I am tired of the insinuations and flat-out accusations that people who support President Obama's administration are not true progressives.
There are at least two classes of progressives: pragmatic progressives and progressive idealists.
Progressive idealists are the mirror image of Teabaggers and other conservative purists. They believe in the goals more than the process, and many are willing to employ extremist tactics (like work with Grover Norquist) to get there. Both these groups will ultimately fail for the following reasons:
1.Neither represents a majority view in the United States;
2.Neither will ever succeed in getting a "pure" candidate elected;
3.If either group did manage to get a "pure" candidate elected, they would learn quickly that Congressional mechanics make it impossible for their chosen candidate to live up to his or her promises short of proclaiming him/herself a dictator, which would assuredly incite a civil war.
Like many Obama supporters here, I consider myself a true progressive. I support all those things I see Obama's critics supporting, and I share some of the criticisms of Obama his detractors have offered.
I support gay marriage, repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, serious restrictions on Wall Street banks and fat-cat corporations, green initiatives, strict environmental protections, animal welfare, tax increases, abortion rights, government transparency, and more.
I oppose war in almost all cases; I abhor racism, sexual discrimination, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; I oppose the Patriot Act, insurance mandates, privatization of public services, abstinence only education, federal funding of religious initiatives, God on my coins, rendition, torture, and rampant nationalism.
I am, however, a pragmatic progressive. I accept that my views do not constitute the views of the majority of American citizens. I accept that we will never succeed in electing a candidate who supports my views in the near future. Further, I recognize that if we did elect a candidate whose views reflected my own, said candidate would never be able to transform those views into law under the current Congressional two-party system.
Obama's life suggests that he is far more progressive than his current accomplishments indicate, but he is walking a tightrope between his values and political failure.
Consider the outcome of failure. Should Obama fail, the following will not occur as a result:
You will not get a true progressive elected (or even nominated) in 2012.
Instead, the following will happen:
You will get a more conservative Republican president elected, who will support progressive policies even less than you imagine Obama does.
The argument that Obama is no different from McCain is just as foolish as Nader's argument that both parties are the same. Have you learned nothing in the last 8 years before Obama's election?
President McCain would have appointed an anti-abortion justice to the Supreme Court instead of Sotomayor, and would do so at every opportunity--and I predict Ginsberg and Stevens will retire before Obama leaves office.
President McCain would have supported insurance reform that allowed insurers to bypass state requirements on what is an allowable exclusion.
President McCain would be bombing Iran right now.
In addition to the progressive values I believe Obama holds in his heart, I also believe he is an honest, decent person who wants to do the right thing. He is also a pragmatist, however, and he realizes that he is president of 100% of the United States, not just the progressive minority. Progressives are not wholly responsible for Obama's election. It was a coalition of progressives and moderates.
Obama also recognizes the reality that he does not have 100% support in Congress; he does not even garner 100% from the Democratic caucus. I believe he governs accordingly, making concessions where necessary for what he believes is the greater good and with a modicum of caution.
I have no doubt that he takes political considerations into mind when making some of his decisions, particularly when deciding how much political capital to spend at once.
People with limited capital renovate their homes one room at a time, building up more capital between each project. Those that borrow and bank on being able to repay it later are liable to find themselves homeless.
I tire of being told I am not progressive enough because I support this president and because I recognize that he was the best option at the time and remains the best option now.
If you want to effect real change, we need to start lower on the political ladder. For example, we need to pay attention to school board elections and ensuring that our school board officials reflect our values and see that our values are taught to our children.
We need to elect progressives at the local level who will make decisions for our cities and states that ultimately pressure the federal government (like the governors who push the federal government for better environmental restrictions) to act according to our states' progressive values.
We need more progressive voices in Congress. We need to work to replace Collins and Snowe with slightly or significantly more progressive democrats. We need to get Lieberman out.
As realists, we need to acknowledge, however, that we are not going to replace Baucus or Nelson or Lincoln with progressives. But we can replace them with candidates who have more integrity.
We also need to accept that we cannot constantly select the MOST progressive candidate and expect to win on a statewide or national level. It's a nice dream, but it is not going to happen in today's country with today's media.
