All in on Obama

Too late to worry about whether Obama is the President we wanted. He’s the President we have, and progressives gain nothing by walking away from him now.

Now it’s Mike O’Hare crying in his beer.

For Christ’s sake, people, get a grip!

This is not about us, and about how betrayed we feel because our actual leaders don’t satisfy our fantasies about how we would behave under pressures we don’t feel and constraints we can’t even see.  This is about whether we can establish Democrats and progressives as the natural party of government.   If Obama’s Presidency works, we win.  If his Presidency fails, we lose.  We shouldn’t back away from Obama for the same reason the Blue Dogs are going to have to man up and pass health care by one vote in the House: the voters will punish us, and them, terribly for failure.

Conservatives were “betrayed” by Ronald Reagan d0zens of times.  Some minded it.  The smart ones understood that being “betrayed” by an effective President who shares your instincts and passions is infinitely better than struggling with a President who is on the other side.  As a reward, they got lots of movement in the (mostly horrible) direction they liked, and inherited a legacy of dominance, including the Conservative Caucus doing business as the Supreme Court majority.  If all Obama does as President is appoint replacements for Scalia and Kennedy, dayyenu*.

Mike’s doubts about whether he can trust Obama reminds me of the scene in The Lion in Winter where Eleanor of Acquitaine says to Henry II that their son Richard Coeur-de-Lion wonders whether Henry’s promises are any good.  Henry replies, “There’s no sense asking if the air’s good when there’s nothing left to breathe.”  It’s way too late for the luxury of doubts about Obama. He’s the only President we have, and our only play – if we truly care about the things and the people we profess to care about – is to back him up.  He’s not like the British PM in Churchill’s favorite rant who can be “pole-axed” if he’s “no good.”  If we turn Obama into another Carter, the causes we care about won’t recover from the damage in our lifetimes.

We’re already “all in” on Obama, and gain nothing by folding.  All we can do is play out the hand, which starts by calling DiFi and demanding that she Pass. The. Damned. Bill. and finding friends in the states and districts of other waverers and asking them to make the same phone calls to their Senators and Representatives.

*  Heb. : “it is sufficient unto us.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

7 thoughts on “All in on Obama”

  1. I think the differences between progressives on Obama boil down to your personal health insurance situation. I'm guessing that you have an affordable policy. If, like me, you were looking down the barrel of $800 a month for a single healthy individual until 2014, you might understand my rage against Obama a little better.

  2. I've listened to this debate about what we would have if the President had only fought for it, and wavered between what I wanted and what was possible. But in the end we got what we got and assuming we'd have gotten better if someone had only fought harder for it is foolish. I still wish that Obama would have been more engaged in this fight and stood his ground on the public option, but we really don't know what we would have if he had. To think the result would have been better and not worse is wishful at best. Either way, we have what we have, the rest is just a dream for the moment.

    We have at least three years of Obama to work through. We can through our hands up in despair at how the battle was lost or we can reengage. The path forward is not behind you.

  3. Can we please – can you – sustain two ideas in mind at the same time? Obviously, we're long since all in w/ the leaders we have. Even the Worst Conceivable Obama – which the actually existing one is not – would be better than the looming alternative; what weakens him strengthens the most destructive forces in our politics. This ought to be plain, although it evidently isn't to some people. One needn't be either a centist nor temperamentally particularly pragmatic to wish some of these people would find a nice non-political hobby to express themselves through. Trivial people, but a nontrivial problem.

    But. There are things to criticize, & not every public criticism delivers innocents into the hands of cossaks. Nothing your colleagues have said here does.

    It's one thing to discourage the dumb pseudo-politics of flaking out, & quite another to fall into an attitude that hints uncomfortably of a claustrophobic political culture that self-censors even reasonable & necessary criticism. If your colleagues are doing criticism wrong, you can perhaps show us how to do it properly – it might even help the President. I doubt you think this is not only the best of all possible worlds, but actually perfect in every respect.

  4. Ob(s?)essed, My prospects for getting health insurance are pretty good in the future, considering I'm an experienced teacher with a Master's degree; unemployed now but as soon a the local market opens up I'll no doubt find employment. I also have chronic pre-existing conditions, which makes me uninsurable. So I feel like I have a dog in this fight.

    And so to K, I'm still not clear as to why all the finger pointing at Obama. If politically feasable, he would have supported single-payer. But he's stuck with where the Dems are at. As far as I can tell, the main complaint is that he isn't "fighting" hard enough. But what the heck does that even mean? It seems like a straw man to assume he has so much theoretical power over congress.

    I mean, look what it took to get Ben Nelson on board. What could Obama possibly do that would top that pay off?!! I'm all for arguing that he be more aggressive. But what is being argued is that Obama's lack of aggressive influence on the process is largely what has kept the process not only from resolving but being less liberal to boot. This is simply not true.

    What troubles me the most is that this rhetoric feeds right into the ignorance of independents who don't appreciate the real underlying liberalism of Obama, and so right him off as "another politician" in their reductionist and misguided understanding of American politics – and who thus end up voting for the Scott Browns of the world out of spite.

  5. Okay, I disagree with the premise that "[t]his is about whether we can establish Democrats and progressives as the natural party of government." I'm thankful there's no such thing as "a natural party of government" in this country. Political power in America needs to be dynamic, sands shifting away from entrenched political interests. New and better ideas can't lie waiting for someone else to pick them up and run with them. I think the Dems consider themselves the natural party of government already, and that's why they're so ineffectual. A permanent party would be ever bloating, self-dealing, and deaf to the people it serves. I think the most effective party or government is going to be one on the verge of losing its power, with a margin of two or three votes, which, of course, is not to say that a party with a slim margin is necessarily an effective one, witness the herd of cats we've had for the past year or so.

    The President has ignored too many opportunities to rally the troops. He seems to be hunkered down out of sight at all the wrong times. He's so brilliant and engaging, it's really hard to resist him when he speaks, but too often he's just not in the room when the best ideas are getting torn to pieces by dogs on the right. The Dems are not a courageous bunch, but I'm not convinced the most successful congresses were necessarily comprised of the most courageous or the best people for their jobs. My guess is they were well led, that there was someone out front clearing the way. I dunno what's wrong with Obama. He's got the chops. Maybe he's just too concerned with not losing. Maybe he's too heavily fortified within his detail of clever folk to realize that's what's happening. Something's gotta give.

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