Can Obama win back the trust of progressives?
Things have not been looking too good for President Obama these last few days, on the Democratic and Progressive side of the line. Undermined trust from progressives is the last thing he needs. It can be won back, but to do so, he must acknowledge the depths of the surprise and disappointment among progressives who voted for Change, and expected it.
From New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks on Thursday, 08/20/09:
. . . there’s a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. And that’s why the mixed signals on the public option created such an uproar.
Now, politics is the art of the possible. Mr. Obama was never going to get everything his supporters wanted.
But there’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line. It seems as if there is nothing Republicans can do that will draw an administration rebuke: Senator Charles E. Grassley feeds the death panel smear, warning that reform will “pull the plug on grandma,” and two days later the White House declares that it’s still committed to working with him.
It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.
Indeed, no sooner were there reports that the administration might accept co-ops as an alternative to the public option than G.O.P. leaders announced that co-ops, too, were unacceptable.
So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back.
Indeed he does, and this can best be done by admitting that bi-partinsanship cannot be strictly adhered to, cannot and must not be followed by rote, when it is made clear that daily there are those in the GOP who view Obama's committment to unity as a sign of weakness. Sometimes it is OK to be the opposer, to chuck unity for what one knows is needed in a dire hour. It is noble to be flexible, but when needs are pressing, it can veer into wishy-washiness. And that is not an aspect which Barack Obama wears well, nor one that he can afford to have become part of his public profile.
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