Jonathan Chait nails the emoprog problem:
…“We are all incredibly frustrated,” Justin Ruben, MoveOn’s executive director, told the Washington Post in September. “I’m disappointed in Obama,” complained Steve Jobs, according to Walter Isaacson’s new biography. The assessments appear equally morose among the most left-wing and the most moderate of Obama’s supporters, among opinion leaders and rank-and-file voters. In early 2004, Democrats, by a 25-point margin, described themselves as “more enthusiastic than usual about voting.” At the beginning of 2008, the margin had shot up to over 60 percentage points. Now as many Democrats say they’re less enthusiastic about voting as say they’re more enthusiastic.
The cultural enthusiasm sparked by Obama’s candidacy drained away almost immediately after his election. All the passion now lies with the critics, and it is hard to find a liberal willing to muster any stronger support than halfhearted murmuring about the tough situation Obama inherited, or vague hope that maybe in a second term he can really start doing things. (“I’m like everybody, I want more action,” an apologetic Chris Rock said earlier this month. “I believe wholeheartedly if he’s back in, he’s going to do some gangsta shit.”) Obama has already given up on any hope of running a positive reelection campaign and is girding up for a grim slog of lesser-of-two-evils-ism.
Why are liberals so desperately unhappy with the Obama presidency? …
…Here is my explanation: Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president….
…First, many liberals weren’t with the Obama campaign in the first place. We may have all voted for him in November, 2008, but the primary left a lot of liberals pissed off with a lingering ambivalence about the Obama campaign. In fact, most A-list liberals were John Edwards supporters until he dropped out, then they divided into Hillary and Obama cliques. From there, the fisticuffs began (read Eric Boehlert’s “Bloggers on the Bus” for more).
Second, there are Glenn Greenwald types with large audiences who have taken a “we hate the system and Obama is part of the system, so crush him, too” approach. Glenn believes it’s his place to hold leadership accountable for their mistakes and he’s willing to undermine efforts to move the country leftwards in the process (the president is, in fact, moving policy-making to the left, it’s just slow-going after 30 years of Reaganomics). So he writes about what he perceives to be continuations of Bush policies by the Obama White House, and he doesn’t care much if it generates increased dissatisfaction with the president among his readers — and he doesn’t care if they stay home on election day and a Republican wins. Actually, I’m not sure if he cares about a progressive movement or shoving the discourse leftward — it’s all collateral damage in his slash-and-burn approach. Sadly, too many of his readers don’t understand the idea of smart accountability: making a strong case for our values and ideas without undermining a left-friendly White House. …
Two great articles that go brilliantly together.