Obama and a Paucity of Progressives
Not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration. Not one. Remember this is the movement that was right about Iraq, right about wage stagnation and inequality, right about financial deregulation, right about global warming and right about health care. And I don’t just mean in that in a sectarian way. I mean to say that the emerging establishment consensus on all of these issues came from the left. There’s tons of things the left is right about that aren’t even close to mainstream (taking a hatchet to the national security state and ending the prison industrial complex to name just two), but hopefully we’re moving there.
Many people managed to convince themselves that Obama was a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool progressive at some point during the primaries. For no reason as far as I could tell — his voting record in the Senate was pretty much identical to Hillary Clinton’s, and the people he surrounded himself with weren’t exactly "outsiders." But in the midst of the pie fights, that hardly seemed worth dwelling on for the pointless vitriolic arguments it would have engendered.
I’m actually modestly sympathetic to his current predicament. There are an awful lot of entrenched interests who will quickly line up to sabotage Obama if they think their privilege is threatened before he’s even out of the gate — we’re talking about a group of bitter Beltway denizens, after all, who hamstrung Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter for populating their administrations with "outsiders" simply for the catty, junior high hell of it.
Obama is going to have to keep these vultures somewhat quiescent if he’s going to achieve any real change.
His isn’t the administration I’d pick, but the proof will be in what he actually does. If for instance he sets up a panel to take on torture, opens up intelligence files and lets the public know how this horrible, malignant policy came to pass, it will go a long way towards assuring people that a choice like Brennan for CIA chief isn’t just "business as usual."
Look, for people who convinced themselves that Obama was the second coming of Saul Alinsky — wake up. He never was. He may, however, be the most progressive person we could have possibly hoped to elect as President of the United States.
Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to help keep the obstructionists off his back and push him to fulfill his campaign promises to end the war, pass health care legislation and the Employee Free Choice Act, clean up the environment, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, repair our infrastructure, create good jobs and restore the middle class.
That’s what he promised us, and while I’m obviously not wild about the dearth of progressives in his administration (while anti-choicers like Hagel and Lugar are evidently a-okay), I’m less concerned with who he chooses to implement his policies than with his ability to ultimately do so.