Jamelle, covering Netroots Nation at The American Prospect’s blog, writes:
The Netroots Nation straw poll, conducted during the conference by Revolution Messaging, shows President Obama with an approval rating of 84 percent among the attending activists, journalists, and bloggers. Given the mostly somber mood of the conference, this is higher than I expected, but on reflection, I’m not too surprised. Among conference attendees, there didn’t seem to be much disagreement with the idea that Obama has been pretty successful in advancing a progressive agenda. While I’m sure there was plenty of disappointment over the lack of a public option in the Affordable Care Act, for example, I don’t think anyone challenged the notion that passing health care is a defining achievement for the administration.
I particularly like the last line: while sure the president didn’t actually deliver on his promise to enact a public option, much less the single-payer system desired by much of the liberal left, passing something and calling it “health care reform” was certainly an achievement, and shouldn’t we all be proud of that? Absent from the piece, you’ll of course notice, is any mention of all those dead foreigners that liberal cosmopolitans purportedly care about, which I guess might just indicate that they never really cared about them. A civilian killed by a Democratic president in an unjust landwar in Asia just doesn’t inflame a liberal’s passions as much as when it’s a nasty ‘ol Republican dropping the bombs.
While Jamelle is well-aware how highly I think of him, I am perhaps not surprisingly with Davis on this. After all, even though I make a pretty crappy representative of libertarianism, I’d make a far crappier representative of liberalism.
But for the moment, let us pretend that I share the generally accepted view amongst liberals that health care reform was good and will in fact save some lives, and that the stimulus package prevented the economy from being even worse, and that any number of other liberal agenda items signed into law in some ostensible manner were net positives.
How do those accomplishments even remotely outweigh the continued escalation of the War to Force a Few Bad Guys Into Pakistan, with all the civilian deaths inherent therein? How do they outweigh the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay as a legal Black Hole? How do they outweigh the absolutely outrageous and indefensible expansion of the warrantless wire tapping program? How do they outweigh the continuation of raids on medical marijuana dispensaries? I could go on.
I don’t just mean this in the sense of “how is modest (but expensive) health care reform more important than ending the slaughter-by-video-game of innocents”? I mean it also in the sense that it is solely within Obama’s power to do or not do every single thing in the above paragraph. Solely. As in no one else standing in the way. As in amongst the specifically enumerated powers of the Presidency.
How much of the health care reform package was actually written by Obama or someone in his administration? How much of the stimulus package? How much of these bills was written by Democrats in Congress? Indeed, how much of these bills was written by Republicans in Congress?
Obama did not single-handedly pass health care reform or the stimulus. Sure, he held a few press conferences, took some photo ops, and made some speeches. Then again, so did a lot of politicians, albeit with less fanfare. Nor could he have single-handedly passed these bills. Why? Because the President isn’t Congress! The President doesn’t even get to order his own party in Congress what to do and expect them to just ask “how high?”. Sure, you can give him some extra credit for having to actually sign the bills into law. But was there a single Dem candidate for President who wouldn’t have? Indeed, considering as these were bills that largely passed the Senate with no room to spare, I’m not even sure how Obama’s signature even counts as much more worthy of praise than the vote of the average Senator.
But maybe Netroots Nation really thinks that the good that was achieved with those press conferences, photo ops, speeches, and eventual entirely predictable signature alone outweighs all the evil that is solely within Obama’s power to stop, or -as in the case of the indefensible expansion of warrantless searches – that was solely within Obama’s power to implement.
I somehow doubt this is the case. I certainly hope it is not.
Instead, this is just the Cult of the Presidency at its most obvious. While I can’t find good numbers on what Netroots Nation thinks of the Dem-controlled Congress, Congress’ overall approval ratings are abysmally low enough that it’s probably safe to say that Netroots Nation doesn’t think nearly as highly of Congress as it thinks of the President. Even though Congress has about $*%#-all to do with any of the horrific acts or failures to act I mentioned above.
The President, because we have made him an elected God in our minds, gets full credit for every single thing that happens during his reign that pleases those nominally on his team (also known as “those who believe God is good”), and little of the blame for that which does not, even if he is the sole force behind that evil. Meanwhile, everything he does that causes good for the other team (also known as “those who believe God is evil”) gets ignored or minimized and everything that happens – whether or not he has much power over it – gets blamed on him.