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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.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.