Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why Everyone in the Circular Firing Squad Should Turn Around

There was a lot of delusion among progressives who convinced themselves, in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, that Obama was a strong champion of their values. He wasn’t and isn’t.
That doesn’t mean that there’s no difference between the parties, that everything would have been the same if McCain had won. But progressives are in the process of losing a big chance to change the narrative, and that’s largely because they have a leader who never had any inclination to do so.
-Paul Krugman
For what it's worth, I never thought Barack Obama was anything more than a center of the road politician. I appreciated that he at least told the lies I wanted to hear during the campaign, and it was nice to hear lip service being paid to my beliefs and agenda. But I never expected him to be anything other than what he is, which is a politician. Perhaps smarter and certainly more eloquent than the average politician, but a politician nonetheless.

But whatever he is, it remains the case that a good portion of the electorate that voted for him, his 'base' if you will, was the Progressive Left, many of whom did a little projecting, unfortunately, and came to believe, in the face of plenty of evidence to the contrary, that he shared their values and their policy agenda. And to some extent he might have. Probably not as much as they (or I) might wish, but at very least he recognized many of the obvious problems that thirty years of being a 'center-right nation' have caused, and at least paid lip service to solving them.

Now, after months of bickering and mishandling, one of those solutions, Health Care Reform, which is something that's needed doing for several decades if not a centrury now, is on the brink of getting the foundation laid or failing for another generation. And while it's important in and of itself, it's also important in that it provides a rallying point for Progressives to organize around.

You can bitch and blog all you want, and God knows I do plenty of both myself, but at the end of the day, you gotta get in there and do your duty as a citizen. You gotta write the letters and make the calls and put the pressure on your elected representatives, because if you don't, they'll just listen to and aim to please the people that do, starting with the people that pay for their campaigns. Votes are great, and we all know that nobody gets elected without them, but money comes in a close second, and it certainly concentrates influence more than votes do.

Progressives may not have the leverage we think we deserve, and perhaps we never will, but we have more now than we've had in decades, and it's more important than ever that we use it. For most of the last decade, we could howl and scream all we wanted, but the people in power (i.e. Republicans) weren't going to listen because it wasn't our votes that elected them.

But that's all changed now. Obama and the 111th Congress need us in order to stay in power, which means that, if we act in sufficient numbers and with a modicum of discipline, we can influence the direction of policy more than we could in the recent past. If we can actually get some legislation enacted, like Health Care Reform (imperfect though it is), then it will make life better for people, which will go a long way to convincing them that our ideas are better than the ideas of the people on the other side of the aisle. We're already halfway there, because the folks on the right had the whole damned government for six or eight years and everybody saw how well that went.

But now we own it, at least in the eyes of the public. So that means we have to make it work.

Eyes on the prize, people. It's a long, hard slog, and it'll be filled with disappointment, but if we aren't willing to get in there and make it happen, nobody else is going to.

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