Some Liberals Frustrated By Pace Of Obama’s Change

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — What’s a frustrated liberal to do? Democrats on the ideological left are grousing that President Barack Obama is just not that into them, and they’re soul searching at a big weekend meeting about the strained political relationship as he seeks re-election.

Might they stay home when he asks them to vote for him again?

“We were promised he would be our fierce advocate. And I don’t think he has been fierce and I don’t think he likes to advocate very much,” said John Aravosis, an editor with AMERICAblog who has written about gay rights issues.

But Obama’s advisers hope that between now and November 2012 the president can persuade this critical part of his base to turn out in droves again, and the wooing by aides was well under way Friday.

“I promise he is as frustrated as you are,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told about 2,400 bloggers and activists attending the annual Netroots Nation conference. He assured them they were “a very important part of the coalition that got him here.”

Not that it feels that way for many liberals who consider Obama’s record a mixed bag at best when it comes to championing their causes.

They see him as being too willing to compromise with Republicans on such issues as dropping the proposed public option for the health insurance overhaul and extending George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest. They’re pleased he signed a law to repeal the ban on openly gay service members, but many feel that happened only after incessant pressure on the White House.

Others complain that Obama has embraced big business, unimpressed by Wall Street regulation changes and annoyed that Obama appointed General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt to lead a presidential advisory council on competitiveness even as the company avoided paying federal taxes in 2010.

One panel at the conference reflected the rift: “What to Do When Your President Is Just Not That Into You.” Moderator Joan McCarter jokingly called it “The `president isn’t our boyfriend anymore’ panel.”

Taken together, it all raises the question of whether liberals, who always play important fundraising and volunteering roles for Democratic presidential candidates, will be energized when Obama runs for re-election next year or whether they will stay home on Election Day and deny Obama a critical contingent of grass-roots foot-soldiers.

It’s not as if liberals are likely to back someone else. Obama doesn’t have a serious Democratic primary opponent, and liberal views are ideologically opposed to many espoused by the Republican Party’s presidential candidates.

“We have to hold this administration accountable, but we will get a choice between President Obama and our worst nightmare,” said Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association.

To a certain degree, there’s a political upside for Obama if liberals are cranky — he may appear to be more a centrist candidate and that may make him more attractive to the independent voters who often decide close elections.

Obama advisers acknowledge the base is frustrated, but they expect liberal voters to rally around the president in next year’s election.

“While there is always more work we can do and we take absolutely nothing for granted and will work every single day, we have very good support from his base and are ready to build on that,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Despite the complaining, liberals’ impressions of Obama have not slipped in recent months. But they didn’t improve, either, following the killing of Osama bin Laden, as happened among other ideological groups.

In the May AP-GfK poll, 62 percent of liberals rated Obama’s presidency as outstanding or above average, statistically similar to August 2010. Among moderates and conservatives, however, Obama’s ratings on this question ticked upward. Likewise, Obama’s overall approval ratings among liberals have hovered around 80 percent for the past year in AP-GfK polling, with no discernible bump following the al-Qaida leader’s death.

The reception Pfeiffer got when he was interviewed onstage by Kaili Joy Gray of the Daily Kos website underscored the tension between Obama and some liberals.

Questioned about the president’s policies on the economy, gay rights and tax cuts, Pfeiffer argued that Obama has worked hard to get his agenda through a divided Congress during a time of hardship.

Pfeiffer said the White House would serve as a check against Republican efforts to undercut Medicare, privatize Social Security and repeal the health care overhaul. Obama, he said, would work to bring wireless technology to rural areas, develop alternative energy sources and offer tax incentives for small business.

But the audience was clearly skeptical. The interview grew tense at times, and Pfeiffer was booed when he responded to a question about a 1996 legislative-race questionnaire in which Obama had said he supported gay marriage. Pfeiffer said someone else had filled out the questionnaire and Obama was “evolving on the issue” along with the rest of the nation.

Gray also pushed Pfeiffer for details on whether the administration would offer a comprehensive job-creation bill. “With a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, why wouldn’t we have a jobs bill?” she said icily.

Frustration, if not anger, was clear.

At one panel, Dan Choi, an Iraq War veteran who was discharged for being gay, ripped up an Obama campaign pamphlet and tossed it into the air when an aide to Obama’s political organization told him that the aide personally wasn’t supportive of gay marriage.

“I believe that I’m an equal citizen,” Choi scolded the staffer.

Elsewhere at the conference, liberals questioned the president’s commitment to the DREAM Act, which would give a path to legal status for young people who were brought into the United States without documents as children and who either plan to attend college or join the military. It stalled in Congress last year.

Some activists want Obama to use his administrative powers to protect those who would be covered under the legislation from being deported. And they complain about the Obama administration’s deportation of nearly 400,000 immigrants in 2010, a record, while noting his efforts to court Hispanics as he seeks a second term.

