Paul Krugman on Progressive Anger

We get a bonus Paul Krugman column today, because he is subbing for David Brooks, and it’s a must-read. Krugman is “shocked and surprised” that Pres. Obama is “shocked and surprised” by the growing reports of progressive anger with Obama on health care reform.

What is particularly great about Krugman’s analysis is that he puts it in a larger context. Yes, progressives are angry with Obama because of his waffling on the public option, but it’s much more than that:

… [T]here’s a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. And that’s why the mixed signals on the public option created such an uproar.Now, politics is the art of the possible. Mr. Obama was never going to get everything his supporters wanted.

But there’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line. It seems as if there is nothing Republicans can do that will draw an administration rebuke: Senator Charles E. Grassley feeds the death panel smear, warning that reform will “pull the plug on grandma,” and two days later the White House declares that it’s still committed to working with him.

It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.

The signs of progressive anger are hard to deny:

Consider the remarkable, blog-based fund-raising campaign to embolden progressive House members who vowed a NO vote on any health care bill lacking a public option even if that’s the bill returned from conference reconciliation.  If those House progressives adhere to their pledge, that would be an enormous impediment to the White House’s plans — and Kevin Drum astutely notes that the purpose of the fund-raising effort is to force the notoriously hapless, impotent and capitulating House progressives to adhere to their clear commitment (as The Hill put it yesterday:  “House liberals have a history of getting rolled”).  In just a few days, that campaign has raised more than $300,000.  From what I can recall, that is the most prolific single-issue Internet fund-raising since the fundraising bonanza fueled by anger over the 2008 vote by Democrats (revealingly including Obama) to legalize Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program and retroactively immunize telecom lawbreakers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is not feeling punked, because he did not have these expectations when he voted for Obama:

Perhaps, I’m just a cynic but I voted for Obama in the primaries, because I thought he was most likely to beat John McCain–not because I thought he was to the left of Hillary Clinton. Obama always struck me as a very talented and cerebral politician, with a left-ish bent. Again, maybe I’m a cynic, but his flip-flops don’t really surprise. Isn’t this what politicians do?

Which doesn’t mean, he goes on to say, that “Not being shocked at Obama’s flip-flops doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t object to them or apply pressure.”

I sensed some of this early on when Obama’s folks kept putting projecting themselves as “pragmatists.” Chris Hayes’ piece in The Nation really put the lie to this idea that all great things flow from the minds of serious, sober-minded pragmatists and dreamy, starry-eyed liberals just get in the way.

But it really hit me yesterday when Obama claimed that health care reform “shouldn’t be a political issue.” Really? Then why did he hand it off to a gaggle of politicians? Why is he even talking about it? Then Obama  shouted out Chuck Grassley, who has aided the spread of death panel rumors, as an example of a Republican whose been “working very constructively.” Grassley returned the favor by calling Obama “intellectually dishonest.”

Matthew Yglesias feels that Pres. Obama may have “overlearned” a strategy that helped him win the election.

6 Responses to “Paul Krugman on Progressive Anger”

  1. Chief says:

    BooMan had a similar post on Friday Morn. I think my comment there is germane here:

    “Health care/health insurance/health anything reform is just good public policy.

    But not investigating and bringing to the bar of justice those that aided and abetted rendition/torture/black hole prisons, makes a mockery of the U.S. Constitution.

    Shame on a constitutional scholar for allowing that. “

  2. John Holmes says:

    The US Constitution doesn’t apply to all these terrorists. Shame on you guys for thinking so. It’s really stupid to treat these Al Qaeda guys the same as criminals in the USA. This move out of Gitmo to the US Mainland really changes nothing. Gitmo is the perfect place and should remain open.

    Plus we’re just talking about 3 guys who were waterboarded here … 3 GUYS!!! and all this uproar from Liberals, etc.

    But back to the topic of this post … aren’t Progressives always angry?? Sure seems like it, so nothing new here …

  3. rory_talbot says:

    Obama’s consistent failures stem from his fatal misimpression that you lead by compromise and consensus. As Bush (unfortunately) showed us, you lead by LEADING!

    Here is the list so far:

    1. Failure on Help for Homeowners: Obama refused to make the banks cram down by changing the bankruptcy code. The result? Every month we see continuing record foreclosures because homeowners have no “stick” to make banks and mortgage servicers modify mortgages.

    2. Failure on the Recovery: Obama’s own brand of “Trickle Down” in the form of bailouts for Big Banks and Wall Street and not a dime for Main Street.

