Why Obama And Democrats Don’t Do Much of What Liberals Want (Netroots Failure: Part 2)
Politicians do most things because someone wants them done who can hold them accountable if they don’t do it. That includes bad things, and good things. Anyone who doesn’t understand this reality doesn’t understand even the most basic part of politics.
In 2008 Clinton reached out to the Netroots, and felt the Netroots (we, not me, I had almost no contact with the campaign) mattered enough to at least listen to. Obama did not.
You dances with the ones who brought you, as Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once said, Obama won by bypassing the Netroots and lying to Progressives and Liberals: he won without us, he owed us nothing once elected.
The movement, such as it was, was bypassed and lost power. As a result, for example, we could not improve Dodd-Frank, insist on more help for homeowners (which I pushed hard for), improve the shitty stimulus bill, or get any of a number of other liberal or progressive priorities pushed.
Note that gays were originally ignored by Obama as well. What did they do? They got in Obama’s face personally, heckling him and they organized a very effective donor boycott. As a result, they got much (but not all) of what they wanted from him.
Holding someone accountable means “inflicting pain”. If they don’t do what you want, you must be able to do something to them they don’t like (heckling), or take away something they want (money).
Like FDL or not, the last serious attempt by left-wingers other than gays to hold Obama accountable was when they refused to go along with the Affordable Care Act if it didn’t include a public option. FDL said “if this bill has no public option, we won’t support it.” When it didn’t, they didn’t. You may think that’s not a good red-line, but they had a red line. Of course FDL, virtually alone, did not have the juice: they could not inflict enough pain or take away enough funding or create enough bad publicity for Obama to care, especially when powerful interests (read: insurance companies), didn’t want a public option. (For doing so, FDL was attacked by all the usual suspects on “left-wing” blogs and labelled firebaggers.)
Political power is constituted of getting people elected, getting people unelected and being able to reward or punish people for doing or not doing what you want. If you can’t do any of those things, you have no power.
This is realpolitik.