I think we all agree on that, and all agree that it's better to have him in power today than the Republicans, and that it is rather important to beat again the Republicans in the coming elections.
Then there are two somewhat separate debates added on to this:
- is what Obama doing actually progressive, or not?
- is the best way to meet progressive goals to be satisfied with whatever progress Obama is able to extract from an hopelessly conservative Senate, or to push for more, including by threatening such progress when it is on the table as a best-and-final offer?
- on the first question, I've already described Obama as a "sane conservative" - he is running policies that would have been mainstream right-wing 30 years ago, and which would be mainstream rightwing in most of Europe, he's restoring competence in government (something I consider a major thing in itself, even if it makes few headlines) and he's mostly governing on the line he promised. It's welcome progress from recent years, and it beats the available alternatives on offer at the voting booth. He's doing the best with the system he inherited. But is he a progressive? In my view, not really. I'm of the opinion that the current system is hopelessly flawed and cannot continue as it is in the long term. And I'm not happy that Obama's policies have been to basically patch the system as it is, and push any resolution of its current contradictions further down the road. There will be a real crisis (a much bigger one than last year's) at some point in the future, but it's hard to tell if it's going to be next year or in a decade. Many people think authorities did a good job in avoiding the worst following last year's financial collapse, and that we're now back on the right track; if you're one of them, then the criticism of Obama as a hostage (or, if you're less kind, ally) to the banking lobby makes little sense and I fully appreciate that.
- on the second question, I have a question back: whatever happened to the pledge by the Progressive Caucus not to vote for a bill without the Public Option? By not standing by their threat, they have shown that they can be safely ignored, as before. The credibility of your negotiation stance is a key asset you have when trying to get a better deal, and the ability to walk away from a bad deal is key to that. If progressives can't say no to any bill, however flawed it is from their publicly stated perspective, they will not get anything better.
The Republicans are fucking nuts and must be kept out of power for as long as possible.
And thus you get Lieberman as the sane alternative to the Republicans - and Obama who nicely looks more liberal than Lieberman.
But where is the "fucking nuts" left that scares the right to death and makes them want to compromise with Pelosi at all costs? Where are the people arguing for 90% marginal tax rates on the rich, and cancelling the banking licences of banks that charge usurious rates on credit cards, and closing down the insurance licenses of companies that deny care to anyone, and setting minimum wages at levels that allow for decent living standards, and putting taxes on imports from countries that let kids work or have no environmental rules (all things that get very real public support if you actually ask people rather than pundits and lobbyists)?
To be scary, you have to take decisions that have consequences. If you don't fight for what you say you stand for, you won't get results, and you won't get respect. And without respect, you won't get votes, ultimately.