"If Obama thinks we're loyal to him," I once said on a comment at the Daily Kos, "he should know we're even more loyal to our principles". I paraphrase, but that was the gist of one of my comments in 2009, on an article about the ever illusive public option during the health care reform debate. I was angry at the possibility of the public option being dropped from health care reform, and starting to buy into the Lefty blogosphere-propagated hysteria that Barack Obama was selling us out.
Then, a lightbulb went off in my head. A voice said, "Well, maybe you should read the actual legislation first, before you decide the President is selling out your values." And so I became one of the roughly 13 people in America to actually "read the bill."
When I read it, I saw that being loyal to my principles and being loyal to this president were not only compatible, but essentially synonymous.
We had the chance to achieve health care reform, 30 million people stood to benefit from it, and it would expand and enhance actual public health care programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and community health centers. I saw that it would end discrimination and exclusion in health insurance based on pre-existing conditions, make preventive care free of copays, cap premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, require mental health coverage, outlaw annual and lifetime limits on coverage, and shift the paradigm of health insurance from one of individual burden to one of shared, social responsibility for the first time in American history through the premium subsidies to people up to 400% of poverty.
We had a chance to do all that, and yet, people claiming to be liberals and progressives were chanting "kill the bill" as loudly as right wing Tea Party conservatives. Every day on "progressive" blogs we were treated with one more ideological naysaying to wreck the best chance of health reform since the passage of Medicare. They wanted to end that chance to shift the paradigm and majorly expand coverage just so they could have a long, drawn-out, ideological debate about putting insurance companies out of business while children with cancer were denied care, women paid extra for health coverage simply for the sin of being female, and senior citizens fell into the Medicare drug coverage donut hole.
I could not do that. I could not, in good conscience, say those children, men and women who needed help could wait until we finished our ideological fight against insurance companies and nothing got passed. People needed help. Urgently. Immediately. We did not have another decade to spend arguing about ideological checklists. It wasn't my pragmatism that told me this. It was my conscience.
It was the health care fight - a fight I mostly fought against ideologue liberals joining forces with the GOP to try to keep people uninsured if they couldn't get their pony demands met - that made me a fan of President Obama's. As you may have guessed from the opening paragraph of this piece, though I voted for him in 2008, I was not sold on this president until well after he took office.
I was sold on him because he, despite outright lies from the Right and backstabbing from the Left, pushed through health reform - because he knew that at the end of the day, it would make a difference in people's lives, no matter how outraged the fundamentalist Right was or how "let down" the fundamentalist Left felt. I was sold on him because he was willing to fight for me long before I decided to fight for him. I was sold on him because he took all the hits to make a difference in my life (I was uninsured at the time).
Yes. Gratitude. Loyalty. Respect. Reverence. Trust. President Obama has earned all of this and more from me, a former skeptic. I am proud to say so.
But what about those "progressives" that did nothing but complained, yelled, and tried to destroy our one chance at health care? What about the ones that not only did so as clickbait but fundraised off their attempt to kill health reform, just the same as the Republicans did? What about those that, instead of pulling together and helping get health reform passed, used it as a racket to raise money while claiming to be liberals?
I think one can safely say that they have justifiably drawn my disappointment, anger, condemnation and contempt.
These purity "progressives" have proven themselves a roadblock in the path of progress just as Republicans have - only, the purity progressives have done it in the name of liberalism. That many of them - Markos Moulitsas, Ed Schultz, Arianna Huffington - are former Republicans is hardly a surprise.
Trying to stop health reform was just the beginning for this crowd. They tarred every one of President Obama's progressive initiatives with charges of timidity, cowardice, inadequacy and downright selling out.
The broadest, most significant re-regulation of the financial sector since the 1930s met with loud moans of not-enough-ism at the president's temerity to merely settle for a set of tough stress tests and regulator-authority to break up big banks should they fail those tests rather than legally limiting the size of a bank to an arbitrary dollar amount. No matter that the same law created the nation's first and only federal agency dedicated to consumer financial protection, and never mind that the largest banks actually all passed their stress tests thanks to this administration's strong regulatory infrastructure. For this purist "progressive" crowd, whether a bank is actually likely to fail is not at all important in the calculation of "too big to fail."
