Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

We Can Question Obama AND Give Him a Chance

Here’s where I come down on this debate that the netroots seems to be embroiled in (“Give Him a Chance” vs. “We Can Question”). Let’s play a game first and then I’ll illustrate my point.

Imagine a world in which an in-coming Democratic President won a strong majority of the country’s votes in an electoral landslide.

Imagine that President planned to confront an economic crisis by launching a massive, jobs-producing, infrastructure investment program via DIRECT government spending.

Imagine that President planned to spend billions in building wind, solar, and alternative energy, and building out the crucial electrical grid.

Imagine that President planned to remove American troops from Iraq – a neo-con war which that President opposed (while most of the country supported at first).

Imagine that President planned to deal with Iran by direct negotiations.

Imagine that President planned to lead the world on climate change, launching a cap-and-trade program that will quickly limit carbon emissions for the first time in our nation’s history.

Imagine that President planned to be multi-lateral and work with our allies on a range of issues.

Imagine that President planned to make passing universal health-care a high priority.

Imagine that President planned to raise the minimum wage.

Imagine that President planned to extend unemployment benefits and food stamps.

Imagine that President planned to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

Imagine that President planned to make it clear that America doesn’t torture.

Imagine that President planned to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and help lead us into a future in which gay equality takes on greater meaning and shape.

Imagine that President planned to re-build crumbling schools and invest in our education system.

Imagine that President planned to undo restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research.

Imagine that President believed in science to begin with.

Imagine that President planned to re-orient the tax structure (whether now or after the crisis passes) to slightly raise rates on the wealthy and lower them on the middle class.

And once again – imagine a President whose response to an economic crisis is MASSIVE GOVERNMENT SPENDING on infrastructure, energy, and other jobs-creating programs.


Imagine the blogosphere’s reaction to that President accused him of being a sell-out.

Imagine diarists and commenters accused this President of not being “change.”

Imagine TV hosts and their guests, some of whom I love, go so far as to proclaim this President “not a progressive.”

Imagine bloggers and columnists accuse him of being “center-right,” some comparing him to the likes of Grover Norquist or worse.

Imagine bloviators accuse him of playing “ghetto” politics, all in an attempt to marginalize the left.


Imagine a third party – a group of intelligent people with particular, and highly legitimate concerns who express those concerns intelligently.

Imagine this last party having its voice drowned out by the members of the previous party – the bloviators who scream and attack bloody murder.


You don’t have to imagine any of it – because it’s happening.

We have the most progressive President-elect in ages, and many of us have launched daily attacks on him two months before he’s sworn into office. Not just attacks that say, “He’s not as progressive as I’d like him to be,” but those that say, “He’s not a progressive, period” and comparing him to the worst elements of the far right.

Let me make one thing clear: Obama is not above criticism and his appointments are subject to careful scrutiny. Indeed, I applaud the work the netroots played in shutting down the hypothetical Brennan nomination to the CIA – torture, is, in fact, unacceptable.

I also applaud the work of people like TomP who wrote a very good diary today expressing his very legitimate concerns about the appointment of Gates and the role of labor in the Obama administration.

Unfortunately, his work is drowned out by other criticism which is so hysterical that it bears no connection to reality.

But when you launch accusations of far-right treason against a President with the most progressive plans for our country we’ve seen in a generation (or I’ve seen in my 33-year-lifetime), a President who is using the temperament and guise of moderation to shift the center of this country to the left, and whose first act as President, I will repeat, is going to a massive government investment in building infrastructure the likes of which we haven’t seen in 65 years, it just makes you seem as out-of-touch from reality as can be.

Criticize, but at least base it in the facts.

So here’s where we are as I see it:

1) I believe we have a genuinely progressive President who has to govern the whole country and actually get stuff done, but is well-positioned to move the political center further to the left – and I believe most of his plans are truly progressive and smart.

2) I believe that he is not above criticism and that legitimate concern, when connected to reality, always has a place.

3) I believe that many elements of the netroots have developed a real credibility problem based on hysterical attacks which are disconnected to reality.

Finally – I want to address the most odious technique being used. It’s the pre-emptive set-up of the false choice that many use.


“Either Obama does X, or he believes in the Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist philosophy of government (a.k.a either Obama does precisely what I want him to how I want him to or he’s evilllll)”


“If you disagree with my position, then you must be a starry-eyed Obama cultist who thinks he can do no wrong.

For anyone who uses that technique (I’m looking at you Sirota): when you write things like that, the only credibility that is damaged is your own.

My hope is we get this out of the way today and move on to more pressing matters and focus on action. The whole discussion as to whether Obama is a liberal, centrist, conservative has already jumped the shark. We are in the midst of a massive crisis and need to fix this fracking thing. Anything else is just a blogospheric circle jerk (apologies for the imagery).


November 26, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,


  1. i agree with point 2 of your summing up and that’s about it. if there’s a discredited mind-set out there, it’s the “wait and see” crowd. that strategy worked out pretty well with bill clinton. and i don’t think the netroots have lost all credibility due to their supposedly hysterical over-response to obama’s appointments. if there’s a perception out there that they have, it’s solely because it’s being sold so hard by centrists in the sphere of the professional opinion-makers. all this stuff boils down to is propaganda and who’s peddling it. the netroots have legitimate concerns and are stating them. those who disagree are mostly trying to wage a public relations battle. on principle, i find the netroots side of this far less revolting. defend obama if you want, it’s your right. but stop claiming that anybody who doesn’t agree with you is wrong and/or doing something harmful. it’s just propaganda and like most propaganda it’s easy to see through. and stop calling what obama’s offering universal health care, for christs sake! it’s not UHC by any of the standard definitions of the policy. jeez…

    Comment by lover of jazz | November 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. My own opinion is that we all must wait and see what happens until he takes office. Yes we can speak about the nominees. We can give our opinion on them, and I think PE Obama will listen and weigh them as he will all decisions he makes.

    But, for us to say how he is going to lead and the decisions he is going to make after he is in office is just trying to predict the future and no one is truly able to do that. We can’t know how he will lead even by the choices of his cabinet. He will take the information given to him by the members and then decide on the course he will go, we may not agree with every decision he makes, but we may not have all the information he has either.

    That’s where the trust and the faith we had when we chose to vote for him comes in. I for one have no problem so far with what I have seen. He surrounds himself with strong, smart people and then uses their wisdome to make himself smarter to make strong, smart decisions. That’s what a wise, strong leader does. He uses the tools and his head, not his gut which is what we have had for the last 8 years. And for the 8 before that another part of the anatomy was used quite often. You decide what you want. I personally think the head and the brain is the best choice.

    Comment by Annette, Missouri | December 1, 2008 | Reply

  3. Bless you… Talk LOUDER too!!!!!! I so agree we should all breath a sigh of relief that Obama DOES know how bad things REALLY are. I truly think if we can GIVE THE MAN A CHANCE we will be giddy with delight. He isnt even sworn in. A minute PLEASE!!!!!

    Comment by shannan | December 13, 2008 | Reply

  4. Amen and thank you for articulating my own feelings. I found you looking for relief from just what you describe. We have a part in what happens next. We are not just passive victims looking for someone to blame. We’d better start focusing on what we need to do to get these programs passed in Congress. Because the opposition is forming, both republican and democratic. Steny Hoyer’s comments this past weekend support republican positioning, but the longer we wait the worse the economic situation will get. All I can say is with friends like these, who needs enemies.

    Comment by coastal anna | January 5, 2009 | Reply

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