What would happen if Obama did what his more liberal/progressive supporters want him to do?

I’m fairly sure this is going to turn into another partisan merry-go-round, but I really am curious.

As I mentioned this past thread, I’m a little skeptical of partisan blogs of any stripe. I’m just not sure how much they reflect the general populace even among those who agree with them.

The Daily Kos, for example, seems to (from my occasional browsing there) constantly advocate that Obama play hardball with Republicans: paint the recession as their doing as much as possible, refuse to negotiate on key issues (because the majority is on their side, of course!), be aggressive… Basically do to the Republicans what these posters and commenters believe the Republicans are doing with them.

(If any readers of said site want to correct or add to the general timbre of what goes on there, PLEASE do; it’ll help make this thread go more smoothly.)

As such, there’s a lot of frustration in those circles, believing that Obama is giving away too much too soon too fast (see the latest Tom Tomorrow comic strip on that site for a succinct summary).

As I mentioned above, I’m really not sure what the general populace is like, even with the surveys quoted occasionally by Kos bloggers about various issues that at least appear on face value to back them up.

So (prepares for merry-go-round), what would happen if Obama actually did what they want, vis a vis his dealings with Republicans on the issues?

It depends on where the public is.

Let’s say a more liberal agenda would be a more general health plan, more pro-union support, more business oversight, more government programs, closing Guantanamo, supporting gay rights, and loosening up on immigration.

If he pushes these things and the public likes the results, Obama gets credit and his re-election chances improve and other Democrats jump on his coattails and you get more Democrats elected.

If he pushes these things and the public doesn’t like the results, Obama gets the blame and his re-election chances decline, Democrats distance themselves from him, and you get more Republicans elected.

The OP starts with a flawed premise, although one that is commonly made not only around here, but throughout the country.

The President is largely constrained by what his own party will allow him to do, not what the Republicans will allow. Although that’s not so clear now, it was before the last election, when the Dems had control of both houses of Congress.

For example, there are not enough Democrats to support the closing of Gitmo or for trying KSM in the US judicial system.

His “more liberal supporters” are not representative of where the country is and not representative of where the Democrats in Congress are. If he tried to get their policies enacted by executive order, he’d be jeopardizing not only his own reelection chances, but those of some of his own party in Congress, too.

Pretty much what John Mace said. He’s constrained in what he can do by political realities. Not all Dems would or could support him on all of the issues that liberals want him to pursue. Few Republicans would support him on any such programs. Obama has the choice of either compromise or basically getting nothing done at all for his entire term. A lot of liberals think that this is the way he should go, seemingly. The logic, if I understand it, is that this will all reflect directly on the Republicans and make them look bad. The reality, though, is that Republicans (even before the last election cycle) could point to moderate Dems who didn’t support whatever it was as well…and, in the end, people are going to blame the folks in charge, not the ones who are supposedly being the obstruction. The Prez would be the one who would get the majority of the heat if Obama took the hard line that some liberals want him to take…and it would seriously degrade his ability to get re-elected.

And this doesn’t even look at where the majority of Americans actually are on any given issue…it’s merely the realities of politics in the US at that level. In order to do what some liberals seem to want Obama to do the Dems would have to have a majority of LIBERAL democrats, willing to move in complete lockstep on every issue and willing to equally take the heat when attempting to steamroller their agenda through without compromise or any buy in at all from the other party. Ain’t…gonna…happen.


I suppose Obama could pin his hopes of being re-elected to the idea that a more liberal/anti-Republican agenda would be popular. Or ignore the effects on his re-election altogether - “I’d rather be right than President”.

But for two years he governed from a moderate left position. What he has achieved is [ul][li]a stimulus bill that didn’t achieve what he said it would, []a health care bill that nobody likes, and []return of the House to Republican control, and a narrowing of his majority in the Senate. [/ul]If that is as liberal as he could get with control of Congress, I doubt he can move further to the left with control only of the Senate. [/li]
Sure, maybe he should have run rough-shod over the GOP and rammed thru whatever he wanted and made the Republicans actually filibuster everything. But I rather doubt that he would then have achieved more, or that it would have been more popular.

