For the first two years of the Obama administration, I kept waiting, giving them and Congressional Democrats the benefit of the doubt that they know what they’re doing. Surely, I thought, there must be good reasons I’m not seeing for what appears to be chronic inaction, constant giveaways to the Republicans, and complete lack of control over the political narrative and discourse of every issue. And we’re destined to start seeing positive change soon, right? I’m not holding my breath.
I can understand his disappointment. The Democrats have a bold and exciting legislative agenda. And they deliver …
…well, it’s not everything we dreamed of. We’d wanted a unicorn and all we got was this stupid pony that craps all over the house and kicks holes in the wall.
There’s a popular myth on the left that if the Democrats had just been a bit bolder they could have fulfilled all of our dreams, Care Bear Stare style. I’m sure somebody could write a dissertation on the curious tendency of those on the left (and the right) to write articles to the effect of, “Rather than writing a column, I’m going to write a speech and pretend the President is saying my words I wrote.”
It’s possible that if the more liberal Democrats had just believed harder, they could carried along the nervous center with the strength of their convictions—but I’m doubtful. I think they would have provoked a backlash, accomplished even less than they accomplished, and lost the Senate as well as the House in the 2010 election. The newly elected Tea Party Republicans are trying the bold-agenda-take-no-prisoners approach—and that certainly hasn’t persuaded Democrats to break ranks. We’ll never be able to prove that something we never tried would not have worked—but we should maintain a healthy skepticism about claims that a abstract things like more clear direction from the President could have accomplished things the Senators could not get done. I think such claims are the equivalent of saying, “Getting it done would have taken a miracle—and the President is the closest thing we’ve got to a miracle worker.”
I think it’s important for those of us on the left to acknowledge two things. First, the Democrats have accomplished a lot in the past two years. Second, the Democrats could have accomplished more if we’d gotten them the political support they needed.