As you may expect, liberal Democrats have a long list of actions and programs they would like President Barack Obama execute once he assumes office. Katrina Vanden Heuvel proposes a realistic progressive agenda for the first 100 days (in some cases, first 1,000).
David Sirota proposes a change of attitude — a growth of backbone, if you will — among progressive Democrats wielding political power.
To meet the challenge, Democrats have to abandon their worst habits.
They must, for instance, acknowledge their progressive mandate, rather than denying it like Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did on Tuesday. “This is not a mandate for a political party or an ideology,” he fearfully told reporters.
They should also retire the Innocent Bystander Fable — the myth about being powerless onlookers. Democrats first cited this fable as reason the Iraq War continued during their congressional majority — expecting the country to forget that Congress can halt war funding. Today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says “there’s not much we can do” to amend the sputtering bank bailout. In 2009, such mendacity will metastasize from banal dishonesty into grist for scathing comedy-show punch lines.
Democrats need to discard other lies, too — especially those about Bill Clinton. To hear pundits tell it, Clinton’s first-term pitfalls underscore why the next administration should avoid “governing in a way that is, or seems, skewed to the left,” as the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus most recently asserted. History, of course, proves the opposite. Recounting Clinton’s early years to Politico.com, a lobbyist correctly noted that the new president didn’t move left — he pushed conservative policies like NAFTA, thereby demoralizing his base and helping Republicans take Congress.
If anyone has any reservations that this is somehow “too radical” or “too partisan” or whatever, Paul Krugman explains that Obama has, in fact, a strong mandate for a progressive agenda:
About the political argument: Anyone who doubts that we’ve had a major political realignment should look at what’s happened to Congress. After the 2004 election, there were many declarations that we’d entered a long-term, perhaps permanent era of Republican dominance. Since then, Democrats have won back-to-back victories, picking up at least 12 Senate seats and more than 50 House seats. They now have bigger majorities in both houses than the G.O.P. ever achieved in its 12-year reign.
Bear in mind, also, that this year’s presidential election was a clear referendum on political philosophies — and the progressive philosophy won.
Maybe the best way to highlight the importance of that fact is to contrast this year’s campaign with what happened four years ago. In 2004, President Bush concealed his real agenda. He basically ran as the nation’s defender against gay married terrorists, leaving even his supporters nonplussed when he announced, soon after the election was over, that his first priority was Social Security privatization. That wasn’t what people thought they had been voting for, and the privatization campaign quickly devolved from juggernaut to farce.
This year, however, Mr. Obama ran on a platform of guaranteed health care and tax breaks for the middle class, paid for with higher taxes on the affluent. John McCain denounced his opponent as a socialist and a “redistributor,” but America voted for him anyway. That’s a real mandate.
All of this sounds great. Next week I will be posting a cartoon on unrealistic expectations I have heard liberals heap on Obama’s shoulders in only the last couple days. Yet there is nothing in the articles I link to in this post that I believe is unfeasable. So long as Democrats take Sirota’s advice, of course. Perhaps the kind of disappointment many of us have felt in the recent past has prompted Obama to appoint Rahm Emmanuel as his bull dog. Cross yer fingaz!