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President Obama, Progressive Discontent, and The Political Compass

It all started with a great speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, right before Senator Kerry “reported for duty.” Senator Barack Obama gave a stirring speech about a country whose time had come to find a new unity that transcended partisanship.

Pundits instantly took a liking to the young fellow and began speculating whether he wouldn’t be the right guy to occupy the oval office. Three years later, Obama announced his candidacy and dazzled the left, and enough in the center, to be sworn into office.

Fast forward to 2011: The far left is mightily upset with Obama, because it feels betrayed. It turns out, Obama is not really a full-on, bright-blue liberal.

The Decider

Guess what, though? He never was. He just looked uber-progressive in comparison to the Republican party and the folks who had been in control since The Supreme Court chose to elect “The Decider” aka George W. Bush.

According to the website, The Political Compass, the 2008 candidate, Barack Obama, was scored as very moderately social authoritarian, and a very moderately pro-free market. Both he and Joe Biden scored close to the center of the map, but in the upper-right quadrant where no self-respecting liberal would be caught hanging out.

It is truly a testament to how far right the Republican Party has retreated that a centrist would look convincingly liberal.

No politician deserves a free pass, least of all the president. Obama should be relentlessly scrutinized and criticized. That’s what a president signs up for, in part.

Liberals are like most in that they want what they want, and they want it now. Though he has done more than a few things that no Republican president would dare to do, Obama is more of a cool trickle than a tap-wide-open as far as a progressive agenda is concerned.

On a grand-scale, nothing happens fast, though–just ask a tectonic plate. Progress, and its socially risk-adverse and free market opposite, are in constant struggle with one another. Born of the higher aspirations, beliefs, fears and prejudices in the psyches of human beings, big change is a slow spreading affair whose effects are not immediately seen, heard or felt.

One of my favorite liberal columnists recently wrote about his concern with some of the discontent and grumbling heard coming from the progressive left that feels let down by President Obama.

“They do not see politics as the art of the possible. They do not believe in seizing opportunities to make steady, messy progress toward progressive goals. They believe that politics is a cataclysmic struggle. They believe that if they can remain pure in their principals then someday their liberal cause will win a total and permanent victory over its foes.”

Actually, I lied. That passage was written by my favorite conservative columnist, David Brooks, in a New York Times op-ed, titled “The Road Not Taken.” The true quote was this:

“They [Republicans unwilling to compromise over raising taxes in exchange for spending cuts] do not see politics as the art of the possible. They do not believe in seizing opportunities to make steady, messy progress toward conservative goals. They believe that politics is a cataclysmic struggle. They believe that if they can remain pure in their faith then someday their party will win a total and permanent victory over its foes.”

That is a bit of wisdom that both the left and the right need to chew on for a while.

Just out of curiosity, I took The Political Compass quiz to see if I had moved any since the last time I took it in 2003. Though I chose “agree” or “disagree” much more often than “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree,” as I had in the past, I still scored at pretty much the same place. I’m still close neighbors with Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, and live next door to Ralph Nader.

I still believe, however, President Obama is the right man, at the right time, in the right job to be making messy progress toward progressive goals.

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Posted by on July 23, 2011. Filed under Commentary,Political,Social Issues. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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9 Responses to President Obama, Progressive Discontent, and The Political Compass

  1. Leslie Parsley Reply

    July 23, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Beautifully stated and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I have to confess that my BP is beyond the boiling point at the moment. Here is part of a comment a FB friend put up on her status: “If you don’t understand a snark attack on Obama is a vote for the GOP then Man Up & remove yourself from my FB friends list & join the Tea Party — b/c you’re deluding yourself that you’re a leftie (you’re really are a dangerous unsophisticate about political realities)”

    I think I was one of the earliest ones to call out the far-left in a blog I wrote comparing them to the far-right. I’ve been dropped from their rolls and defriended on their FB pages. That’s okay. We have a mutual non-admiration society and I have done likewise.

    Last night, for the purposes of demonstrating how vicious and bow vulgar these people can be, I posted a link to a particularly odious attack on Obama. I don’t know if it was because of the vulgarity in the headline which had to do with “sucking Obama’s dick” or the fact that I was so critical of these idiots. Anyway, by this morning it had been removed. Ya gotta love that tolerance and free speech thingy they’re always talking about.

    • Collin Hinds Reply

      July 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

      I love your friend’s quote. That about says it all. I have said it over and over that the president–any president–does not live in a vacuum. The executive is just one branch and doesn’t always get its way and must be artful in pushing the ball down the field.

  2. Holte Ender Reply

    July 23, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Good stuff Collin, and like LP says, appropriate. I saw that “suck Obama’s dick” post, a cheap shot if ever there was one. I guess the guy who wrote it wants to be cuddled by his friends, look for more of that crap because some of them lapped it up. They think themselves reasoned and purveyors of “truth” when all there really is, is opinion. But only their opinion counts.

    Hard left, far right, there is no difference? Well, that’s my opinion.

    • Collin Hinds Reply

      July 23, 2011 at 11:51 am

      I saw that post, too. Agreed, Holte, on all counts.

  3. Michael John Scott Reply

    July 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    I saw that headline and the post and was disgusted by it. The information contained in the post itself was a collaboration of nonsense. Naturally, the followers came a followin’ and a praisin’. Obama hating of the highest, albeit less intellectual order.

    This post, on the other hand is thoughtful and well written. It contains no vitriol, hate filled screed, or other nonsense. This is the type of commentary I would read in the New York Times. Tremendous job Collin and I agree with every word.

    • Collin Hinds Reply

      July 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      I would cringe at my most hated enemy being treated the way Obama is treated in that post. Lack of civility in public discourse benefits no one, least of all those who propagate it.

  4. Four Dinners Reply

    July 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Actually he’s just some politician who made good for a while. No more no less.

    He’s probably…or possibly…a decent enough bloke.

    That may be enough to get him re-elected or it may not.

    Either way the world will turn and, ultimately, most of the world won’t give a shit.

    Personally I would, as it goes.

    I liked Reagan enormously and I like Obama enormously.

    I think he’s actually ‘honest’ – at least as far as being a President/politician allows him to be. That, in itself is a novelty.

    Good luck to the guy…and I suspect he’ll need a bit…

    Mind you…if that fruitcake Palin ends up his main challenger then he’s home free eh?…;-)

    By the way…who is this other bird that’s appeared lately?…Forget her name…the British press reckon she’s Palin with brains….oh dear…now that IS a dangerous combination!

    • Collin Hinds Reply

      July 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

      Michele Bachmann. She is just as witless as Palin.

  5. Bob Reply

    August 15, 2011 at 4:42 am

    I wouldn’t be a hard left condemner of Obama, however this link http://stpeteforpeace.org/obama.html & his continuing over-compromise with the revived Republicans & Tea Party extremists means progressive causes even the liberal middle ground will be greatly weakened in 2012 & yes its not impossible for someone like Michele Bachman

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