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Posted at 10:08 AM ET, 12/30/2010

Dr. Dionne's couch

By Ezra Klein

EJ Dionne plays marriage counselor today and offers some sound adviceon how to "restore a functional relationship between the White House and its sometimes-friends, sometimes-critics on the left":

Too often, the White House has been caught whining about its progressive critics. The president's aides act as if whatever Obama happens to decide is the only sensible and realistic thing to do. For the left to ask Obama to be bolder in testing the limits of the possible means it is doing its job of pushing the president to do more, and to do it faster. Conservatives have mastered this approach. Why can't liberals do the same?

But too often progressives have spent more time complaining about what wasn't done than in finding ways to build on what has been achieved. It took decades to complete the modern Social Security system and years to move from tepid to robust civil rights laws and from modest to comprehensive environmental regulation. Impatience is indispensable to getting reform started; patience is essential to seeing its promise fulfilled.

He's right about all of that. To choose one example, the president has been much more eloquent and emphatic in his anger at the left's criticism of his inability to pass a public option than in his anger at the Republicans and conservative Democrats who actually blocked the public option. At the same time, portions of the left have been more focused on what they didn't get in health-care reform than in what they did get -- and not only is the latter vastly larger than the former, but it's under concerted attack from the right. It's natural to get angriest at the people who you expect to be on your side, but that doesn't mean it's sensible.

By Ezra Klein  | December 30, 2010; 10:08 AM ET
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Uh-oh, Ezra, get ready for the daggers from Jane & Markos! How DARE you & EJ say that progressives should be happy!!

BTW, " It took decades to complete the modern Social Security system " ...

... is a line from EJ's article that typies the restless left. Instead of admitting that those sorts of social programs actually DID evolve over time, HuffPo, DK & FDL spent a full week blasting Obama for saying that didn't include all beneficiaries right at the outset.

Go figure ...

Posted by: kromerm | December 30, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Libs who are disaffected with Obama are not just angry about the public option.

They are angry for a wide variety if reasons. Some if them are as important or more so than the public option.

Examples: obama fought to protect wallstreet bonuses, he gave money to wallstreet and banks with few conditions, he has not fought to cap credit card interest rates, he fought DADT before he supported it, he bungled the BP spill, he has not created shovel ready jobs as he promised, he does not fight GOP world views of various issues and instead let's the GOP control the debates, he refused to get a tax deal enacted until it was too late to get a good one, he keeps hiring goldman sachs advisors, he did not tout stimulus tax cuts and instead people think he raised them, he did not close gitmo and did not stop the wars, etc, etc

Posted by: lauren2010 | December 30, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

@lauren2010: AMEN! Liberals solidly supported the heavily-compromised health care bill at final passage. It's Obama's clueless economic strategy that is key to liberal dissatisfaction, and the Democrats' failure in the mid-terms. He bailed out the banks but has no plan for unemployment, just blind hope that things will get better in time for 2012 -- hope minus the audacity.

Posted by: jtmiller42 | December 30, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Liberals are angry that the President seems to start negotiating with himself in the middle and then moves right to get the legislation passed, rather than starting from the left. The perception, right or wrong, on the left is not that the perfect liberal bills didn't get passed but that everything ends up further right than it has to because of where things start.

Posted by: AuthorEditor | December 30, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I agree with both Ezra and the commenters who explian the reasons for liberal rage.
I don't see them as mutually exclusive.

There are plenty of reasons to be disappointed with the president but it makes no sense to allow those problems to overshadow the fact that he's still more on our side than the GOP. And it does seem that the anger between the president and liberals (in both directions) is amplified over the real battle each of them has with the GOP...
But I guess I have to wonder if some of this amplification is more a result of actual intensity or media framing. Do a few bloggers at Firedoglake really have that much sway over the left... or has wider coverage merely made it appear as though they speak for the left (to everyone, the president included)?

Posted by: RCBII | December 30, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Something else to consider was the primary support for Blanche Lincoln when it was clear that neither she nor Bill Halter had a shot in the general. While his overall decisions are supportive of the left in general, he seems to spend too much time searching for a Sister Soulja moment with the left.

Posted by: ctown_woody | December 30, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

The President is a closet conservative, far more interested in getting something done, than getting the best (or next to best) thing done.

I'm happy about HCR, but remain skeptical that the best parts will ever be implemented.

A $725 Billion "defense" budget? A reduction in payroll taxes, the heart of funding SS, is the best we could do? Who cares about the deficit right?

Please. The President is a complete disaster more interested in winning re-election than winning the good fight.

Posted by: LucasLazor | December 30, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

It's sort of ironic that the comments in this posting seem to provide proof of what Ezra and EJ are referring to.

Everyone on the left loves to throw around their disappointment with Obama and instead of working with the admin and supporting their efforts we get thing like this:

"He supported Blanche Lincoln"

"He protected Wall Street bonuses"

That's all the lefties seem to be good at, whining. The actual difficult job of making legislation work and move toward progressive ideals at a macro level seem beyond their patience or capability.

