This is the final of the short series of “What People Are Saying About How You Should Vote.” But the fact is, the same kind of reasoning will continue after November 6. It will just switch to the post-election phase, pick up with the very brief inauguration moment, then begin the ramp up to mid-terms and 2016.
Saturday’s post by David Daley, at Salon, has stirred a good deal of conversation, though this is only one of multiple pieces out there. I thought about doing a kind of round-up, but by this point, I don’t think I have the energy.
Tom Frank: Obama’s made left ‘futile and irrelevant’
There have been poetic, soaring odes written in support of President Obama’s reelection in recent days.
Daley cites The New Yorker’s endorsement, including, “Obama has renewed the honor of the office he holds,” and that of Jonathan Chait, “Why He Is a Great President. Yes, Great.”
It’s possible to agree with them and still wince when the New Yorker ascribes disappointment in Obama, in part, to ‘a reflection of the fantastical expectations that are attached to him.’ …
So how do we get beyond fantastical in a second term? How can progressives exhibit the same influence that the Tea Party had on Republicans? How do we ask this president for more — demand more — in a second term, but with clear eyes, not lovestruck ones?
The interview with Harper’s columnist Tom Frank follows. One example in this exchange:
[Daley] … if progressives went into the first term of Obama’s presidency over-excited – and perhaps blinded to the establishment, centrist nature at his very core – and set themselves up for some disappointment … , what is the realistic way to approach a second term?
[Frank] … Well, if you’re like me, you’re resolved to voting for him because he’s not Mitt Romney and he’s not Paul Ryan. He does have some things to his credit that you cannot diminish. He ended the war in Iraq … . He got some form of national healthcare passed. He didn’t go far enough; … he played it very poorly — but he got something passed. …
[Daley] Exactly. If you have a pre-existing condition, if you’re in your 20s and need to piggyback on your parents’ insurance, all of that is now covered. That’s reason enough to support him right there.
[Frank] That’s right. I think those things alone are enough reason to vote for him. He did the stimulus also; the stimulus was great. He didn’t go far enough with it, as with so many of his other things …; he compromised and frittered it away.
[Daley] What would you say he frittered away? The opportunity posed by the financial crisis to genuinely remake government with a second New Deal and to actually re-regulate Wall Street?
[Frank] Yes. It was within his power to make himself an extremely popular president in the Franklin Roosevelt manner. And he didn’t do that … .
… I feel like the tragedy of Barack Obama is that, for whatever reason, he chose not to go that route — and now there is a really good chance that he might lose, and it’s totally unnecessary.
“For whatever reason”? Maybe the reason is simply that Obama was being Obama. Which he will continue to do if re-elected.
Later, Frank adds this:
It’s kind of funny that he wrote a book called ‘The Audacity of Hope.’ … I mean, this guy has been so cautious. And that moment when I finally grasped that he wasn’t going to do anything audacious, that was sort of the horrible moment for me.
The “Obama’s made left ‘futile and irrelevant’” thing comes here:
[Daley] You wrote in Harper’s two months ago that ‘the only honest way for progressives to assess the experience of these past four years is by coming unflinchingly to terms with our own futility and irrelevance. We reached a historical turning point in 2008, all right. We just didn’t make the turn.’
Can “we” learn from that, Daley asks. Is there a possibility that “progressives” can have a “Tea Party” kind of influence on Democrats?
[Frank] I think there is. … Clinton did the same thing. Obama has less contempt for the left and liberals, but still a lot of it. [If] you think of all the names his people call liberals and the left, their contempt for liberals is towering. …
The left is something that everybody in the circles of power in the city … knows that they don’t have to deal with. … That’s something that they do not have to pay attention to. And I think that any understanding of our position has to begin with that.
If that’s the case, that the beginning point is “understanding … our position,” then the first step is “the left” looking not at Obama, but at itself. “Fantastical expectations.” “Lovestruck.” “Over-excited.” “Blinded.” Finally “grasping” that “audacious” was just the title of Obama’s book, not his way of governing. That sounds to me like it wasn’t that Obama “made” the Left “futile and irrelevant.” Some, apparently many, of the Left did that to itself.
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