Confessions of a so-called 'Obamabot'

Yesterday’s article in Politico about the so-called “Obamabots” was odd not because of what it said, but because of what it didn’t say. Missing from the article was any attempt to analyze or wrestle with the issues that separate the so-called Emo progs and the pragmatic progressives. Rather, the article was no sound or fury, signifying nothing.

Rather than make a good-faith attempt to unpack the arguments and reasoning of our “ragtag digital cavalry,” or to discern what drives us to “ride to the president’s rescue,” Politico dismisses us as “decidedly amateur supporters” whose intense loyalty and passion at a moment of wide disaffection can be reminiscent of Palin’s core backers.” Palin’s core backers? The misguided sycophants who have no grasp of facts or reality? Really, Politico? Ouch.

The Politico article argues that there is wide disaffection with President Obama. It is this narrative of “wide disaffection,” “disappointment,” and “enthusiasm gaps” that comprise the canard against which we bots push back.

There is no wide disaffection with Obama (and, contrary to Politico’s claim, there certainly is no wide disaffection in the “the supportive precincts of African-American talk radio). There is wide disaffection with Obama among a small percentage of supporters who are avid readers of bloggers with the loudest microphone.

The Greenwalds, the Walshes, the Hamshers, and the Sirotas — these bloggers sow seeds of dissension, and comfortably nestled in their cocoon of Obama disappointment, they begin to believe that their viewpoint is more representative of sentiment on the left than it actually is. When these bloggers take to Twitter, however, Obama supporters who otherwise would have no platform from which to make themselves heard push back.

Months ago, I noted that the Professional Left seemed taken aback by the frequent, and admittedly sometimes harsh pushback. I warned that those of us who are too often kept on the sidelines until we are needed to vote with the herd would no longer be silenced.

Apparently my warning was taken a tad too literally. “Some prominent liberals declined to talk to Politico about the Obamabots for fear of drawing their wrath?”

Really? I wonder if it’s one of the prominent liberals who labeled Obama supporters “dumb motherf**kers” for recognizing that the debt ceiling deal was good for Democrats (a fact which the Professional Left finally grasped about two months after the pragmatic progressives did). (Side Note: Contrary to Politico’s claim, Hamsher did deceptively edit a clip of her appearance with Ezra Klein on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.)
While not particularly useful as a journalistic effort, the article in Politico served to highlight precisely the tension that has been running through Netroots Nation as of late, and that is the seeming marginalization of voices (both black and otherwise) of those bloggers not included among the Professional Left.

Professional Left bloggers tend to hail from the first-responder blogs, those that gained popularity and readership during the Bush years, a period of liberal togetherness, and which have maintained their status despite the proliferation of “independent or “New Left” blogs such as mine, The People’s View, PoliticusUSA, Addicting Info, Pragmatic Obots Unite, POV, and others.

The Nation, Salon, Daily Kos, and Firedoglake are no longer the go-to blogs for liberals. Indeed, these blogs have become destinations of last-resort, due to the anti-Obama sentiment that permeates these blog communities, sentiment which is, in my view, at least partially based on race. And, although the notion that criticism of Obama might be race-based is a notion with which white liberals are apparently not ready to wrestle, that notion is widely discussed among New Left bloggers of all races.

Politico missed an opportunity to explain the differences between “emoprogs” and “pragprogs”: emoprogs routinely dismiss or ignore Congress’ role in making or impeding policy, believing presidents can simply “use the bully pulpit” and “fight” in order to overcome constitutional or legislative obstacles.

Pragprogs, conversely, recognize that President Obama operates within one of three branches of government and that the opposition party has proven itself entirely unwilling to act upon any policy or bill supported by Obama. Pragprogs, after assessing the political landscape, generally support President Obama’s actions despite the fact that said action may not encompass all of our desires.

For example, with respect to the Bush tax cut deal, emoprogs complained (and still complain) that President Obama extended the Bush tax cuts. What they fail to mention is that in exchange for a two year extension of the tax cuts for all Americans, President Obama forestalled the expiration of the tax cuts for all Americans and received an extension on unemployment benefits for all but the so-called 99ers.

