Vindicated by new polls, progressive bloggers and activists will determine President Obama’s political fate
The defining conflict of the Obama presidency is not between the White House and Republicans. It’s not between the White House and the Tea Party. It’s between President Obama and the left, specifically between Obama and progressive opinion-makers and online activists.
It’s no coincidence that the angriest barbs from this White House have been directed at the netroots. And it’s no surprise that the media and political establishment – along with a vitriolic cadre of Obama supporters – are mortified by the principled left, simultaneously dismissing them as bit players and accusing them of being ingrates who are damaging Obama’s reelection prospects (hint: you can’t be both).
I’ve repeated a version of this thesis for years: a handful of influential progressive opinion-makers are canaries in the coal mine, propounding and presaging views and arguments later adopted by rank and file Democrats.
It’s been that way since the dawn of the blogosphere and has only been magnified with Twitter and other online platforms. Just as the netroots laid the groundwork for the eventual downfall of the Bush presidency, the sharp, insistent, principled critiques of President Obama emanating from the left on civil liberties, women’s reproductive rights, gay rights, the environment, secrecy, executive power, the economy, war, among other issues, have had a profoundly outsized effect on perceptions of this president.
Recent polls (including Gallup, which shows a double-digit decline among liberals) indicate significant erosion of support for Obama among groups who propelled him to victory in 2008, reinforcing the idea that reality is catching up with netroots criticism. This crumbling of support is typically attributed by pundits to the poor economy, but the problem is more complicated: it’s the poor economy coupled with the sense (fair or unfair) that Barack Obama has no convictions, no moral center, nothing for which he will take an unwavering stand.
That perception of a lack of convictions can’t be attributed solely to attacks from the right, since they can be discounted as partisan. It’s when the left makes that argument that conventional wisdom congeals.
In an article titled Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S., the New York Times highlights the connection between Anders Behring Breivik and American bloggers:
The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them…
His manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch Web site, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.
Mr. Breivik frequently cited another blog, Atlas Shrugs, and recommended the Gates of Vienna among Web sites. Pamela Geller, an outspoken critic of Islam who runs Atlas Shrugs, wrote on her blog Sunday that any assertion that she or other antijihad writers bore any responsibility for Mr. Breivik’s actions was “ridiculous.”
Much as I find Geller’s writing execrable, the primary responsibility for the slaughter in Norway rests with the cowardly killer and not the hate-mongers he quotes in his pathetic manifesto.
That’s not to say that there are no consequences for spewing a constant stream of hatred and intolerance.
After the Giffords shooting, I wrote about eliminationism on the right. My focus was on the invective directed by rightwingers at the left, but it also applies to anti-Muslim bigotry rampant on a number of conservative sites…
This will be a very brief post.
In a word, a handful of liberal bloggers warned you every step of the way for two years: ignore progressive values at your own peril — and ours. Governing on principle is good politics. Trashing your principles because focus groups tell you to do so is bad politics.
I’ll say this again: If you stand up for your principles, you may lose the election but keep your principles; if you ditch your principles, you’ll lose both.
Listen to the bloggers who give a damn whether you win or lose. Don’t listen to crusty Beltway pundits who watched your rise with silent disdain and now watch your fall with silent glee.
Listen to a community of activists who understand politics better than your brilliant insider strategists.
The midterm results speak for themselves. You mocked and marginalized those whose advice would have saved you control of the House. Now it’s time to listen to them, to respect their collective wisdom.
They helped take Bush down. They can help lift you back up.