No Pony Under the Tree After All: The Left Begins To Come To Terms With the Looming Catastrophe Of Hope and Change
You know things are really starting to go south for the Obama administration when its journalistic functionaries and spear-carriers on the left are starting to openly fret and worry as they begin to feel November's chill wind blowing. The visions of historic change, social justice and a plum government job are gradually being replaced by nightmares not just of defeat but repudiation. The racket has been exposed by its own audacity.
First up is Ruth Marcus, of the deeply compromised Washington Post. What used to be merely a center-left news organization that nevertheless played relatively fair and boasted some outstanding writers has devolved into a poor imitation of the Huffington Post, replete with White House operatives and partisan hacks. By comparison with many of her colleagues, the liberal Marcus looks like Stewart Alsop. Here she is, writing about Obama's recess appointment of Dr. Death Panels himself, Donald Berwick:
As a matter of politics, the president's choice of Berwick was, well, the polite word would be bold. The less polite word: boneheaded. Administration officials argue that Republicans would have seized on any nominee as an opportunity to re-litigate the health care debate. But Berwick offered opponents a loaded gun with his talk about rationing, his discussion of health reform as a matter of redistributing wealth, and his effusive praise for the British system. If the president wanted to buy a fight like this, he ought to have been better prepared to wage it.
And as a matter of good government, the president's move to snub the Senate and install Berwick by recess appointment was outrageous... A recess appointment should be a last step in cases of egregious delay, not one of the first. That standard was nowhere near met in Berwick's case. Berwick was nominated to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on April 19, less than three months ago. He had not yet had a hearing. His committee vetting wasn't complete.
Well, duh. For a Chicago pol, whose path to prominence came not via intellectual brilliance or personal charisma but through behind-the-scenes machinations to get opponents thrown off the ballot or have their sealed divorce records made public, "by any means necessary" is not only a tactic, it's a categorical imperative.
Next up is this piece by Abby Phillip on Politico, "Liberals analyze their Obama 'despair'." It's a heartbreaking tale of love proffered and love lost, and you can practically hear the teeth-grinding as the left realizes that it's well on its way to blowing the Perfect Storm of 2008, watching it dissipate in an endless round of vacations, golf games, date nights and White House parties.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, anyone who can read the following without laughing has a heart of stone:
For many liberals, this is the summer of their discontent.
Already disappointed with President Barack Obama’s ability to deliver on campaign promises, they now contemplate a slowing economic recovery and a good chance of Republican gains in November. Such developments would make enacting Obama’s agenda even more difficult.
Two recent essays framed the debate raging within the progressive community over why the promise of Obama’s candidacy has not lived up to their expectations — and how liberals should proceed in what they fear will be difficult months ahead.
One of the pieces cited is an interminable lecture in the pages of (where else?) The Nation by Eric Alterman, "Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, For Now," in which Alterman -- believe it or not! -- blames the right-wing media and Fox News for hindering the New Jerusalem he and his fellow travelers are trying to construct for the rest of us. Alterman is neither an interesting thinker nor a particularly good writer, so let this passage suffice:
Fox News is by far America's most popular cable news network and its lead over MSNBC and CNN just keeps growing. In prime time, Fox hosts regularly attract more viewers than both competitors combined. This is a matter of considerable political significance for the potential success of any progressive president because the number one cable news network in America just happens to be dedicated to a program of purposeful misinformation rather than any honest accounting of the news—"Apostles of Anger in their echo chamber of fallacies," as Charles M. Blow put it. Fox's broadcasting is deeply biased against liberals in almost every way imaginable. Fox News broadcasters regularly distort what the president says or cut away before letting him finish. They invite Republican politicians and conservative propagandists to come on and lie, outright, about both people and policy and then build on those lies to tell even larger lies. In doing so, they engage in conspiracy theories so lurid and outlandish that one is tempted to turn on The Twilight Zone for a reality check. They all but ignore Republican scandals and obsess about Democratic ones. Their hosts openly raise money for Republican causes, promote and appear at their rallies, and pass along their propaganda appeals. Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee (to say nothing of Karl Rove) are paid to play presidential politics on Fox programs. The combination of commitment to right-wing politics, reach and irresponsibility is literally unprecedented in the modern age of American politics; it's as if Joe McCarthy were not just a senator but a television network as well.
You know liberals have run out of gas when they exhume the corpse of Tail Gunner Joe and hang him once more, and as for citing Charles Blow...
Alterman concludes thus:
What's more, one hypothesis—one I'm tempted to share—for the Obama administration's willingness to compromise so extensively on the promises that candidate Obama made during the 2008 campaign would be that as president, he is playing for time. Obama is taking the best deal on the table today, but hopes and expects that once he is re-elected in 2012—a pretty strong bet, I'd say—he will build on the foundations laid during his first term to bring on the fundamental "change" that is not possible in today's environment. This would be consistent with FDR's strategy during his second term and makes a kind of sense when one considers the nature of the opposition he faces today and the likelihood that it will discredit itself following a takeover of one or both houses in 2010. For that strategy to make sense, however, 2013 will have to provide a more pregnant sense of progressive possibility than 2009 did, and that will take a great deal of work by the rest of us.
To borrow from Hillel the Elder: "If not now, when? If not us, who?"
How about "never" and "nobody"?
The other piece, "Against Despair," is by Michael Tomasky in Democracy, in which he takes the pulse of American liberalism, finds it faltering, but counsels patience; after all the left is in this for the long haul:
But more and more it seems that we are in an age of liberal despair–as reflex and first instinct, as motif and explanation, even, it sometimes seems to me, as fashion. Criticism of legislation and proposals is always proper and necessary, as is the application of whatever pressure people can apply to try to produce more progressive outcomes. But I’ve read and heard many critiques that then race right past that into outright desolation. One noticed it in the days after the passage of the health-care bill in late March. There was a brief geyser of euphoria, and then, in two or three or at most five days, skirmishes broke out over why Obama didn’t make more recess appointments than the 15 he shoved through on March 27. By March 31–10 days after the House passed health-care reform–when Obama announced his since re-thought plan to open many coastal areas to offshore drilling, things on the liberal side were more or less back to the dour normal...
The image of Barack Hussein Obama speaking to America from his stage in Grant Park that night in November 2008 as president-elect was, for liberals, one of the most staggering images we’ve ever seen. One felt–many millions of us felt–almost invincible in a way; finally justified in our beleaguered beliefs, after so many years of despondency and rage; aware in fresh and unprecedented ways of our collective power, like mortals transformed into superheroes in the movies, realizing for the first time that they could fly or crush stone. It seems likely that American liberals will never again for the foreseeable future feel quite like we did that night. All things seemed possible...
But this is about something more important and lasting than any single president. We are in a pitched ideological battle that seems virtually certain to continue for many years. In that battle, despair will produce only defeat.
It doesn't seem to occur to Tomasky that the "brief geyser of euphoria" was occasioned not so much by healthcare "reform" as the thuggish tactics by which it was effected (the Berwick appointment only reinforces the Democrats' image as the unholy offspring of 1930s' gangland and 1960s' radicalism), and the resulting downturn in the leftist mood might have had something to do with that realization. Not to mention the fact that this photograph...
... is as good as it's likely to get for them for a long time.
The reason the left loses is, paradoxically, because of its periodic successes: once in power the mask slips, they cannot control themselves and so the people ultimately recoil and cue up "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who. But of course they do, and so Tomasky's "pitched ideological battle" -- the struggle for the soul of the American experiment -- goes on.