The progressive pushback against Obama | Bleader

The progressive pushback against Obama

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You could see it starting earlier this week with his foreign-policy shortlist, but it's on: Obama wins the coveted Wanker of the Day from Atrios for backing the FISA wimp-out. Hilzoy explains why it's bad. Emptywheel (one of the most analytically thorough writers on the whole Internet) sums up the left-wing reaction: "After you demanded accountability we gave you piggy lipstick and fig leaves and told you it was time to move on while we important Senators told you--in polite terms--to fuck off."

I'm both surprised and not. I'm surprised that he's caving here specifically, unsurprised that he's caving on something that will piss off, um, people like me. It's part of the game, and reasonable people know it's coming. I think Atrios puts it best with Shorter Many Months of Self Righteousness: "You all thought Obama was liberal Jesus, and I tried to warn you that he's not!!!" (If Obama actually believes in the bill and this isn't a ploy, well, fine, that's his right--but I can't help but suspect that rolling this out late on a Friday afternoon was a news dump, and that would be pretty raw.)

Anyone who remembers, say, "don't ask, don't tell" knows how this works. The difference, I think, is that Obama's rise has been fueled by a much more organized and active liberal base, and specifically one that's come to believe passionately in a certain set of principles, an objection to warrantless wiretapping and telecom immunity being a big one. And I wonder if the campaign knows how bad the backlash will be if he tracks to the right on certain specific issues. I also wonder how much impact the backlash will have. Stay tuned.

Some of the Kool Kids in the media think that the blogosphere is in thrall to a cult of personality, and while that may be true here and there, for the most part I think it's a gross misperception. To use a sports term, I think the etherial appeal comes from Obama's "upside"--the idea that, because of certain things about his training and background, he has a lot more potential to be an appealing president than Hillary Clinton. We know her game. I think a lot of his supporters looked at the options and thought the worst-case scenario would be that he'd be as or slightly less appealing than Clinton. It's a gamble, but the odds look good.

Now, it's possible, I guess, that his supporters could lose the gamble, and we'd feel as dumb as moderate Republicans presumably felt when compassionate conservative GWB turned out to be an incompetent free-spending colonialist. Back in the halcyon days of 2000, when I stayed up until sunrise watching the Florida debacle, I remember believing that the inexperienced Texas governor would be a subpar version of his dad, not the worst president ever. I didn't know about stuff like PNAC. Whoops.

But the left blogosphere will work him hard on this, because they feel like they put him where he is. And it will be very, very interesting to see what happens next. It's not just a test for Obama--it's a test for many of his supporters, who have been passionate about issues like this longer than they've been passionate about him. Not to mention that no one really knows how much they can influence the campaign (and the corporate media) when it comes down to brass tacks.

Places like Daily Kos are very interesting--on one hand, they exist to elect a Democratic majority in the belief that it's better than having a Republican one. And the community has more or less compromised on some conservative Democrats as part of the 50-state strategy, the level of compromise depending on the election, the state, and the candidate. On the other hand, the push for a Democratic majority stems from a number of very passionately held beliefs about war, privacy, and other issues, some more specific than others. Compromising about the Democratic nominee for president, especially one who owes them, is way different.

I might be overstating it, but I'll just say it: we're going to learn some very important stuff about The Future watching this play out.

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