Read this: Jonathan Chait vs. the terminally unhappy left

Why can't Barack Obama be Fantasy FDR?

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….

Read the whole thing here. And then read this:

…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.

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7 Responses to Read this: Jonathan Chait vs. the terminally unhappy left

  1. Hsquared says:

    I enjoyed Chait’s article. I thought he made some very interesting points, and that his overall thesis was probably valid. But there seems to be one difference in the way a certain contingent of the left is reacting to President Obama; this effort by some to claim that deficiencies in President Obama’s character and courage are the reason he can’t create the progressive utopia that they long for. The man’s character has been viciously assailed by some on the left, and I just don’t remember that happening with Clinton. Maybe it’s just a sign of the reduced decorum of the times; maybe it’s the increased access we have to more people’s opinions. But it’s different.

  2. Beulahmo says:

    “…this effort by some to claim that deficiencies in President Obama’s character and courage are the reason he can’t create the progressive utopia that they long for. The man’s character has been viciously assailed by some on the left…”

    Yes. And what bothers me most about that type of commentary is that some of it is promoted by high profile commentators, and the memes make their way to mainstream narratives. So we have a narrative on the right AND the left that describes President Obama as weak and beholden to various “masters” (those masters are determined by whether the narrative comes from the left or the right).

    I don’t remember such vicious, high-profile attacks from the left (like those from Cornel West or Drew Westen) aimed at President Clinton either.

  3. hilda banks says:

    Saw him on tv with Joan Walsh. This is so correct. I don’t understand liberals/progressives. They just shoot themselves in the foot. Chris Matthews made one interesting point that the President had no surrogates like Bush did. No one comes to his defense. He is out there all alone. I do watch Steve Ratner on Morning Joe and he has yet to say anything negative about the President, I like that. Nobody is voting for Jon Huntsman because I feel he has stabbed the President in the back. Saying that when the President asks you to do something you do it. You don’t have to knowing your primary objective is to run for President .Liberals need to get a grip.

  4. Len S says:

    The difference between now and Clinton’s time is the high profile detractors on the Left. I don’t remember that during his time. Definitely remember the strong right wing criticisms. That’s not new. Back then the leftie malcontents were mostly underground. Now, for some reason, they’re large and in charge for “progressive” messaging. Great; a Democratic Party run by the Naders and Moores.

  5. Ronbo says:

    “Lens on November”, is calling people unhappy with the continuing erosion of middle-class “leftie Malcontents”. Perhaps Lens is unaware of the reality that we are facing. Will more of the same, change things? Will anoter extension of the Bush tax cuts by Obama stimulate growth in the middle-class? No, it does not address the core problems to our economic restructuring.

    Lens is clearly out of focus. Two families at my Thansgiving dinner are unemployed and losing their homes (one foreclosure and one renting). They didn’t choose to lose their jobs so that those jobs could be moved overseas.

  6. Pingback: David Frum explains it all: the GOP has lost touch with reality : The Reid Report

  7. Liu production, we do not go above plus room to play?

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