The Universal Notebook: 'Mr. President, why do you hate us?'
Back on April Fool’s Day, when President Barack Obama spoke in support of health care reform at the Portland Exposition Building, among the tea party protesters outside was a lady carrying a sign that read “Mr. President, why do you hate us?”
Eight months later, liberal Democrats like myself might well ask the same stupid question.
In the wake of historic Republican gains in last month’s elections, President Obama seems far more critical of the progressives who helped elect than him than he is of the conservatives who oppose everything he is and does.
The disaffection, even animosity, between the president and his Democratic base came to head last week after Obama caved in to Republican demands to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Obama could have landed a knockout blow by forcing Republicans to show their true colors as the party of the rich. He could have engineered an up-or-down vote on a bill to extend the tax cuts only for those Americans making less than $250,000.
But Obama let the GOP off the ropes and essentially carried them through the rest of the fight, capitulating not only on tax breaks for the rich, but also making generous concessions on inheritances taxes. The whole stinking deal adds another $900 billion to the national debt, so please, Mr. & Mrs. Republican, don’t pretend that you’re seriously concerned about deficit spending.
To give him some credit, President Obama threw the fight because he was afraid Republicans would force everyone’s taxes to go up and refuse to extend unemployment benefits if they couldn’t get tax breaks for the rich. Class warfare at its most blatant.
Of course, Obama had already alienated his progressive base by the run-up to the fall elections. If he hadn’t, Democrats would have been out in force defending the great successes of the Obama administration. Instead they were sitting on their hands, afraid to be too closely associated with health-care reform, bank bailouts, and stimulus spending.
The disillusionment with Obama on the left is easy to explain. He didn’t fight for a public health insurance option. He hasn’t gotten the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He hasn’t invested enough stimulus money in job creation. He hasn’t repealed "don’t ask, don’t tell." He hasn’t championed marriage equality. He hasn’t closed Gitmo. He’s too willing to compromise. Despite what crackpots on the right say, he has become a moderate. And now he’s let Republicans intimidate him into a millionaire bailout that even billionaires like Warren Buffet have said is unnecessary and ineffective.
What I keep wondering is “What ever happened to Joe Biden?” The vice president should have been out there as the Obama attack dog, putting the lie to the scurrilous right-wing cant that Obama is a “socialist.” Now I have to wonder whether Obama, his finger in the reactionary wind, muzzled Biden so he wouldn’t further anger middle-class America.
I’ll admit that I was a latecomer to supporting Obama. Early on, I thought he lacked sufficient experience to be president. He won me over with his forceful rhetoric of change. Now I’m one of those “sanctimonious” liberals who wonders whatever happened to the Barack Obama I voted for. I guess the Oval Office inevitably changes whoever occupies it.
Obama talked his way into the White House in 2008 and he may well talk his way right back out again in 2012 unless he stops alienating members of his own party.
Republicans aren’t going to support him just because he caves to their demands favoring the wealthy and corporations. He may think that by being seen as a pragmatic compromiser he can appeal to enough independents to win re-election, but without the enthusiastic support of the progressives, the young and the minorities that elected him, in two years he may find himself baseless and out of a job.