Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Daggers From The Left: Why are liberals always angry after elections?

This is an anniversary of sorts, my 100th post since starting the blog. I had intended to write something specifically celebratory and engage in some self-adulation. As always, however, design was thwarted by circumstance. I am too angry not to spend some time throwing stones at crows.

The hatchet jobs from liberal writers have begun. HuffPo is just full of attack articles from the left, all about what a horrible president we have and what a horrible job he is doing on health care. Some of this is not new. The left has been criticizing the president on the economy since he put together his an economic team of center-right Clinton Administration retreads and with some legitimacy. It is not entirely unfair criticism, but much of it contains a thread of outraged betrayal that is simply not justified by the facts. The realization that changing Washington is harder than promising to change Washington is not sitting well with the left, despite the fact that they already know this.

The fact that the president is being criticized is not what bothers me. The president deserves criticism for his failure to reform the financial system after bailing it out. He deserves criticism for choosing to lock the advocates of single-payer coverage or a national health care system out of the health care debate. He deserves criticism for surrounding himself with clergy from the extreme religious right as part of his outreach to evangelical voters. He deserves criticism for being too hands-off with Congress as they fumble the health care reform football.

He does not deserve angry hatchet jobs and accusations of betrayal from liberal supporters who did not listen to the very words the man spoke.

President Obama is not a liberal. He did not run as a liberal in the presidential primary, he ran as one of the two most conservative candidates in the field. The liberals who chose to support him in said primary deliberately ignored Rep. Dennis Kucinich (who meets every bread-and-butter policy standard the left could hope for), ex-Senator Mike Gravel (who is an outspoken civil libertarian and was one of the great senatorial 'doves' during the Vietnam War), and the fiery populist rhetoric of John Edwards. President Kucinich, President Gravel, or President Edwards could be accused of 'betrayal' under the present circumstances. President Obama told us exactly what he would do.

He told us that he would seek to ignore the extremes of left and right and find a way to govern by consensus. Independent voters and moderates in both parties licked it up like cream. He did discuss pragmatic policy ideas appealing to liberals, but he also acknowledged that the economy would take priority over everything else. He mollified conservatives at every opportunity and he did not win key battleground states that have traditionally swung Republican by storming them from the left flank.

As president he has made every effort to govern as he said he would: adopting a pragmatic approach and seeking the greatest possible consensus rather than the biggest possible headline. Is this approach valid in the hyper-partisan atmosphere in the Washington of today? Probably not. It's what he promised us, however, and it is what he has made every effort to deliver.

I've written it before, but I will say it again. If liberals want to elect a liberal president, if they want a president to govern by liberal principles, then they will have to vote for a liberal president. Electing a center-right neoconservative whose major difference from many Republicans is that he is somewhat pro-choice, cautiously in favor of gay rights, and pragmatic in his view of international relations is great. One cannot, however, elect such a president to the chorus of angels and declare a liberal revolution.

That's just stupid, and the people attacking President Obama as incompetent or dishonest are stupid as well. He is exactly what he told us he would be, some of us just didn't listen properly.

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