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So this is going to take awhile, but frankly, I've gotten quite sick of the circular firing squad that has become institutionalized on this site, which is supposedly devoted to electing Democrats.

I'll start off with my comment signature line:

Preaching to the choir and then shooting them when they don't sing loud enough isn't a good strategy for increasing the size of the congregation.

It's my sig line because people on both sides of the neverending pissing contest should sympathize with.  But it's also aimed at both sides of the contest.  The underlying message is this: We're all on the same side here.  No, really.  We are.  And while I hold no illusions that a "hey everyone, calm down, kiss, and make up" diary will make the rec list (or that I'm the first person to post one), hopefully at least a few people will read this and reflect.

Let me tell you where I stand in this debate.

[Matisyahu puts him arm around Cenk Uygur]

Let me start of by saying that I, for one, am disappointed in President Obama's performance so far.  I thought he took way too long to realize that the GOP had no intention of compromising with him.  I thought he ceded the bully pulpit of the White House and squandered an opportunity to pass health care and energy legislation during his first few months in office, when his political capital was sky-high and would never be higher.  If he had passed them then, when his approval rating was in the 60s, no one could have plausibly accuse him - as they can now - of defying the will of the American people.  Basically, Obama lost his opportunity to play the "mandate" card.

It's really tough to overstate how much of an opportunity we lost.  In all likelihood, we will never see a 60-40 majority in the Senate or a 75-seat majority in the House, much less both, in this generation.  That was the golden opportunity we've been waiting for.  It's gone now.  And frankly, I think it's gone because Obama spent too much time waiting for Republicans to come to their senses and meet him halfway.  So I don't just sympathize with the  progressives who are frustrated or even angry, I empathize because I myself am frustrated, flabbergasted, and befuddled.

[Matisyahu puts him arm around deniac83]

That being said, I don't blame him - as many around here seem to - for trying.  There are two fundamental truths that people who say "to hell with all bipartisanship" fail to understand.  First off, conservatives and moderates aren't going away.  Second, we need moderates' support to stay in power.  Sorry, but progressives do not, by themselves, constitute a majority.  We have to find a way to appeal to moderates, people who agree with us on many issues and disagree with us on many others.  We had to at least make an effort to reach across the aisle - both to win over moderates and to show those moderates that we are not going to kick people to the curb and lock them out just because we disagree with them.  Bush managed to keep moderates in 2004 because the country was still terrified after 9/11.  Once that fear wore off and the GOP's intransigence became clear, moderates swung our way and gave us control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.

Did Obama go too far in the "willing to compromise" direction?  I think so, yes.  But to say that we should have never even tried to look bipartisan is just mind-boggling considering that Obama's victory in 2008 came in large part because moderates - who constituted 44% of the electorate in 2008 - had abandoned the GOP en masse and voted 60-39 for Obama.  We can't ignore swing voters, however much some people may despise their ideological wishy-washiness.

[Matisyahu turns and faces the audience]

It's always a delicate balancing act, trying to keep the base satisfied without alienating moderates.  Democrats have been consistently terrible at it because we, by and large, have more infighting and far worse "message control" and PR than the GOP.  On the other side of the aisle, the conservative Great Communicator was also the same guy who instituted the Eleventh Commandment.  Frankly, I would settle for one or the other right about now.  I think we can get both, and that would do as much to advance the progressive cause as the neverending pissing contest has damaged it.

What Obama should do is, to me, beautifully simple.  He should model his approach to the one President Bartlett took in the episode "Shutdown" from The West Wing, which was itself based on the Clinton-Gingrich experience from the real-life 1995 shutdown.  He should be the first to extend the olive branch.  Then, when the Republicans inevitably snap that olive branch in half and throw it into a mulcher, he should turn to the cameras and dramatically expose them for the inflexible, dangerous ideologues they are.

Regardless of whether Obama does that, however, we need to get back to remembering that we're all on the same side.  It's not just ok, but actually constructive to criticize Obama's policies and the pace at which he advances them and the tactics he uses to advance them.  On the other hand, it's not constructive to rail against Obama for daring to make a play for the moderate vote.  It's constructive to criticize people who do go too far in bashing Obama and forgetting that he is, in fact, a progressive.  It's not constructive to treat any criticism of Obama as treasonous.

There, ok.  Kumbaya.

Originally posted to Matisyahu on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 06:09 PM PDT.

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