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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Handwringing and Other Unproductive Things

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last few days but I have been overcome with some emotions that have been hard to put into words.

Luckily, I found a diarist on The Daily Kos that captures what I'm feeling in a way that resonates perfectly with why I've been hesitating to read the blogosphere lately and comment on it.

Please give it a thorough read and jump over to Kos and recommend it. Many kudos to PsiFighter37:

Seriously, just grow the hell up
by PsiFighter37

I've been away from my computer quite a bit recently - that's what moving your own furniture into a Manhattan apartment will do to you - but upon catching up on the news tonight, I've become convinced that the blogosphere will always let perfect be the enemy of good...or even great. Yes, it's true that Barack Obama's positioning towards the center in preparation for the general election pisses a good deal of us off. Whether it has been his unjustified remarks about FISA or Supreme Court decisions (both of which relate to constitutional law, something that he ought to know a thing or two about) or his willingness to throw anyone who goes off-message under the bus, so to speak (such as MoveOn or Wesley Clark), Obama has tacked much further from his primary positions than many of us would care.

That being said, I'm really sick and tired of people - particularly prominent bloggers who should know better - bitching and moaning about Obama's imperfections as a general election candidate.


The answer's simple: nobody's perfect. I challenge any of you to find a 'progressive' or 'liberal' politician who would be perfect to you.

Russ Feingold may have been the lone voice standing up to the first Patriot Act, but he voted for the confirmations of John Ashcroft and John Roberts.

Paul Wellstone was a strong liberal voice in the Senate, yet he voted for DOMA and the Patriot Act.

Dennis Kucinich, aside from being on the political fringe, was a lifelong pro-lifer until he decided he wanted to run for president.

Chris Dodd may do quite well on constitutional matters, but he voted for the Iraqi war, the Patriot Act, and is too beholden to the big banks and the hedge funds which he oversees from the Senate Banking Committee.

Howard Dean may have generated the first Internet-powered campaign and spoke out forcefully against invading Iraq, but he was a centrist governor who reluctantly allowed for civil unions in Vermont (and only because by a court decision, he was forced to).

Sherrod Brown is widely liked for his populist pitch, but he voted for torture in 2006.

I won't even bother to recount how many times Jim Webb or Jon Tester have disappointed us, despite getting substantial support from the local netroots scene to help them score upset victories in their respective primaries.

The point is this - and the story is quite familiar already: the netroots become enamored with a particular candidate. Said candidate does something contrary to what conventional wisdom as dictated by a small coterie of prominent bloggers agrees with. Netroots becomes angry, throws up hands in the air, pounds keyboards angrily, fills up pixels with frustration, and does very little to influence the debate. I agree with Booman that no one takes progressives seriously because...well, there isn't such a thing as a progressive. Or at least that's what many who hold candidate purity above winning with a candidate who broadly shares your views would have you believe.

While Obama's recent moves are causes for concern, they don't change the fact that he is substantially better positioned to not only win the presidency, but to be able to get progressive policies enacted - whether it's expanding health care availability to the entire population, getting us out of Iraq, protecting our civil liberties, or finding alternative sources of energy to help us ease our dependence on oil and other polluting fossil fuels. If the netroots and other activists on the left continue to get hung up on every little last 'mistake' Obama makes (and there have been mistakes; I sent an email to the Obama campaign requesting that they return my donations and that I would not be contributing any more volunteer hours after his capitulation on FISA), then it doesn't do anything to help us win more - and it makes the netroots' influence on the debate even less than it already is on a marginal level.

In short, grow the hell up. If you can't get over being disappointed by your candidate in politics...well, you're going to be disappointed virtually all the time.


Jamo said...

I was just having a similar conversation with someone here locally today about how Sr. Obama can't help but let each and everyone of us down at one time or another. I think it is due to the fact he has raised the bar of expectations so high.

I think also that Sr. Obama is committed to returning our country and its governance to consensus building and finding middle ground. That is how a pluralistic society and democratic government are supposed to operate.

But it has been so long since we operated like that as a society, as well as our government functioning the way it should, that we have forgotten what pluralism means and what it feels like.

Yes, I think President Obama will probably disappoint each and every one of us a time or two (or three). But I think that may be a measure of his success. His success as an inspirational leader, his success as a finder of consensus and common ground, and his success in bring pluralism back from dormancy.