The left in America continues to argue that Obama is too far to the right. They believe they need a strong left-wing people’s movement that will organize and force Obama to the real left, just as the CIO forced FDR to initiate the so-called Second New Deal and pass scores of new laws including Social Security and the Wagner Labor Relations Act. Big Labor also persuaded Roosevelt to undertake the beginning of a shift to something approximating an American social-democracy.
The other analogy, one E.J. Dionne makes in a Washington Post column, is to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which pushed Lyndon B. Johnson to favor and introduce a civil rights bill that would give African-Americans long-delayed legal equality all through the country. As LBJ said in his speech to the nation, using the very words of the movement as his own, “We shall overcome.”
So E.J. Dionne asks: “Why hasn’t there been a tea party on the left? And can President Obama and the American left develop a functional relationship?” His answer is that they must, if Obama is to be the man his supporters thought he was in 2008. He is somewhat jealous, since he writes: “The entire political agenda has shifted far to the right because the tea party and extremely conservative ideas have earned so much attention.”
What he really means is not that the Tea Party gets attention, but that it has managed to mobilize the populace against the very dangerous Obama policies that have wreaked havoc on the economy. Indeed, whatever attention these conservative ideas have received comes in the form of endless attacks on them from the MSM, whose practitioners are committed to liberal shibboleths, and as Ronald Reagan once quipped, “liberals will fight to the death to defend the right of people to agree with them.”
What Dionne complains about is something else: namely, that when Obama won, the Left stopped mobilizing, thinking that all their problems were over, and they took at Obama’s word that he would soon begin the “fundamental transformation of America” that he had promised.
Dionne acknowledges that Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. But he fails to ask since that was the case, why could he not get through the type of legislation he says now is not possible because Republicans control the House? Dionne also says Obama only pretended to be a left-winger; something he could pull off because there was no organized real Left to show that he was not. In his eyes, he only wanted the Left as a force to support his rather mild and cautious semi-reforms, such as ObamaCare.
Thus Dionne treats ObamaCare as a half-measure, which if one compares it to British old-style socialized medicine or total single-payer system favored by the Left, it certainly is. But of course, most Americans have read serious conservative critiques of the existing Obama health care legislation, and know full well that it will completely ruin the health care system we have, drive the price of health care up, and make it less accessible for everyone. And like Paul Krugman, he argues that the problem with the stimulus was not that it could not work and actually made things worse, but that it was not large enough!