    3. Failure on Regulation: Obama refused to re-regulate the very institutions that BROKE THE WORLD! All he did is cover the reckless bets of Wall Street – privatizing greed but socializing losses.

    4. Failure on Foreign Policy: Obama continues the worst Bush policies – extraordinary rendition, Afghanistan, Iraq, Gitmo, and no support for torture prosecutions (you go Holder! Screw your boss).

    5. Failure on Health Care: Obama backs away from support for a public option (*Why would we FUND the so-called “reform” without it? All it will be is another big fat government giveaway to the insurance companies!!!)

    6. Failure on Carbon Emissions: Obama’s solution was a meaningless fraction of the reduction we need to SAVE THE PLANET.

    7. Failure on Credit Cards: Obama’s solution was not capping usurious interest rates and predatory fees, but rather, requiring “greater disclosures” in the unintelligible boilerplate contracts of adhesion.

    8. Failure to Stop the Fleecing of the Middle Class: Obama has thus far failed to recognize the MOST OBVIOUS THINGS that are BLEEDING EVERY DAY AMERICANS DRY like over-the-limit banking fees, and arbitrary overdraft fees. Why is this not on anyone’s radar? Banks deliberately FIRST pay your biggest check (*and now check card charges) as a so-called “courtesy” in order to bounce all your little charges (such as your $3 Starbucks) at $35-50 a pop. If you forget about one auto-draft, next thing you know, you’re using your puny, union-less, single-mom paycheck to “pay back” the bank – in essence, you’ve become an indentured servant. How are they not seeing this?

    9. Failure to Limit the Access of the Lobbyists: Obama’s most disappointing failure is his broken campaign promise about limiting lobbyists’ access. In reality, lobbyists for Big Corporations, Big Banks, and Big Insurance have been allowed to dictate every policy meeting so far. (*see above) The best example are insurers, big banks, insurance companies, and the mortgage industry. When we needed “Real Change,” Obama allowed lobbyists’ advice to win the day. Where the F was my place at the table?

    10. Failure on Student Loans: Obama failed to pass meaningful change; only lip service. In business, risk is supposed to be commensurate with reward, so why then, does the government allow student lenders to take zero risk (*since the government GUARANTEES these loans), but allows them to charge insane interest rates? The answer is because they have good lobbyists. As a good friend once told me, “Somewhere along the line, the corporatists and banksters figured out that the only thing better than an uneducated, hourly wage-slave is an educated, salaried indentured servant. And that’s what we’ve become. Our prime earning years are spent not saving, but paying back student loan debt to banks who took zero risk in loaning us the money. Another bleeding of the middle.

    The list could go on and on…


    I campaigned like a crazy man for you. I wore the shirts, I gave my time, I donated my money, I manned the phonebanks, I had signs in my yard, and I hit the streets. And you turned me out like a two-dollar whore.

    I will never support you, the Democratic party, or any other organized effort as long as you are behind the helm running things in this sorry manner.

    We had a ONCE IN A GENERATION OPPORTUNITY for real change in this country, and YOU ARE BLOWING IT!!! Stop trying to appease the right. They will ALWAYS dislike you. This isn’t about you or your incessant need to be loved. This is about making this country a better place.

    And before I forget…my fellow Dems: Do not blame the Blue Dogs. We have no leaders in Congress either. Where is the Democratic Tom Delay? To Pelosi and Reid: GROW A PAIR! Play hardball with these party-traitors before our tiny window of opportunity closes.

    2012 is coming very, very fast.

  4. johnholmes says:

    Hmmm … interesting list rory_talbot … except healthcare. The Government has been neither efficient nor responsible with the money collected for other large programs (Social Security, Medicare) … spending all the “excess” money each year while building up huge future $$ obligations. Why tap into our healthcare now when they haven’t fixed existing programs?

    NOBAMA … he’s been a complete failure on the Economy as well, done virtually nothing, the stimulus plan has been dispersed to State and Localities who’ve used it to cover their tax shortfalls, much of the $$ hasn’t even been distributed thus cannot have an effect on the economy.

    I hope Obama continues to FAIL, out in 2012 …

  5. Larry H says:

    To Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and all those Progressives, who, during the Primaries absolutely ripped Hillary as being too close to the ‘center’ , a crybaby, and a divider.

    What do you think thus far?
    While Obama is certainly better than what we had, he need to get a little tougher, as we suspect Hillary would

    A new bumper sticker:
    Don’t Blame Me, I Supported Hillary

    PS (The Government health care option can’t be as bad as the current corp. option)

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