POLITICAL observations & opinions

* Jonathan Chait … When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable? … If every Democratic president disappoints, maybe there’s something wrong with our expectations … LMW: I agree with Chait … it makes no sense that liberals denigrate and look to destroy the presidency of perhaps the most effective liberal president in our history … to me, this reflects a disregard for the actual difficult process of governing in a democracy

Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 23, 2011


President Obama's liberal credentials and performance stack up well against all of these Democratic predecessors



Tom Friedman writes in today’s NYT (11/23/11) … I voted for Barack Obama, and I don’t want my money back.

  • He’s never gotten the credit he deserves for bringing the economy he inherited back from the brink of a depression.
  • He’s fought the war on terrorism in a smart and effective way.
  • He’s making health care possible for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions,
  • and he saved the auto industry.

UPDATE … Charlie Savage reports in the NYT (11/23/11) …

“Mr. Obama has made it a policy goal to diversify the bench in terms of race, gender and life experiences …  the judges he has appointed have been more likely to be women or minorities than those of any previous president.”

LMW … yet another example that what liberal critics find deficient in Mr. Obama seems far more related to their own unrealistic expectations than to the President’s actual performance.


Jonathan Chait writes in New York Magazine (11/28/11) …

  • Liberals speak of Obama in unceasingly despairing terms.
  • it is hard to find a liberal willing to muster any stronger support than halfhearted murmuring about the tough situation Obama inherited, or vague hope that maybe in a second term he can really start doing things.

Why are liberals so desperately unhappy with the Obama presidency?

  • Here is my explanation:
    • Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president.
    • They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing.

Chait then reviews the records of

Clinton, Carter, Johnson, Kennedy, Truman and FDR, 

showing the degree of liberal dissatisfaction with all of them 

  • For almost all of the past 60 years, liberals have been in a near-constant emotional state of despair, punctuated only by brief moments of euphoria and occasional rage.
    • When they’re not in charge, things are so bleak they threaten to move to Canada
    • it’s almost more excruciating when they do win elections, and their presidents fail in essentially the same ways
      • He is too accommodating,
      • too timid, too unwilling or
      • unable to inspire the populace.
      • (Except for Johnson, who was a bloodthirsty warmonger.)
  • What, by contrast, are we to make of third-party activists like Thomas L. Friedman or Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz?
    • They have a president who supports virtually everything they want
      • short-term stimulus, 
      • long-term deficit reduction through a mix of taxes and entitlement cuts, 
      • clean energy, 
      • education reform, 
      • and social liberalism.
    • Yet they are agitating for a third party in order to carry out an agenda that is virtually identical to Obama’s.

*** Chait then lists Obama’s achievements ***

  • the Affordable Care Act combines two sweeping goals—providing coverage to the uninsured and taming runaway medical-cost inflation—that Democrats have tried and failed to achieve for decades.
  • the Recovery Act contained both short-term stimulative measures and increased public investment in infrastructure, green energy, and the like.
  • the Dodd-Frank financial reform, while failing to end the financial industry as we know it, is certainly far from toothless, as measured by the almost fanatical determination of Wall Street and Republicans in Congress to roll it back.
  • A bailout and deep restructuring of the auto industry that is rapidly being repaid, leaving behind a reinvigorated sector in the place of a devastated Midwest.
  • Race to the Top, which leveraged a small amount of federal seed money into a sweeping national wave of education experiments, arguably the most significant reform of public schooling in the history of the United States.
  • A reform of college loans, saving hundreds of billions of dollars by cutting out private middlemen and redirecting some of the savings toward expanded Pell Grants.
  • Historically large new investments in green energy and the beginning of regulation of greenhouse gases.
  • The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women.
  • Elimination of several wasteful defense programs,
  • equality for gays in the military, and
  • consumer-friendly regulation of food safety, tobacco, and credit cards.

read the entire article at … http://nymag.com/news/politics/liberals-jonathan-chait-2011-11/


  • It makes no sense to me that liberals denigrate and look to destroy the presidency of perhaps the most effective liberal president in our history.  
  • There is reflected in the liberals’ thinking a total disregard for the actual difficult process of governing in a democracy. 
  • They seem to think that if they want something, and if Obama also says he wants it, it should just happen … immediately. 
  • Anything less than instant gratification of their every wish, in its full embodiment, with no compromise of any kind, calls for despair and disparagement. 



