I hear the base feels that elected Democrats have shown contempt for the base since 2008, and is really tired of a lot of things: Being taken for granted, for instance, and Democrats doing stuff that the base doesn’t want them to do — not least, President Obama becoming more and more, as they say, “like Bush.” And so, I’ve been told, the base might just abandon the President (and his party) — and will certainly fight him tooth and nail, tear its hair and gnash its teeth — what with having being thrown so unceremoniously under the bus. And all.
I just have one question.
If y’all are “the base” — what the hell am I?
I have spent my entire adult life working on social justice causes, whether professionally or on a volunteer basis. I believe that every single person on earth deserves fully equal rights, by virtue of their very humanity, and I border on the socialist in terms of what I think the State should be responsible for. I like unions, I hate torture, and I really wanted single-payer health care.
Moreover, I’m a life-long Democrat. I’ve never knowingly voted for a Republican, and I don’t believe I ever knowingly will. I volunteered with the Democrats in 2008 and 2010, and I will do so again in 2012. I’m not sure that the following is anything to brag about, but the simple fact is that I make all of my personal political choices — all of them — based on what will or will not help the Democratic Party. Why? Because like it or not, we have a two-party system, and I want the party that best represents my ideals and philosophy to have an upper hand.
But please note: I said “best represents.” I may be a life-long Democrat, but I am no fool.
I have many disagreements with individual elected Democrats (ask me about Anthony Weiner. Not to mention Chuck Schumer), and with the party as a whole. I have been disappointed by the current President, his positions and policies, on well more than one occasion.
For instance – Gitmo.
I don’t think that Obama is entirely responsible for Gitmo still being open (Congress really did tie his hands), but I do think that he likely could have led with greater conviction in order to convince Congress to do the moral thing. It pains me enormously that we elected a constitutional scholar, yet he appears to be kind of ok with indefinite detention.
And then there’s Israel/Palestine, where Obama came in saying all the right things, and then turned around and commenced to let the Israeli government lead his government by the nose, just like every other President before him.
On health care, I wish the messaging in the lead-up to and during the reform fight had been much, much better — because then the eventual legislation would have also been much, much better than it wound up being.
And I’m not quite ready to let Obama and/or the rest of the party off the hook for losing the House to the damn Tea Party.
I believe that all these matters (and others, no doubt) should be brought before our elected officials. We should advocate for our beliefs, and when Democrats make what we believe to be mistakes, we should tell them so, honestly.
The simple truth is that President Obama has advanced more progressive causes than any President since FDR (not least: health care reform). He ran for the job knowing it would be challenging, and then the job got exponentially harder before he even took office. He is genuinely loathed and feared by millions of Americans — whose fears and loathing are daily ginned up and fortified by people who make their living off of making the President’s job as difficult as humanly possible — and the opposition party has not, as far as I can tell, enjoyed a single day of responsible legislative behavior since he stepped into the Oval Office.
In short: Obama is attempting to do an extraordinarily difficult job under even more extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
I don’t expect him or the rest of his party not to screw up. Nor do I expect them to always agree with me, or read my mind. I expect them to stick as close as they can to the general outline of the party platform, and maintain an even-keeled pragmatism that allows them to recognize when a hill is worth dying on, and when it’s not.
And after eight years of the Bush Administration’s scorched earth policies and contempt for both reason and the American people, I remain grateful that we have a President who acts like an adult, and treats the American people as adults. He’s not perfect — but Obama is pretty good.
So, “base”? Shut up.
You do not get to speak for me, nor do you get to speak for the vast majority of the actual Democratic base —
90% 80%* of whom think Obama’s doing pretty ok, thanks for asking.
There are much greater things at stake here than our personal feelings of pique or individual dreams of instantaneous world improvement. Remember the last time y’all said a Democrat was “just like Bush”?
It was eleven years ago, and Al Gore lost by a hair and a stolen vote.
How’s that working out for you?
*Update: To my very real chagrin, it was called to my attention that I had initially linked to some very, very old approval numbers — my only excuse is that I saw the date on the webpage and then must have gotten distracted. I am very sorry for my error. The corrected statistic (80% Democratic approval) reflects Gallup Poll statistics from March28-April 3, 2011.