“Obama has the guts to deport our mothers, deport our fathers, deport our people and then come to us and say `I want your vote’? Please,” said Felipe Matos, a Miami immigration activist.

For all the griping, many liberals here appear resigned.

They know Obama is their only option to ensure Democrats continue to control the White House. They point to efforts in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere to strip away collective bargaining rights from most public workers as an example of what could happen if Republicans win.

Said former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a one-time Democratic Party chairman: “The alternative is in clear sight.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Robert

    I agree with the article. But for the immigrant issue let’s call it for what it is they are deporting illegals. There is a differene! I wish the Democrat party would take a harder stance on illegals but they will not.

    • Mike

      I would rather be frustrated than have a Republican President………..

      • tom

        As if there’s really a difference.

  • Victim Du Jour

    I know a few people from Europe and Scandinavia who keep getting rejected for work visas in the United States.

    That’s because nerdy white liberals are racists, and they want preference for People from South and Central America for race baiting purposes.

    And the people I know overseas have college educations.

    • Jake

      Right on, can’t let those flour white eursians try to take over America., no matter what the cost. That would definitely be a bad thang.

    • Mike

      VDJ- Your a lying. Why would anyone from any Scandinavian country want to leave a superior standard of living to move to America? I have lived in Norway and Sweden for 15 years and I never met a person who wanted to leave for America, not one!

  • Rico Suave

    Which thing are they frustrated with? The broken promise to close Guantanamo, the stupid wars he was going to end, the starting of another stupid war, the promise to post all new bills for the public to see 72 hours before signing them, the pledge to have no lobbyists on staff (dozens had to have waivers), the 1,400 waivers from his healthcare plan, the drilling and coal moratoriums with have driven energy costs up while giving billions to Brazil for them to drill, the unemployment rates that the weren’t supposed to go past 8% if we let him bounce a trillion dollar check (stimulus), the union and bank bailouts, the sending of guns to the cartels, not closing the borders or enforcing our laws, his middle east policy (or lack thereof)? Am I missing anything?

    • HAHA

      @Rico Suave
      You are missing a lot of truth. The bail outs were not all Obama as that was in the works before he took office. “the sending of guns to the cartels” as you state has happened in every presidency not just Obama’s. His Mid-East policy is better than we have had in the last decade as Bush did not even have 1 (and no, just pretending they are not there is not a policy). The drilling you talk about is not all on his shoulders either as if you can remember the gulf incident he had Dems and Repubs that were banging his door down to have drilling stopped. Unemployment is all on him huh? Because 1 person can employ the nation can’t they, and if you look at it this also started before he took office just like the recession itself. You sound like someone that voted for the other guy and still have a vendetta about it. Heck, while we are at it why don’t we just blame him for the global warming myth? How about trying to say that he is the reason that the Japanese still kill whales? How about gas prices since the Pres is in full control of the free market system. All Presidents have some faults and troubles in the term(s) they have and if you cannot see this in all others, you are the blind telling people to look over here. Just complaining does nothing, how about give some ideas on how to fix things? Wait, sorry, that would mean that you would have to actually find background information and it is a lot harder to cry about things when you know what you are talking about.

  • What???

    I agree with you Robert. Illegal is illegal, there is no two ways to look at it. If you did not come here legally then you are a burden on society. No matter how much of an activist you are you have to admit that it is against the law. There are reasons that we have these laws in place and to go against them or say that they are more of a guide line is just plain dumb. I also believe that the administration has not fought hard enough for the things that they were put in office for. If you say that you are going to fight for gay rights it should not take 8 years to do so, the health care has way too many concessions in it to make the republicans happy and they still are not. If you know that they are going to say no to it no matter what you put in it then why change the original to please them? This does not make sense to me and a lot of people that I talk to. It just seems that if you stand there and say “I WILL DO THIS” and then change it all to compromise, then you are going to be looked at as a person with no backbone. This may be another election of picking the lesser of two evils and this is sad as I wish I could fully back someone as it has been a long time since that has been possible.

    • Citizen

      @What??? and Robert. Having worked for the old INS, I can tell you that illegal immigration is a complex issue. First, it costs a boatload of money to send illegals packing–that said, they just walk across the border again. Someone once pointed out that if you build an 8-foot fence along the border, the illegals will get a 10-foot ladder. Or drive an SUV over boards backed up to the fence! It has been done! Plenty of tunnels along the border, too. Once illegals make it inland they become lost in the cities. Pretty soon they have children who are American citizens which complicates everything. ICE and CBP (legacy INS) simply do not have the funds to round up anyone except the criminals who are illegals–of course, they are all criminals because crossing the U.S. border illegally is a felony. But that is a fine point that gets lost in the lack of money and manpower. And this whole situation was made a lot worse with each law enacted to control illegal immigration. Before Reagan’s 1986 law, the braceros pretty much crossed the Rio Grand daily to work on the ranches. Now, the new laws are tough enough that once into the U.S., the illegals have a hard time returning to Mexico, so they try to get their extended families to join them here. But the biggest obstacle to rounding up illegals and getting them out of the U.S. is still money–its more expensive than anyone can comprehend.

