I should probably preface this by noting that the example Matt seems to have in mind is health-care–i.e., an issue that Obama punted to Congress to (arguably) avoid the pitfalls of Hillary-care, which failed to pass, and in so doing, damaged Bill Clinton’s executive mandate. But I still think the following is utter horseshit:
I know a lot of people on the left who seem to have voted for Barack Obama because they liked his progressive agenda, then gotten excited when Obama won the election because they liked his progressive agenda, then Obama proposed progressive measures to the congress and they were excited, then it turned out that key congressional players like Collin Peterson and Rick Boucher and Max Baucus were less left-wing than Obama so actually legislative outcomes would be considerably less left-wing than Obama’s campaign proposal. It’s all well and good to be disappointed with this situation but it doesn’t make a ton of sense to me to do what a lot of people seem to be doing and becoming disappointed with Obama.
I concede that Max Baucus and the Blue Dogs are screwing everything up, health-care-wise. I don’t blame Obama alone for this fiasco (though I do think that he could cowboy up a little bit, do some strong-arming, cajole all those Congresspeople who rode his coattails into office). But it’s absurd to think that Obama doesn’t have a role in the health-care situation, or to pretend that his role is anything but the most important one. He’s the President. He should start acting like it.
But what I really find ridiculous about Matt’s post is the elision over Obama’s promises to be a progressive President–to have a progressive executive. The “most transparent Presidency in history” hasn’t even come close to materializing. In fact, Obama’s been borrowing pages out of the Bush playbook on an uncomfortably frequent basis. Military commissions, shielding the American public (and the world) from pictures of torture, failing to disclose the identities of various lobbyists visiting the White House, etc. Progressives have a right–a responsibility, really, if they’re honest–to be disappointed by all of this. To stand up and say, “Hey, what the fuck?” And in fact, that’s why we do it. Because as so many others have pointed out, rhetoric ain’t shit unless it’s coupled with the actions that see it through.