That’s what E.J. Dionne asks this morning, in a Washington Post column, remarkable — even by Dionne’s standards — for its endless half truths and thorough muddleheadedness.
Me, I’m just impressed that my spellcheck know “muddleheadedness.” Maybe I’ve fisked Dionne once or twice already.
I’m going to skip ahead a bit, because there’s something I just have to save for last.
A quiet left has also been very bad for political moderates.
I’m not sure how that works, exactly, but it’s sure a funny thing to say in Week Two of “Occupy Wall Street.”
The entire political agenda has shifted far to the right because the tea party and extremely conservative ideas have earned so much attention.
A balanced budget is not a far-right idea. Spending no more than you take in is not radical. Jacking up domestic spending to levels unprecedented in peacetime — now that’s way out there. What the Tea Party has done, is bring the debate back to the center.
The political center doesn’t stand a chance unless there is something like a fair fight between the right and the left.
After the profligacy of the Bush years, the political center voted for a freshman Illinois senator who promised a “net spending cut.” When that didn’t work out, they elected a Republican Congress. I’d say the middle of America is making its voice heard just fine.
It’s not surprising that Obama’s election unleashed a conservative backlash. Ironically, disillusionment with George W. Bush’s presidency had pushed Republican politics right, not left. Given the public’s negative verdict on Bush, conservatives shrewdly argued that his failures were caused by his lack of fealty to conservative doctrine. He was cast as a big spender (even if a large chunk of the largesse went to Iraq). He was called too liberal on immigration and a big government guy for bailing out the banks, using federal power to reform the schools, and championing a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Shorter Dionne: Bush was called too liberal because he spent like a liberal.
Even Shorter Dionne: Duh.
Conservative funders realized that pumping up the tea party movement was the most efficient way to build opposition to Obama’s initiatives
And the media became infatuated with the tea party in the summer of 2009, covering its disruptions of congressional town halls with an enthusiasm not visible this summer when many Republicans faced tough questions from their more progressive constituents.
Oh, that biased, right-wing media!
Obama’s victory, in the meantime, partly demobilized the left. With Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, stepped-up organizing didn’t seem quite so urgent.
The astroturf is always greener on our side of the fence, isn’t it E.J.?
The administration was complicit in this, viewing the left’s primary role as supporting whatever the president believed needed to be done. Dissent was discouraged as counterproductive.
What was there to protest? For two years, the Left got its agenda enacted without opposition. You didn’t see a whole lot of Republicans taking to the streets during Reagan’s first term. Of course, Reagan also gave us a booming recovery. So there is that, I suppose.
And anyway, dissent is supposed to be the highest form of patriotism. Except when we do it.
This was not entirely foolish. Facing ferocious resistance from the right, Obama needed all the friends he could get. He feared that left-wing criticism would meld in the public mind with right-wing criticism and weaken him overall.
This is the very thing that happened in 1953’s “Attack of the Mind-Melders!” Low budget, but very effective horror from director Gordon Douglas. Must’ve just come up in Dionne’s Netflix queue.
But the absence of a strong, organized left made it easier for conservatives to label Obama himself as a left-winger. His health care reform is remarkably conservative — yes, it did build on the ideas implemented in Massachusetts that Mitt Romney once bragged about.
Yes. Even Republicans complain that Romney is just too darn far to the right, thus explaining why party moderates Rick Perry and Herman Cain have nibbled into his lead. Or if I may paraphrase Dr. Frasier Crane, “What color is the sky in your world, E.J.?”
It was nothing close to the single-payer plan the left always preferred. His stimulus proposal was too small, not too large. His new Wall Street regulations were a long way from a complete overhaul of American capitalism. Yet Republicans swept the 2010 elections because they painted Obama and the Democrats as being far to the left of their actual achievements.
Obama governed like a far-left president, instead of a far-far left president. This, and the resulting electoral backlash, is because of Republicans.
I have no words.
This week, progressives will highlight a new effort to pursue the road not taken at a conference convened by the Campaign for America’s Future that opens Monday. It is a cooperative venture with a large number of other organizations, notably the American Dream Movement led by Van Jones, a former Obama administration official who wants to show the country what a truly progressive agenda around jobs, health care and equality would look like. Jones freely acknowledges that “we can learn many important lessons from the recent achievements of the libertarian, populist right,” and says of the progressive left: “This is our ‘tea party’ moment – in a positive sense.”
Suddenly, Obama is looking kind of moderate.
What’s been missing in the Obama presidency is the productive interaction with outside groups that Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed with the labor movement and Lyndon B. Johnson with the civil rights movement. Both pushed FDR and LBJ in more progressive directions while also lending them support against their conservative adversaries.
Avowed Communist Van Jones is going to push the President in the right (left!) direction! We’re saved!
This doesn’t show up on a computer screen, but right now I am giggling like a schoolgirl in a cold swimming pool who just accidentally saw her first penis.
The question for the left now, says Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future, is whether progressives can “establish independence and momentum” while also being able “to make a strategic voting choice.” The idea is not to pretend that Obama is as progressive as his core supporters want him to be, but to rally support to him nonetheless as the man standing between the country and the right wing.
Wishing will somehow make it so.
Oh, in case you didn’t know, the Campaign for America’s Future is “a counterweight to the Democratic Leadership Council,” and its board features commie-sympathizer Katrina vanden Heuvel, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, and the mayor of America’s soon-to-fail Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.
How’s that for a winning team?
Dionne concludes with this:
A real left could usefully instruct Americans as to just how moderate the president they elected in 2008 is — and how far to right conservatives have strayed.
The “real left” could make itself useful, by making Obama look sane in comparison. I think they’ve got a good shot of doing just that, right now on Wall Street.
Let’s finish up near the top of E.J.’s piece:
That those two questions [at the top of this page] are not asked very often is a sign of how much of the nation’s political energy has been monopolized by the right from the beginning of Obama’s term. This has skewed media coverage of almost every issue, created the impression that the president is far more liberal than he is, and turned the nation’s agenda away from progressive reform.
Let’s just skip the past the notion that a country recently suffered of a trillion-dollar stimulus, ObamaCare, and Dodd-Frank, and currently threatened with a half-trillion dollar tax-hike being sold as a “jobs bill, really has it its “political energy” “monopolized by the right.”
So let’s think about that last line, but keeping in mind that progressivism is as far left as you can go in American politics. What Dionne said here is that people think the President is a lefty, which is keeping him from enacting his lefty agenda.
And you know what? Dionne is exactly right.
But to answer his question, the Left already has a Tea Party, a group of agitators working tirelessly for its cause. The Left’s problem is, it’s tea party is already in power — in Washington, in the universities and in the Complicit Media.
The rest of us have taken to the streets, because Dionne’s people are already inside the buildings.