Here, too, these purists could have chosen to help the president get this through. They could have helped balance the Tea Party outcry against the new banking regulations. Instead, they added to it. Instead of making it easier to pass this landmark legislation, they consumed themselves with complaining of the lack of prosecutions of banks and jailing of bankers, while simultaneously raving that Obama's law was too weak to counter the financial deregulation - that is, the legalization of highly risky financial practices - that was mainly responsible for the economic collapse, with no apparent hint of irony.
I suppose you can't both be consistent in your facts and set your donors' hair ablaze so they'd give you more from the "Obama is selling us out" emails.
The Left's petulant children weren't content with their attempts - and eventual failure - to stop health reform and Wall Street Reform. They berated the president for patiently leading a Congressional effort to allow gay Americans to serve openly in the military instead of just halting the enforcement of DADT temporarily by an executive order. Same rants, same fundraising appeals: President Obama is not doing it right enough, fast enough, ball-busting enough. And calling on a black man to "evolve already" on gay marriage as he went through the process? Even as a gay man, I found that reprehensible.
Heck, they even relentlessly attacked the President's economic stimulus package - the largest in US history - as too little and lacking an FDR-style public works program, even though it actually funded lots of public works.
They could have shown Congressional Democrats - and even some Republicans - that voting for the president's agenda would earn them their re-election. Instead, they tried to convince Democrats not to vote to punish the president.
That he actually succeeded in achieving all those progressive goals earned him little credit with the purity crowd even after they cost Democrats the midterms. They happily twisted the knife they'd already planted in his back when he brilliantly engineered a plan to reduce military spending and protect middle-class tax breaks from expiring, and even when he actually raised taxes on the top.
President Obama's record is so progressive that, in fact, even Paul Krugman, who'd initially bashed the president for agreeing to sequestration, had to eventually give him credit for everything from the recovery to dealing with income inequality.
To this day, these "progressives" are trying to claim that President Obama is a sellout to multinational corporations for inking a trade pact with Latin American and Asian countries that globalizes the right to unionize and severely limits corporate rights to prioritize the environment and public health. But hey, if you can raise some mullah by ginning up some xenophobia in white liberals, then why not? So they are once again threatening to punish Democrats.
And who can the breathless panting and unstoppable "Give Us Money to Stop Obama NOW" emails that polluted everyone's inboxes when President Obama dared to offer the Grand Bargain - in which he would accept minimal adjustments to Social Security while actually strengthening it for those who need it most in exchange for Republicans agreeing to significantly raise taxes on the wealthy? OMG catfood comishun!
The president's strategic move to put Republicans on the spot for their rhetoric about entitlement reform coupled with far reaching progressive tax reform was not only lost on the "progressive" racketeers, they helped the GOP kill what could have been a massive boost to investment in jobs and education just so they could fearmonger about Social Security and call Barack Obama a sellout.
The purity Left's betrayal reaches beyond picking fights against achieving real progress for working people. They have canonized traitors like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. That Snowden is a right wing plant is of little concern to them, as is the fact that Greenwald promotes anti-government hate groups and advocates for child rapists' right to circumvent fourth amendment warrants.
There are a million other outcries and poutrages. The president who's tripled America's wind-power generation and increased solar production 20-fold is somehow inadequate because he still allows oil companies to drill, a president who has ended two combat missions and brought hundreds of thousands of soldiers home is somehow a warmonger because DRONES!
I could go on, and I do apologize for the length of this article, but these self-appointed gatekeepers of progressivism, by putting their ideological zealotry over progress, have not just let President Obama down, but they let progress down. They let America down. When they could have helped, they chose to pout and cry. When we needed their help, they chose to throw a tantrum. When the president needed them to have his back as he took the hits from the Right, they stabbed him in the back.
They, like the Tea Party, let America down. And like the Tea Party, it's time for America to leave them behind.