By any fair measurement the 111th Congress and the first two years of the Obama Administration have been an incredibly productive time. The list of real legislative accomplishments is long and so is the list of new Executive orders, Presidential Memorandas, rule making and changes to the way the Federal Government is run.
But of course, none of that matters because not everything desired has been accomplished and there have been some compromises along the way that make some of the successes less than perfect. Worst than all of that has been the process used to pursue these policies–Barack Obama just will not follow the game plan of the very knowledgeable pundits, bloggers, activists and thinkers of the left. And we are repeatedly told that this failure of process will lead to our collective doom.
Over and over again we are assured–on issue after issue–that Obama does everything wrong, that he is a sell-out (worse than Bush) and that he must be opposed. And yet somehow progress keeps being made.
This outrage at Obama is something I find curious.
Now I’m not talking about the existence of some specific policy disagreements on specific issues. There are many important issues to advocate for, fight for and to call the Obama Administration to task over when it makes a error–and there have been some errors. But some specific policy disagreements here and there do not–in and by themselves–explain the endless rage at Obama by some on the left. For many the goals and the policies to achieve those goals seem to far less important than the process used to pursue these shared goals. It is this rage about process that I find curious.
As I read the posts and listen to the talking heads voicing this rage it seems that their real beef with Obama is all about process and priorities–strategies and tactics. The anger seems to rooted in the way that Obama approaches issues and not what his goals are. The way that Obama pursues his policy goals seems to piss these folks off far more than the outcomes (which, more often than not, are squarely on the progressive side of the ledger).
The main objection seems not to be about the goals as they seem to be shared between Obama and those who rage at him from the left–but rather to be about the way Obama moves towards these goals in the short term and in the long term. And it is Obama’s focus on the long term that seems to be at the root of most of the rage.
Last week I was glancing through Pravda on the Potomac and one of their writers, Glenn Thrush, came up with an analogy that provided me a fresh way to think about this endless Obama rage. In an otherwise typically useless Politico article, he wrote:
And liberals say President Barack Obama is the biggest sell-out since Bob Dylan went electric.
Setting aside the intentional ‘hippie punching’ of the usage in Politico, I still found the analogy to be an interesting way to think about the nonstop grudge-filled rage that some of the left direct towards Obama and anybody who still supports him. I think the Obama process battles have generated a rage that is similar to that old rage directed at Dylan.
Decades ago, Dylan outraged his folk music fan base by using a process to present his music that they did not understand. Dylan shocked these folksters when plugged in an electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. He turned the established process for how things are done on its head and changed what was possible. More than anything, Dylan let the self-appointed guardians of American music know that he would not be constrained by their narrow definition of what worked, what was allowed and how music could be played. Bob plugged in and told the world that trying new things was cool.
When Dylan went electric it freaked some people out and they hated it. They did not hate the songs. They hated the way that Dylan present the music. They hated that it was different and at odds with the way they thought his music should be presented. Dylan had a very hard time accepting their rage as sensible on any level and from time to time he lashed out at them with comments that some folks today might call ‘attacking his base’.
The analogy struck a chord of relevance with me because time proved Dylan right and the process outrage of the folksters just looks silly in retrospect. And two years into the Obama Administration I think the same can be said about all the process rage directed at President Obama. Perhaps I’m wrong here and all these very knowledgeable pundits, bloggers, activists and thinkers of the left are correct and history will prove their case.
But I doubt that.
From the moment Obama announced his run for the White House to now he has been following his own process and priorities–strategies and tactics–to meet some pretty ambitious progressive goals. So far, the list of accomplishment is long and I doubt there would be a fraction of these successes if he had stuck with the orthodox and predictable game plans of very knowledgeable pundits, bloggers, activists and thinkers who claim to have all the answers for progressive victory. Hell, if he followed their advice he would have never been elected in the first place. And yet for all their rage about how Obama is not following their game plan it is very hard to think of any victories won by anybody who has ever followed their advice.
Based on the evidence so far I think Obama’s approach to getting shit done is more like Dylan’s. I think he has gone electric and that he is changing what is possible in real time. He has produced real results and I expect that the next two years will produce more.
Time will tell.
Those outraged at questions of process have already thrown in the towel and sing their songs of doom daily. I am sure some will express their process outrage in the comments. So it goes.
It may be useful to have a new tag “Obama goes electric” to have at the ready as more and more outburst of outrage erupt from these self-appointed guardians of ‘progressive’ thought in the coming two years. I get that they hate Obama over his refusal to follow their advice, but if we do have any victories in the coming two years it will be because Obama has followed his own plan and not theirs. I get that they hate that reality, but I still find it to be a curious thing.
Anyway, this is a late evening/early morning post that I hope will give all the good folks on the overnight crew something to
argue about discuss.
Have fun and be nice (if you know how).