What's with Obama's Deputy Telling Progressives to Pipe Down?
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A few weeks ago a Senate Democratic aide and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) kicked off a campaign to publicly berate "the left" in the wake of the 2008 election. Now, here's a rant-ish "Message to Obama's Progressive Critics" from top Obama aide Steve Hildebrand demanding the Dirty Fucking Hippies of "the left" shut up
This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making. Some believe the appointments generally aren't progressive enoughThe problems I mentioned above and the many I didn't, suggest that our President surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the President of all the people - not just those on the left. (emphasis added)
First thing's first: I absolutely agree with Hildebrand that you can't draw concrete conclusions about Obama based only on his personnel decisions -- and I've written that repeatedly (and I've also said that most of Obama's policy declarations have been pretty progressive). However, Hildebrand implying that those personnel decisions really don't matter at all is straight up silly. It supposes that all the enormous egos that populate a White House are just mindless functionaries, and that even though those egos are heading major federal departments or are key advisers, they have no hand in making policy and/or their advice to a president makes absolutely no impact. Please -- let's get real.
But far more important than that is Hildebrand firing up the whaaaaaaaambulance to whine and cry and moan about "the left." Really, what is with top Democrats explicitly attacking "the left wing of the Democratic Party" in Fox News-style talking points? Why is every substantive, non-partisan, non-ideological question of pragmatism from progressives almost automatically portrayed as some sort of super-Trotsky-ite, ideological and wholly inappropriate demand for Obama to be a president "just for those on the left?" Can anyone even ask a non-ideological question of Obama without being attacked as some sort of raving left-wing lunatic?
Most progressives questioning Obama have done so rather gently, and have done so on the pragmatic substance. For instance, people wondering about the appointment of Larry Summers to a top economic position in the White House have wondered whether it's such a good idea to empower an ideological free market fundamentalist (pro-free trade, pro-deregulation) whose policies as Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary played a major role in creating the economic crisis. That is, most have wondered why Obama thinks that kind of ideologue is "the most qualified person" to deal with our economic situation, rather than, say, a pragmatist like James Galbraith or Joseph Stiglitz who has been right all along.
Same thing for progressives concerned about the Iraq War. They have wondered whether the ideologues who got us into the war -- who got us into the war on wholly ideological and non-pragmatic grounds -- are really "the most qualified people" to get us out of that war. They believe that perhaps the pragmatists who opposed the war on the basis of a factual analysis of intelligence might be better suited to the task.
Are such questions really the inappropriate queries of a bunch of radical revolutionaries from "the left?" Or are the real fringe radicals -- the real ideologues -- those who say that we should all STFU and bow down to the Dear Leader? I think the latter, not the former -- and I think Democrats (and especially the Obama team) who rightly protested Republican efforts to tar and feather Obama as a "socialist" should know better than to echo such silly, fact-free talking points.