I had a discussion with a tree-hugging hippy progressive last night at a dinner party. It was a rare chance to talk to an Obama-hating liberal face-to-face.

Amazingly, the experience was almost indistinguishable from talking to a Beck-loving libertarian. They start out by saying things they don't actually mean - in this case, stuff like "Obama is indistinguishable from Bush," and "The Democrats are just as corporatist as the Republicans."

Edit: Apparently I failed to make my point with absolute clarity. If it helps, Troubadour has graciously allowed me to repost his concise summary:

There is a difference between citizen leadership - advocating for the right course of action well before it's popular - and angrily demanding that public officials ignore everyone but you and just impose your will by fiat.  

These are people who don't get the concept of representative government - they think the job of representatives is to represent them personally, like a private attorney, rather than the general views of their constituents.


Of course there is a grain of truth to these claims (indeed, there are grains of truth in half the stuff Beck says). But the accidental gleam of a reflected truth is not enough to qualify a statement as reasonable. Obama is following Bush policy on some things (heck, on a lot of things, such as farm policy); but by that logic, he's following Stalin's policy on some things (Stalin collected taxes and reviewed military parades!). And of course the Democratic party is riddled with corporate corruption. It could hardly fail to be - the entire institution lives and breathes it. But being unable to tell the difference between Barney Frank and Dick Cheney is just... bizarre.

When she complained about how compromising Obama was, even with the intractable Repugnatins, I pointed out his long game strategy: of course he knew that the Republicans were going to block everything he did. He always knew that. But the public didn't know it.

I explained to her that one of her own step-sons had not caught on to the Republican strategy until the Bunning affair. He had actually called me to complain that Obama was not being bipartisan enough, because this Bunning guy was on to something. Bunning was standing up for the new PAYGO law! That was a great idea! Why wasn't Obama helping this guy stand up for the PAYGO law?

I had to explain, if Bunning thought PAYGO was such a great idea, why did he vote against it a few weeks earlier?

That was when he got it - the Repugs had become the party of No. And, not coincidentally, that's when the rest of the nation finally seemed to get it, and that's when Obama came out swinging.

I explained this strategy of Obama's, including the brilliant and daring move of not pulling the trigger after the Shelby affair, betting on the Repugs digging even deeper and offering a juicier target, and she agreed: Obama was a great strategist.

So what, really, was the basis of her complaint? What was it she wanted? Why was she complaining about the president of a democracy being compromising and making sure everyone's views were represented? Exasperated, I finally said, "So what you wanted was a dictator, like Bush, except on your side."

And she said, "Yes!"

And I said, "But then, how would that be any better than Bush?"

And she said... "Because we're right!"

Now, at the beginning, I said almost indistinguishable. The difference is this: at a dinner party of liberals and progressives, people laugh when you assert you're just right. And everybody laughed. And she got it; she understood that there was something fundamentally wrong with her position. That's what made it different from arguing with a Beckian: with progressives, apparently, you can still get to a point where they realize they aren't making sense anymore.

Fundamentally, the problem this progressive had, was that her only real opposition to the Bush regime was that it didn't advance her goals. She wasn't objecting to the methods or the process, to the law-breaking or stiff-arming or ignoring public opinion; she was only interested in getting her policies in place, regardless of what other people thought or wanted. She was as convinced of the infallible rightness of her policies as Bush was of his. She thought we should have let the banks fail, because the fallout wouldn't have been that bad: when I asked her, "But what if you were wrong?" her only response was "I'm not wrong." She was unwilling to even examine the possibility that bank collapse could have led to a worse situation than the one we are in now. She was unwilling to pretend, even for a moment, that she might be wrong.

I don't know if the progressive you're dealing with has this problem, but I suspect it may be wide-spread. The good news, however, is that it is curable (or at least treatable); by uncovering and exposing the true source of irritation, it can be lessened. I hope that repeated treatments (combined with the "new" Obama) will effect at least a functional cure before election day.

Originally posted to Yahzi on Sat Apr 17, 2010 at 11:18 AM PDT.

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