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December 17, 2009

what hard looks like

Remember on Inauguration Day, when fans of Barack Obama felt admiration for the new president as a person--mixed with a foreboding sense that things would soon become difficult for him? That's the sense I felt on the National Mall last January. But what did people imagine that "difficult" would look like? Did they think that poor Barack would have to stay up late every night working on legislation? Or that he would consistently propose policies that we support and be criticized by people we abhor?

If those were our thoughts, we were naive about politics and American society. Governing under difficult conditions means exactly the kind of compromise and negotiation that we see today--that's what "hard" means. I've been critical of the administration, and I will gradually raise my bar of expectations over the coming years. Criticism is appropriate--helpful, even. But if anything disappoints me, it is not the choices of the administration. It is the sense that we were entitled to be handed "change" by the new president after we had finished our job by electing him last November. He always said quite the opposite--that the burden was going to fall on us.

I keep hearing friends and colleagues shake their heads in disappointment that the president has let us down. I want to shake them and shout, "What have you done lately?" I'm sorry, but I missed the millions of liberals marching though Washington to demand a single-payer health system. I noticed the tea party protesters, the insurance lobbyists, and Fox News. I watched public support for health care reform fall to the low thirties in recent surveys. I have not seen much counter-pressure. True, Organizing for America has been weak so far--but since when did liberals count on an incumbent president to organize a grassroots advocacy effort to put pressure on himself from the left? That's our job.

These are the specific policies that most seem to disappoint the left:

Again, my point is not that the administration is amazingly admirable or that Barack Obama should be our personal hero. My point is that nobody can accomplish "change" for us. There are plenty of ways to engage, and if you don't use at least one of them, you have no business complaining.

December 17, 2009 8:16 AM | category: revitalizing the left | Comments



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