Posted by: kromerm | December 30, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

My disaffection with Obama has less to do with the battles he won or lost, as with the battles he chose to fight, and those he did not.

I don't "hate" Obama, and I recognize his accomplishments. But what he chose to fight for, and what he chose to let go has informed me that the things that are important to me are not important to him.

Rather than a "marriage partner," I now regard him as a temporary traveling companion - someone going roughly in the direction I want to go, but not nearly with the same destination in mind.

Posted by: KarenJG | December 30, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Seriously Ezra, you are using the right wing media meme and acting like it's real.

I'm happy we have Obama. I do think he is much more centrist than I am & I think his tactics suck wrt the opposition he faces. On many important issues he starts out throwing big bones to the opposition, many of which are the major points to the hoped for legislation (ie - public option, tax reform, financial regulations)only to see the opposition slap him in the face and act like he's brain dead. Well that negotiating tactic is brain dead. Saying so doesn't mean we liberals won't support him in 2012. It means we think his tactics suck.

There's a difference, you know?

Posted by: kindness1 | December 30, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you're missing one category - the bad things Obama did. To use health care, for example - yes, we liberals haven't focused quite enough on the good things he did, like Medicaid expansion and subsidies. And we focused a bit too much on the good things he didn't get, like the public option or drug price negotiation, which can still possibly be done later.

However, the third category is most important - the really bad things that Obama did do, namely using all the time and political capital and rhetoric on health care in service of an unprecedented mandate to purchase a minimally-regulated private product. That's such a huge misstep that it really does erase the good in the bargain - Medicaid, subsidies, etc.

Posted by: michaelh81 | December 30, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

obama needs independent voters for re-election

courting the gop and criticizing the left are maneuvers in this quest

the media makes it a family drama

Posted by: jamesoneill | December 30, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Really don't know why the bloggers (not Ezra) who whine the most think attacking Obama will convince him to do things their way. It's the most bizarre thing I've ever seen. Their just part of the republican attack machine & noise in the media I ignore & I would just assume that nothing would appease them. Not productive. They need a change in tactic or they'll be ignored by a lot of people who used to read them.

Posted by: carolerae48 | December 30, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

The fear then that Klein is alluding to above is that Republicans will defund what in HCR?

Republicans are decidedly NOT going to defund money that'll end up in insurance company's pockets. They are absolutely shadow-boxing when they make that threat.

What WILL get cut is SS, that other progressive victory; you know the one that works, that people love, and that impatience and patience has nurtured into the greatest insurance policy on the planet.

Posted by: falsedichotomy | December 30, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

The fear then that Klein is alluding to above is that Republicans will defund what in HCR?

Republicans are decidedly NOT going to defund money that'll end up in insurance company's pockets. They are absolutely shadow-boxing when they make that threat.

What WILL get cut is SS, that other progressive victory; you know the one that works, that people love, and that impatience and patience has nurtured into the greatest insurance policy on the planet.

Posted by: falsedichotomy | December 30, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Yup he has done a bunch and HCR is a foot-in-the-door. But Obama folded on a few things I think are really important: Tax cuts for the very rich, the public option, the Afghan war, and cuts in SS funding. For these reasons I have taken myself off of TWH and OFA email lists, have stopped writing letters to TWH, have pledged not to vote in the 2012 General (only local), and vowed not to give any more money to the Dems. I'm done.

I know the country, as a whole, is more conservative than I am, but I think Obama should have fought harder (I find FDL to be shrill), and I won't play the game anymore. I'll use the money to buy more pizza and beer and if the electronic voting machine won't let me "Cast Vote" without national buttons being pushed, I'll write myself in.....

Posted by: RowanTrumpetProf | December 30, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

So, liberals should be more patient with a president who advocates the assassination of US citizens, enshrines torture as a policy option (though he swears he won't himself use it), and detains people for months and years without a trial? Liberals should clap louder for a man who wants to curtail Social Security, shrugs at 10% unemployment, and cares far more about what his Wall Street patrons think than he does about unemployed and underemployed workers?

Unlike candidate Obama, President Obama's policies are further to the right than Richard Nixon's. That you think liberals should be more patient as a center-right president leads the nation toward disaster serves simply as the thousand-and-tenth example of the party-over-principles mindset of neoliberals.

Posted by: stonedone | January 1, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Marriage? Darn it! I fell for his line, but I forgot to get a prenup. But maybe that is for the better. A separation based on principles rather than money will leave no lasting sorrow to a hardy spirit. Progressives have been around for centuries. Some of the most influential:
Formal expression was given to progressive ideas in the form of political parties on three major occasions:

The Roosevelt Progressives (Bull Moose Party) of 1912
The La Follette Progressives of the 1920s
The Henry Wallace Progressives of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

It would have been rewarding to have been able to add Obama to that any case, we shall continue to choose good fruit and good trees that produce it.

Posted by: denim39 | January 1, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

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