Okay, fellow liberals, progressives -- whatever we're calling ourselves these days -- there's something really important I need to get off my chest. I've actually felt this way for quite a while, but haven't been able to properly articulate my thoughts.
In light of recent political battles, and the forthcoming 2012 elections, I feel it is my duty to try.
Am I a so-called "disappointed liberal?" Yeah, I guess you could say I am. Don't get me wrong; there are a lot of things that have gone right since the 2008 elections. You'd never know it by paying attention to the mainstream media, but some good things have happened.
Comprehensive health care reform has passed after over a century of trying.
A stimulus package prevented the recession from getting worse, even making minor (and debatable) improvements.
Comprehensive Wall Street Reform passed.
Combat missions have officially ended in Iraq.
Sensible credit card reforms and a reformation of the student loan system have been enacted.
The discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy concerning homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces was repealed, paving the way for homosexual and bisexual service members to be who they are while serving their country.
But I'll be the first to admit things aren't perfect.
I was a strong advocate for the public option as part of the health care reform package; if we couldn't have a strong single-payer system (President Obama, despite saying in the past that he advocated such a system, took it off the table before the debate truly began), then a strong public option as a balance to the private insurance industry was a sensible compromise.
The Wall Street Reform bill, in part because of retiring Sen. Chris Dodds' (D-Conn.) ties to the banking industry, was not nearly as strong as it should've been. Even with the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- headed for now by economist and middle-class advocate Elizabeth Warren -- the reform package could have been much stronger.
Though combat has officially ended in Iraq, troops are still stationed in that country -- while the Obama administration has doubled down on efforts in Afghanistan, even through a change in command and serious skepticism with regards to the mission. And don't even get me started on Libya ...
Don't let the experts fool you; the recession is not over. Unemployment still hovers over nine percent. Homes are still being foreclosed upon, and while Wall Street continues to rake in billions in profits -- yes, even the firms that received bailout money -- hiring has been slow. many unemployed have exhausted their unemployment insurance and have stopped looking for work (partly because some jobs are explicitly not hiring the unemployed).
Through it all, President Obama and the Democrats have lost their majority in the House of Representatives -- thanks in part to the enthusiasm within the Tea Party movement -- and seen their majority in the Senate dwindle.
This is important in an era in which 60 is the majority needed to get anything done in the Senate, not 51.
At times, the Democrats (President Obama included) have not fought hard enough for progressive principles -- for instance, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts on the country's top two percent of earners. Some of that is mere perception, some of it is reality.
Progressives, largely, have a right to be angry. Hope and change have given way to stagnation and compromise. It was obvious from Day One that some compromise would be necessary; it's the name of the game when there are two political parties vying for control in Washington. But compromise has been a nasty affair, considering the Republican Party has chosen to obstruct and fear-monger at every opportunity -- even now that the party has a majority in one house of Congress.
It's hard to compromise with someone who is so overt in wanting you to fail. This is a large source of liberal anger -- which I understand. Why does President Obama keep compromising with people who want him to fail? In part because he has to, but in some instances, it appears that he doesn't even fight for his principles before compromising.
It might lead some to wonder if he even has any principles.
If there's one thing the Republican Party is good at, it's mobilizing its base and using anger and fear to its advantage. It helps that the party has its own 24-hour cable news station to spout talking points and code words at all hours of the day. The Tea Party movement has also helped mobilize conservative anger.
When Republican voters are angry or upset, they express it in a number of ways -- most importantly at the ballot box. When liberals are upset or angry, they tend to stay home.
Don't believe me? Look at Virginia's most recent gubernatorial election. Republican Bob McDonnell won convincingly, in part because he ran a solid, focused campaign ("Bob For Jobs"); however, he was aided by an unenthusiastic Democratic base. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee, spent the entire campaign focusing on McDonnell's Regent thesis (even after voters showed they didn't care) and trying to move further to the center.
Democrats and independents, unimpressed, stayed home. Republicans came out in droves, like they always do. As a result, McDonnell is currently governor and Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli is his Attorney General. Among Cuccinelli's "achievements" so far: telling the commonwealth's public universities they don't have the authority to protect homosexuals from discrimination; attacking University of Virginia scientists advocating for a response to climate change; and wasting taxpayer dollars on fighting the federal health care reform bill.
All this because Democrats stayed home.
Why do you think Republicans took over the House last year? That "enthusiasm gap" the media kept talking about was a real, tangible thing. Republican voters came out in droves; independent voters were swayed to vote Republican; liberal voters, by and large, stayed home -- including many who voted for the first time in 2008.
If you're angry or disappointed in the Obama administration, I understand and sympathize. But consider this: would you rather face a country led by President Mitt Romney? President Newt Gingrich? President Tim Pawlenty?
President Sarah Palin?
Gods forbid, President Donald Trump?
Whatever President Obama hasn't accomplished in the first three years of this term, I can guarantee America would be worse off under the "leadership" of the above people. And don't sit there and think, "Oh, we'd never vote that person into office." Sharron Angle, with her "Second Amendment remedies," nearly became a U.S. Senator. Rand Paul -- you know, the guy who hates the Civil Rights Act -- is a U.S. Senator.
Don't just sit home because the Democrat in the race isn't a picture-perfect liberal. Don't sit home because you think the country's smart enough not to put Palin in the White House. If you sit home on Election Day -- if you don't get off your butt and make sure you do everything you can to get progressives into office in all levels of government, then fight to have legislation you want passed -- then the Republicans and the Tea Party deserve to win.
Do you want to fight Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), whose budget calls for the gutting of Social Security and the privatization of Medicare? Or do you want to sit back, fold your arms and pout because the entire liberal agenda hasn't yet been achieved?
I'm pissed off, too, guys. There are a lot of things I've fought for in the last three years that never happened -- or happened a lot later in the game than necessary. But the point is to keep fighting.
The GOP isn't going to rest; why should we?