Election 2008 Obama Politics

Obama and the Progressive Netroots

[digg-reddit-me]I am far from convinced by the arguments Andrew Sullivan’s readers have put forth in the excerpts he has posted about both the rift between Obama and the netroots, and how Obama is hurting the netroots. Both of these suggestions indicate that Obama is fundamentally at odd with the progressive blogosphere, which I think is quite untrue.

For example, to speak of the most prominent netroots blogger, Kos actually came out in favor of Obama at one point and seems overall somewhat sympathetic. If nothing else, he seems resigned to an Obama win in Iowa, and concludes:

With all those factors in play, with no obvious gate-crashing people-powered candidate, and with what really is solid field, I’m left firmly in the undecided camp. And I don’t mind being there since, thankfully, I don’t have to cast a vote on Thursday.

Yglesias seems to have similar feelings, concluding that “while there’s a lot I like about Barack Obama” he doesn’t want to endorse all of Obama’s tactics in campaigning in Iowa – namely attacking his opponents from the right. I get the same impression reading Ezra Klein. It is disturbing to see Markos put up a story like this one titled “Obama slams Gore”, especially as the article it describes doesn’t back up that point. And then of course there are many hysterics who go nuts on Obama from the left. Overall though, I think the netroots don’t trust Obama, but have no real grudge against him.

Many in the netroots tend to agree with Edwards, Hillary, and Krugman that partisanship is our main tool to get things done – but though I think there are some fundamental misunderstandings about Obama in the netroots, specifically around this issue – I think most are sympathetic.

Obama’s political agnosticism is an essential part of his appeal – and I think most progressive bloggers also feel that appeal, even as it contradicts the lessons they have chosen to take from the past dozen years of politics.

From an old piece in the New Yorker, here’s Obama:

“I’m a Democrat. I’m considered a progressive Democrat. But if a Republican or a Conservative or a libertarian or a free-marketer has a better idea, I am happy to steal ideas from anybody and in that sense I’m agnostic.”

It’s not triangulation; it’s not partisanship; it’s not anger; it’s not wedge issues; it’s not deceit. It is pragmaticism – not just regarding tactics, but also ideas. And it’s why Obama will win, and why he’ll be a better president than anyone else running.

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