After riding a euphoric crest of progressive support into the White House last year, President Barack Obama faces a very different challenge going into 2010: Regaining the trust and support of his own political base. Comment after comment on the LA Progressive survey conducted this past week show that folks who worked so hard to elect the Obama-Biden ticket are deeply dismayed at the first-year results, principally because the President has spent so much time courting Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, while playing such a seemingly passive role.
Although 42.7% of the 306 survey* respondents felt the Obama Administration did well considering the many difficulties it faced after a disastrous eight years under the George Bush-Dick Cheney team, even more—47.2% felt Bema is far too beholden to entrenched interests, not surprising after a economic plan that principally benefited Wall Street bankers and an insurance company-friendly healthcare reform bill moving through Congress. The strongest consensus, at 60.1%, supported the proposal that Republicans will do anything to stymie progress, country be damned.
Less Talk, More Spine
To counteract those trends, many respondents urged stronger action by President Obama and his administration:
“You can’t please all the people all of the time and you can’t please Republicans none of the time. Stop trying to appease them and do what you think is right for the people and this country,” said one respondent.
“Stop trying to be a nice guy. Republicans are not for you, NEVER will be, and they are doing a good job of making you look “terrible”. [You have] to be more vocal and stronger. GET MAD. Stop playing their dam game,” said another.
“Please resolve to recognize that the GOP has no interest in anything other than trying to block you, and act accordingly,” said a third.
Asked to grade it’s first-year performance, the respondents gave the Obama Administration what was clearly a gentleman’s C—barely a 3 on a scale of 5 (see the full results here ). Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did slightly better with a C+, though comments about her performance were, if anything, more scathing. More troubling that the ratings was the widespread disappointment reflected in the comments, as you can see by the resolutions listed at the end of this article.
Here’s one longer, but not especially extreme comment that reflects the general tone and hope for better results this year:
“In view of the many problems that you face and the many promises you made for change it is now incumbent upon you to demonstrate the courage and the strength to stand tall in the face of so much adversity. To many, you are appearing weak and ineffective and that is not what or who you are. In the coming year, you must not waver. You must not allow the Republican Party members to dilute your resolve on the issues you were elected to deal with. You must lead this country and fix the economy. You must not sign a health care bill that does not include a public option. You must end these senseless wars and bring out young men and women home safely. We wanted change when we went to the polls. You promised that change. It’s now time to bring that change to fruition. More jobs…health care for all…an end to the wars…all equal a better tomorrow and a place for you in history. Wavering and backtracking as well as kowtowing should never be your style.”
The survey also reflected a countervailing support for Obama and the Democratic Congress, calling for patience and a longer view, as does this respondent from Portland, Oregon:
“The people I support are progressive, intelligent, yet PRAGMATIC – which, unfortunately is something that my fellow progressives have left at the door, just like their conservative counterparts….I believe in democracy and I believe in conflict resolution. Obama cannot wave a magic wand, much as progressives would like him to. Please, lay off the self-righteous ideological diatribes. I’m a staunch progressive, and I am getting VERY TIRED of it. Too many progressives cannot see how similar they are to tea baggers with the self-righteous, end-of-the-world, “pure party” BS.”
Support from and for Michelle Obama
As might be expected, the First Lady fared much better, drawing praise for the example she sets and the ways she has handled the pressure of her position. Here again, respondents often want her to play a stronger role of her own and to push her husband:
- Please help us hold your husband “accountable” as Tavis Smiley said in his book,” said one respondent. “Please rid him of regressives around him who bring in too much Corporate influence. This has left his supporters, who want their man to be a Great President not a middling one, in the lurch. Straight talk from somebody close—who better then you?
- Channel Eleanor Roosevelt and get your husband to REPRESENT EVERYDAY PEOPLE–NOT just Corporate Elites,” said another. “I like your organic garden–but, hope in your second year you’ll do more besides host children’s events and look gorgeous
- Take ownership of some progressive cause and lead the way,” said a third
- Keep up the good work supporting your husband, the country and being a wonderful mother
- You’re doing a great job. Not unlike Hillary I sense that she’s angry. I’d like to see her in more high profile settings surrounded by people of all ethnicities
- You are an inspiration, please accept my sincere congratulations for a year well spent! You seem to have it all, intelligence, beauty, grace and goodness. In order to project a more modest image, please consider covering up your arms when visiting foreign dignitaries…
- I like her interest and efforts towards education improvements. She makes me proud to be an American, she’s fresh, beautiful and stylish. I like how they have thrown open the doors to the White House and allowed an increase in activity and different types of events, for example the Latino Concert.
