Photo by Pete Souza

The biggest issue facing Obama’s reelection team is whether Obama’s base will show up and if they do in what numbers and with what level of enthusiasm. This is the story and why Obama embarrassingly asked “Are you in?” when he launched his reelection campaign. Not even the President and his team are quite sure of the answers.

Responding to Glenn Greenwald’s critique of “the impotence of the loyal partisan voter,” Adam Sewer accidentally reveals the problem with the Democratic base.

Democrats are less liberal than Republicans are conservative because there are fewer self-identified liberals in America. Democrats rely more on the votes of moderates, and so they can’t afford to be as strident ideologically. – Adam Sewer

While Republicans are politically certain and self-righteous, Democrats and progressives tend to be politically self-loathing.

It’s hard to know the purpose of progressives if they’re going to regurgitate the conventional media wisdom about the country and right-wing talking points about Democrats, like Sewer did, in order to make an argument against “loyal partisans” being “impotent.”

If they weren’t they would have long ago gotten fed up with Pres. Obama’s rightward lurch.

If extending the Bush tax cuts didn’t do it, then intervention into Libya should have, and if not that surely reversing his decision on military tribunals would have; that is if making private insurance deals and codifying Hyde hadn’t done it off the top. On Libya, a favorite of Democrats during George W. Bush’s imperial presidency, Bruce Fein, has prepared an article of impeachment against Pres. Obama over his decision to attack Libya, because of his own imperial overreach. It’s absolutely preposterous to imagine progressives being consistent on this anymore than they were when Pres. Obama flipped on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s civilian trial.

When Greenwald was on with Lawrence O’Donnell this past Tuesday, it was an interesting back and forth, but neither of these good gentlemen went anywhere near what progressives must do to cure their impotence. When it’s obvious that Social Security and other safety net services will be up for grabs after 2012, you’d think everyone would understand that healing progressive self-loathing is a matter of urgency, because it comes down to whether Obama gets to change the FDR legacy or a Republican does, because that’s where we’re headed right now.

Lawrence O’Donnell said the two party system is the problem.

Funny how that isn’t stopping the Republican Right from forcing Speaking Boehner to push Democrats into caving on budget cuts, or the Tea Party caucus from forcing their leaders to make deals with them.

In contrast, look what the so called congressional progressive caucus did in the months before the 2010 midterms. They acted like they had no power against Obama and Pelosi, calmly caving on health care, but also women’s rights in the bill itself, and rarely do you hear any of them rise up in complaint of Pres. Obama’s constant rightward march or, heaven forbid, refuse to support what’s being done as they ponder their own purpose, long ago forgotten.

There hasn’t been one single moment when Pres. Obama or his team were in danger of losing control of their compromise and capitulation agenda because the progressive caucus refused to cave on principle.

The Tea Party is taking progressives to school right now on the budget by showing them how it’s done. Nobody but Lawrence O’Donnell seems to realize that Pres. Obama and the Democrats have already handed the Republicans a big budget win.

More from Glenn:

One thing is for certain: right now, the Democratic Party is absolutely correct in its assessment that kicking its base is good politics. Why is that? Because they know that they have inculcated their base with sufficient levels of fear and hatred of the GOP, so that no matter how often the Party kicks its base, no matter how often Party leaders break their promises and betray their ostensible values, the base will loyally and dutifully support the Party and its leaders (at least in presidential elections; there is a good case that the Democrats got crushed in 2010 in large part because their base was so unenthusiastic). […] Joan Walsh yesterday urged progressives not to organize for Obama until next year while nonetheless vowing to support his re-election, which (though well-intentioned) strikes me as merely reinforcing this dynamic. But what I do know is that Rachel’s optimistic proclamation that “only the base itself will ever change” this dynamic cannot be fulfilled without giving the Party and its leaders a true reason to pay attention or care about disenchantment (and, some day, to fear alienating their base). For those who are hopeful that this will happen, what do they envision will cause it? What would ever make Democratic Party leaders change how they view this dynamic?

I’ve been writing about this for months. That Democrats and progressives almost always come home, because the alternative is seen as worse.

But you’ve got to ask what difference it makes if progressives get Obama or the generic Republican, because they’re not going to get anything out of it either way.

The fall back answer is Supreme Court picks, but it sounds lame to me when you’re looking at the future of the Democratic Party and what it means if, more likely when, Pres. Obama takes on Social Security in order to “save it.”

In the Obama era the Democratic Party stands against the Republican Right, even as Pres. Obama’s capitulation to the Right moves the country in their direction. But what does the Democratic Party under Obama stand for and what exactly does it mean for progressives if they join Obama’s reelection team?

I haven’t a clue and no progressive yet has convinced me they do either.

At the end of Glenn’s column he asks a simple question about Obama and the Democratic Party kicking the base: What would ever make Democratic Party leaders change how they view this dynamic?

The answer is simple and everyone knows it, even if people don’t want to discuss it on TV and no politician of importance wants the role.

Democrats and progressives would have to take on Barack Obama’s imperial presidency and the Democratic Party’s enabling of it through a primary challenge. They won’t, even though their very relevancy is proved moot through their reluctance to do so.

(This column was originally posted at 7:11 a.m.)