President Obama’s decision to begin to withdraw from Afghanistan reflects a deepening rift between his Administration and his former sycophants on the left. On a score of issues, the liberal community has begun to tire of their president.
Indeed, at the Netroots Conference, liberal activists convened a panel on “What To Do If The President Is Just Not That Into You.” And liberals are getting the feeling that he is not.
From Al Gore comes the criticism that Obama has not informed the nation about the scientific evidence which he sees as proving that man-induced climate change is upon us and for not taking bold enough steps to address the issue.
From Democratic Senators comes the warning not to cut too deeply into government spending in the debt limit negotiations and a demand that he listen to their appeals for even more spending.
From the gay community comes anger at Obama’s refusal to endorse gay marriage despite his ongoing, self-confessed “evolution” on the subject.
From ultra-liberal Congressman Dennis Kucinich comes the charge that his intervention in Libya is outside the permitted scope of the war powers act.
From former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt comes an attack on Obama’s land use policies, accusing him of too easily allowing access and development on public land.
From the far left comes consternation at Obama’s refusal to close Gitmo and even criticism over shooting an “unarmed” bin Laden.
And from the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) comes anger at Obama’s refusal to attend their annual convention for the third year in a row despite his campaign vow to come back after he won the election. Beneath their pique is, of course, real discontent over his failure to push for immigration reform even when he had sixty votes in the Senate and his stepped up “silent raids” on employers of illegal immigrants.
Obama needs the strong and enthusiastic support of a solidly united left. He needs the turnout and he requires that they remain loyal even as he moves to the center to appease conservative and moderate voters. But he is not getting it.
Nor is his decision to withdraw so slowly from Afghanistan likely to do much to endear him to the liberals. While he makes a big show of withdrawing more rapidly than his generals wanted, that’s a straw man. In reality, he is going to keep the surge troops in Afghanistan until Election Day as he pulls them out slowly between now and then. His announcement of a pullout of ten thousand troops – out of a hundred thousand – by the end of the summer will not impress the left.
Behind the discontent of the liberals is, of course, disappointment and frustration with the economy. The continuing high levels of unemployment and the president’s seeming cluelessness in the face of a coming double dip recession – accompanied by inflation this time – erode his image as an income redistributor. Liberals realize that under Obama there has not only been no closure of the gap between the rich and the poor but the recession has brought a further widening.
Obama’s victory was clinched by a virtual doubling in the turnout of young people in 2008. Unless he comes near that level this time, he is in for great difficulty.
And the soundings from the Latino and left communities indicate that he’s got a long, long way to go.