The Wages of Mediocrity

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A while back, I predicted that when Pres. Obama tried to put his much vaunted grassroots organization to work in support of health care reform, he would find those roots rather dry and listless.

Gabby Johnson was right!

Matt Yglesias thinks this is because Max Baucus didn’t get a bill out of his committee on time and therefore there’s no one thing for Obama’s organizers to rally the troops around.  I’m sure that doesn’t help, but I still think the main reason is that Obama himself killed a lot of the rank-and-file’s enthusiasm for him by backpedaling from or just plain breaking way too many big campaign promises.

Another thing that’s contributing more to it than the vaporware problem Yglesias identifies, I suspect, is Obama’s own unwillingness to put up much of a fight for health care reform.

He turned this issue over to congress months ago, and stepped away from it.  He‘s not insisting on any particular and concrete kind of reform or any particular feature(s) in a reform bill, he hasn’t been using the bully pulpit in an energetic way to keep the country engaged and reminded of why we need reform, he hasn’t pressured Baucus, et al., to get moving, he hasn’t fought back hard against the outlandish lies conservatives at all levels have been telling about the bills the congress is considering.  (Insofar as he’s responded at all, it was so late the terms of debate had already been shifted.)

In short, he has been very lackadaisacal on the issue.  What makes him think millions of Americans with day jobs (if they’re lucky) are suddenly going to jump energetically to his aid when he isn’t showing any energy himself?

If you want followers, Mr. President, you have to lead.

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4 Responses to “The Wages of Mediocrity”

  1. jazzbumpa Says:

    Scott addresses this over at Edge of the West.

    http://edgeofthewest.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/precisely-the-disappointment-we-were-prepared-to-feel/

    I don’t believe Obama is either gutless or naive. I do believe he’s a shrewd politician. Further, I think he’s lackadaisical on the issue because his goal is some right-centrist solution that reflects his right-centrist philosophy. Obama is not a liberal. Anyone who expected him to be will be continuously disappointed, and probably confused by what he sees.

  2. urbino Says:

    Four responses:

    1) This simply reinforces my point: if Obama is not a liberal, what makes him think the liberal grassroots is going to rush to his support?

    2) Obama may well be a total neoliberal centrist. That’s certainly borne out by the evidence thus far. However, his main engine of electoral victory was a very excited liberal base who believed otherwise. Whether their belief was self-deluding or not is beside the point for Obama’s future: if he continues to disappoint them, his numbers will sag dramatically (see, e.g., the Dem congress from 2006-08), he will then be in a bad position to get anything done (centrist or otherwise), his numbers will sag even more, etc. Meanwhile, the right is not going to reward him for being a centrist; they’ll never even believe he is one, regardless of what he does.

    So, it seems to me he’s set himself up for failure.

    3) I think his wobbliness has put more at stake than just whether or not health care reform will be liberal. I think he’s put at stake the very existence of health care reform.

    4) Regarding SEK’s post:

    Any provision short of a “death panel” that crops up in future iterations of health care reform will fail to rouse the ire of the conservative base to the boil it’s at now. They have, in short, diminished the rhetorical effectiveness of future complaints.

    This seems to me to make a category mistake. It miscategorizes the current conservative base ire as something based on a provision that’s actually in a bill. But, of course, there are no “death panels” in any bill. Never have been. It’s a huge lie.

    Their ire has nothing to do with what is or is not actually in health care reform legislation, and therefore it will not be diminished by what is or is not in “future iterations of health care reform.” Their ire in the future will be absolutely as great as it is today, if the people they listen to lie to them again. Which they will. So I don’t think they have “diminished the rhetorical effectiveness of future complaints.”

  3. B-Slap Politics: Still Working « Hungry Hungry Hippos Says:

    […] my comment here, having seen the Dems are caving on the public option in order to mollify Republicans, […]

  4. urbino Says:

    Krugman seems to agree with me. At any rate, I agree with him.

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