We should view the transformation to a progessive country as a gradual process; we slowly push things more and more to the left. It's sort of like when someone you know gets fat or ages. It happens so gradually, you do not notice. But if that person went away for 5 years and returned 30 pounds heavier and 5 years older, you would be surprised at the level of change.
A gradual expansion of progressive values, which I believe Obama is accomplishing, will move the bar further to the left, making the middle more to the left than it is now.
But if we lose in 2010 and 2012, that bar will be ratcheted so far to the right that the next Democratic candidate to get elected will NOT be any better than John McCain and may even be worse.
Perhaps it has escaped some peoples' notice that there is a lot of fear and turmoil in the country right now among a sizable segment (though not a majority) of the population. This contingent has made veiled and even outright threats of revolution and expressed the desire to overthrow the current government, which it perceives as too progressive. That is also something the President has to consider as he makes decisions. How close are we to the turning point? What will be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back?
As a Daily Kos diarist rightly pointed out last week, we are not Obama's only constituency or even the majority of his constituency. We are only a portion of his supporters. We are also only a small portion of the nation's citizens. As right as we feel we are and our values are, the other 70+ percent of the population feels the same about their values.
When you have two children who are fighting over control of the same toy, sometimes you have to negotiate compromises.
We pragmatic progressives see things with a more nuanced perspective than the "good vs evil" mentality that characterizes the extremists on both sides.
*UPDATED to CLARIFY*
That is not to say you are either pragmatic or an idealist. Obviously, as with any scale, people fall along all lines of the spectrum. Not everyone who opposes Obama is an extremist, just as not everyone who supports him is a "fencesitting" "moderate" "nonDemocratic" person who "doesn't fight for his/her beliefs" (just repeating some of the accusations hurled at me in this thread).
My point, which is apparently willfully being overlooked, is that we are all progressives. We just have different ideas on how to accomplish the same goals.
Some have taken offense to my statement that progressive idealists are the mirror image of teabaggers. I am sorry that the word teabagger is like some kind of red flag, inciting people to jump to the wrong conclusions.
If you have ever studied biology, you would recognize that there are identical twins and there are mirror image twins. Basic identical twins are the same. Mirror image twins are identical but opposites. One will be left handed and one will be right handed. If one has a cowlick on the right, the other has it on the left.
What is it that almost all of us don't like about Teabaggers? It's not their ability to organize. It's not their marches to Washington. It's their beliefs.
We generally hold them to be racist, homophobic, possibly violent, ignorant (a word I've seen used frequently around here about them), and conservative.
What would be the mirror image of that? Supportive of racial equality, supportive of gay rights, not advocating for violence, informed, and liberal.
So why use the word Teabagger at all as a comparison? Because Teabaggers believe in purging the party of those republicans whom they do not believe hold true to all their ideals--like Lindsay Graham or Olympia Snowe.
When one sees calls for going after Al Franken and Bernie Sanders, attacks on Vicki Kennedy, and calls for Obama's investigation or impeachment or that of his staff, one might see this as a desire for some sort of purity--a desire to purge the party of those democrats/liberals whom progressive idealists do not believe hold true to all their ideals. Do I believe it is evil? No. Do I believe such people are stupid? No (despite some of them going out of their way to call me or people who think like me stupid). Do I think it is wrong to work with such progressives? No. I just think they are misguided.
I also think some (not all) progressive idealists are willing to use extremist tactics like some (not all) of the Teabaggers. Do you really think all the teabaggers support armed revolution? Or that all the teabaggers are racists? Or all the teabaggers are birthers? I don't think that.
Extremist tactics--I believe (obviously because I'm writing this)--have a tendency to backfire. That is my pragmatic belief.
If I wanted to say progressive idealists were just like teabaggers, I would have simply said that. It did not match what I was hoping to get across.
Finally, I never said that people were either/or--that you are either pragmatic or idealist. I never divided people into these two categories.
You can continue to decide to take offense; I have no doubt the type of people who relish in telling people like me that we are not "true" progressives and the type of people who want to see Obama investigated and/or impeached were ready to take offense no matter what I said.