Keep exercising… your toned body looks great.
- Doing all the good things.
- Great Job
- Be more politically active
- Use our troops to fight for environmental justice
- Please talk to your husband, to help push for reinstatement of the Kucinich Amendment, to HR3200. Then, you will see the reality of what the American people want, & need! Each State will & can decide for it’s self! Give us the choice! NOT the Insurance, & or Pharmaceutical Industries.
- Ah the perpetually dissatisfied Michelle, take care of the children the best you can and go away from the national discourse.
- Tell your husband what to do…
- Keep up the good work!
- You are smart, articulate, compassionate and gracious, and you reflect well on the country you represent. You also make women from every walk of American life proud.
- Stay your course.
- Please urge the the President to step up and be a leader of the people. Your hubby is a great speaker and talks a good game but when it comes to action he is a big zero. Maybe he needs to surround himself with better advisors? We want healthcare NOT Warfare. We want green jobs not wasting billions to fight for the oil companies in IRAQ
Hail to the Chief–and to the Chieftess!
- Get involved and use your influence for what you know is right.
- Lady you are just fine but get your ol’ man in to a progressive movement and begin to fight for the poor and disenfranchised. The rich and enfranchised are already doing too well and live off the fat of the land.
- You’re the best!
- You’re awesome, I wish you were President.
- We support you full-heartedly.
- You’re not important.
- Still thrilled that her family resides in the White House. When I see pictures of the family together, I still remember the feeling of pride I had after the election and leading up to the Inauguration.
- Thank you for growing the white house organic garden. Please speak out against privatized schools and counter Arnie Duncan’s charter schools harmful action. Strengthen public schools and get out the useless tests.
- Resign now!
- Continue to stay true to yourself, your family and the country…you are an inspiration and an outstanding representative of your husband’s administration.
- Good job!
- She’s OK by me
- Keep up the good work. Your strength as a woman, motther and wife impresses me
- You need to embrace social justice and environmental causes more thoroughly than you have so as to set an example for others.
- I greatly admire you. Thanks for all you are doing. Forget making a fashion statement. Just be yourself. You are fabulous without the designer labels. You are a great wife and mother. Take good care of our President. He will need your love and support these next 7 years.
- You are doing so much good be being a lovely example.
- I think she’s done a fine job. This not being an elected position it doesn’t hold much importance for me.
- Thank you.
- You are an inspiration.
- We love you
- Great job managing the family affairs. Would like to see her more in the public eye on issues critical to all Americans.
- I think she’s great, but she should tell her husband to get some guts.
- Stay strong keep doing what you are doing
- It’s not your fault.
- Keep working the organic food issue. It ties into so many health issues (diabetes, being overweight, high blood pressure, etc).
- Keep doing what you are doing–you are a role model and an inspiration!
- Please help us hold your husband “accountable” as Tavis Smiley said in his book. Please rid him of of regressives around him who bring in too much Corporate influence.
- This has left his supporters, who want their man to be a Great President not a middling one, in the lurch. Straight talk from somebody close, who better then you.
- Best wishes.
- Keep the garden ORGANIC and stand up to the chemical corporate poisoners of the earth.
- Kick the husband and remind him that his daughters will LIVE in the world he’s not changing.Please continue to support your husband, especially with regards to jobs and the economy.
- Keep up your good work and the image building you are doing. You looked fantastic in awards from Kennedy Center and I hope you are having some fun.
- Lysistrata, sweetheart, Lysistrata.
Kucinich and Lieberman: An Odd Couple Indeed
Even given the angst expressed elsewhere by his performance so far, President Obama clearly led the way as the most impressive political leader in 2009 among our respondents.
Perhaps reflective of either the country’s move after an unsettling political year or the nature of our readership, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was cited nearly as often as the President. Also drawing multiple citations were Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida), and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota).
Naturally drawing the most brickbats as a politician who should not hold office was—wait for it—Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), trailed by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota), and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Folks didn’t have to stretch too far for those choices.
As a bright spot, very few—just 7.4%–say they will step away from politics to spend more time with friends and family in 2010. Many—47.7%–will maintain their current slate of political activities, while some will shift to individual political programs (16.8%), congressional races (15.4%), statewide and local elections (28.8%), and third-party efforts (12.9%)
Economic recovery and jobs programs are likely to be the big political issues for 2010, according to our survey takers, at 22.3% and 265.8%, followed by the Middle East wars (14.9%), Healthcare (8.4%), Immigration (7.4%), and the Environment (5.4%).
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