside. He’s the guy, he’s our guy, and he’s much better than the alternative.

No, I don’t like the fact that he feels a need to pander to the Blue Dogs by holding a Fiscal Responsibility Summit to talk about Social Security and Medicare, when in fact Social Security is not in danger. However, the summit could also be a clever move to push these issues off until after the 2010 midterms. The Orszag-Diamond plan from several years ago was a solid plan, and now Orszag is in a position to implement it, on terms favorable to progressives.

No, I do not like the new administration's possible support for the Bush administration’s position on executive privilege, and I hope that Nancy Pelosi and Pat Leahy protect the prerogatives of Congress and force a confrontation with Obama over the issue.

No, I do not like the new administration’s unwillingness to challenge the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance, rendition, torture, and politicization of the Department of Justice. Apparently, a push for such accountability will have to come from outside DOJ, as Mr. Holder is seemingly more concerned about race than about the shredding of the Constitution. Yet progressives need to understand that accountability is not high on Obama’s agenda now, or perhaps at all, even though the public wants some questions answered.

So if there is nothing for progressives to support amongst Mr. Obama’s policies on the separation of powers, executive branch illegality, or perhaps Social Security, then on what issues is he seeking our help to sell his agenda? Well, obviously, he wants lockstep support on environmental and energy issues, and for a more aggressive oversight of our financial institutions, which frankly are low-hanging fruit for progressives. He also wants support for whatever health care reform effort comes from Ted Kennedy’s efforts, with an assist from apparent HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, even if the final product won’t be single payer and falls far somewhere short of universal coverage.

I do not suspect that Obama wants to engage with progressives at all about national security, namely Iraq, because he is playing for the long game and doesn’t want to lose moderate or possible Blue Dog support for other parts of his agenda, even if his goal of a responsible 16-month withdrawal timeline is still viable. Yet he may be missing a chance to capitalize upon Iraqi electoral decisions that make that withdrawal easier, and he needs to take into account how broken the military is from Iraq at a time he wants to turn the tide in Afghanistan.

The administration may very well be thinking of its tenure in two-year segments. Because Bush left the country in such grave shape, Obama’s team has already needed to adjust its agenda to focus a large part of 2009 on crisis and clean-up issues. This affects the rest of the first term, in that the remaining time in this now-condensed first two-year segment leading up to the midterms becomes focused on what needs to get done to hold existing margins in the House and pick off one or two more GOP Senate seats.

This is why progressives should not get too disappointed in their crushed hopes this early; Obama needs to focus on achievable outcomes that don’t endanger Democratic incumbents in purple districts. Any chance at progressive agenda items may have to wait until later. It's the tough pill that progressives will have to swallow as Obama asks for their support.

Deacon Blues :: 10:36 AM :: Comments (12) :: Digg It!