Recently, I have heard progressive criticism of President Obama in the unfavorable comparison of him to former President Clinton, especially during the debt ceiling fight. Progressives want a fighter and they want a fighter for all of their issues. And in the rose colored hindsight of today, President Clinton was a fighter.
I am always struck by the lionization President Clinton has now received from those who hated him while he was in office. Remember, Clinton was the President who supported and signed into law NAFTA, DADT, and DOMA. He was also despised for reforming welfare. For all the criticism President Obama has received for playing the game on GOP turf (i.e. talking about paying down debt and deficits), President Clinton did exactly the same thing. In fact, President Clinton once said the AGREED with a lot of the items in Gingrich’s Contract on America, and would work with the Republicans to enact them. So yeah, Progressives hated President Clinton. With a passion. Back then. They hated him and his Vice President so much some of them voted for Ralph Nader and then handed the presidency to George W. Bush. Because there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush, remember that? That’s what Progressives said at the time.
Indeed, only 57% of Democrats approved of Clinton at that time. By contrast, President Obama enjoys a 70% approval of the Democrats today, down recently from highs in the mid 80’s. .
Now Clinton is beloved. Why? Because we have a new President to hate so much: President Barack Obama. That’s why.
This column is not a hit piece on Progressives. I may sound sarcastic above, but I can’t help that. But those are the facts. Bill Clinton was once loathed by progressives and now he is viewed favorably compared to Obama. I disagree, but whatever.
The progressive point in comparing Obama to Clinton is because they want a fighter. A fighter for Medicare. A fighter for the basic social safety net that conservatives are intent on cutting with scissors. Progressives should be loudly voicing their displeasure, and they have been, and should continue to do so. It pressures the President and his Administration. It forces the media to report on it. It keeps the Overton Window from moving too far to the right. And, I think, progressive pressure has worked to change the narrative and the strategy at the White House.
From the LA Times:
After pledging to send a job-creation package to Congress next month and daring Republicans to block it, President Obama […] continued to hammer away at Republicans in Congress, suggesting they stand in the way of economic growth[.]
And then here is the President this week on unions.
“[L]et’s make one thing clear. The right of workers to come together and join a union is part of what built America’s middle class. It’s the reason why we’ve got a minimum wage. It’s the reason why folks have weekends. It’s the reason why you have basic protections on the job from an abusive employer.
“There are a whole range of things that people take for granted, even if they’re not in a union, that they wouldn’t have had if it had not been for collective bargaining. So I think it is very important, whether you are in a union or not — and I speak particularly to young people, because you’ve grown up at a time when in a lot of circles ‘union’ somehow is a dirty word — to understand all this is is people joining together so they’ve got a little more leverage; so they’ve got better working conditions, better wages; they can better support their family.
“And a lot of us entered into the middle class because our parent or a grandparent was in a union. Remember that. When I hear this kind of anti-union rhetoric and anti-union assaults, I’m thinking these folks have amnesia. They don’t remember that that helped build our middle class and strengthen our economy.”
That sounds exactly like we want a progressive Democrat to sound like, doesn’t it?
The old Delaware Dem, back in the olden days of Daily Kos, would think that Progressives should be happy with that and would fire off a bombastic diary at any hint of dissention on the left in voice or deed. I guess that was because I felt we on the left should be a nice big happy liberal-Democratic-progressive family, all united on the same team, especially when the only other team in town is a bunch of literally evil theocratic fascists. Indeed, back in the olden days, I started and sustained many a flame war on the Great Orange Satan over this doctrine of SYFPH (Shut your fucking pie hole).
The new me doesn’t care. Be miserable if you want. Blast Obama day in and day out for his failures to give you the pony you wanted, or for failing to give you the right model pony you want. Because the ponies you are crying for is Social Security, or Medicare, or progressive and fair taxation, better schools, single payer universal healthcare, equal rights, ending unnecessary wars of choice, and so on and so on.
My point is that we all have our roles to play. I have slowly but finally realized that over the last few years.
The new me realizes you have to criticize Obama from the left. Because if you don’t, who else will? It is generally not going to be me. I am not an activist. I am, for the lack of a better term to accurately describe me, a political hack. I think strategically. I think pragmatically. I am a progressive in terms of the policies I want. But I am not a progressive activist who marches and protests for those policies. I am a progressive pragmatist. So I will not be screaming at the top of my lungs condemning Obama. But someone from the left should criticize Obama when he and his administration deserve it. And I and progressive pragmatists like me should stop telling progressive activists to shut the fuck up.
So go ahead, open your fucking pie hole.
All I want is one simple thing: your fucking vote.
Here is Kevin Drum on why Liberals are chumps:
Honest to God, Republicans must all be sitting in their back rooms and just cackling like hell right now. Think about it. They developed a strategy to hamstring the president completely — a strategy that’s bulletproof thanks to our country’s Constitution — knowing that it would rally their base but also hoping that it would cause moderates and lefties alike to become disgusted with Obama’s weakness even though we all know who’s really responsible for what’s going on. And it worked! In fact, it’s worked better than they could possibly have imagined. They can probably barely keep from spitting up their beers right now.
We are such chumps.
Kevin is right in describing the situation but wrong or at least premature in calling us chumps. No, we are chumps if… after knowing all the Republicans have done, if we stay home or vote against Obama. We are chumps because we are then knowingly giving the election to the Republicans.
So yeah, bitch and moan and complain all you want about Obama. Feel disgruntled, disappointed and disillusioned. And even threaten to use your vote as leverage. Deny him and his campaign any financial support. And I’ll shut up.
But in the end, on election day, in the voting booth, you have to be reasonable, and you have to be a progressive pragmatist, rather than a progressive activist. On every other day of the year you can and should be a progressive activist. On election day, you have to be a progressive pragmatist. Because we are at the point now where electing Republicans is actually a doomsday Michael Bay film.
We all have our roles to play. And on election day, in a two party state whose political system is as dysfunctional as ours can be, and faced with one of the two parties wanting to destroy every you stand for and everything past progressives have accomplished, one of your roles to play is to vote for the President.
This is a controversial message. Because some view their vote as an extension of their voice, and thus liken what I have just said to SYFPH.
But your vote is not your voice. Your vote is your vote. Your voice is your voice. Your vote is not an expression of your personal policy preferences, but a choice between two candidates on who comes closest to accomplishing your personal political preferences.