As per usual, Chris Cillizza perfectly sums up an axiom in Washington with his headline, “Liberals Hate the Debt Deal. So What?” First of all, the polling shows that everyone hates the debt deal, particularly those independents who were supposed to be wooed by it, but let that go. The view from Washington is that liberals have no place to go, so their concerns are simply not valued. And so in Cillizza’s mind, “it’s hard to see the long-term impact.” That’s probably because Cillizza isn’t unemployed. At that point I’m sure he would figure it out.

The reasons for the gloomy sentiment are clear. Data on Friday showed the US economy growing at just 1.3 per cent a year in the second quarter, well below expectations in a report undermined further by heavy downgrades to previous readings. This week, several manufacturing activity reports – often correlated with stock market performance – pointed to slowing growth. Attention will now turn to Friday’s US employment data

“Unless we are missing something the US is one false move away from a recession,” says Jim Reid, strategist at Deutsche Bank, who has warned the US could be approaching a “1937 moment” – when authorities removed post-Depression stimuli from still-fragile markets and triggered another recession. This risk, he says, has in fact only been magnified in the markets’ eyes by agreement on raising the US debt ceiling.

I can’t speak for all liberals, but for myself, I am not quite as concerned about the politics of the Obama Administration as the policies. And the political media always confuses the two. Witness this senior Democrat’s response to Ben Smith (why Ben gave him anonymity I’ll never know) about how the Obama Administration has failed to convince America in a belief in government:

We didn’t lose this fight. Barack Obama was in law school when this fight was lost.

The role of Democrats should not be to convince people that government is great; it should be to help people reach their potential — and government is a tool to do that. There has been a strain of skepticism about the government in the American character since the founding. Only the New Deal changed that significantly, but we have been returning to the norm ever since then.

This is the core of the left’s critique — the country doesn’t agree with us, so take what political capital you have and use it to convince people to agree with us. But the presidency is not a Brookings lecture series; it’s about governing the country and making a difference.

So much to say here. First there’s the idea that the New Deal was a blip, something that the people who run the party fundamentally don’t really believe in. Good to know. Second, didn’t the President run on hope and change you can believe in? It’s really not in his resume to tout what governments can do that is too big for individuals to do themselves? Doesn’t he like talking about his own success?

FInally, this is not the core of the left’s critique, at least not to me. The core of the left’s critique is that the President is not governing the country well. Have you seen the unemployment rate lately? The foreclosure statistics? Poverty? Have you tallied up the country’s wars, both on and off the books? It’s the lack of a difference being made that’s the problem, period, full stop. It’s the lack of attention to the pain and suffering of millions of people.

If liberals are anything in this formulation, it would be as the canaries in the coal mine, the early-warning system. They were right about the 2010 election and they don’t see any of the fundamentals changing for 2012. I have no problem with self-criticism on the left. The idea that we haven’t rallied the nation to our causes isn’t without merit. But being undermined by the entire political party – not just the top of it – on those causes doesn’t exactly help matters.

David Dayen

David Dayen