    • @ what???

      Apparently you have not seen any of the republican canidates.

  • Victim Du Jour

    I also know someone who was required to speak Swedish to get a work permit for Sweden, and she was required to leave right away after the permit ran out.

    Mexico has been cited by amnesty international for human trafficking their migrants from El Salvador.

    So who are lefties to villianize people who want the government to enforce the law.

  • a laughing republican

    baaaahhaaaaaahaaaaa, not a suprise this is the way it always turns out!!! dumocrats!

  • Jack

    Change? What change? He hasn’t kept any of his promises, ESPECIALLY the one about transparency. He’s been the most secretive and “classified” president so far. He’s also taken more vacations and entertained other countries more than any other president so far.

    Electing this guy was a HUGE mistake. No way will I vote for him in 2012. The fact is, Democrats and Republicans are EXACTLY the same. Big liars that have their own agendas and to hell with those who elected them. It’s all a game to them and the joke is on us.

    I will NOTE vote Dem or Rep this next election. I will never vote Dem or Rep again.

    • Jack

      I will “NOT” vote Dem or Rep this next election, that is.

  • Dale Gribble

    The DemocRATS put a Muslim illegal alien in office and now they cry because he serves Allah instead of their secular humanist agenda? It’d be funny if he wasn’t using his authority to install UN control over US sovereign territory.

    • gail


  • Sarah in Outstate MN

    Change? Nothing has changed at all. He’s done everything mentioned in the article and by other posters and he still puts his friends in high places just like the previous guy did. Nothing has changed. I never fell for “Change” for a second. People were tripping over this guy to elect him back in 2008. Now, when he is falling out of favor those same people are racist for not supporting him. I truly wish we had a viable 3rd party in this state and country for more options because I am not impressed with politicians at the state and national level.

  • Indepedent voter

    I would like ot know what other Independents think of Obama. I am a Swing voter and would like to know if others are just as frustrated by Obama as I am.

    • Citizen

      @Indepedent voter. I am a populist and am just as frustrated as you and other posters who are mad at both parties. However, populists by default vote for Dems, although the populist party is getting much more active right now. The populist party is the party Thomas Jefferson envisioned shaping the electorate–the party of landowners, small business owners, educated workers. Try reading the Progressive Populist or Hightower Lowdown newsletters online and get an idea of the philosophy and beliefs. Both major parties have betrayed middle America. Eisenhower warned Americans to beware the military/industrial complex, and we ignored his warnings.

    • Citizen

      You can also


    You wanted him, now YOU got him. How have these last years been treating you.

  • Cain Train

    You got what you paid for, so deal with it. And what you got was a guy that has never balance a check book or ran a business in his life. Sorry folks a community organizer does not cut it. If you don’t want a politician in the white house why not vote for Herman Cain..At least he knows how to make a payroll and get things done. And nobody can play the race card, which i know it will come up when we get closer to the election, because Dem’s always pull that card out when they know they are losing.

  • @ cain train

    Herman Cain looks very promising.

  • Patriot

    Here is an excerpt from Robert Reich’s blog: (this is what is going on in Minnesota, too)
    The silence is deafening. While the rest of the nation is heading back toward a double dip, Washington continues to obsess about future budget deficits. Why?

    Republicans don’t want to do anything about jobs and wages. They’re so intent on unseating Obama they’d like the economy to remain in the dumps through Election Day. They also see the lousy economy as an opportunity to sell Americans their big lie that government spending is the culprit — and jobs will return if spending is cut and government shrinks.

    Democrats, meanwhile, don’t want to admit the recovery has stalled. They worry such talk will further undermine consumer confidence or spook the bond market. They don’t want to head into the election year sounding downbeat. And they don’t think they have the votes for anything that will have much effect before Election Day anyway.

    But there’s a third reason for Washington’s inaction. It’s not being talked about — which is itself evidence of the problem.

    The unemployed are politically invisible. They don’t make major campaign donations. They don’t lobby Congress. There’s no National Association of Unemployed People.

    Their ranks are filled with women who had been public employees, single mothers, minorities, young people trying to enter the labor force, and middle-aged men who have been out of work for longer than six months. You couldn’t find a collection of people with less political clout.

  • Kevin

    Pace? What pace????? Destroying the Nation? Oh….its a fast pace……….more glitter throwers please….

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live