Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Obama and the Left

(The last version of this, mostly written for comments in Balloon Juice. I think it is clearer and more concise than the three posts that have gone before.)

Obama raised progressive hopes for real positive change, did not pursue what seem to progressives obvious opportunities to do so, and we will be living with the consequences of his failures for years. Obama's failure to adequately address unemployment and the mortgage crisis have cost the Democratic Party and the Progressive movement, such as it is, hugely. These failures (and others) in turn spring from two central failures:
  1. A failure to respond in any effective way—or even to show an interest in responding—to the huge expansion of the power of wealth and the expansion of the gap between rich & poor. Two of Obama’s much-touted successes—health care reform and the extension of unemployment benefits—came at the cost of huge concessions to very wealthy businesses and individuals.
  2. A failure to use the “bully pulpit” of the Presidency to change public discourse. The President is the only elected public official who the national media consistently pay attention to. Obama could have said: “Social Security is not in major trouble.” He could have said “Austerity budgets don’t improve the economy.” He could have said, “Government is not the problem.” Instead, he allowed the Republicans to set the agenda, and now that they have come to cut Social Security and put the USA on an austerity budget during a depression, he has no way to make his case with the public.
Obama had a great opportunity, has fallen far short of it, and most progressives believe that those who are not rich and powerful are going to pay a huge price. Many progressives who supported Obama during his campaign also feel betrayed. Of course they are critical of him!


(Edited slightly on day of publication. Dropped verb added a year and a half later.)

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