Liberals like to think that they can put the squeeze on President Obama for the myriad of disappointments to which he has subjected them. Reporters and pundits talk about an uproar in his base and activists voice their frustrations, but the truth is, Obama’s left flank looks pretty safe.
There was a good bit of attention paid this week to liberal protesters who interrupted one of Obama’s fundraising speeches in California. The group of San Francisco activists was there to seek the release of an Army private accused of leaking secret documents to the Web site Wikileaks.
But the protesters paid $76,000 to get into the event and actually serenaded Obama with a sweet song that included a promise to vote for him and then left the scene peacefully. That’s the kind of protest most politicians would kill for: pay, sing and leave before having a second cup of coffee.
Even as the Wikileaks troubadours were in the midst of their high-priced publicity stunt, Obama’s administration was escalating the war in Libya with drone strikes against government forces and enacting a deal to ship drones to the government in Pakistan to expand the covert war there. While the protesters sang, generals under Obama’s command were negotiating a deal to keep a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq.
More wars, a continuation of the “Bush tax cuts,” the indefinite operation of the Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war camp, warrantless domestic spying, deep budget cuts, a health care law designed to protect big insurance companies, lobbyists in the White House, the banning of subsidized abortion in Washington, D.C., no immigration reform – there’s lots that liberals could be outraged about. But instead, Obama got paid to hear a song about an obscure private in Ft. Leavenworth.
As the Republicans used to say about Bill Clinton, “Where’s the outrage?”
The docile attitude on the left is primarily a function of electoral reality. Obama is slumping in the polls and sucking wind with independent voters. The concern that he would lose his re-election bid is now palpable on the left, and there is no viable Republican 2012 contender that doesn’t scare the organic chai out of the president’s base. TV talking heads may feel virtuous in calling for the president to get tougher with the rascally right, but the pundit class isn’t going to risk his candidacy over it.
As much as Democrats may yearn for the Obama of hope and change they once swooned for, the prospect of seeing the Republicans back in control of Washington helps put the quietus on liberal grousing.
Then there’s the fact that Democrats must accept that Obama is about as liberal a president as they are likely to ever elect in a center-right country. They may complain about the health care law and lament the failure of Obama to enforce new global warming rules, but Democrats know that it has been members of their own party who are responsible for these deviations from orthodoxy. If moderate Democrats hadn’t stopped Obama, Khalid Sheik Mohammed would already be in Manhattan, there would be a new government-run health-insurance program and power companies would be buying global-warming credits.
The left is also susceptible to the administration’s argument that the situation in Washington was so bad that it will take him two terms to turn things around. If George W. Bush and the Republicans were as wicked as they believe, Obama can hardly be expected to wave a wand and undo all of the evil they did in eight years. Remember the car in the ditch and the Slurpees? That hits home on the left.
But the main reason that Obama can take the members of his base for granted is that they love him so much that it gives them pangs. They are enraptured in the same way that conservatives swooned for Ronald Reagan, even when the Gipper had to cut deals with Democrats in a divided Washington.
When Obama went to Sony Pictures on Thursday night to raise money, he was greeted with a children’s choir singing "I Want to Shine Like Barack Obama Shines.” You’ve got to feel it pretty deeply for a guy to have the cherubim sing hosannas right in front of him – and also be sure that the object of your affection won’t be embarrassed by such a display.
The love comes from the fact that Obama looks and sounds like the president for whom they have waited for two generations.
Obama is a cerebral and deliberative Ivy Leaguer who gives paragraph-length answers and shops for organic produce, but so were Al Gore and John Kerry. What continues to make Democratic hearts go pitter-pat is knowing that they elected the first black president. And not just that, but a black president of exotic, multicultural lineage.
Talking to big-fish donors in California, Obama praised their sense of tolerance and suggested that those who fail to support him do so for racist or xenophobic reasons.
“A lot of you got involved at a time when the prospect of electing a Barack Hussein Obama to the Oval Office was slim,” he said. “None of you asked for my birth certificate. It was a complete leap of faith.”
The message was clear: supporting Obama is in itself a sign of an open mind and tolerance. In a community that cherishes these traits, who could reject such absolution when offered for the mere price of a vote (and a $35,000 donation).
It remains very much an open question whether Obama can be re-elected. The moderate voters of swing-state suburbia seem to believe that he is either too liberal or simply out of his depth. But he will be able to pursue their votes with ardor for the next 20 months, secure in the knowledge that his base will be there for him, trying to shine like Barack Obama shines.
Chris Stirewalt is FOX News’ digital politics editor. His political note, Power Play, is available every weekday morning at FOXNEWS.COM.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.