Are Liberals Really Enraged?
by brbuchwal, Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 08:06:26 AM EST
Crossposted at Projectile Politics
In the past few weeks, there has been considerable discussion surrounding liberal anger about Obama's early cabinet choices. Pundits are falling all over themselves to get liberals to say that they feel abandoned by this apparent move to the center. This issue is largely born from three symptoms:
1. There are many liberals who are truly and legitimately frustrated with Obama's choices,
- The media's overwhelming urge to create controversy,
- The Republican Party's insistence they are not failing and that Obama must complement his Presidency with a constant string of centrist policies.
A Wall Street Journal article today argues the following: "Having enraged the left wing of his party with several initial high-profile appointments, Mr. Obama is now under pressure to placate this mob. One obvious, if frightening, choice would be to reward them with the energy-and-environment portfolio, turning it over to a team that shares the grass-roots' green agenda."
First of all, this overstates the disappointment that the Left has had with Obama's initial appointments. A Gallop Poll released today finds that 65% of liberals are still supportive of President-elect Obama. And even for those who are less-than-pleased, this is frustration, not rage. And I think that his early picks have been politically essential to improve his mandate and have a more widespread impact when he is inaugurated on January 20. Also, if Obama begins to appoint more liberal Cabinet members, it will be because they are the best candidates for those jobs, not to "placate this mob" of blood-thirsty-centrist-hating-socialist crazies.
Second, these early Cabinet choices are in departments that one might expect a liberal President to make more centrist choices by default: foreign relations and the economy. All throughout the Primary, Barack Obama promised to "gather up talent from everywhere." (I also want to note that his choice for Ambassador to the U.N., Susan E. Rice, is a strong progressive who seems eager to reject the policies of the Bush Administration.)
But Obama still has many cabinet positions to fill, and these are primarily areas in which he is likely to go liberal. These include Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Education, and head of the EPA. And an openly gay woman - Mary Beth Maxwell- is being seriously considered for Secretary of Labor.
And above all this, I believe in the argument that all of these Secretaries are Obama's employees. At the end of the day, regardless of their own ideology, they will implement Obama's policies.
So before we liberals freak out about Obama's departure from the left, and before conservatives declare victory in this ongoing ideological war, let's remember that we are barely beginning the first quarter of a long, eight year Obama Presidency. Sure, Obama is likely to be more centrist than a lot of us would like, but let's keep the hope alive that he will deliver on that oft-cited message of change.