Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When did our Politicians Stop Representing The Voters? Part 2

In When did our Politicians Stop Representing The Voters? Part 1 we discussed the Republican side and now in this Part 2 we look at how well the liberal side of the electorate is represented. To say that most liberals feel underwhelmed by President Obama is an understatement. Many feel downright betrayed. 

The Johnathan Chait article  in the New Yorker traces liberal disappointment with any Democrat residing in the Whitehouse all the way back to FDR! And, now it is not surprising to see the same disillusionment by the left with President Obama. There never really was a honeymoon for the President - the howling started before he was inaugurated.
If we trace liberal disappointment with President Obama to its origins, to try to pinpoint the moment when his crestfallen supporters realized that this was Not Change They Could Believe In, the souring probably began on December 17, 2008, when Obama announced that conservative Evangelical pastor Rick Warren would speak at his inauguration. “Abominable,” fumed John Aravosis on AmericaBlog. “Obama’s ‘inclusiveness’ mantra always seems to head only in one direction—an excuse to scorn progressives and embrace the Right,” seethed Salon’s Glenn Greenwald. On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow rode the story almost nightly: “I think the problem is getting larger for Barack Obama.” Negative 34 days into the start of the Obama presidency, the honeymoon was over.
An energized Democratic base with an active liberal base was a key for getting the vote out in the last election. If current sentiment does not change soon, the President is going to have a hard time in November. 
 In early 2004, Democrats, by a 25-point margin, described themselves as “more enthusiastic than usual about voting.” At the beginning of 2008, the margin had shot up to over 60 percentage points. Now as many Democrats say they’re less enthusiastic about voting as say they’re more enthusiastic.
Chait posits an interesting thesis. It sounds like something from a psychology book, but maybe he is on to something.
It is odd that Bill Clinton’s imagined role as ass-kicking economic savior has become the object of such extensive liberal fantasy. We don’t have to speculate as to what Clinton would have done if Republicans had blocked his economic stimulus. It actually happened. Clinton had campaigned promising a stimulus bill to alleviate widespread economic pain, with unemployment at 7.5 percent at the start of his term. Like Obama, Clinton needed a handful of Republican senators to pass it (Obama needed two Republican votes to break a filibuster, Clinton three). Clinton’s proposed stimulus was $19.5 billion. Unable to break a Republican filibuster, Clinton offered to pare it down to $15.4 billion. Republicans killed it anyway, creating an image of a Clinton administration in disarray.
Then going back to Carter, there was the picture of the bumbling inept President that was mostly honest but that was not a "leader". 
The Times’ editorial board captured the liberal view of the era when it relayed the joke of a voter with a gun to his head who’s asked to choose between Carter and Ronald Reagan and replies, “Shoot.”
Lyndon Johnson did not fair much better. He had the Vietnam War to deal with.
 Protesters outside the White House were calling him a murderer every day; he was challenged in the Democratic primary and pressured to quit his reelection race. So strong was the animus against Johnson that it transferred almost completely undiminished onto his successor, Hubert H. Humphrey, a liberal stalwart. 
On and on Chait shows the dissatisfaction by the liberal base with all the Dem Presidents. It is really an ugly picture but worth reading. The picture you end up with is a completely irrational group out-of-touch with the reality of governing. Chait went on to site an old Monty Python movie as an example of the way libs eat their own, or, in this case crucify him.
Why? Because conservatives are not like liberals. They think differently. Monty Python’s Life of Brian has a classic bit depicting the followers of “Brian,” a thinly disguised satire of Jesus, as left-wing activists. The movement contains bitterly feuding splinter groups with such names as the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean People’s Front, the Judean Popular People’s Front, the Campaign for a Free Galilee, and the Popular Front of Judea—the last consisting of one man—all of which hate each other more than the Romans.
The joke was that left-wing politics has always taken the same form: that lefties in Palestine 2,000 years ago would act pretty much like their counterparts in seventies Britain. Political psychologists have found for decades that the joke is pretty much true. Conservatives, compared with liberals, have higher levels of respect for and obedience to authority and prefer order over chaos and continuity over change. They are more likely than liberals to agree with statements like “It is more important to be a team player than to express yourself.” (Interestingly, libertarians tend to resemble liberals on these measures, which may explain why libertarian politics also so frequently resemble a Life of Brian–esque farce.)
Has Obama really done so badly as to receive the criticism from the left that has pummeled him? That the Republicans are going to assail him unmercifully is to be expected, but, for factions of his own party to pile on the criticism and already start to abandon him probably does not really fit the facts.
His single largest policy accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, combines two sweeping goals—providing coverage to the uninsured and taming runaway medical-cost inflation—that Democrats have tried and failed to achieve for decades. Likewise, the Recovery Act contained both short-term stimulative measures and increased public investment in infrastructure, green energy, and the like. The Dodd-Frank financial reform, while failing to end the financial industry as we know it, is certainly far from toothless, as measured by the almost fanatical determination of Wall Street and Republicans in Congress to roll it back.
Beneath these headline measures is a second tier of accomplishments carrying considerable historic weight. A bailout and deep restructuring of the auto industry that is rapidly being repaid, leaving behind a reinvigorated sector in the place of a devastated Midwest. Race to the Top, which leveraged a small amount of federal seed money into a sweeping national wave of education experiments, arguably the most significant reform of public schooling in the history of the United States. A reform of college loans, saving hundreds of billions of dollars by cutting out private middlemen and redirecting some of the savings toward expanded Pell Grants. Historically large new investments in green energy and the beginning of regulation of greenhouse gases. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women. Elimination of several wasteful defense programs, equality for gays in the military, and consumer-friendly regulation of food safety, tobacco, and credit cards.
Of the postwar presidents, only Johnson exceeds Obama’s domestic record, and Johnson’s successes must be measured against a crushing defeat in Vietnam. Obama, by contrast, has enjoyed a string of foreign-policy successes—expanding targeted strikes against Al Qaeda (including one that killed Osama bin Laden), ending the war in Iraq, and helping to orchestrate an apparently successful international campaign to rescue Libyan dissidents and then topple a brutal kleptocratic regime. So, if Obama is the most successful liberal president since Roosevelt, that would make him a pretty great president, right?
That really is not the record of an incompetent. Sure, there are about a hundred things I wish he had done and thought he should have done. But, dealing with a Pub congress that will throw the country under the bus in order to make President Obama look bad is not an easy task.

The liberals that are disenchanted with the President really do look sort of crazy.


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