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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Disappointed progressives: get over it

Published: November 5, 2010
Section: Opinions

Frustration, disillusionment and despair. Words like that describe how progressives feel about President Obama and the Democratic Congressional majority that just got thumped at the polls. They are angry about things like President Obama’s reluctance to fight for the public option on health care bill that went through congress, and that he did not fight hard enough for repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding homosexuals in the armed forces. Progressive frustration and anger with the administration and the Democratic congress no doubt contributed to the Democrats losing more than sixty seats in the House of Representatives, instead of a number in the forties. Even worse, the reasons for the level of disappointment progressives have with the president and the Democratic congress are foolish, as the 111th congress legislated and President Obama signed into law some of the most significant progressive legislation in a generation. Where the administration and the Democratic congress ultimately failed was articulating their accomplishments to the American people, and they let Republicans and the Tea Party controls the debate during the past two years.

The list of significant legislation President Obama signed starts with the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which made it far easier for women to sue employers for pay discrimination. Days later, President Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, which enabled four million more poor children to qualify for government provided health care. Also, President Obama signed bills to expand Americorps, another bill called the Family Smoking Prevent and Tobacco Control Act, which allows the FDA to regulate cigarette companies, and the Credit Card Act of 2009, which has provisions to protect consumers from arbitrary rate hikes and other abuses by credit card companies. The credit card reform is especially important for college students, who are often targets of predatory credit card deals. All of these bills were passed in the two years when the Democratic congress and President Obama also got the stimulus bill, the health care reform bill and the Wall Street reform bill all through Congress and signed into law, in the face of extraordinary Republican opposition. The simple fact is that the 111th congress and President Obama were historically productive in the past two years passing comprehensive progressive legislation, even if they cut some deals along the way.

Passing historical legislation such as near-universal health care reform require deal-cutting and accepting the fact you won’t get 100 percent of what you want. This was something President Obama took to heart, as he was willing to cut deals with any interest group that was willing to to insure the passage of health care reform. While deal-making such as this might make some people sick, that is how real legislating is done and, by making these deals, the president got 70 percent of what he wanted, which is far better than getting zero percent if he listened to lunatics such as Dennis Kucinich. Governance requires compromise, and if the president had been a progressive warrior like some wanted, we would still be stuck with a health care system where an insurance company could deny you coverage for a pre-existing condition such as a case of acne.

In 2012 progressives need to go all in again, and if they foolishly hold the same disappointment, the nightmare of a President Palin should be ample reason enough to support President Obama come hell or high water.