With that in mind, the conversation in the progressive blogosphere over the last month has been truly bizarre. Progressives have measured Obama's actions and concluded that he has failed to deliver on core promises and principles. Meanwhile, Obama loyalists like Ezra Klein, Nate Silver, and Josh Marshall have all jumped into the fray to say, 'Whoa! Whoa! That's CRAZY TALK to say that Obama is not a progressive or to say that he has failed to deliver on key promises.' Then they'll trot out a soundbite from the campaign and say, 'See! See! Obama always was a moderate (Republican) and never claimed otherwise.' Strangely they also trot out other soundbites to say 'See! See! Obama really is a true progressive (even though he is acting like a moderate Republican from the Northeast).' (And yes, I know that E. Klein, Silver, and Marshall do not think of themselves as "Obama loyalists" more like just good "mainstream" Newsweek Democrats. But the fact remains that they are doing the heavy lifting for Obama in the progressive blogosphere right now).
And into this scrum walks Micah L. Sifry over at TechPresident with a pitch-perfect analysis of what happened this past year -- how "Yes We Can" became Summers, Geithner, & Emanuel running the country. I'm just going to quote from one paragraph, but I really want to encourage you to read the whole piece, it's really well thought out and well argued:
The truth is that Obama was never nearly as free of dependence on big money donors as the reporting suggested, nor was his movement as bottom-up or people-centric as his marketing implied. And this is the big story of 2009, if you ask me, the meta-story of what did, and didn't happen, in the first year of Obama's administration. The people who voted for him weren't organized in any kind of new or powerful way, and the special interests--banks, energy companies, health interests, car-makers, the military-industrial complex--sat first at the table and wrote the menu. Myth met reality, and came up wanting.
Digby has some great reflections on Sifry's piece too, (here). She writes:
And even someone as cynical as I was about the race was a little bit surprised at how clumsily the White House has handled the politics. It's felt gratuitous, as if the plan was to repeatedly disappoint the base in order to prove their centrist bonafides. That sort of triangulation may have been necessary at another time, but right now it foolishly has moved the debate to the right when the right was badly discredited. It seems to be a matter of policy preference. And there is probably a price to pay for that.
I think some of the feelings of betrayal among progressives stem from the fact that the fundamental equation appears to have has changed. During the campaign, the equation that guided everything was, 'This is about you. We live and die based on our popular grassroots base.' But President Obama's governing philosophy (as implemented by Rahm Emanuel) has been guided by, 'This is about corporation campaign contributions. We will do our best to make things better for everyone with the caveat that we will NOT take any actions that upset our largest donors.' It's hard to have two more radically different guiding philosophies in the space of 12 months. Obama's message to his progressive base has gone from empowering ("Yes, we can!") to condescending ('trust me, it'll all work out') in the space of less than a year.
Maybe it's all just a sad commentary on the progressive movement. A candidate came along who said, "We're the ones we've been waiting for!" and we all swooned with adoration. We heard, "Yes we can" and filled in our own wish list. But I think there was also a wink and a nod orchestrated by the Obama campaign. The heavy emphasis on Obama's background as a community organizer created the impression that MLK himself was resurrected and running for President. Regardless of who led the other person on, after the first year of the Obama administration, it's clear that progressives need to tighten our belts, step back into the trenches, and fight for every single scrap that we can, because ain't no one gonna deliver it for us on a silver platter. And that's probably for the best, progressivism is never about one person, it's a vision of policy based on the idea that collective approaches are almost always better than individual ones. President Obama is gonna make progressives prove our mettle on every single issue for the next eight years. I hope we rise to the challenge.
Update #1. bmaz has an extensive post on this topic over at Firedoglake. Interestingly, in many ways, Firedoglake is building the sort of loud, messy, smart, participatory, nimble, truly progressive political organization that we had hoped would emerge from OFA.