There is an article on Salon right now that demonstrates just how clueless the professional left is. I have generally been a fan of “Digby” for years, but Heather Digby Parton suffers from the same tunnel vision that plagues most of our loudest voices on the left. She sees things that happen, but she lacks the ability to actually look at what happens and see what it happens.
The article is entitled, “America’s “bipartisan” delusion: How the White House learned to ignore Republicans.” The headline alone demonstrates a stark cluelessness. Presidents can’t “ignore” Congress. If a president wants to get almost anything done, he needs Congress. Even when they something as stupid as 47 Senators writing a letter to Iran to undermine peace talks, a president can make jokes about it and call it out subtly, but since he has to work with them for two more years and he might want to get something done, he has to be careful about what he says and does. And yes, even with this Congress, President Obama has no choice but to work with them for two more years.
That’s the reason it’s important that we speak out on things, and not expect the President to do it, because he really can’t. He doesn’t have that luxury. Yes, I know how nice it would be if President Obama could get on national TV and call the 47 Senators a bunch of traitors, but his job is to govern, not campaign 24/7/365. And no president can govern while working against Congress. So, the article starts with a premise that can only be called naïve. This is a hallmark of the professional left; even Jon Stewart falls into this trap at times. Everyone on the pro left side who critiques President Obama’s record whines about what he hasn’t been able to do, without even mentioning that he really can’t do anything on his own. If you want a progressive president to do progressive things, we don’t necessarily have to give him a progressive Congress, but we have to give him a Congress that isn’t attempting to block everything he does because he’s black.
This is the problem with the professional left in a nutshell, and it’s crystallized in the following section from Digby’s article:
Progressives knew there was no margin in trying to appease Republicans and that all attempts to try merely moved the political center further to the right. That had been the pattern since the 90s when the Republicans were crazy enough to detonate the nuclear option of impeachment over illicit sex when the president only had two years left on his term. They followed that up by unapologetically using threats and every lever of political power they had, including the Supreme Court, to install George W. Bush even though he’d lost the popular vote in the country. They went to war with a nation that hadn’t attacked us out of sheer opportunism. And yet it took Boehner not being able to deliver on Simpson-Bowles to convince them that maybe these people weren’t quite operating in good faith?
But perhaps more importantly, it was those same progressives (whom the White House press secretary derisively called “The Professional Left”) who argued for a continued focus on progressive initiatives instead of “pivoting” to the Grand Bargain once Obamacare passed. After managing to pass that and the stimulus they begged the president to keep going in that progressive direction. After all, it was crystal clear that no matter what he did, the Republicans weren’t going to play ball — they had dug in their heels even in the face of a catastrophic economic meltdown. Since the only outcome was bound to be stalemate, why not try to advance progressive ideas and move the country with him? (Certainly going the opposite direction and putting the essential safety net on the menu was a terrible precedent only Frank Underwood could love.)
Pat yourself on the back much? You really shouldn’t. The above, in which you somehow imply that posting habitually on a blog for 12-13 years makes you a keener political mind than the President of the United States, is truly unwarranted.
Obama knew what he was getting into, and he’s known it all along. In fact, it’s obvious. Is she kidding with this? During his first two years, he purposely and publicly reached across the aisle and he publicly let them slap his hand and punch him in the gut. He openly exposed the GOP for the underhanded assholes they are. His goal was to get the professional left – who are so proud of how smart they are, apparently – to see what was going on and carry the ball for them.
For all of their self-professed political savvy, why don’t pro lefties understand the purpose of the stunt he pulled in early 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was all but dead? Obama gathered the entire Republican and Democratic leadership into Blair House for a “Health Care Summit” on national TV. With everyone watching, he called them out, one by one, and demanded that each one explain their opposition to the ACA, and got them on the record, basically getting them to admit they only hated it because he liked it?
Why do professional lefties like Digby think he did that? Well, here’s her post about it. A President of the United States put the entire Republican Party on national TV to lay bare their lame opposition to his signature health care legislation and asked them for alternatives. They gave him nothing, and everyone saw it. And keep in mind; he’d only been in office for about a year. He knew what he was doing. A health insurance reform bill that was dead in the water at that point was immediately revived.
President Obama has been showing up Republicans for years. It’s impossible to count the number of times he’s made speeches in front of Congress in which he’s told Republicans, in front of everyone, that he would entertain all alternative ideas they had? That’s supposed to be our cue to point out the challenge and that they haven’t met that challenge. That is our job. The naivete shown in this article becomes painful when Digby derisively mentions that it took Obama until 2011 to realize that Boehner had no power as Speaker. What she fails to note – or perhaps it doesn’t fit the narrative of “President Obama as naïve dope” she’s trying to peddle – is that the debt ceiling talks started in late January 2011, when Boehner had been Speaker for a few weeks. The meeting at the White House was in March. It’s not like it took him years.