5 Responses to “* Jonathan Chait … When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable? … If every Democratic president disappoints, maybe there’s something wrong with our expectations … LMW: I agree with Chait … it makes no sense that liberals denigrate and look to destroy the presidency of perhaps the most effective liberal president in our history … to me, this reflects a disregard for the actual difficult process of governing in a democracy”

  1. Harry Schroeder said

    Nothing to complain about in what was written here. But what of the failure to require the bailed-out banks to pass out that money in the form of economy-stimulating loans, instead of letting them use it just to bolster their cash positions? What of his late, very lukewarm, and ultimately failed attempt to raise taxes on the filthy rich, when something like 3/4 of the electorate is in favor of it, and when an eloquent campaign on his part– the kind of thing he’s good at–might very well have worked? What about the naivete of his cooperating, Mister Nice Guy, stance, against an opposition dug in fiercely and unanimously against him at every turn? What about his letting the national discourse be hijacked by congenital liars, and by those asskissing creeps who try to persuade the impressionable that everything would be solved by letting the free market take over all our lives, all of whom could be easily exposed from the White House pulpit? It is becoming increasingly clear, as with the jobs bill, that the Republicans would rather box Obama into a corner so as to beat him next year than go along with him to get the country out of the present economic mess. This, to me, comes fairly close to treason, and if he can’t overcome that, he doesn’t have the leadership skills requisite for the Presidency. That said, of course I’ll vote for him, but not with much enthusiasm.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      Harry, you’re absolutely right. All of the best intentions embraced by Dodd-Frank and Elizabeth Warren are of little value without the courage and skills to turn words into actions. The recent Republican filibusters are another example of failure by Democrats (Reid and Obama) to fight for what they believe. If there was a good Republican candidate, instead of the clown show, I might be tempted. But there’s not, and Obama at least usually says the right things. Will he ever realize that the way to gain cooperation in DC is not to plead for it, which shows weakness, but to out-maneuver and out-punch the opposition. John Boehner will never be Obama’s friend, and the President should know that by now (actually, two years ago).

  2. Here is how I see it … There are certain things that I want that I don’t think are unreasonable. Here’s just a few:

    1. End the illegal war based on lies in Iraq. Full withdrawal (including of “contractors,” a polite word for “mercenary”) and payment by us of reparations to the Iraqis. The war never should have been allowed to occur.

    2. An end to the Guantanamo style detention of people without due process of law.

    3. Universal health care.

    President Obama hasn’t delivered on these. I am upset with him for not really trying hard enough.

    Let me name another:

    4. No immunity for telecoms for spying on Americans.

    Fact: Obama promised not to support such immunity. In Summer 2008, as a Senator, he supported it.

    Fact: many other countries do not engage in Guantanamo style detention, nor does any country have to do so. It’s a choice. Fact: other countries have universal health care. Fact: other countries refused to join the US in invading and destroying Iraq. So we are not talking about “impossibilities” here.

    The argument that liberals are unreasonable is really one intended to say that they are unreasonable because THEY DO NOT SUPPORT A RIGHT WING AGENDA, the right wing agenda that has governed this nation for at least the past 30 years.

    Don’t fall into this rhetorical trap. There is another way, and it’s possible. Unfortunately, Obama hasn’t tried to LEAD the nation in that direction.

    Perhaps liberals are unreasonable for remaining Democrats and not building a formidable third party?

  3. Lew Weinstein said

    We definitely do think alike. Whenever I get one of those MOVE-ON emails to reject any change whatever to Social Security and Medicare, I angrily write back and tell them their position is counter-productive. Those programs, both of which I benefit from, must be adjusted to today’s realities of longer lives and higher medical costs. We cannot afford everything we want. And we cannot permit the wealthiest among us to gain ever more wealth at the sacrifice of the middle and lower income groups and the country as a whole.

  4. Jonathan said

    I agree with the article as well. I am much happier with Obama’s presidency than I was with the miserable, destructive Bush years. I am much happier at the prospect of another 4 years of Obama than I am at the thought of any of the current crop (or any crop) of Republicans taking office.

    But I am trying to reconcile this belief (and my faith in the good being accomplished by Obama) with the campaign emails I receive from Obama’s advocates urging me to oppose any reduction – at all, ever – in the federal entitlements programs (Social Security, Medicare) that have helped to cripple our economy. It is an incredibly irresponsible position that the President tolerates (or supports) for political reasons to the detriment of governing.

    Ultimately, I come to the sad conclusion that this approach is necessary to ensure re-election by a liberal base that is as illogical as represented in Chait’s article.

    I do not doubt, for example, that the Super-Committee would have failed to reach agreement even if the Democrats had offered to abolish Social Security, since the Republicans would have continued to hold out against any new taxes. But the Democratic Party is pandering for votes rather than governing responsibly.

    We are in a sad state where the best we can hope for is to keep out of office those who would willingly sacrifice the interests of the many for those of the few, but where we can not actually fix all that needs fixing.

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