Liberals are unhappy. Of course! Liberals are always unhappy. It’s their nature. But, this time, liberals are especially unhappy because both the president and vice president have scolded them publicly.
First, it was Vice President Joe Biden telling progressives to “stop whining.” Instead, Biden told a fundraiser in Manchester, N.H., disaffected Democrats should “get out there and look at the alternatives. This president has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises.”
Two days later, in an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama delivered the same message, telling Democrats to “buck up.” It would be “inexcusable” and “irresponsible,” insisted Obama, for disappointed Democrats to sit out the midterm elections because they’re not totally happy with what’s been accomplished over the last 18 months. “If people now want to take their ball and go home,” he noted, “that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.”
Ouch! Right away, leading liberals complained about being told to shut up and eat their peas. “It’s idiotic, is what it is,” fumed Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas. “If Democrats … had delivered on what they had promised, and if people had jobs, no one would be whining.” And Darcy Burner, executive director of ProgressCongress.org, blasted Obama’s remarks as “remarkably condescending.”
Both Moulitsas and Burner are among today’s most astute and articulate liberal political leaders. But, in this case, both are dead wrong.
Frankly, I’ll match my liberal credentials with any other Democrat. And, as readers of this column know, I’ve been as critical of President Obama as any other commentator, on several fronts: for spending too much time courting Republicans, for giving up too easily on the public plan option, for not moving sooner to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” for escalating the war in Afghanistan and a whole host of other disappointments. And I make no apology for doing so. That’s our duty with all politicians: to hold their feet to the fire and push them to deliver on the promises they made, without backsliding.
But, at some point, we all need to relax from our passion for change and take time out for a quick reality check. And now’s the time.
The reality is that, with government, nothing – nothing, not even the greatest of ideas – happens overnight. It is simply unrealistic to expect President Obama to have solved all our problems – jobs, economy, taxes, health care, global warming, energy, education, two wars, threat of terror, campaign reform, same-sex marriage, gays in the military – overnight. Not even Obama with his magic wand could do so. And that’s especially true when the opposition party decides to do nothing but oppose for two years, refusing to cooperate on any issue, for fear of handing Democrats a legislative victory.
It’s also a reality that, despite their lack of cooperation, in the short span of 18 months, Obama has accomplished a great deal. Among other achievements: bringing the economy back from the brink of recession; creating 3 million new private sector jobs; delivering health insurance to 97 percent of Americans; saving the U.S. auto industry; putting in place the toughest new Wall Street regulations since the Great Depression; and offering new tax breaks and loans to small business.
Are we totally satisfied? No! We did not get a public plan option as part of the health-care bill. Wall Street reforms are too soft on big banks. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still in force. There’s no Employee Free Choice Act. And too many Americans remain out of work. But that’s still a heck of a lot more than we ever would have achieved if Republicans had been in charge. Now, because of those disappointments, to pout, stay home and simply hand power back to Republicans would be the dumbest thing Democrats could ever do – and the surest way to lose everything we have gained.
So, here’s what I say to my fellow liberals: Take a deep breath. Step back a second and take stock. Consider what we have accomplished over the last 18 months, not just what we have not yet accomplished. And then consider the clear choice facing us in November: It’s forward with the policies of Barack Obama, or backward to the failed policies of George Bush and Dick Cheney.
Obama’s right. It’s time for Democrats to stop acting like spoiled children. Stop whining! Buck up!