Obama’s Supporters: Oh the Contortions You’ll See
I mentioned that local progressives were taking Congressman Langevin to task for voting for FISA. I wondered what they’d do once they found out that Senator Obama agreed with Langevin.
ANSWER: Give him a pass.
Apparently “Obama had a legitimate political reason for supporting the ‘Democratic’ compromise on FISA….Congressman Jim Langevin did not” and “Obama predictably has to move to the center. “You see, He Who is Change is excused for practicing practical politics in the short term, because he’s gotta do it to get elected. Besides, he’ll just flip-flop once he’s in office, so just bear with him.
Huh. I guess that was pretty quaint of us to think that Obama was supposed be different and all that. But it shouldn’t go without noting that one of the Left’s favorite writers, Glenn Greenwald, who was cited by the same locals for his argument against FISA, isn’t letting Obama off the hook.
The excuse that Obama’s support for this bill is politically shrewd is — even if accurate — neither a defense of what he did nor a reason to refrain from loudly criticizing him for it. Actually, it’s the opposite. It’s precisely because Obama is calculating that he can — without real consequence — trample upon the political values of those who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law that it’s necessary to do what one can to change that calculus. Telling Obama that you’ll cheer for him no matter what he does, that you’ll vest in him Blind Faith that anything he does is done with the purest of motives, ensures that he will continue to ignore you and your political interests.
Beyond that, this attitude that we should uncritically support Obama in everything he does and refrain from criticizing him is unhealthy in the extreme. No political leader merits uncritical devotion — neither when they are running for office nor when they occupy it — and there are few things more dangerous than announcing that you so deeply believe in the Core Goodness of a political leader, or that we face such extreme political crises that you trust and support whatever your Leader does, even when you don’t understand it or think that it’s wrong.
At least Greenwald is ideologically consistent. Anyway, I don’t particularly care whether Obama acts like any other politician that’s come down the pike. That’s what I expect him to do, but doesn’t his base expect something more? Won’t these sort of normal, finger-in-the-wind political calculations kinda, sorta undercut the whole “change” mantra?
Sure, the local wonks over on the left get what he’s doing, but Obama is depending on bringing in a whole new bunch of young and idealistic voters. And to the degree that the idealism is dependent on ideological purity, too many politically pragmatic flip-flops may undercut that idealism and the votes that are so inspired. Or not. After all, I suspect that a lot of the voters in this cohort live by the analogy: As Bush is to Everything that is Wrong, so is Obama to Everything that is Right. So it won’t matter what he does, because he can’t do anything wrong. It must be comforting knowing you’re voting for the Alpha and Omega.
ADDENDUM: More here and here.