[I had written this as an update to the last post, but I’ve decided to make it a separate post.]
See Steve M., “There Is More to Politics Than Elections.”
I’ve said this before — repeatedly, I think — but I’ll say it again: the most successful progressive movement of the last 60 years was the civil rights movement, and it didn’t focus obsessively on elections. Get JFK elected and we’ll be free! Primary JFK because he’s not moving fast enough! That’s not what the civil rights movement did. The civil rights movement focused on issues — voting rights, desegregation of schools and lunch counters and buses and bus terminals, and on and on. Any interest in elections was in the service of the movement’s goals; it wasn’t the other way around, the way it always seems to be with lefties today. And there were great successes.
There’s an attitude that all we need to do is elect the Magic Politician, and then we can sit back and relax and everything will be fine. You see the attitude across the political spectrum. On the Right, you see them falling passionately in love with this or that politician — Sarah Palin, for example. They were passionately in love with George W. Bush for a long time, although now they like to pretend they weren’t. Sort of the way you might have felt about that jerk of a boyfriend once you got over him.
Over the past few days on one leftie site after another I’ve seen people claim that if only we had elected Hillary Clinton to the White House things would be so much better, because she is tougher and more progressive. People who think that are clueless about her Senate record, but never mind. The less you know about a politician, the easier to turn him or her into a blank slate to project your hopes on.
Believing the President should be able to fix everything if he really wants to is magical thinking. It’s as if Congress doesn’t exist at all, or else Congress is only a slight inconvenience to a president’s using his unlimited authority to do anything he wants. (Read Kevin Drum’s “Presidential Power” if you haven’t already.)
I’m not saying that President Obama hasn’t made mistakes. But I’m saying that progressives aren’t helping their own cause when they spend all their energy whining about President Obama. Where were we during the stimulus fight? Where were we during the debt ceiling battles?
Sitting on our butts whining about Obama, that’s what.
At the very least, we ought to be doing everything we can do to move public opinion, because ultimately public opinion is the real obstacle to progressive policies. People are getting all of their “education” about political issues from the Right. They’ve been sold on the idea that deficits and government over-spending are the problem, which makes it just about impossible for a President or any other politician to lead them in a different direction.
Progressives ought to be waging an all-out information war to get the public to understand why progressive policies are in their best interest. Instead, we mostly just talk to ourselves.