President Obama

The Left Flank

Benen on the political impact of writers like Taibbi:

Over the last several months, the right has come to believe that the president is a fascist/communist, intent on destroying the country, while at the same time, many on the left have come to believe the president is a conservative sell-out. The enraged right can't wait to vote and push the progressive agenda out of reach. The dejected left is feeling inclined to stay home, which as it turns out, also pushes the progressive agenda out of reach.

My ongoing concern is the same as Benen's. Will this conflict on the left flank help to elect more Republicans? The more I (anecdotally) hear progressives revisiting names like Ralph Nader, I think the answer is yes. My memories of the 2000 election are still fresh -- as is my memory of pressing the button for Nader in the voting booth because I was disillusioned with the Democratic Party and (very mistakenly) thought Al Gore was Just Like Bush. Huge mistake.

Benen also adds:

Remember: nothing becomes law in this Congress unless Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman approve. Literally, nothing. That's not an encouraging legislative dynamic, and it's not within the power of the White House to change it.

It is within the power of voters to change it.

Obama has asked Congress to deliver on a pretty large-scale agenda. For all the talk about the president's liberalism or lack thereof, the wish-list he's presented to lawmakers is fairly progressive, and it's not as if Obama is going to start vetoing bills for being too liberal.

In short: if progressives get pissy and stay home, more conservadems and Republicans will be elected. This must not happen. Nothing the president does can change the fact that the Senate is ruled by five people right now.

It's also my contention that as soon as the far-left abandons the White House, the sooner the White House will grapple onto the conservadem middle. Regardless of whether Obama or his left flank is to blame for this, it's what could surely happen.

I know how easy it is to be angered and frustrated by otherwise friendly politicians. I also understand how there might be a lot of leftover angst from the Bush years and the Democratic primary campaign. I think the only way to improve the situation in our favor is to put mistakes and missteps into perspective, instead of kneejerking over every leak and compromise.

And finally, Matt Yglesias offers this:

The fact of the matter is that Matt Taibbi is more liberal than I am, and I am more liberal than Larry Summers is, but Larry Summers is more liberal than Ben Nelson is. Replacing Summers with me, or with Taibbi, doesn’t change the fact that the only bills that pass the Senate are the bills that Ben Nelson votes for.

Exactly. Ask yourself how President Obama can govern progressively with Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman filibustering with Republicans.