There's a lot of truth in what John Nichols says in The Nation:
In what he admitted was an "inartful" diatribe, the press secretary unleashed on lefties who have objected to Obama's many compromises on economic and social issues and, above all, with regard to the expansion of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.The "professional left," claimed Gibbs, is just a complaint club that will only " be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality." (If we are deferring to reality, it is probably worth noting that very few people on the left propose Pentagon "elimination," although many of them agree with Congressmen Barney Frank and Ron Paul on the need to address the abuses and excesses in defense budgets.)
Gibbs hit with the left with what he apparently thought was his best shot: "They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president."
Of course, what Gibbs failed to note, as Nichols points out, is the strong support the fledgling Obama campaign received from the left at critical moments in the campaign. Or we'd be pretty angry at President Hillary right now.
There's a lot of understandable anger from the left. We outlasted the wingnut right and their eight year Presidency and decades-long Congressional hijacking, and we expected more from an incoming Democratic President. Here's the thing: we did not win the election for Obama. At best, we gave him an early, fighting chance to win the Presidential nomination, and that's an old favor that should have been called in long ago.
As the saying goes, if you want a friend in DC, get a dog. We thought Obama might be our puppy, which conveniently ignored the reality those of us who were Hillbots kept hammering at over and over: Obama is essentially a centrist candidate.
He had to be. The dirty fact of American politics is, radicalism does not win elections. It wins nominations, so if you're going to anticipate some sort of quid pro quo, you better be hoping for great seats at the nominating convention, because after that, you're useless. And if you don't believe me, ask any right winger who is still waiting, thirty years on, for Roe v Wade to be overturned.
Indeed, liberals have been more fortunate than our conservative counterparts in enacting legislation that advances our causes, mostly because they are the right things to do and the majority of this country knows it. They know that unfettered capitalism is cannibalistic to the economy and to the American population. They know that a woman's pregnancy should be her decision alone, with some consideration given to the baby the further along its developed. They know that mass ownership of guns is a dangerous thing, and needs to be overseen and regulated at least as well as a car.
They get it. They get that private health insurance-- while better than no insurance-- is not the best we can do, particularly when we look around us and see nations giving healthcare to their populace no questions asked. They get that war has far fewer advantages to a nation than it has disadvantages, particularly an unnecessary war.
But those same people have been made afraid of these changes by the very frustrated and frightened right. By putting up obstacles, we liberals have become frustrated and feeling a measure of impotence, as well. Advances that we thought were secure, like the Great Society, have been eroded and then successfully scaled back by a party bent on making us all hang separately.
And doing it in the name of Christian charity.
My study and experiences with the American political landscape have made me an incrementalist. I confess to that. That makes me a wee bit unpopular in some circles, and I'm OK with that. Radical change happened in the Sixties, and we're paying a toll for that now and have been for thirty years as every "reform" has been laid at the feet of "dirty fucking hippies".
And yet, there's a part of me that's also anarchistic. I see that companies can patent my genome, and imagine the worst scenario that if I contract cancer, I'll be charged a royalty. I see corporations flat out buy elections for candidates, and wonder how my voice can ever be heard again. I see politicians cynically claim to be for something, then in a miraculous change of heart, come out against the very thing they proposed.
And I wonder if incrementalism is a viable option anymore. The worst part about that sentiment is, I may never know. Change in America happens in fits and starts, and can be either evolutionary or revolutionary. It may happen in the next ten years that steps to fight global warming will finally be taken as the Midwest and the Farm Belt choke on another Dust Bowl. And who knows, those steps might even work.
Or it may happen not in my child's lifetime, but in my grandchild's lifetime and be woefully too little, way too late, and evolution will leave us in the dust.