The only time in six years Republicans got the best of Obama was on the sequester. It was actually the only time he has ever tried to give them what he wanted, and he proposed it because he didn’t think they were crazy enough to accept it. No one thought they would bite, frankly. But their acceptance of it and passage of it should have spelled their political doom. Except these self-described “smart” professional lefties didn’t do their job and beat Republicans over the head with it. Instead, they blamed it on “both parties,” as if they were equally to blame. Intelligent political minds would never blame that on Democrats, because it wouldn’t exist without Republicans demanding it.
Obama has gotten the best of Republicans on every other debt ceiling deal. In fact, with the last one, he actually got 155 Republicans on record voting to default on the nation’s debt. Again, that should have spelled their political doom, but the professional left was too busy patting themselves on the back and targeting Democrats once more. He’s gotten the best of them on every continuing resolution. He made them look foolish when they shut down the government in 2013, to the point that they’re actually fearful of doing so again. But we gain no traction because our loudest voices – the professional left – are too busy patting themselves on the back and giving themselves a belly rub to seem to notice that we’re losing the politics. Even after the latest debacle, pro lefties were happy that there are now fewer Blue Dogs. It doesn’t seem to register to these “smart” people that, when we had a lot of Blue Dogs, Democrats passed 375 bills out of the House that were blocked by Senate filibuster rules, and now that we don’t have any Blue Dogs, the GOP has its biggest House majority since 1928. In what way is that progress? If Democrats have a large majority with Blue Dogs and a small minority without them, in what way is that better for the country? With Blue Dogs and a large majority, Elizabeth Warren and Keith Ellison can get bills passed. Without Blue Dogs and the smallest minority in almost a century, it doesn’t even pay them to write a bill. Yet, the people who should know better and put us in this position don’t seem to even notice.
Do you want to know what’s naïve? It’s naïve to think that politicians with the skills and instincts to get a black man elected president in the United States is too goddamn stupid to understand what Republicans are doing to him. He’s constantly setting up the GOP, and he’s waiting for his strongest supporters to stand behind him and help him counter them. So, why aren’t hardcore progressives among his strongest supporters? Why did the professional left take his knees out by taking away his Democratic Congress and replacing it with a group that opposes him on everything? And at the bottom of it all, who can brag about replacing Blue Dogs with teabaggers, and then call themselves “smart,” politically speaking? While pro lefties are replacing conservative Democrats with lunatic teabaggers, people are starving, and they’re having their rights violated, we’re making it harder for the President to get anything progressive done.
The job of the professional left should be to help him get shit done. Instead, the pro left spent most of 2010 and 2014 complaining about him, complaining about Democrats as “spineless” and targeting Blue Dogs, as if they were a big problem. If you want to talk about naïve, how dumb would you have to be to target Democrats in 2010 and 2014? In the 111th Congress, House Democrats passed 375 bills that the Senate Republican minority blocked with filibuster rules. The perfect strategy to fix the problem and get things done then would have been to help Democrats keep the House and gain 2-3 more seats in the Senate, to bust the filibuster. Instead, Democrats lost the House and came within a hair’s breadth of losing the Senate. And why? Because professional lefties spent much of their time and energy going after Democrats, when they talked about the election at all. It was Nader 2000 all over again.
Yet they patted themselves on the back for it, too.
Check out this fine and clueless post from Democracy Now!. Seriously, according to the professional left, we’re supposed to be ecstatic because, instead of being a crucial bloc in a majority party, progressives are now a “plurality” in a minority party? They weren’t actually, but even if they were… how is that a positive? Look at the havoc Republicans created as a minority; didn’t it occur to the professional left that putting them in the majority might be devastating. It also put the Tea Party in a position of power, which wasn’t the case before.
Blue Dogs have never been the problem. They’re not completely progressive, but they don’t represent progressive districts and states. And every single one who lost was replaced by the teabagger. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Not only that, but we lost some progressives in the dragnet, and many of those were replaced by teabaggers, as well. That’s not progressive.
It’s time the professional left stopped patting themselves on the back and started promoting smart politics. You’re not smarter than Obama; you’re not even smarter than me, and I would never say I was smarter than Obama. Learn about politics or learn to shut the hell up.