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Malaise on the Left July 1, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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I admire Bob Herbert as a columnist but I disagree with this:

Mr. Obama and the Democrats have wasted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity handed to them in the 2008 election. They did not focus on jobs, jobs, jobs as their primary mission, and they did not call on Americans to join in a bold national effort (which would have required a great deal of shared sacrifice) to solve a wide range of very serious problems, from our over-reliance on fossil fuels to the sorry state of public education to the need to rebuild the nation’s rotting infrastructure.

All of that could have been pulled together under the umbrella of job creation — short-term and long-term. In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Obama’s historic victory, and with the trauma of the economic collapse still upon us, it would have been very difficult for Republicans on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of a rebuild-America campaign aimed at putting millions of men and women back to work.

I too wish Obama had done more to advocate for a much, much larger stimulus package from the very beginning. But it is simple nonsense to argue that the Republicans would have found it difficult to oppose a job creation plan and that Obama could have actually succeeded at pushing such a bill through the Senate. Republicans filibustered Obama’s stimulus; they have filibustered unemployment extensions every time they have been proposed. They have filibustered education reform, infrastructure development, green jobs bills. Every Democratic proposal has been met with implacable opposition. Surely they would have opposed an even more robust initiative to create jobs.

In fact, given the opposition of Republicans and the ignorance of the public, Obama has accomplished as much as was realistically possible. The large, yet inadequate stimulus package, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, healthcare reform, withdrawal from Iraq, and hopefully financial reform are significant accomplishments.

Yet, I share the sense of dissatisfaction people like Herbert articulate, not because Obama lacks accomplishments but because he has not been an ideological leader. It is ironic that the former professor has done little to educate the public about where we have been and where we should be going. Pragmatic problem solving is fine and necessary; but we need leadership, a sharply defined vision of the kind of society we should aspire to, and a vocabulary by which to transform the national discourse. This is a tall order in the midst of the multiple disasters left by the previous administration. But it is nevertheless necessary at this historical moment.

M.J. Rosenberg gives voice to a similar sense of dissatisfaction:

We had hoped for much more. We wanted to feel what our grandparents and great-grandparents felt for FDR — that he was out there battling for working people, the unemployed, and, frankly, an America strikingly different than the one they were living in….I want FDR style politics and TR [Teddy Roosevelt] style rhetoric (“the bully pulpit”). Right now, I don’t see it. Neither does columnist Herbert. And, yes, I recognize the constraints. But Presidents have to transcend them, or at least be seen as fighting like hell. I don’t see that happening.

Obama’s presidency by any objective standard has been one of the most successful in history. But our time requires more than competence. We need moral transformation.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com



1. Paul J. Moloney - July 3, 2010

I do get the impression that Republicans have an ideology based on money. They seem to want money for themselves, though, rather than for those they represent, if they can be said to represent anyone at all, other than themselves.

I am taking democracy, or the democratic spirit, to be something based on reason. In contrast, an ideology based on the love of money, the irrational love of money, is not based on reason. If this is the Republican ideology, it is definitely undemocratic. I do concede that if this is the Republican ideology, it is forceful, but forceful is not the same as powerful. It is forceful in having been able to stop people from receiving the benefits from proposed initiatives. It is powerless, though, when it comes to changing people for the better. No one has ever become better for the sake of an irrational love of money.

In contrast, the democratic spirit is not forceful but it is powerful. Because democracy is based on reason, and because one can never force reason on another, one can never force the democratic spirit on anyone else. It is powerful, though, in regards to changing lives for the better. It is absolutely better to have a life based on reason than one based on an irrational love of money. If people are not united by reason they are united by nothing at all.

Also, if Republicans are opposed to reason they will necessarily be opposed to education. Also, if people are kept ignorant, they can be taken advantage of, while at the same time looked down upon. It is easier to oppress ignorant people than educated people.

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