Plus, I don’t think he wants to be as liberal as Daily Kos or the SDMB wants him to be. It’s not like he wants desperately to close down Gitmo, but can’t. Now he’s President - things look different from the Oval Office than they do from the campaign trail.


If America’s first Muslim President had actually turned out to be even remotely as socialist as his critics have described him it would have been the best thing ever for America. If he’d just gone out and tried to smash the current corporate socialist system, put all the bankers on trial and brought in massive new regulation of the financial industry it would have prevented a massive amount of corruption and dodgy financial dealing which we’re going to have to face the consequences of in future years. Even if he’d just insisted on proper financial regulation it would have been fantastic. Instead we get basically no new regulation and an absolute guarantee of a huge future financial crisis. But unfortunately Obam is just like any other newly-elected president, his top prioroty the minute after getting elected was to get re-elected. So we’re screwed.

The premise is a bit flawed, as it suggests a unity of the more liberal/progressive wing of the Dem party than really exists. Due to the awesome incompetence of Republicans and GeeDubya, we don’t have enough to work with, Daddy spent all the household money on hookers and blow. So we have to prioritize much more than we might have hoped. Green energy, first and foremost, or social support programs? Eat more veggies, or eat the rich?

The Right has no such problem, their unity is near perfect, they want to lie in the path to progress, tear their hair and scream “NO! NO! NO!”. Their only internal dissent is between the marginally sane and the batshit pizza. There is a terrific advantage in unity, despite the horrific agenda. Obstruction is easier than progress.

And of course, even aside from priorities, there’s still differences of opinion among the base. Take health care, for example: You’ve got some folks who want fully socialized medicine fully supported by taxpayer dollars and an abolition of private insurance, you’ve got some who want the same but with the option of supplemental private coverage, you’ve got some who want a public option competing alongside private insurance, and then you’ve got some who actually want one of the more extreme situations, but know it’s politically impossible and so campaign for one of the less extreme ones. What are we stipulating that Obama does, if he does “what the left wants”?

Gods know. It’s a good question though. It ranges from the sane to stuff like Dick Dastardly’s earlier post and every thing in between. The other problem is that, as with some of the right wingers, a lot of left winger types seemingly don’t actually understand how our political process actually works. They seem to think that the President is some sort of elected king who can do whatever he wants to do, and that by not doing what they THINK he should do he’s betraying them…or something. This board doesn’t have a lot of right winger types on it, but my dad is pretty hooked into the crazier elements of right wing nuttery, and I know that a lot of them felt the same way about Bush…that he had betrayed them by not outlawing abortion, putting prayer in school, cutting the federal government by 2/3rds and returning states rights, making it a death penalty to burn the flag, eliminating social security and medicare and making the planet safe for Christianity and America!


What you’re saying is true. But I think if you look at the agenda I posted and go back two years when Obama had just been elected and had a Democratic majority in both sides of Congress, he could have done a lot of what was on that list.

Obama had two ways he could have gone. He could have essentially said “We have a majority so we’re going to ignore the minority and do what we want to as great an extent as we can.” Or he could have said “I’m going to work with both parties and try to come up with things we can all agree on.”

Obama basically chose the second path. In my opinion, it didn’t work out for him. The Republicans were more interested in confrontation rather than compromise.

I don’t know tons about what authority the president has, but I have heard Rachel Maddow claim (before DADT was repealed) that Obama could use his authority in the executive branch to instruct the judiciary to stop prosecuting violating of DADT, despite it still being the law.

Health reform would’ve started with the concept of HR676, expanding medicare to everyone rather than starting with RomneyCare. It would’ve negotiated that.

Another talent the dems supposedly had was changing filibuster rules on the first day of the 111th congress. If Obama were a diehard liberal he might’ve pushed that through so progressive legislation could pass the senate with 50 votes plus Biden. Progressive legislation passed the house all the time but stopped at the senate filibuster.