The president did so in order to protect unemployment benefits (which Republicans were holding hostage), knowing that the 112th Congress would surely extend the tax cuts without extending unemployment benefits.

With respect to President Obama’s pledge to close Gitmo, emoprogs complain (and still complain) that President Obama failed to keep his promise. Pragprogs, on the other hand, recognize that Obama’s effort to close Gitmo was blocked by Congress — both Democrats and Republicans.

With respect to DADT, emoprogs complained endlessly that Obama could do away with DADT by executive order. Pragprogs calmly pointed out that an executive order could easily be undone by a subsequent president and that allowing President Obama time to accomplish what he said he would accomplish during his State of the Union address in 2009 — to work with Congress and military to end ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ — was the more prudent course of action.

With respect to the Republican-manufactured debt ceiling crisis, Pragprogs pointed out from the very beginning that there was more method to Obama’s madness than there appeared to be. Pragprog bloggers noted Obama’s repeated statements that he would not accept any deal that cut Medicare and Social Security benefits and believed them; unlike the emoprogs and members of the Professional Left, who frantically gathered signatures and raised funds based on their incorrect notion that Obama had “put Social Security and Medicare on the table” (a point which pragprogs repeatedly and vociferously noted was patently untrue.)

Pragprogs also pointed out that contrary to John Boehner’s assessment that Republicans got 98 percent of what they wanted in the deal, “President Obama had masterfully painted Republicans into a corner”:http://www.thegrio.com/politics/obama-is-the-prime-target-in-debt-ceiling-blame-game.php; while tax revenues were not included in the July agreement, the Super Congress which Republicans now decry effectively forces Republicans to either raise taxes or accept steep cuts to defense, a detestable pickle for the party of National Security and Defense to find itself in.

After much hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing, and cries of “sell out,” the Professional Left finally came around to what New Left bloggers had been saying all along: that the debt ceiling deal was good for Democrats, good for President Obama, and the best way to force Republicans’ hand with respect to their stalwart refusal to raise taxes, close corporate loopholes, and force the wealthy to pay their fair share.

Ever-wary of the New Left, Joan Walsh provides perhaps the most illustrative comment regarding the state of politics on the left:

“Joan Walsh, editor in chief at Salon, said the divided personality of progressivism — the pro-left bloggers versus the Obamabot tweeters — hurts the progressive cause as a whole.”

Walsh’s statement underscores her failure to grasp the new reality of politics on the left. We are not simply “Obamabot tweeters.” We are individuals who support President Obama (as do more than 80 percent of Democrats) and who are frustrated by those members of the Professional Left who feel that it is their important journalistic responsibility to constantly criticize and critique Obama from a self-appointed position of speaking for progressives. We are frustrated that this small percentage of Democrats are the ones that set the narrative and feed that narrative directly to the GOP.

Yet when we push back against this relentless criticism from the Professional Left, or dare to suggest that their relentlessly negative commentary about Obama is damaging to him and to the Democratic Party’s efforts to hold back the rabid, frothing monsters of the GOP who are hell-bent on implementing a theocratic fascist state, we are either slimed as Obama cultists, called stupid, docile or insufficiently intelligent to grasp their superior knowledge, or dismissed because we sound angry when we speak back to them.

Ever-disdainful of President Obama, Glenn Greenwald snidely claims that we Obamabots have no political values, and no belief system, only reverence to Obama. This is unsurprising coming from Greenwald, who famously compared a relatively unknown diarist at Daily Kos to a Nazi propagandist.

Not that Greenwald’s snide remark warrants a response, but I offer one anyway: we pragprogs genuinely are interested in advancing liberal policies in this country, policies which will ameliorate gender inequality, extinguish racial disparities in access to healthcare, family planning services, education, raise consciousness about climate change, and beat back the plutocratic tide that threatens to drown us all.

We do not blog for pay and we do not blog in order to increase our advertising revenue; nor are we selling books or attempting to leverage ourselves into television appearances on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox.

We simply recognize the importance of this moment, the forces that work against us, and we will not be silenced.

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