A year into the afterglow of Obama's election, the liberal base is as depressed as it's been since before Democrats swept Congress in 2006. President Obama's personal approval rating remains high among Democrats, but has dropped precipitously among independents. Fewer Americans self-describe as Democrats and far fewer as liberals. A faction of liberals has even worked actively against
Obama's plans, attempting to kill health care reform.
Deflated Democratic enthusiasm is certainly part of why the race to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat has gone
from sure Democratic shoo-in to likely Republican victory. From exultation to the doldrums in a dozen months--why
have liberals turned against Obama and Democrats so quickly?
- Blame Self-Aggrandizing 'Real Progressives' TalkingPointsMemo's Bernard Avishai doesn't like them. "The real question Democrats have to ask themselves is: how come the greatest piece of social legislation since Medicare is something a progressive Democratic candidate for Ted Kennedy's seat has to speak so defensively about?" He answers, "[L]ook no further than Howard Dean, and MSNBC, and Arianna Huffington, and, yes, some columnists at the Times and bloggers here at TPM--you know, real progressives--who have lambasted Obama again and again [...] Meanwhile the undecideds are thinking: 'Hell, if his own people think he's a sell-out and jerk, why should we support this?'"
- Typical Liberal Self-Sabotage Mother Jones's Kevin Drum sees nothing new. "Conservatives gave Bush five or six years before they really turned on him, and even then they revolted more against the Republican establishment than against Bush himself. But the left? It took about ten months. And the depth of the revolt against Obama has been striking too," he writes. "It's extraordinarily self-destructive behavior -- and typically liberal, unfortunately. Just ask LBJ, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. And then ask them whether liberal revolt, in the end, strengthened liberalism or conservatism."
- The Democratic 'Base Problem' Matthew Yglesias explores much-discussed polls shows that, consistently, only about 20% of Americans self-identify as "liberal", while "conservative" and "independent" each claim about 40%. Republican Presidents can safely portray themselves as proudly conservatives and thus earn greater trust and wider latitude from their conservative base. But Democratic Presidents can't portray themselves as proudly liberal. "Politics, however, has a large tribal element. People like the people who are 'on their side' and want to support politicians who are on their side." As a result, the liberal base is often skeptical and much quicker to turn against Democrats.
- Legacy of Clinton Era Liberal blogger John Cole thinks the backlash has roots from the last Dem presidency. "I'm against doing self-defeating things, and what I see lately is a lot of magical thinking and self-defeating tactics at work," he writes. However, "I understand a lot of what is going on predates my entrance into the Democratic party- progressives and gay right activists have a long history of being sh** on by the DLC crowd, Clinton took them for a ride, and now they think [White House Chief of Staff] Rahm [Emanuel] and Obama are doing the same thing. Republicans didn't pass DOMA, DADT, welfare reform, etc., after all."
- 'Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale' That's how liberal blogger Tbogg mockingly defined the Nader-supporting outraged left--the same left that has turned against Obama--in a classic blog post from February 2008.
Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.
You don't live there.
Grow the f*** up.