Are you asking what legislation would he push, or how it would affect the country, or how it would affect opinions or what?

I tend to think had he been a real liberal/progressive and willing to use the power of the executive to promote that agenda, and encouraged the senate to change the filibuster rules on the first day of the 111th congress he would’ve gotten far more progressive legislation passed. But I don’t know how popular it would’ve been, or if it would’ve made the tea party stronger (I think so), or how it would’ve affected independents.

I personally think some independents would be turned off by his progressivism (only 15-20% of the public are progressives, at the same time about 15-20% are right wing authoritarians), but I think others would like his take no prisoners attitude that something needs to be done.

He should do what FDR threatened to do and try to add some more supreme court justices. Adding 2 and making it 11, then passing them in the 111th congress would’ve been nice.

That is a strawman argument. I think liberals were aware of Obama’s limitations, but the fact that he didn’t really fight was what was bothersome.

When Bush passed tax cuts he used reconciliation. Obama did not to extend the cuts to 2012, so to get them passed he had to add the 250k cuts.

He negotiated on health care from a position of compromise.

His stimulus was watered down with tax cuts before it even was voted on.

He could’ve used his executive powers and appointed far more judges in recess appointments, or refused to prosecute DADT violations.

He didn’t retaliate against Lieberman after he supported McCain in the 2008 election.
Basically he negotiates before the negotiations even begin, doesn’t seem to use political pressure on other politicians and doesn’t use his executive powers. It has nothing to do with being upset that he can’t create medicare for all with the stroke of a pen.

Quoth Wesley Clark:

That way madness lies. If one president can do it, so can the next, so you’ll always have the court swinging to the extremes, and before you know it, you’ve got a hundred-member bench. That’s no way to run a court.

He did not have support within the Democratic caucuses for a more aggressive health care reform package. Similar to what others have said, Obama compromised on this with Democrats, not with Republicans.

Had he not compromised with Democrats, he would have failed completely.

Sorry, Harry Reid didn’t retaliate. Obama isn’t responsible for the decision of every other Democrat in the world.

He did fail completely, assuming that what he did qualifies as “trying” in the first place; you can’t fail if you don’t try, and I see no reason to think that he ever had any actual intent for reform. A warmed over Republican plan that isn’t anything other than a handout to insurance companies isn’t success, it’s corruption.

All Obama has done is cave in to the Republicans, help to cover up Republican transgressions, and continue Republican transgressions. He’s the poster boy for the “why vote for a Democrat, they’ll just do what the Republicans want anyway” argument. I have to wonder if McCain and Palin had gotten in instead, would there really have been a significant difference?

If I were a Republican I’d be twirling my waxed mustachios while laughing manically MUAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!, feet propped up on one of the peasantry and fine Cuban cigar in hand…


Apparently, it’s not a strawman argument.

No he did not. But nobody pushed for altering the filibuster rules at the start of the 111th congress (not Obama’s fault per se, but a huge sign of ineptitude). The GOP obstructed endless bills in the 110th congress, there was no reason to think they wouldn’t do it in the 111th.

Nobody stripped chairmanships from people like Lieberman, Conrad, Baucus, etc. who were on the fence on health reform.

Obama has said he modeled his health reform on RomneyCare to appeal to the GOP.

No. As president Obama has leverage to push for Lieberman to be retaliated against and never did.


The GOP considered stripping Specter of a chairmanship when he wouldn’t vote for certain bills during the Bush admin. Using that tactic on Lieberman, Baucus, Conrad, etc. might have worked in the 111th congress.

I have no idea how much power Obama had to achieve that, but it seems he never even tried to use it anyway.

Perhaps Obama is just too smart a politician to act like a 5th grader, even if some on the left would him to.

In other words, the left should be perfectly happy with someone who does nothing they want and is in no way their ally, right? :rolleyes: With someone who works against them, more often than not.